Sunday, January 08, 2006

Seller Intelligence

I woke up recently to a report on the radio about the use of intelligence data for security after 911. It got me to thinking about intelligence data that online sellers need to use, for security and for other reasons.

1. What types of data do you use as a seller?

Well I like to know something about my customers. And because I am also an online buyer, I like to know about the people who I buy from. I need to know how much to sell my collectibles for and how much others are selling theirs for. Those are the initially questions that came to mind.

2. What types of data, or intelligence, does the online seller need.

As I thought about it more, I thought I should think about this a little more formally.

a. Customer data. - Customer data is important because if you do not have it correct you can not provide good customer service. You need to know the correct spelling of your customers names and addresses, as well as their
email addresses. And it may seem odd to say that you need to have a source for this data, but you do need to be able to verify it.

You also want to know about the buying habits of your customers, do they pay on time? Do they have questions that need to be answered? Do they need any kind of special services? What are their preferences with regards to shipping?

b. Pricing data. - All of business is really about pricing. The potential to make a profit is based on your ability to select a price that is greater then what you pay for the items. A good source of data to price items is a requirement for success for any online seller.

c. Popularity of items to be sold. - Another good piece of information to have is the popularity of the items that you sell. Or put another way, what sells? What is hot or what is not? For some sellers this is a very important consideration. Knowing the latest trends in buying can add to your success as a seller.

3. What are the sources of data?

a. Buyer & seller feedback. - Most if not all of the online selling venues have methods of leaving feedback. As a seller feedback can give you a great deal of data. Some of the questions in section 2 above can be answered by
viewing feedback.

Buy reviewing the feedback of your customers you can find out what they are buying. You can also see what they pay for the things that they buy. And you will get to know your customers better as well.

Reviewing the feedback of fellow sellers and those you buy from will tell you what items sell. And give you some insight into issues that other sellers have when selling certain items. This kind of intelligence allows you to make better decisions when it comes to figuring out what to buy and sell.

b. Other seller postings. - Reviewing the postings of other sellers, who sell similar or the same items that you sell will again answer many questions for you. You can learn the latest methods of presentation. You can get ideas about what information to include in your listings.

c. Selling sites other than the one that you sell on. - For example, I use as a source of data about most of the books I sell. Rather I sell them on Amazon or not. Before I list an item I like to go to eBay, Amazon, and Yahoo at a minimum and take a look at the item to be listed. From this I get intelligence on how to present the item, what price point to use, and an idea of if the item is selling.

4. A list of data that I frequently use;

a. eBays feedback. - I recently used eBays feedback to insure a purchase that I was making was a valid one. I noted that a certain online seller had been selling a certain item at a very good price and wondered about his source. So I called the seller and inquired. He was kind enough to give me some very valuable information about the item as well as where I could purchase it for resell.

eBay feedback give you information about sellers as well as buyers. You can tell how long a seller or buyer has been on eBay. You can look at their past transactions and glean information about their habits online and make a decision as to rather they would be a good business partner or customer.

b. gives some very interesting intelligence data to the online seller. One very valuable piece of seller intelligence that Amazon gives the sells ranking of their items. Some sellers use this data to determine if a book is worth trying to sell.

Amazon also gives some great pricing data. And when you combine pricing data with sells ranking you really get a good idea if your items will sell or not.

So to recap online sellers need to understand that sources of data that are out there to assist them in selling. Make a list of the most important info that you need to know. Look at the venue you sell on as well as other selling venues to see what data you can collect from these sources. And remember that knowledge is power.

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