Robert Wilson runs Aquaventurers, selling scuba diving and snorkelling equipment. With a shop in Liverpool, as well as a selling online on eBay and Amazon, Robert has plenty of advice to share about starting a retail business.
When did you start selling online and why?
I opened a shop selling scuba diving and snorkelling equipment about 20 years ago, and also started selling online at the same time on eBay and our own website. I used to do quite a bit of scuba diving and there was no shop locally, so when I stopped working at BT I decided to open my own shop. I wanted to sell online as well because it seemed like a good way of diversifying and reaching more customers.
We didn’t do an awful lot of sales online, to begin with, but it does pretty well now, and the whole online experience has come a long way.
What are your top recommendations for people starting out selling online?
It’s really important to fully understand all the costs involved with selling online before you get started. You get a lot of people that don’t factor in all the extra costs such as VAT, postage and the various marketplace fees and PayPal fees. Some people starting out will just look at an item and say ‘I can sell that for £10’ without appreciating all the costs, and they end up making no profit at all, or even a loss. You need to be careful that you’re getting a good price for the item and to make sure that you’ll be able to sell it at a competitive price while still making some money.
Customer service is also really important. If someone has a question I try to answer them as quickly as possible. You can quite often stop a query developing into a problem if you answer them straight away.
It’s essential to stick to your dispatch and shipping time frames. And, if parcels are delayed or go missing then apologise straight away, look into where it is and refund or replace as necessary.
What have been your biggest challenges selling online, and how have you overcome them?
I find it’s sometimes quite hard to communicate with Amazon when you have a problem, but you just have to be persistent in contacting them with your issue.
And, we occasionally get customers contacting us because their items haven’t arrived. Mostly it’s because the parcel’s been delivered to a neighbour, or it’s at the sorting office. I’ve found that if you tell them you’re getting in touch with Royal Mail to chase it up or report it as missing, the customer usually ends up finding the parcel.
Why do you use Zenstores?
It’s so easy to use, and it’s just saved me so much time. I used to do a lot of international sales, especially to Australia, but it got to a point where I just didn’t have the time for it anymore. Using Zenstores has given me back enough time in the day that now I’m able to start looking into expanding into other markets again.