Buying and selling successfully online

Selling your unwanted goods online on websites such as Gumtree and OLX can be profitable and fun, but there are things you need to watch out for to make the experience safe and hassle free says Angelique Ruzicka.

Online shopping in South Africa is constantly evolving. At first people were sceptical of the experience (and some still are) but there’s no denying that more people believe that shopping online is a more efficient and safer option.

According to MasterCard’s Online Shopping Behaviour study (2012/2013) a whopping 91% of South Africans surveyed were satisfied with their online shopping experience. The survey also found that 74% of people found it convenient to shop online, while 54% of respondents said they regularly shop online.

So why should you sell goods online? Bronwyn Johnson the marketing director of OLX explains that as people have become more cash strapped they are turning to the second hand goods market to buy the goods they desire or sell their wares so they can generate an income. “We have a million adverts on our platform and have only been going for 18 months. The recent financial crisis has spurred people into selling things they no longer need and buyers are interested as many can’t afford to buy something new,” says Johnson.

According to Johnson, goods that sell consistently well include second hand cars, cell phones, electronics and rental properties. “It’s usually high ticket items that do well. We’ve also seen an increase in the sale of agricultural goods as farmers are struggling so they are selling their equipment,” she says.

What’s more, buying and selling goods online align with people’s need to do more for the environment. “There is an emphasis on being ‘green’. So people sell on their goods instead of throwing them away. People also buy and refurbish as part of green initiatives,” explains Johnson.

So how can you ensure that you become a successful buyer or seller of online goods? Moneybags has come up with the following tips:

How to sell your goods online effectively:

  1. Stand apart from the crowd: “Remember there is lots of ‘noise’ and your product needs to stand out. Including pictures, for example, will get you four times as many responses than if you were to just have a plain advert. Also try and make your headline catchy,” says Johnson.
  2. Consider paying for a featured advert: “Featured adverts have great success. Anything that’s placed above the fold will get 50% more responses but you still need a picture to accompany the advert to make it even more successful,” adds Johnson.
  3. Give people an idea of what you are selling: “Give the product a great description and declare anything that’s wrong with it, such as a cracked windscreen etc.,” says Johnson.
  4. Get the price right: “Price it properly. Look at other adverts promoting similar products and price yours accordingly,” adds Johnson.
  5. Be careful with your personal details: “Don’t divulge confidential information online. Rather conduct the transaction face to face. Meet the buyer/seller in person in a mall or at a garage where there’s usually closed-circuit television,” says Johnson.
  6. Make sure you’ve been paid: “Never send them the product without getting the money first. Cheques do bounce. Only send on the item once the cheque has cleared after two days,” says Johnson.
  7. Consider collaborating with other brands/websites to sell or market your goods such as Zando or Citymob. Co-founder of Citymob, Luke Jedeikin says his company is willing to work with small businesses. “The challenge with online in South Africa is scale, many local designers have fantastic websites but nobody goes to them. We have 35 people working 12 hour days to push your design products to hundreds of thousands of people,” he says.


Buyer beware

Buyers also need to be cautious when it comes to purchasing goods online. However, there are steps buyers can take to ensure that they make safe and hassle free purchases:

  1. Verify who the person is and get the product details: “Get a copy of the person’s ID and if you are buying a cell phone or another high risk product get proof of purchase from the seller so that you don’t experience any trouble further down the line,” says Johnson.
  2. Hunt for bargains at different times of the day and over a period of time: “Keep coming back. The product [and price] you are looking for may not be there now but we get thousands of ads posted everyday and the next day we may have what you are looking for,” explains Johnson.
  3. Be careful when buying an animal online: “Ask to see the licensing information of the pet and ask for proof that they are legitimate breeds and that find out if the breeder is recognised. Also ask to see proof that the pet has had the correct shots,” says Johnson.
  4. Only make purchases on secure websites: “Look for a valid certificate such as VeriSign and use a secure  payment system such as PayU. It’s one of the fastest growing payment platforms and you can pay for purchases using reward schemes like eBucks,” says Johnson.


Generate an income

There’s no denying that people no longer see the buying of second hand goods as beneath them. “People are taking better care of things and hanging onto their packaging knowing that in future they may sell it on,” says Johnson.

And if you get it right, you could even generate an income from buying and selling goods online. “Some even run businesses using classified websites like ours. Small businesses will have an Facebook page and advertise on classifieds. It’s free to advertise not just for small businesses but consumers too,” says Johnson.