When seller Andrew (Andy) Zeller entered eBay’s “Send Yourself to California” contest, he didn’t expect to win the prize—a visit to eBay’s main campus in San Jose—but he was hopeful. “I enjoy the whole process of selling on eBay,” he says. “That’s why I went to eBay Open. It was my first year, and I will go every year now. It was so nice to meet up with the employees. I think eBay is a wonderful company, and any time I can learn about the company and the platform, I want to be a part of it.”
Andy founded Northern Parts and Recreation in 1995 and was one of the earliest sellers on eBay. “We were just a little retail operation working locally,” he says. “It was late 1995, and I was doing some work on the internet. I just happened to stumble across eBay and it was like a lightbulb went off in my head. I got the business online in January of 1996. We were part of the initial 300 club—the first 300 hundred people on eBay.”
Since then, Andy’s eBay business has flourished. The success he saw on eBay allowed him to transition his business—which sells parts for powersports machines including snowmobiles, boats, and ATVs— from brick-and-mortar to online-only. “About five years in, we saw where the future was going with online shopping. We closed the retail operation and went 100% online. We don’t have a web page. It’s always been word of mouth, very little advertising, and using eBay with a lot of repeat business. We’re in very rural Wisconsin, basically in the middle of a national forest. eBay is wonderful to help connect where we are to the rest of the world.”
Andy spent Wednesday, October 4, touring eBay’s San Jose campus and meeting with eBay executives and staff, including eBay VP of Shipping Laura Chambers. Andy also received consultations on branding his company and promoting his eBay store through social media, and he got one-on-one lessons in using Promotions Manager and promoted listings to boost his sales.
I caught up with Andy to see how he enjoyed his day at eBay and what he learned during his time on campus. Here’s what he had to say.
What do you know now that you wish you had known when you got started on eBay?
We would have transitioned into eBay sooner—we got in early, but we didn’t devote the majority of our business to eBay until five years in. It was a learning experience. It’s still a learning experience and a wonderful tool. There’s nothing like eBay. I enjoy selling every day. I would personally recommend to anyone to use eBay as a selling platform. It’s very user-friendly, and you can sell at any volume.
The contest you won was about shipping, and you’re actually pretty familiar with international shipping, as about 15% of your sales are overseas. What would you say to sellers who don’t offer international shipping?
It amazes me that sellers block international buyers. I think they are not familiar with how easy it is. There are some quirks, but it’s not that much harder to sell internationally. It’s just a part of doing business. I’ve shipped everywhere—Australia, New Zealand, Greenland, UK, Germany. Last week, I shipped to a tiny island in the middle of the ocean off of South Africa.
As part of your visit, you received tutorials in some eBay tools like Promotions Manager and promoted listings. You also met with several eBay employees, toured the campus, and had consultations on social media and branding. What was your favorite part, and what changes will you make based on what you’ve learned?
It was great to learn more about search engine optimization. We’ll definitely retool some of our listings for better results in search. I also learned quite a lot about using promoted listings and piggybacking that onto promotions, so we’ll be implementing that. And, I was amazed at what I learned about social media, especially using analytics and targeting to show our posts to prospective buyers. In terms of Facebook, I learned to vary up the content and not just share listings, but make it fun so it’s not just a boring page. We’ll be upgrading all of our social media.
It sounds like you had a productive day on campus. Did you enjoy your visit?
It’s was great! It’s wonderful being here. Everyone I met has been so nice, and they’ve shared so much of their knowledge with me. This has really been amazing.
Thanks for your time, Andy! We hope you had a great experience, and we can’t wait to see the results of the changes you’re going to make.
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