Undercover Seller. A brief experiment on reselling

Even before COVID, the need for some extra income and the flexibility to work from home was a growing trend. With 44 Million people filing for unemployment, side hustle is no longer a Millennial game. One of the high-growth areas that we are paying attention to for a multitude of reasons is that of second hand or reseller space. The second hand market is forecasted to hit 64 billion dollars in the next 5 years, forcing the donation and thrifting models to rethink the customer experience.

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In order to better relate to the market and behaviors emerging real-time, we took on the life of a modern reseller. Our hypothesis for this effort at the onset was that by becoming a reseller we’d better understand where the sticking points are and what it will take to grow and scale side hustle into a full fledged business, something that more and more people could do these days. We deployed an online persona to better understand the landscape, the gaps, what works, what doesn’t and what information is available to resellers today. We immediately observed that there is not one selling platform on the market that is taking advantage of the opportunity that lies within successful customer management, simplicity of usage, or reasonable selling fees; ultimately, no platform has it all. People are leveraging the technology that’s being provided to them in order to create efficiencies and own their own destiny. Because the reseller mindset is transactional, there’s no loyalty to any one platform. If the reselling ecosystem is sounding fragmented and labor-rich, you are on the right path. It takes an expert product marketer to know how, where and when to promote a unique one of a kind item. Through this process we have earned deep respect for today’s modern tech-enabled reseller and we can all learn from these self-made product entrepreneurs.

For 7 weeks we immersed ourselves into the reseller lifestyle. Once our online persona was created, we began experiencing spammers, packages getting lost in the mail, last minute canceled orders, shipping delays, huge profit margins, quick sells, slow sells, and much more. While the shipments of items piled up and the car filled with boxes, we got a serious taste into the world of reselling. We found flaws in every platform out there; what they could be doing better, or what they should stop doing, no platform is flawless. Each week we got together to go over which items have sold, new findings, and how much effort was put into the project that week.

We made accounts on 8 different reselling platforms but Offerup, eBay, Mercari, and Poshmark were the most successful.

Here a few of the pros and cons we noted:

  • OfferUp is simplistic, and makes customer interaction and selling easy
  • eBay is a complicated site, but getting eyes on the item is their forte.
  • Poshmark is an extremely saturated, social selling app.
  • Mercari is well, quiet.

No platform offered customer relationship management nor did we find a reseller specific tool that could foster and track relationships and encourage returning customers. In order for us to keep track of the items, which category they fell into (fashion, technology, home goods), when they sold, and to whom, we created a tracking sheet. By doing so we broke down the steps consumers have to undergo, and created ways to measure and track hypotheses. By putting ourselves in those shoes we began to understand the nuances and details that are not shared on the platforms.

There were 3 perspectives we took data from to understand the consumer behaviors: financial, selling life cycle, and customer relationship management. When purchasing an item to resell, the reseller needs to make sure they’re buying the item for less than what it normally sells retail, then determine what to sell it for, subtract platform fees and shipping costs, and even then, it needs to be more than what it was purchased for in the beginning. Jessica, the buddy who spearheaded the persona said, “I did my best to predict potential revenue on each item, but over time negotiations came into play, some of the revenue dropped a bit, but that’s a given and you need to be prepared for it.” Consumers will always want to pay less than what it’s selling it for, so it’s important to have it set a price with wiggle room.

To better understand if the juice was worth the squeeze, we made sure to study how we were using our time. How long does it take to receive a shipment, how many days past from listed to sold, and how many interactions take place in between in order to make a sale. When we ran into longer delays of selling, we began to really focus on ways to bring that down. Getting the items to sell is difficult, even if it’s name brand and in great condition.

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More than 60% of our time was spend getting customers to see it, (i.e. Marketing of a unique item) relisting, promoting, and offering price drops are a few of the time consuming tactics that were used to get a product sold. Simply listing and walking away is not enough. Being quick to reply to customer questions is key.

This experience has given us many exceptional insights into the reselling world.

  • Financially, it has amazing potential, but it does take some time to realize what to do and how to do it efficiently.
  • The selling lifestyle took longer than anticipated with receiving items, and then there’s the time between listing and selling to take into account as well.
  • Consumer relationships are a big factor to selling the goods and receiving a good rating.
  • Timely responses, follow up, and their experience is important but quality products matter too

Each platform has something to offer that’s different from the other, but to make an honest living out of this, a system in place for customer management would be an effective way to excel sales on these online services. It’s the creation of this modern way of finding incremental revenue that has us really optimistic. This community is thriving and is getting more popular thanks to the self-made marketing resellers. It can be a real source of income if invested in. Each platform has it’s pros and cons, not one is ultimately superior. Under the right conditions and understanding it can be very successful and these platforms that enable the side hustle has us excited.

I’d like to give a shout-out to Jessica who led this initiative.

“It was a different experience and opened my eyes to the effort and research that goes into being a successful reseller. The only way to truly learn how to participate in this industry was to jump in, because no matter how much you Google ‘how to be a reseller’ you will always come up short,” — Jess

6 weeks ago we didn’t know what we were going to learn, but this experience has enabled us to find relatable elements and better understand the community within it.

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