There's little doubt that eBay has opened a number of previously bolted-shut doors for would-be businesspeople across the UK. Now, as soon as the idea arrives and the basic plans are in place, anyone can start a new commercial venture from the comfort of their own home; it's cheaper and easier than ever to become an entrepreneur.
Of course, this does mean that every man and his dog are logging on in the hope of making millions in return for minimal effort. While it is certainly possible to make a decent living through the site - or even just a bit of extra pocket money - it does take a little more than a bit of Del Boy action to get ahead.
Trends are a big part of successful eBay trading and without following them, you're unlikely to make much real progress. Instead of looking for customers that match your products, you should be looking for products that match your customers. So what exactly should you be watching? Well, there are few better places to start than the entertainment world - it influences the way consumers behave like nothing else. With this in mind, let's take a closer look at how best to make the most of the latest goings-on.
Using social media
In the same way that e-commerce is gradually replacing bricks-and-mortar shopping as we know it, social media is becoming the preferred choice for many internet users when it comes to sourcing news and general information. It makes sense, then, to value its usefulness as a tool to help you in your eBay journey.
Twitter is particularly useful here. For a start, it's instant and extremely simple, which means it's usually the first place people go to broadcast their opinions. Taking this a step further, it's really easy to stay on top of what people are talking about and what their thoughts are. Hashtags are used to highlight the most popular topics, with most discussions open to new contributors.
Take the time to gather opinions from these sites by typing related queries into search boxes - it's almost like your market research has been done for you, you just have to find it to capitalise. Think about new shows coming out and what impact this may have; for example, interest in vintage clothes could be stoked by the release of a film like 'The Great Gatsby'.
Work out who to trust
The internet dominates the entertainment world these days; bloggers and review sites have a massive influence on consumers' opinions and choices. It is, therefore, important to work out who the real thought leaders are; it's the job of these people, companies and publications to stay at least one step ahead of everyone else.
CNET is a great example here. The tech site is the first place many consumers will go when they're in the market for new gadgets - people trust its expert views on the industry and its products so you should too. CNET's experience also predicts trends before they become obvious, so you should be able to get in early while there's still a good chance of making a profit.
Celebrities are also highly influential; they're role models for people across the world so they tend to get listened to whenever they have something to say. Keep an eye on what the biggest names are doing as there's every chance their fans will be looking to follow in their footsteps. Footballers are great examples here; once a few of Europe's biggest stars were seen wearing oversized, brightly coloured headphones, sales of similar models rocketed across the UK, with eBay sellers among the biggest beneficiaries.
If you're going to use trends as part of a successful eBay business strategy, you're essentially going to have to predict the future so you might as well let the industry itself do most of the work.
Entertainment trade shows are where innovation really gets pushed into the spotlight, so it makes perfect sense to utilise them. For example, since many of the biggest tradeshows started to focus on the future of streaming platforms and equipment - like Netflix, Spotify and Apple TV - the forward-thinking tech sellers on eBay have cut down on older technologies, such as Blu-Ray and Freeview TV.
Use a dedicated service
Once trends have been identified, the next task will be to make the most of them by listing and pricing products like a true pro. Many eBay users improve their chances of success with the help of a dedicated market research tool. Terapeak is certainly the most well-known of the available platforms and allows users to dig into eBay's archives to see how well certain products have sold in the past.
Of course, the very nature of trends means that you're probably looking for products which may not have been popular - or even available - before, but tools like Terapeak are still useful for learning about the best ways to make products appealing to buyers. You can essentially work out the differences between the items which sell and those which don't.
The downside of this approach is a pretty obvious one: cost. None of the decent market research tools are free to use - Terapeak, for example, costs $29.99 (£18) a month, so it may be worth signing up for the free 30-day trial to get to grips with it and decide how useful it'll be. Another option is to use an alternative service, like HammerTap ($19.99pm), although none quite have the same number of glowing reviews as Terapeak.
The entertainment world has a huge influence on consumers' spending habits, so it should naturally affect you as an eBay seller. In order to capitalise and harness the biggest trends, though, you need to stay at least one step ahead. eBay has hundreds of millions of users and all of them can be considered competition. Once you start to notice the big-selling products before they do, you'll really be able to push on and make progress on the road to success.