What Is Your Business Goal For 2008?

Like individuals who make New Year’s resolutions, most business owners take time to set new goals and/or revise old goals at the beginning of each year. As more and more consumers and sellers become comfortable with ecommerce, merchants are branching out and adopting a multichannel selling approach, whether branching out to sell on Amazon (or another site or sites) in addition to eBay or whether opening a brick and mortar or starting up their own website.

One of IMA’s most recent polls asked sellers what their business goals were for 2008. The poll choices were:

Expand into other online selling venues

Expand current product line/number of listings

Add new products to business

Open up or expand brick and mortar retail store

As we had expected, the majority of respondents said they planned to expand into other online selling venues. In fact, 67/112 (59.8%) said this was true. From an informal survey of the IMA and other message boards, it appears that Amazon is fast becoming the most popular online venue for sellers looking to branch out. It will be interesting to see how Amazon and sellers deal with the influx of sellers to Amazon. Will Amazon experience some of the growing pains eBay has? Will Amazon be able to continue and sustain its growth? Will sellers remain enchanted with Amazon or will they become disillusioned if Amazon decides to raise fees or implement new policies like eBay has?

The second most popular goal for 2008 (21/112 or 18.8%) according to our respondents was expand current product line/number of listings. It is not clear whether this means these respondents are expanding their current product line/number of listings on eBay or whether they are adopting a multichannel approach and branching out to Amazon and/or their own website. So many sellers focus on expanding their current product line/number of listings, but doing so often presents another set of business challenges such as how to keep growing your business yet maintaining and improving your profit margins, how to handle the increased listing/shipping volume, etc.

Adding new products to business (19/112 or 17%) was the third most popular business goal of our respondents. While adding new products may offer another potential income source, it may also mean having to find and deal with new suppliers, having to research and evaluate profit margins for the new products, possibly dealing with some new buyer challenges related to the products, etc. Again, in the haste to grow, sellers must find a balance between growth and keeping their business running efficiently.

Lastly, 4.5% (5/112) of respondents planned to open up or expand their brick and mortar retail store. Given the rumblings about the economy being in trouble and people and corporations tightening their finances, this is an interesting response. It would also help to know where these sellers live as often, the cost of acquiring and operating a brick and mortar retail store is significantly cheaper in some areas than it is in others.

What do these poll results mean in the grand scheme of things? As has been the trend for the past few years, it appears that sellers are constantly adapting to the world of ecommerce and rules of various selling venues and in order to expand their businesses and remain competitive, sellers are branching out and remaining nimble.

Jennifer

How to Fix The eBay Feedback Fiasco

Written by Cyn

I applaud eBay management for taking steps to “fix” feedback on the site. The changes are in the right direction, but there are still some things that could be fixed to make feedback more fair for both buyers and sellers. After much thought, I agree with the proposal that sellers should not be able to leave negative feedback for buyers, IF the following changes are also implemented.

First, I propose that eBay do away with “neutral” feedback as it doesn’t do anyone any good. It is unfair to call something “neutral” that really doesn’t have a neutral effect. I understand that eBay feedback percentage is “Positive Percentage” which is why neutrals now effect the score. However, many neutrals are left as a form of communication rather than showing dissatisfaction on the part of the buyer, and therefore should not be used to penalize the seller.

Second, I propose that non-paying buyers be banned from leaving feedback at all. Isn’t feedback supposed to be only for members involved in a transaction? If an item is not paid for, that is NOT a transaction and therefore that buyer has no right to leave feedback. I understand that eBay cannot tell if a buyer has paid unless that buyer pays via Paypal. However, I propose that sellers be on the honor system to mark an item Paid in their My eBay when a buyer pays with a payment form other than Paypal. If an item is not marked as paid, the buyer would be unable to leave feedback. Should a buyer choose to pay with a method other than paypal, they will risk not being able to leave feedback if the seller does not mark the item paid. However, this would just be another risk a buyer takes when paying with other methods. In addition, it would encourage more buyers to use Paypal – and isn’t that what eBay wants anyway?

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Best Match – Podcast with IMA Member Larry

In my opinion, Best Match is one of the most significant changes that eBay has introduced in the last few years. It is designed to change the Buyer experience in a big way. And every time the buyer experiences changes, it presents a challenge for sellers.

There are three types of people in the world of ebay; those that watch a change, those that complain about a change, and those who find a way to make that change work to their benefit. For those of you in the third category, I strongly suggest you listen to a podcast that I had the pleasure to record with Ina Steiner of AuctionBytes. Here’s a link to the article, which will allow you to connect to the podcast:

http://www.auctionbytes.com/cab/abn/y08/m04/i11/s01

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The eBay Dictionary

You may have noticed that recently eBay has been making up definitions for words that have been in the English language for hundreds of years.  Only eBay’s new definitions only apply to Sellers, the traditional definitions still apply for buyers.

For example, the word Satisfied in DSR ratings means satisfied to buyers, or at least eBay doesn’t tell them otherwise.  However, if an eBay seller has all “Satisfied” ratings, versus “Very Satisfied” ratings, eBay is not satisfied.  No, if your buyers are only satisfied, you will lose Powerseller status and be downgraded in search.

The other word is “neutral”.  A buyer can rate a transaction as Positive, Neutral, or Negative.  The Merriam Webster online dictionary defines the word “Neutral” as “ not decided or pronounced as to characteristics”, which would mean the buyer has no opinion either way.  However, eBay, in their dictionary, has decided that “Neutral” means a buyer had a negative experience.  When eBay figures a sellers perfomance rating they figure any neutrals as negatives.  However, once again, eBay does not tell the buyer about their new definition of Neutral.

Feel free to contribute more new definitions from eBay!

Cyn

Katy, an eBay Pink, Passes

If you are an eBay “old-timer” you will remember Katy.  I just read the news of her passing.  For full details please see the eBay Chatter blog here.

You can read more on the eBay Memorial Thread. 

I’m sure there are many IMA members who remember Katy, so I thought it was only fitting we should start our own memorial post to her, on our blog.  Please post your remembrances of her in the Comments section below.

May you Rest in Peace Katy, the Pinkest of the Pink.

Cyn

eBay: Custom Template Designs & Digital Downloads

Anyone who sells items that can be sent by email or delivered through eBay/Paypal’s download service has certainly had a rough week.  eBay announced earlier this week that sellers of digital goods would no longer be able to list those items in auction format.  Sellers of digital goods would be required to list their wares in the classified ad format that costs $9.95 per ad and doesn’t receive any on eBay feedback for the transactions (since they would all be completed off eBay).

The main reasoning for this rules change was stated as FEEDBACK MANIPULATION.  Many of the digital downloads are easily replicated and any seller could quickly generate thousands of listings and pump up their feedback.  Unfortunately all goods that can be “shipped” digitally do not fall in this category of items, eBay listing templates and store templates come to mind.

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Expanded Paypal Payment Review Starts 3/17

I logged into my Vendio account today to find a message from Vendio alerting sellers that this Monday eBay will be expanding support for Paypal Payment Reviews on eBay transactions. Vendio states that now more eBay payments made through Paypal will be reviewed to determine if they are high risk (Vendio is estimating the total will be well under 10%). If Paypal determines a payment is high risk they will place a hold on the funds and notify the seller not to ship while they review the payment.

Reading the Paypal link containing the information, Paypal states that the seller will be notified “within minutes” of payment via email, as well as flags put in your Account Overview and History Pages. I would recommend not relying on email and check your Paypal account throughout the day for these “flags” or even delaying shipment by a day on high value items.

Click here to read the Paypal information on Payment Review.

Cyn

eBay Says That New Sellers Must Specify S&H Costs

Yesterday Kristina Klausen from eBay’s Shipping Team announced that starting this week eBay will begin requiring all new sellers who are listing for the first time to specify their shipping costs using the Shipping Details section. By the time eBay Live arrives specified shipping costs will be required in most listings on eBay. Click here to read the full announcement.

What does this mean for me as a seller?

If you use USPS or UPS then you can take advantage of the eBay Shipping Calculator, if you prefer FedEx or DHL then you will have to enter a flat rate when listing.

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Be Notified When Your Website is Linked To & Indexed

Wouldn’t it be nice to be automatically notified when your website has a new page indexed in Google, or when someone links to your site? Well this is very easy to do using the Google Alerts Beta! Here are the instructions for setting up a site wide Google index update Alert and a site wide link alert.

Create an alert for when a page on your site gets indexed:

  1. Go to www.google.com/alerts.
  2. For search terms enter (without quotes) “site:yourdomain.com”.
    1. Make sure you do not use a www or other subdomain.
  3. Select Web as the type.
  4. For “How often” we will select “as-it-happens”. I like this because this tells you exactly when Google is crawling your site!
  5. Enter the email you want the alert sent to.
  6. Click “Create Alert”.
  7. Confirm the alert from the email Google send you and you are set!

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eBay Announces New Checkout

eBay announced today a new checkout flow for Paypal payments.  The response from the community has not been positive as it apparently leaves their Paypal account open at the end, among other glitches.  There are also reports of the order showing the shipping for each item, rather than one shipping charge for the entire order.

 You can read the official eBay announcement here.

Reviewing the screenshots posted by Paypal on the Checkout Forum I am happy to see on the checkout page an explanation of what an echeck is, with an estimated clearing date, and a note that it may delay shipping.  However, there have been problems reported with trying to use other funding methods and being automatically moved to an echeck instead.
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