Ok Ebay, It’s Time to Confess! Is It Really The Sellers?

This past year many long time Ebay sellers moved the bulk of their business to Amazon, and became multi-channel sellers. During the testing of “best match”, and “finding 2.0″, there were many sellers with a huge drop in sell through rates that lasted for a week or more. The only way to continue to sell on Ebay was to find another avenue to make sales. The avenue of choice for many was Amazon.

As you can see from my last post, Amazon is now becoming the number one place for ecommerce shoppers. So, I have to ask if all the problems on Ebay are really the fault of the sellers? Because after last week, it seems they are blaming the Ebay sellers for the poor buying experience. But, since those same sellers are making Amazon a fortune, how can it be the sellers fault?

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Congratulations To IMA Amazon Sellers! You Helped Make Amazon #1 For December ’07’!

Congratulations to all the members of IMA who sell on Amazon. According to the Nielson ratings, Amazon had more unique visitors than Ebay for the month of December. According to an article by “The New York Times” dated January 14th, 2008: “Amazon has opened its site to independent sellers, while eBay’s auction model is running into problems with fee-fatigued sellers and buyers wary of fraud and counterfeit items.”

“Now the latest audience figures from Nielsen Online confirm that the e-commerce traffic crown has changed heads. For the month of December, for the first time, more Americans clicked over to Amazon.com (59,624,000) than eBay (59,374,000)”

To read the complete article including some very interesting comments in the NY Times.

Jennie

Why Ebay Sellers Should Check Out Amazon’s Marketplace

I was not one of the top 200 Ebay sellers invited to the Ebay Ecommerce Summit last week where Ebay announced the changes to Fees, Search, and Feedback. I was one of the lower volume Ebay sellers on the sidelines at home waiting to hear the long awaited announcements about fee reductions. As we all know now, the fee changes will probably hurt more Ebay sellers than they help. The changes overall made me ask myself how the new CEO designate of Ebay, Mr. John Donahoe, can make changes to Ebay’s platform that blatantly copy the Amazon platform without feeling a bit unimaginative. Mr. Donahoe has been at Ebay since March 2005. If you would like to check out his salary on Forbes Mag. Is Ebay going to become Amazon Lite?

The new final value fees (FVFs) for Ebay stores are just slightly less than Amazon’s FVFs are now. Not allowing sellers to leave negative feedback for buyers is similar to the Amazon feedback system. The star rating system is similar to the Amazon seller rating system. Amazon already has a relevance based customer search that sounds like the “finding experience” Mr. Donahoe has been working on, and which is scheduled to be rolled out to Ebay this year. My guess is it is time for us all to examine the Amazon sellers marketplace because the new CEO-designate of Ebay seems to want the Ebay buyers experience to be just like the Amazon buyers experience, and will probably continue to imitate Amazon features.

Jennie

Is It Wise to Just Wait & See With Ebay?

This is a question that most full time Ebay sellers will be asking themselves over the next month or two. The “best match” finding 2.0 changes to Ebay’s default search in March 08, and the May 08 removal of a sellers “mutual feedback” privileges will cause unknown changes to many Ebay sellers bottom lines. (I am leaving out fee changes because they can be calculated.) I know of one seller locally who has already closed his doors, and started selling off his inventory. He felt it was too big a gamble with three small children to continue counting on Ebay as his sole source of income. Buy out companies have been quick to take most of his stock of brand new Budweiser mugs off his hands.

If you use Ebay as a part time source of income, you will probably be OK waiting to see how your income changes. For sellers who have made a full time commitment of resources and time to build a business on Ebay, the wait and see approach will probably not work. I personally have two building leases, and several buyers who depend on me. Not to mention year long advertising contracts that cost quite a bit each month. For me, waiting to see what happens to my Ebay income isn’t going to work very well. I have to plan for the worst, and hope for the best.

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Welcome To The New Ebay Neighborhood. Will you be my Friend?

Last month I signed up as a member of the Better Business Bureau (BBB). One of the reasons I joined is they allow you to use their emblem on your website. They also don’t let any random person file a complaint against you without documentation of a transaction, and without giving the store owner a chance to refute the complaint.

Why do they do this? Because they do not want to hurt a persons business. A lot of investment goes into a business. Especially a true solid physical store front. You have contracts that last for years with other vendors. Security systems, utilities, advertising, product, etc. If your business goes under, a lot of other businesses are affected. In addition, if someone publishes false negative information about you for the public to read, they could be sued for defamation of character.

Why would I make these comparisons? In May 2008 Ebay plans to let anyone post negative information about my Ebay business without any regard to how it may affect that business. As far as I know, I will be given no chance to refute any negative information that a buyer leaves me, and that negative information will remain there for anyone to read for 12 months.

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Ebay ’08’ & 3 Stages of Major Change! Will Your Business Survive?

This week Ebay announced several major changes to their platform that will go into effect over the next 5 months. The first change starts February 20th and will affect Ebay fees. The second change comes in March 08 when ebay makes “best match” the default search, which I beleive includes “finding 2.0″. The third change is planned for May 08 when Ebay will restrict sellers mutual feedback privileges.

It is impossible to tell how the overall combination of changes will have affected the majority of Ebay sellers 6 months from now, but some guesses can be made about the impact of each individual change and anyone who is concerned will find many more discussions on the topics on the IMA member forum. The initial opinion of some IMA members is that the fee increases will cause a 0-25% increase in fees. Twelve members have stated their overall fees will decrease. The sellers who estimate a decrease are those with a lower sell through rate (10-40% sell through), and a typical selling price between $1.00 to $25.00. Those hardest hit on fee increases typically have a high sell through rate, and higher average sale price. The Auctionbytes blog has a very good article where numbers show everyone’s fees will increase.

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The Amazon Return Policy-Raising ??? Buyer Expectations Internet Wide

An odd thing happened this holiday season on Ebay. I had an buyer that decided the Amazon return policy was much better than my return policy. I have to admit that having 30 days (Amazon’s policy) to return an item is much better than 7 days (my policy), and I did refund my customers money when the item arrived 30 days after we agreed she would return the item. But the incident got me thinking.

Is Amazon setting the standard now for internet buying customer service? Other Ebay sellers have reported that buyers are asking to return items up to 60 days after a sale. Some Amazon sellers are reporting packages being returned from Amazon buyers more than 30 days after the buyer received it.

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In the Beginning, ………Starting New Again

One day my curiousity got the better of my common sense. I decided to find out if running only Ebay auctions with low shipping would put me higher in the ebay search, and increase my sales. So I started a brand new Ebay selling account, and tweaked some things.

The new account has core auction listings only. I lowered my shipping from $4.00 to $2.75, and offered free shipping with the purchase of two items. I ship items the day after they are paid for instead of my normal two days a week. Otherwise, the level of communication is the same, and the auction format is the same. In other words, I made sure I was doing everything in the recommended Ebay 5 star way of thinking.

I found out that my placement in search is not better. My Detailed Sellers Ratings (DSRs) are lower on the new selling ID even though I am offering better service and lower shipping. And Ebay needs to work on the tools available to new sellers.

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The Walmart / Ebay Connection

PricesI recently discovered that the Walmart employee who developed the statistical analysis packages that put Walmart at the top of the discount retailer heap, is working on the same type of statistical analysis for Ebay. This started me thinking about comparisons that can be made between Walmart business policy and Ebay business policy. What is the same about both corporations, and what is not?

For starters, both corporations are concerned with profit above all else, and bringing products to the consumer at the cheapest possible price. Both have a reputation for offering products at rock bottom prices. Walmart is known for taking advantage of manufacturers to get the best deal.

I got that far, and an interesting comparision came to mind. Suppose Ebay saw all the sellers on their platform as manufacturers? Say we Ebay sellers were considered the same commodity to corporate Ebay as the manufacturers of goods are to Walmart? Walmart is known to have broken many a manufacturer by refusing to sell their product until they lowered their price. Walmart can get away with this because they have gained control over so many small town retail markets. It hurts not to have your product sold at Walmart.

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Discrimination & Anonymity in Internet Selling

Ebay Amazon LogoOne of the most interesting aspects of internet selling is anonymity.  The mild mannered insurance salesman sells hardline harley motorcycle gear on the internet.  The shy Ohio housewife sells racy red silk lingerie as Mimi an immigrant from Paris France.  Because the buyer on the internet can’t see a balding head, or mousy dress, and make any assumptions.  This type of anonymity has positive and negative consequences to an internet business.

The positive consequence of anonymity is that discrimination, or generalization due to a sellers appearance is all but eliminated, but it also creates a problem.  It is difficult to create buyer trust for an internet product, or seller.  In a typical brick and mortar store a wary customer can converse freely, and develop a bond with a seller leading to a purchase.  On the internet, there are very few opportunities for conversation and/or communication of any kind before purchasing.  So, for an internet seller, the buyer will trust you as much as they trust the venue you sell in.  In other words, we internet sellers are at the mercy of the reputation of the venue we sell in.

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