Sellers and stylists who've made thousands on the resale app Mercari share how to successfully sell your unwanted stuff online

  • Mercari is a Japan-based ecommerce platform where people can buy and sell almost anything, from jigsaw puzzles to kitchen appliances. 
  • During the pandemic, Mercari CEO John Lagerling saw an increase in the number of buyers as well as sellers flocking to the app to get rid of their unwanted items and make extra cash.
  • Successful sellers on Mercari shared with Business Insider their strategies for making thousands of dollars on the platform.
  • Create listings of in-season items that you already own with good photography and prices that are comparable to similar items on Mercari. 
  • Then, when you're ready to sell, make sure you've explored all shipping options and treat each item you ship with extra care. 
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Mercari, The Selling App, named for the latin verb to trade, has seen 45 million downloads and up to 150,000 new listings daily since it's expansion from Japan to the United States in 2014. 

Unlike other resale marketplace apps and sites that encourage power selling, Mercari's CEO John Lagerling told Business Insider that Mercari is "here for regular people." 

"We want people to know they're buying from another individual rather than a big, nameless, faceless merchant," he said. "At the end of the day, our goal is to serve as a good utility for what we do, but then we want people to move on with their lives and come back when they need to."

During COVID-19, people seem to be coming back more often, Lagerling noted. 

"People are home now more than ever before, and they want their home environment to feel cozy," he said. "They are busy cooking, baking, playing games, and exercising." He added that Mercari's contactless selling is ideal right now for buyers. 

"We're a real sleeper hit," he said, citing sales for strength training for home gyms has increased 18,517%, jigsaw puzzles are up 5,830%, video games are up 1,947%, and kitchen appliances are up 329% since last year.

In addition to an increase in buyers, Lagerling said the pandemic has activated people to finally get over the hurdle of listing individual items at random and begin selling consistently to make some extra money. 

It's free to create an account on Mercari and the selling fee is 10% of the listing price once the sale has been successfully completed, including the cost of processing payment from the buyer.

But what does it take to successfully run your own store on Mercari? Business Insider spoke to those in the know to find out.

List what you have on hand

While resellers on other sites tend to buy in bulk with the goal of selling at increased prices, Mercari sellers are most likely the type to sell items they already have at home. 

"Think of it as an online yard sale and start with what you have at home," said wife and mother of four Estrella Gallegos of Aurora, Colorado, who began selling clothing on Mercari as Starry Shop in 2016 and has since earned between $10,000 and $11,000 in total. "Don't go out and buy stuff. There are plenty of gems right in your own house."

Scottsdale, Arizona-based luxury real estate agent Tonia Cupp, who's been selling on Mercari as The Toy Box alongside her 10-year-old daughter since 2017, agrees. "We sell everything — shoes that no longer fit, maternity clothing, lunchboxes, American Girl dolls, used sports equipment, anime books my daughter has finished reading, even items from my FabFitFun box that I don't want," said Cupp, who estimated that she and her daughter have made $3,000 on the app to date and said that all their earnings go toward Mercari credit so they can buy items from other sellers.

Cupp suggested designating a spot in your home to collect any items you no longer need or use so once you gather a bunch of them you can sit down and list them all in one shot. 

Sell in season

Unlike retail stores that begin selling merchandise months in advance, according to Mercari Chief Stylist Anna de Souza, who's conducted countless closet clean-outs using the app, "in-season merchandise always does best, so avoid selling things like swimwear in January." 

"Seasonal shopping surges — like Black Friday or back-to-school — are great times to sell," she added. "But for sellers of second-hand items, the periods following those big peaks can be just as fruitful — think of them as retail binge hangovers."

Cupp and her daughter are sure to sell old Halloween costumes and holiday decorations during the season leading up to the holiday when they know people will be shopping for them and they'll be more in demand.

Leverage similar items sold on the platform 

Chances are whatever it is you're selling, someone before you has already sold it on Mercari, so instead of reinventing the wheel in creating a listing, here's a shortcut from Cupp: 

Type in the name of the item you're looking to sell. If you find the exact or similar item, scroll down toward the bottom of the listing and you'll see the prompt, "Got something similar? Tap for an easy listing" with an orange "Sell Now" button. If you click the button, it will auto-populate details that may be helpful to use in your own listing, such as hashtags, category, and brand. From there, you can choose the information that matches your item and then fill out the rest of the listing on your own. 

Cupp also recommended bundling items together to sell them faster. One example is when she created a single lot of American Girl Dolls along with their accessories instead of selling them all separately. Bundling children's clothing is also something she's done and highly recommended. 

Price to sell

A common mistake is pricing an item too high. To understand what people will realistically pay, search for the exact or similar item you're selling and see what it sold for. 

"By looking at the actual sale price, not just what it's currently selling for, you'll know what the market is demanding," Gallegos said. 

"Researching pricing will help you be more realistic in terms of pricing from the get-go," Cupp added.

Offering free shipping is another way to increase the odds of selling your item, as Mercari boosts the listings of items that include free shipping.

Take good photos showing different angles and any flaws

Mercari allows you to post up to 12 images per item, and according to the sellers Business Insider spoke to, snapping photos with your smartphone is a cinch.

"Don't bother staging photos, just lay them on the floor and take them and be sure to show any flaws," Cupp said, adding that she takes shots with her iPhone. "I'm not a techie person, so if me and my daughter can take photos and create a listing, anyone can."

Gallegos also photographs items flat on the floor with her Android phone, utilizing the square frame mode, and suggested natural light to highlight the item's true color. 

According to de Souza, you should position your item by itself, against a plain background, and shoot from multiple angles. Avoid using flash: It usually does more harm than good. If your phone's camera has portrait mode, use it.

Figure out the best shipping option

Sellers have three days to pack up and ship their items to their buyer.

Mercari offers sellers prepaid labels, which both Gallegos and Cupp use, with discounted fixed rates of up to 30% off through USPS, FedEx, and UPS. All rates are determined by weight — to learn more about this method, visit this link. 

If you're selling a big, bulky, or fragile item, like a baby stroller, instrument, or set of china, for an additional fee Mercari Pack and Ship allows you to drop your item off at a local UPS store where they'll label, pack, and ship it. 

You can also take care of the shipping on your own as long as you get it out within three days of the order.

Offer over-the-top customer service

Providing top-notch customer service might be the difference between a one-time customer and a regular customer. 

Cupp takes special care to wrap fragile merchandise in bubble wrap to ensure it arrives intact. Gallegos, meanwhile, said she packages all shipments with care, adding a nice card, some confetti, and even a few candies for a sweet treat. One look at both sellers' reviews and you'll see high marks for fast shipping, extra care, and considerate packaging. 

"We didn't want to position ourselves as cool," Lagerling said. "We wanted to be like Target or Ikea, and welcome people from all socioeconomic backgrounds with great service. The best sellers are responsive to customer questions, they send handwritten thank you notes. It's the human touch that makes all the difference."

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