Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The Ugliest Thing On eBay Contest

We've all seen some pretty bizarre things on eBay over the years but now there is a contest. Now if you find the Ugliest Thing on eBay you can win a prize. Go here for the details.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Squidoo Announces SquidBids for eBay Sellers

Squidoo announced today that they have launched a new promotional tool for eBay sellers called SquidBids. eBay sellers can use their eBay userID or eBay Store name to create a profile on their ebay business. It is a cool little tool and something even the big players on eBay should consider for their business.

I would love to see a SquidBid page for GrapevineHill, InflatableMadness, GothamCityOnline among others. Sellers need to reach out and find customers where they hangout and Squidoo gets tons of traffic. Here is an example of a SquidBid page from eBay Seller FreakNoodles.

Seth Godin does a much better job of explaining SquidBids then I would so here is a link to his blog post.

Combining SquidBids with the Red Door Store campaign that some store sellers have started might give eBay sellers some promotional juice.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Where do you eBay?

I came across this mapping tool on Squidoo and thought it would be a fantastic tool for the blog to show where everyone eBays from. So why not add your links and location to the map.

If you are a buyer or a seller on eBay, please add your location, website, and eBay store to the map (remember to include your refid=store code). Please feel free to add this map to your lenses, blogs, myspace page, Facebook page, eBay Blog or About Me page.

Special thanks to JasonE for turning me onto this cool map feature. Click on a red dot to see who it is.

Here are some examples where to place the map:
  • Your blog
  • Your eBay Blog. (I did this for a friend)
  • Your eBay Me Page (I did this for a friend)
  • Your Social Network Pages
You might even create your own map to show where your customers come from and add it to your website, eBay Store or where ever seems right.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

eBay Launches Month Long Listing Promo

Warning - Read the Promo Details. This promo requires Gallery.

eBay is making a huge change in the way they handle promos for sellers, at least for this promo. I'm hoping this is a signal that there is a change in the wind at eBay and though it may just me the first move it’s not a bad first step. I honestly never thought I would see the day.

For years, eBay has trumpeted the use of gallery as a means of increasing conversion and providing a better buyer experience, and many sellers have agreed, well today eBay appears to be putting their money where their mouth is. Here is what Phillip Justus had to say:

"I have great news for you! Based on the success of our last Listing with Gallery promotion on 8/15, we are running a similar promotion for the entire month of September. Like the last promotion, if you buy Gallery and start your Auction-style or Fixed Price listings at $9.99 or less, we're going to give you the insertion fee for FREE. In addition, for items with a starting price of $10 or more, you'll save 25% off the listing fee (up to $1.20 per listing!).

But wait – there's more! This promotion runs from August 29 to September 30. That means significant savings for our sellers who will be able to take advantage of this promotion for an entire MONTH! (Read here for more promotion details.)"

If you've never used Gallery before this would definitely be the time to test it. Just be aware that your total cost will increase in two price ranges:
  • $10 - $24.99 - You will pay .20 cents more to add gallery
  • $25 - $49.99 - You will pay .05 cents more to add gallery
If you currently use Gallery you will be saving the following amounts:
  • $.01 - $.99 - You save $.20 cents per listing
  • $1 - $9.99 - You save $.40 cents per listing
  • $10 - $24.99 - You save $.15 cents per listing
  • $25 - $49.99 - You save $.30 cents per listing
  • $50 - $199.99 - You save $.60 cents per listing
  • $200 - $499.99 - You save $.90 cents per listing
  • $500 - Up - You save $1.20 per listing
So if you are currently using gallery you will save in every price range. Think this through, don't go crazy using your savings to add a ton more listings but where it makes sense add listings that give you the best savings.

Remember eBay will launch Best Match in September and I'm sure use of Gallery is part of the criteria so if you were considering not taking part in this promo, you might reconsider to give your listings the best shot at being seen.

I've often commented on eBay using sticks to mold seller behavior but this time they are using a carrot. If this is successful they will use carrots more often.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

I Need You!

eBay recently sent out their Quarterly Power Seller newsletter (PowerUp) and it supposedly included an article entitled: “Sourcing for Profitability” where it makes a disturbing suggestion

"When sourcing at retail, check the return policy before you buy. If items are returnable, you can always return the inventory if you find it doesn’t sell at a good profit.

I have contacted eBay PR for a confirmation if this in an accurate quote but as of yet have heard nothing, so I am seeking your help. If you are a Power Seller with access to this newsletter would you please email it to me so that I can understand the context the above quote comes from?

I'll leave my opinions on this subject for a later post, after I've had a chance to review the article. I would imagine major retailers are revising their return policies as we speak, if this is accurate. (Sorry, old habits are hard to break)

Please forward it to me at rksmythe at yahoo you can fill in the rest. Thanks in advance.

In the meantime here are a couple of posts on the subject. Tambay.com and Auctionbytes.

Amazon Firing On All Cylinders

Amazon.com appears to have become the darling of Internet Stocks at the moment, with a lofty share price and a stellar Q2 behind them. Anecdotal evidence, coming from 3P sellers who sell on both eBay and Amazon say their Amazon orders are increasing while their eBay orders are flat to down. Many sellers, are now just using eBay for cashflow until they can ween themselves off of the site. I don't anticipate they will completely withdraw from eBay but they certainly want to change their mix of sales. Because it can take up to 18 months to generate measurable sales from a sellers own website, Amazon is currently the best place to move their business. Sure it has some of the same marketplace dynamics as eBay but Amazon is a retailer that understand ecommerce. eBay is an auction site that grew so fast, so easily that they let things get out of hand and no one wants to be part of the renovation.

In media categories, many sellers are seeing Amazon sales equal to or greater than their eBay sales and with the all important 4th Quarter just around the corner, many sellers are hedging their bets. Many are expanding to Amazon now to get all of the kinks out before the all-important holiday shopping season.

Amazon's model is brilliant, if you ask me, because they have added breadth to their product offerings without having to carry any inventory; they get the best of both worlds. They can be very aggressive with their owned inventory, stocking limited breadth but tremendous depth leaving the breadth to their high margin 3P business. Because Amazon controls the marketplace (they don't call themselves a venue or a community) they have more control over merchandising as well as seller quality. When a category has too much product for the projected demand they close the category to new 3P business. This is a fluid operation that allows them to open again when the demand picks up.

Amazon's 3P business, IMO saved the company. Imagine where they would be without the margins from 3P sales that are now north of 35% of sales and growing. They have the media market sewed up. Half.com has become primarily a Textbook Sales venue that has two key selling seasons in August and January. If Half.com was a real challenge to Amazon they would be expanding to other countries.

A recent search of Amazon, pulled up Collectibles, Apparel, Sporting Goods Equipment, Cosmetics, etc. In the early days of Amazon they tried to carry this inventory and sell everything including the kitchen sink (and we all know how that turned out). Now, with 3P sellers they can make a handsome margin on product sales where they have no inventory exposure. They've found the "Holy Grail" for an online retailer. eBay can't compete because they don't actually sell anything. eBay has always had sales velocity because of auctions but that is slowing and apparently Amazon is catching up.

eBay is the "King of Auctions" and should have become the King of Ecommerce but that mantel has been passed to Amazon. eBay's bet on improving CORE may have actually marginalized them even more. eBay's like a 55 year-old former starlet who undergoes plastic surgery to recapture some of her youth.

Amazon has been around for as long as eBay but they seem to be hitting their stride now while eBay seems to have pulled a "hammy".

One caution for 3P Sellers who are looking at Amazon as the "Holy Grail", they are still a marketplace and you are advised not to "put all of your eggs in one basket". Begin the transition to your own website because it may take up to 18 months to drive significant sales through it.

You can find more information on Amazon 3P offerings at their website or visit the AmazonServices website.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Comments From The EBay Stores Board

I was reading one of the eBay Stores Board threads today and came across this post. I think many sellers can identify with this poster. I'll give you the link to the whole thread but most of the comments are just personal attacks. It can be entertaining though.

"ebay has changed. whether or not the changes are permanent we won't know for a year or more down the road.

my items no longer make as much as I need so I have taken on a part time job. I have accepted the limits of what I sell and replaced the missing income.

I do believe I could find another product line or lines and increase my income but at the moment I am burned out and not willing to do the research or invest the money necessary. I will be willing to put in that effort down the road. right now, I enjoy just going to work and bringing home that money. I put in the hours, I get the money.

I think there is a future for ebay and ebay sellers but at this point I'm not sure I'm interested in remaining one of them. I think my time would be better spent *elsewhere*. investing my time and money in an online business in some other place than ebay. whether it's amazon, my own website, or a group effort, I just have reached the point I'm not sure ebay is worth the effort. but I do believe SOME place online is." from tresrhnter

The Dip: A Little Book That Teaches You When to Quit (and When to Stick)

Seth Godin has written a great book dealing with this same idea called "The Dip". I personally lived that book with my business, Glacier Bay DVD. I decided, rather than reorganize one more time with very little upside for the business model, that it just wasn't worth trying to make it work. I voluntarily shutdown a business that at one time was #1 in Feedback on eBay and generated over $4.6 million a year in revenue.

Many sellers need to look deeply at their business and see whether it is worth the effort. The seller above (tresrhnter ) decided to find a part-time job. I took one shot at reorganizing my business in 2005. I even brought it back to profitability but the amount of money left over for me was not worth the effort I would have to put in or risk I would have to assume to continue working the business.

Please take the time to ask the hard questions and lay out the positives and negatives of continuing to sell online - even if you are currently doing very well. I hope for most of you the answer at the end of the day would be yes, continue. Being an online seller was one of the best experiences of my life and I might even do it again if all the stars aligned but I am very glad I made the decision to quit.
I am much happier now.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

eCrater Becomes an Option For eBay Store Sellers!

Many of you may not have heard of eCrater before. It is a small marketplace site that is geared to fixed price items and appears to be growing. Up until recently, I wasn't able to recommend the site because it didn't provide inventory control but that has now changed. As of July eCrater has inventory control.

Here's what eCrater says about itself:
"What is eCrater.com? eCrater.com is both a free web store builder and a free online marketplace. Sellers can easily create their own free online store in minutes. Buyers can easily browse and compare between thousands of products.

Sellers receive free website hosting, a free subdomain and a powerful admin tool to manage their free online stores. All products are posted to the world's most famous product search engine [Googlebase] as well."

eCrater is in many respects what eBay Stores should be. An independent stores platform and marketplace. This is an excellent tool for eBay Store Sellers to ween themselves off of eBay Stores. It is free, easy to use, part of a marketplace and allows sellers to accept Google Checkout and post listings automatically to Googlebase.

With the reduced exposure for eBay Store listings and the excessive fee structure at eBay, eCrater seems a reasonable alternative to eBay Stores. It can also serve as the transition between eBay and your own website. If you are spending a great deal of your time trying to bring traffic to your eBay store why not consider an eCrater store instead.

Sellers, can continue to use eBay for what sells there but move the vast majority of the slower moving product over to eCrater. This will help make your eBay business more profitable and allow you to learn how to drive traffic to your own site. With the holiday season approaching why not use eBay as a customer acquisition tool for your new eCrater store.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Create Your Own Product Widget!

I've added a Blidget (Blog Widget) to the right sidebar, as an example of what you can do to promote your online product. I chose a friends eBay Store as an example. All you need is an RSS feed of your product and you can create your own Blidget. If you are an eBay Store Seller don't wait for eBay to finish their Widget, now you can put your product on your Facebook or MySpace page or add it to your blog. The cool part is, that visitors, friends and customers can grab the Blidget and add it to their own Google homepage, MySpace page etc. to expand your audience.

This is not solely for eBay sellers. Anyone with an RSS feed of their product can create a Blidget. So if your ecrater store, Yahoo Store or other online store has an RSS feed you can join the Widget revolution.

Just go to WidgetBox to create your Blidget.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Online Sellers -- Affordable Google Advertising is Here.

Konica Minolta Dimage Z3 4MP Digital Camera with Anti Shake 12x Optical Zoom

This post is a duplicate of my post on My Blog Utopia.

I know, I'm not supposed to point out the advertisements on my blog as part of Google's TOS, but now that Google has launched the PPA network through adSense, I'll take a chance by pointing them out this one time.

For bloggers (publishers) the ad units are called Google Referrals and on The Seller Evangelist you will find them on the right sidebar, just under my subscription link. Feel free to click on them and and look around the advertisers site because they are no longer paying Google (and me) for the click, instead they are paying for a completed transaction (of course if you you do like what you see make sure to purchase something). In effect, they are removing any chance of click fraud.

This helps the advertiser control their ad spend, by tying a dollar amount to an action, (subscriptions, purchases, etc.) and it helps the publisher by paying a higher dollar amount for the referral. In essence, Google has created an affiliate network.

I wouldn't suggest that publishers get rid of their PPC (pay per click) adSense ads completely but this allows them to diversify their advertising inventory and should be a win-win for everyone involved.

This also represents an excellent opportunity for online sellers to manage their Google advertising dollars, by tying the advertising amount to a completed result. For example, let's say an eBay seller is currently paying eBay $2.50 for a completed sale, that amount can vary depending on conversion rates for that item. With Google PPA, a seller can sell that same item on their website and say they will pay $1.75 for a sale of that same item, give the customer a 25 cent discount on the sale and still make 50 cents more for the sale than on eBay. For media sellers, this is a savior because they can now afford to advertise with Google and draw traffic to their own website. Had this program been available in 2005 when Glacier Bay was trying to convert to web sales, I would have chosen to stay in business.

I'm really looking forward to this as a publisher and if I was still a seller I would be all over this.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

My New Role As Community Manager on Squidoo

As many of you know, I've been a Squidoo user (lensmaster) since March of this year and have enjoyed it immensely. I've created a personal lens on my life, a lens on being a single dad, published my Dad's first novel (we call it a Squidovel) and created a gallery of wonderful photography, travel destinations and video clips that I've Stumbled Upon. I was recently honored with the title of "Squid Angel", along with several others, a role that charges us with promoting the best content (lenses) on Squidoo and I've also become a Jurist in a monthly "Top Lens" contest. You would think that would be enough to keep me busy but I still had too much time on my hands.

As of last week, I have a new title (drum roll please). I am officially the Community Manager for the eBay Seller Community on Squidoo a wonderful group of sellers who use Squidoo to promote their eBay Stores, Websites, and online content. This community reminds me a great deal of what eBay was like in the early days. The community is very strong and active, with over 200 eBay sellers already taking part. Meg! This is the real "Social Commerce"

Now, here is the best part, this is not a staff position, I am a volunteer. I am committing my time and energy to make this a success because eBay Sellers need every bit of help they can get. As you know, I have not always spoken kindly of eBay's decisions over the years and I've done what I can to encourage sellers to open their own websites and diversify their businesses. I've said over and over again, "stop calling yourselves eBay Sellers" and begin to think of yourselves as online merchants. I'm still going to continue to do that but at Squidoo, we've created a community for online sellers to promote their businesses, it just happens that we are gearing the community around eBay sellers. It doesn't hurt that I have many years of experience with eBay.

Seth Godin has recently written a post entitled Jobs of the future, #1: Online Community Organizer and what he says really hits the spot.

"If you want to hire a union organizer, you probably know what to look for. Someone with resilience, passion, persistence and excellent interpersonal skills.

What if you want to hire someone to build an online community? Somebody to create and maintain a virtual world in which all the players in an industry feel like they need to be part of it? Like being the head of a big trade association, but without the bureaucracy and tedium..."

eBay sellers, understand the role that community plays in their success and they get excited about finding ways to reach new customers (especially when they are free). What Squidoo allows them to do, is build their own brand and develop their own expertise, sharing that experience with a whole new group of customers on Squidoo. Sellers are the experts on their particular product and they can drive targeted traffic to their listings, blogs, lenses and WebSites. In fact many of them are already doing that. Several sellers get over 10% of their eBay Store traffic from Squidoo. I get a growing portion of new visitors to my blogs from Squidoo and I know of one seller who is doing very well driving traffic to her own website; see it can be done. I'm very excited to be a part of this.

The power to succeed, is in the will of the individual, not in the marketplace. Being an eBay seller provides an instant connection with over 200 other sellers and my job will be to harness that power and channel it into a community that I hope to grow exponentially.

If you are an eBay seller and are interested in more information on Squidoo, please visit the eBay Seller headquarters or my new eBay Squidoo Blog for more information.

Squidoo, is the Web 2.0 tool I've been looking for. It is much more community oriented than MySpace or Facebook, it empowers the individual to speak about subjects they are the experts in. It rewards users (lensmasters) as it grows, by sharing the revenue with them and it provides eBay sellers a vehicle to promote their products, on or off eBay.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Another Big eBay Seller Opens Up Shop at Yahoo Stores!

The migration continues, as another large seller has opened up their website using Yahoo's Merchant Solutions; commonly know as Yahoo Stores.

eBay Seller Inflatable Madness is a "Top 30" eBay seller with over 200,000 Positive Feedback. I spoke with Kevin Harmon, Owner of Inflatable Madness and he said "We've been looking at our options for a website for awhile now and Yahoo proved to be the best fit. It is just another element in our multi-channel selling strategy" Kevin will also be blogging about the movies and anything else he can thin of so check out the Inflatable Madness blog as well.

The website will concentrate on Selling DVD's for now and provides a great selection at some unbeatable prices. Check it out at: http://www.inflatablemadnessdvd.com

Inflatable Madness joins two other large eBay Sellers at Yahoo Stores: eForcity and Rock Bottom Golf among others.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Maybe eBay Is Listening!

I just checked eBay's announcement board and found an interesting post: Making eBay Better Than Ever - Get a Sneak Peek

It looks like eBay has determined that giving buyers and sellers a heads up on changes coming to the platform makes sense. I could have told them that years ago. Here are some of their new initiatives. I think all sellers need to check these out to see how their business may be affected and give eBay feedback while there is still time to make changes.

  • There is The Playground where you can see how the site looks with Finding 2.0

  • There is the new Sneakpeak site where you can see what changes are coming down the pike to other areas of eBay.

  • And there is the new Disruptive Innovation site where you can see how eBay is changing the landscape.
Information is a good thing, now sellers can get a heads up on the changes eBay is contemplating. Is the new FeeForcast site the next site to be announced. (I doubt it)

As much as I complain about the lack of information this is a small glimmer of hope that eBay is changing for the better.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Ebay Sellers on Squidoo - Version 2

I've been working on the directory I created for eBay Sellers on Squidoo and I would love to get your comments.

Squidoo ranks very high in Google search so I thought I would bring eBay sellers together in one place and see if we could drive some traffic your way. You will only get out of this what you put into it so take a quick moment to add your eBay Store, Website, blog or Squidoo page to the directory. This directory is for eBay sellers and former sellers worldwide so my Brit and Aussie friends please add your links also.

The traffic that is generated is not substantial right now but it will build, so add your store or items to the directory today.

You can't beat free. And if I can get some of my fellow eBay bloggers to mention the directory that would help move things along.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

eBay Stores/Shops Should Be A Billion Dollar A Year Business!

I originally posted this on My Blog Utopia but felt that it would also be perfect for The Seller Evangelist . IMO, eBay has the answer to many of their marketplace problems if they would just change their perspective on Stores/Shops. Here is the post:

While eBay management struggles with what to do with eBay Stores/Shops, I often wonder what would have happened if they had just focused on them rather than shoving them to the side. Obviously CORE is the main revenue driver on eBay but Store/Shops have become the heart and soul of sellers on eBay.

I found this comment on the eBay Stores Board and it sums up my feelings very well and lends credence to the position I take in this post.

From moondancefarm

"eBay stores are not in competition with eBay auctions. They cater to a totally different kind of customer. They cater to buyers that want a product that is not in high demand, but they want it now. The management of eBay either fails to see this or does not want to admit it. And in doing so they are missing a huge opportunity."

I realize that in direct comparison, Stores/Shops are less profitable to the company than CORE but if you break Stores out and look at them like you would a StubHub or Shopping.com the revenue Stores/Shops generate is substantial and is still a growth business.

If eBay management can look at Stores/Shops as independent from CORE and consider it a stand alone business, I'm sure their perspective will change. Imagine growing the business to over 1 million Store/Shop owners worldwide and do the numbers. That is a business any company would want and there are obvious ways to achieve this without damaging CORE.

Stores were a focus of the company until putting them in search caused problems with CORE. It was evident that buyers did want the product that Store/Shop sellers were selling because many saw huge increases in sales while in SIS.

For many sellers, Stores/Shops are the window to a better life. A huge number of sellers are just looking to make some extra cash or a second income and eBay Stores/Shops were the ticket to their dreams. The fee increases are not the problem, the lack of exposure is. Sellers would not complain as much or as long if they received proper value for the fees they paid.

In my view eBay needs to spin off their Stores/Shops platform into an independent entity. They wanted to achieve this with Pro Stores but at least to my eyes that has failed. Converting Stores/Shops into an independent business that facilitates multi-channel selling would turn them into a Billion dollar business and separating them from CORE as a platform (Store/Shop sellers would still list in CORE) would keep the erosion from happening in CORE.

I realize that technically separating Stores/Shop from the marketplace platform would be a challenge and would take time but it is an option that needs serious consideration. As an independent business eBay Stores/Shops could reach their potential.

Just my 5 cents

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Great New Feature Being Tested In eBay Motors

eBay announced today that they would be testing something called semi-persistent Buy it Now. Please read the announcement.

This is something that I advocated for years and is needed to raise ASP's. While this is a test for the next several months it is a welcome sign that eBay is willing to test things that will improve the buying and selling experience. I think this will be a very successful test.

Monday, June 11, 2007

eBay Live 2007 Coverage

I've been to all but one eBay Live -- I missed Vegas for obvious reasons. I believe this will be the most important eBay Live of them all. eBay is at a crossroads and needs to make changes that will re-invigorate the marketplace. I can't wait to see what they have in store.

For on-going coverage of the conference please tune into Ina Steiner's Podcast's and the Auctionbytes website.

I will be covering the conference as well but from a completely different perspective. I hope to meet with sellers large and small and hear their eBay story. I should be able to post at least once a day at the conference so check back.

And of course you can also get great coverage of eBay Live! from Chris and Sue at Tamebay.com

Monday, June 4, 2007

Now Is The Time To Develop Your Own Website!

There is no time like the present to begin working on your own website. I realize this can be a scary proposition but if you want to continue to grow your online business you will eventually need to have an independent online presence. One that is not dependent on any one marketplace.

Dan Wilson, former Community Manager of eBay UK in a recent Tamebay interview with Sue Bailey says, one of the reasons he revised his book Make Serious Money on eBay UK

"I also really wanted to look beyond eBay and how eBay sellers can use eBay as a springboard for other selling online. It strikes me that every serious eBay seller needs to be expanding off the platform and looking for other sales opportunities either with their own website or with other marketplaces. It represents too much of a business risk to have everything riding on eBay alone and truth be told if you’re selling on eBay you have all the skills to sell elsewhere." Bold is used for emphasis.

My own experience with Glacier Bay DVD proved that developing your own website is crucial to the growth of your online business don't wait too long to begin. I launched my site in February of 2005 and though I was able to generate $300,000 in sales from the web site that year it was not significant enough to keep me from shutting my business down. Had I launched my WebSite in 2004 I would still be selling media product online.

As Dan mentioned in his Tamebay interview "It represents too much of a business risk to have everything riding on eBay alone and truth be told if you’re selling on eBay you have all the skills to sell elsewhere."

Just My 5 Cents!

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Throwing In The Towel On eBay Stores!

One of my favorite eBay Stores Board posters has made the move. As of today 5-17-2006 she has shut down her eBay store. While, she will continue to sell in CORE she just felt it was time to shut down the store.

Perhaps, we could call her leaving "collateral damage" to eBay's efforts to improve the buyer experience but it isn't collateral to her. As you can see from the picture above, she had 100% feedback, with over 4,000 positives and 5 stars across the board with Feedback 2.0.

She is a perfect example of the types of sellers that are leaving eBay Stores. For many of them it no longer makes sense for their business.

Postcardsandmore, you will be missed.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Drive Traffic To eBay And Get Paid For It!

Today's announcement from eBay, highlights the changes in the eBay affiliate program. Now sellers can get affiliate pay for driving traffic to eBay, even if it is only to their own listings. You would need to join the eBay affiliate program to participate. I'm not sure how this will affect the FVF credit that store owners receive.

One thought from my perspective: Why would you want to expend effort and possibly money to drive traffic to eBay; you will still only receive part of the transaction and eBay gets the rest for absolutely no effort? This move lessens eBay's dependence on paid search and benefits eBay in the aggregate while individual sellers get little benefit.

If you are a store owner and want to keep your store presence on eBay it may make since but I would think you would be better off creating your own independent webstore and driving traffic there. Why give eBay even part of the transaction if you are doing all of the work?

Follow-Up to The Case For Yahoo Stores Over eBay Stores

I've been asked several times, since I posted my comparison of Yahoo Stores to eBay Stores, why I didn't compare Yahoo Stores to eBay's Pro Stores instead. The reason is simple, with the reduction in visibility of eBay Stores on eBay.com, store sellers are now forced to market to buyers directly. eBay's preferred method for that is Auctions but most sellers consider Auctions as costly advertising for their stores.

eBay stores are now in the same place as Yahoo Stores and for that matter Pro Stores, in regards to exposure, they have to spend additional money and effort to get buyers to their stores. Yahoo Stores require the seller to spend additional money and effort to bring buyers to their stores as well but that is factored into the pricing. With eBay stores you get charged too much for the exposure they currently provide and seller still needs to spend additional dollars or effort on advertising/exposure.

Yahoo Stores offers some great promotional incentives that eBay Stores do not offer and with Yahoo Stores you own the customer not the marketplace.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

The Case For Yahoo Stores Over eBay Stores!

In addition to the uncertainty about eBay Stores/Shops, my recent comparison between Yahoo Stores and eBay Stores was eye-opening.

For my example, I looked at a basic online store with listings of 200 items a month, with a product mix of 150 items under $25 and 50 Items over and made the assumption that the store sold $1,000 in merchandise in a month. If your numbers are greater than this, the savings begins to grow substantially.

Here is the Google Spreadsheet with my comparison, as well as room for you to input your existing eBay Store/Shop Listings and monthly GMV. This will allow you to calculate if there will be a savings by switching to Yahoo Stores. Please plug in your own monthly numbers into the green fields in the spreadsheet. (The spreadsheet refers to US pricing only)

In addition to the cost savings there are also promotional benefits that make moving to Yahoo Stores attractive.

With eBay stores you get limited exposure in search on eBay.com and often have to pay for Auction listings as advertising for your store items. There are no additional promotional benefits to having an eBay Store/Shop. You still have to do most of the marketing to get buyers to your store. You also have to contend with the competition on the eBay marketplace.

With Yahoo Stores you get the following: (As of May 11th 2007)

But, you will still have to spend some of your savings on other marketing efforts but the offers above give you a head start to see what works for a discount.

My goal as the Seller Evangelist is to provide you with accurate, unbiased, information so that you can make the correct choice for your business. I do not earn any money from either of these two programs nor am I partial to either. If you are serious about making money online you need to make informed decisions. There may be other WebStores that compare just as favorable but with the information provided here you do have a head start on your research.

It is interesting to note that both PayPal and Shopping.com are eBay owned companies and you get a better promotional deal with Yahoo Stores than you do with eBay Stores.

Also, with a Yahoo store you can still use eBay for Auctions but instead of considering Auctions as advertising (it is difficult to move eBay customers off site) you should sell only the items that will convert well and are profitable. A side benefit is that over time some of these customers may choose to buy directly from your Yahoo Store.

One last benefit:
With Yahoo stores your hosting fees can rise based on the number of additional features and increased sales but your FVF's will decrease allowing you to scale your business.

Check out the Yahoo Store of eBay seller Rock Bottom Golf

Oh and I forgot the best part. You can advertise using Yahoo Sponsored Listings and show up in eBay search. Not a bad deal.

Update: Ina Steiner Interviewed the Director of Yahoo Merchant Solutions in her most recent podcast. Listen in for info about Yahoo Stores.

Just my 5 Cents!

Friday, May 11, 2007

Are You Considering Opening An Ebay Store? Wait! Read This First.

I never thought I would say this about eBay Stores/Shops because I love the concept and they are the only place left on eBay to feel like an independent seller but what I am seeing coming down the pike isn’t pretty. If you currently have a store and can make a reasonable profit, I would of course recommend that you stay but if you are considering opening a new store, my suggestion is to wait. Wait until eBay figures out what they want to be when they grow-up.

I am seeing a disturbing trend for eBay sellers. It is the homogenization (such a big word) of eBay. It appears eBay management wants to look and feel like a big online retailer. I believe management is concerned that buyers are beginning to migrate to sites like Amazon in increasing numbers -- this is certainly the case in the Media category – so they are pulling out all of the stops to keep that from happening.

Part of this homogenization is the new Finding Experience. In order to present the best buying experience eBay needs to control the product that is presented to the buyer -- it’s called merchandising. The popular product is at the front of the store and of course the less popular product is at the back. That appears to be the vision of the new eBay.

They can do this on Express because they don’t charge anything to be included on the site but this new approach brings up a dilemma for CORE and Stores/Shops. How do you present the best product to your buyers when you are charging sellers to be included in that search? One seller’s 35 cents is as good as another’s isn’t it. If I want to sell low price commodity products and I’m willing to pay a fee shouldn’t my product get the same exposure as a popular product if we are paying the same fee?

We must remember, eBay doesn’t sell any product. They display seller’s product to buyers and facilitate the transaction and get paid very well for that service. Amazon and Overstock do not have these limitations. They all sell their own product and only charge sellers a FVF so they are free to merchandise to their hearts content.

eBay is introducing Finding to the .com that will change the way buyers see product and the jury is still out as to what will happen to Stores/Shops. Now is not the time to be opening up an eBay Store/Shop. Sure, you can list in core because your listings only stay up for 7 days and you can be in and out of the site with no commitment but Stores/Shops require a commitment. Since eBay itself cannot figure out what to do with Stores how are new sellers going to be able to cope with all of the changes? As a seller you look at Stores/Shops as your little place on the web. You want to personalize it, brand it encourage repeat business but you are left to your own efforts to bring in buyers and with all of that effort and hard work you have the privilege of paying eBay a ton of money. Please realize your store listing fees are more like hosting then they are marketing because your exposure is limited. In order to get buyers into your store you need to spend more money in core. Then if you do actually make a sale from your store eBay takes a hefty 10% of the sale. This amount is 5% less than Amazon charges in some categories and the same as Amazon charges in others – at least in Amazon your items show up in search.

Until eBay figures out what they are going to do with Stores my best advise would be – Stay Away! Once we see what they are ultimately going to be then you can make the assessment to open a store, or not, at that time. Do not waist your money right now.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

A Little eBay Stores Board Wisdom!

I regularly read the eBay Stores Board but never post -- I am deemed a "rabble rouser" by the team that runs the stores board. When I was selling I rarely if ever read the eBay discussion boards but I think I missed out. Sure most of the sellers on the boards are small sellers but if you read the boards there are nuggets of wisdom to be found.

I spend most of my time on the Stores Board because I believe eBay Stores are the weakest link in the eBay Empire. I think that eBay has "screwed the pooch" in regards to stores, mostly by limiting Stores potential. They feel if they improve visibility in Stores it will continue the decline of CORE and in its present form that is probably correct. My biggest beef is they don't appear to know how to do both (Core and Stores) effectively.

I have many complaints about eBay in regards to Stores but it is time for Sellers to take some responsibility for their own business. Stores are not the "Holy Grail" of online business; it is a tool to reach customers. Sellers should not make the mistake of believing if they "just list it they [customers] will come. Sellers are not entitled to a nice profit just because they list items. I don't blame eBay for my business failure because when the market dynamics changed I was not prepared to handle it. Sellers need to learn to be responsible for their own business.

This recent comment from the stores board is full of wisdom in this regard.
faeries_finest (709 ) View Listings 2 of 9 Apr-28-07 22:07 PDT

"Stores aren't part of Core. It's that simple. Stores can be a profitable part of an Ebay business but Ebay never claims it is one size fits all - they never say 'put all your inventory in a store and your sales will go up 'You have to be responsible for picking and choosing the services that Ebay offers. Only you can decide the best listing formats and the best mix of listing formats for your particular business. Of course Ebay is going to encourage you to use all of them. That's their job. Your job is to exercise judgment about whether their recommendations are actually a good business decision for you."

Sellers don't let changes in the marketplace catch you by surprise. eBay Stores are a tool, its up to you to become the Master Craftsmen.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Consider this before you Make Online Selling a Career Move

If you are new to online selling or considering jumping into it headfirst, please take a few minutes to read this post. I am usually not a How-to kind of writer so forgive me if I don’t follow a standard format.

There are at least three major considerations you need to address before opening up a business online: (There are many more things to consider but these are key)

  • Do you have a product someone wants to buy and can you get sufficient quantities and steady supply? If you can’t answer positively regarding this question you should stick to selling items as a hobby or for extra cash. It isn’t a bad way to go -- you won’t get rich but you won’t lose your house either.
  • Is this a commodity product that everyone is selling already and being the lowest price is the major merchandising method? You will not last long, selling online, if you don’t have sufficient margin. Leave the low-priced, high volume game to the big guys.
  • Before you jump into online selling understand that from 15 – 20% of your total sales will be paid out to marketplaces like eBay and Amazon, Credit Card processors like PayPal and Google Checkout (eventually) If you choose not to go the Marketplace route you will spend from 10% to 20% on AdWords. Make sure you can afford to spend that kind of money before try and make a living at selling online.

Please don’t fall prey to the “Get Rich” fast schemes or the eBay Millionaire Stories. My company was profiled over and over again as an eBay Millionaire. While I made a good living for several years I was no Millionaire.

Think – Research – Test before you start an online business.

Just my 5 Cents (Adjusted for eBay economics)

Monday, April 23, 2007

The Dawn of a New Day - 24 hr. Notice for Listings Sales on eBay!

eBay announced a new .20 cent listing sale today which really is not news. It appears CLD's (cheap listing days as the Brits call them) are being announced each month. No, the news today is that eBay has given sellers 24 hours notice for the sale.

In the past eBay announced sales the day of the sale which limited seller's ability to pick the right titles to list many sellers just threw up items "to see what stick". With 24 hours notice sellers can pick and choose making for a more effective listing strategy.

eBay UK has been providing up to 3 days notice for CLD's in that market for awhile and that strategy has been very effective.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Meg Whitman on CNBC

Unfortunately CNBC does not provide a method for embedding their videos in a blog so I will just have to link to Meg's interview on CNBC this morning.


It was interesting to hear her take when she mentioned the strength of eBay is the small businesses that use their platforms and services -- they certainly have a funny way of showing that to sellers, don't they?

Another humorous comment was when she mentioned Skype. She mentioned that Skype's business was 2/3rds from Europe and 1/3 from Asia then she added the US makes up the rest of it -- is this another example of eBay math.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

eBay Feedback 2.0 - Revisited

Many US sellers are concerned about Feedback 2.0 and the impact it will have on their business. If sellers want to get a preview of how they will be rated once it goes into effect in the US market, that information is available right now if they sell internationally.

If you sell to the UK and have sold more than 10 items since Feedback 2.0 was launched you can see your rating by going to your ebay UK store. Huh? Yeah that's right you have an eBay UK store. To find it just do the following.

Take your ebay store url: (Example)
http://stores.ebay.com/Spyglass-Movies-and-Music and replace the ebay.com with ebay.co.uk like this:

Once you are at your eBay UK store, just check your feedback to see how you are being rated. It's that easy.

Now that you know you have an eBay UK store make sure to add the new URL to search engines. It can't hurt.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Is eBay's Feedback 2.0 Coming to the US Soon?

I came across a great post on the eBay Store Discussion board regarding Feedback 2.0. Please read the Original Post as it is very fair and well written.

I don't think Feedback 2.0 will have as much impact on sellers as many think. Most buyers are lazy and if the transaction was favorable they will either not make the effort to rate the transaction further or give it all fives. The negative people are of course going to be negative regardless. The nice thing for US Sellers (though not great for International sellers) is they probably won't release Feedback 2.0 until after eBay live and they may make some modifications to resolve some seller's concerns.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Squidoo is Courting eBay Sellers!

I recently received an email from Squidoo promoting “The Lens of the Day” a nice little feature where they highlight a particular “Lens” for being unique, clever or in some way standing out. Yesterday’s LOTD was Freaknoodles and here is the email I received:

“Hi Randy,

Q: What happens when you cross Sock Monkeys with some Cherry Pie and Santa Claws?
A: Freaknoodles!


Okay, once more, in English.

Freaknoodles is a cute eBay store that sells colorful pajamas. And they have a lens, which is today's esteemed Lens of the Day.

This is what every eBay seller should have! Tell a story about your items, why you're selling, who you are, share some testimonials, and point people straight to your auctions. You get more reach, more pages linking Googlers to your stuff, more sales.

Are eBayers with lenses the new elite of online trade? You better believe it.

Stop by the Freaknoodles lens and suck up some inspiration from a pro.


P.S. The SquidTeam will be at eBay Live in Boston this year. June 14-16. Come out at say hi!

I was struck by the focus of the email. It appears that the folks behind Squidoo see the value of promoting their site to eBay sellers, in fact they are going so far as to tell readers they will be at eBay Live in Boston. I have posted a couple of times on the value of Squidoo for eBay sellers – mostly small to medium volume sellers -- it is nice to see the management of Squidoo sees that value as well.

BTW - Freaknoodles received a substantial increase in activity to their Squidoo Lens as noted in a eBay Stores Discussion thread post number 2.

Sunday, April 1, 2007

vFlyer - A Great Tool for Promoting your Online Business!

I've been playing with vFlyer for several weeks and decided to share some of that information with my Squidoo buddies. vFlyer is in essence a digital flyer for promotion of your business or specific products and is used for placement on classified sites like Craig's List, as a promotional widget on blogs and social networking sites and for email marketing. Please check out this example of a company promotion flyer for eBay seller Rider’s Discount as well as a product flyer for their Z1R Youth Motocross Helmets.

Here is an example of the widget:

They have a free personal account for you to test your own vFlyer so check it out.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Be Prepared for Another eBay Store Fee Increase!

According to Scot Wingo of ChannelAdvisor, eBay is preparing to raise store fees once again. You can see Scot's take here at his blog eBay Strategies. The increase, that Scot predicts, seems very high to me but is possible when you consider that last years Stores Fee increase didn't move enough listings off of eBay and as Scot says "stores continue to grow much faster than core. eBay hit the brakes, [ Last July] they slowed down and now they are climbing again. ".

So, what is a store seller to do? My suggestion is to plan your exit strategy now. I don't suggest moving everything until the fee increase becomes a reality but you need to be prepared. Find a webstore that fit's your needs and sign up for Google AdWords using PPA (Pay Per Action) Keep your high volume items on eBay and move the rest to the webstore. With PPA you only pay when there is a sale and you can set the terms.

This strategy will be beneficial regardless if eBay raises store fees or not.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Changing Landscape for Online Marketplaces!

I just got back from the ChannelAdvisor Catalyst conference in North Carolina and thought I would recap some of the key takeaways. Ina Steiner of Auctionbytes.com was there and has written a nice recap of the conference. So if you want a quick snapshot of what happened please read her article.

My key takeaway from the conference was that the top online marketplaces are changing markedly:

Amazon is renewing their focus on 3P (Third Party) sellers with their invitation only offering called Seller Central. Currently 3P sales represent 25% of Amazon’s business and this number will continue to grow. By making this invitation only, Amazon can bring in the best and brightest sellers without flooding the market with too much inventory and too much competition. If you are a large online seller you should be considering how you could take part in this offering from Amazon. If you are interested in the program please email me and I can introduce you to someone at Amazon.

Overstock.com is undergoing some significant changes in their marketplace. According to CEO Patrick Byrne 3P sellers now make up 68% of their core business (not auctions) and with the recently announced agreement with ChannelAdvisor that percentage will increase substantially. With the agreement between CA and Overstock sellers can now include their product in the main Overstock site -- not auctions. One of the first eBay sellers to take part in this new program is Designer Athletic. If you are a large online seller you might contact ChannelAdvisor to discuss being part of the Overstock program.

EBay – eBay has just announced that Half.com sellers can now opt into eBay Express as an additional sales channel. While most media sellers think eBay Express is not worth their time as a marketplace, I’m not sure why they wouldn’t look into this for incremental sales growth. The opt-in process is pretty seemless and the fee structure is better for them on Express if they are high volume sellers. My Take: I think this is a precursor to moving the entire Media category off of eBay and onto Half.com -- remember you heard it here first. Here are the details on the program.

Google is now testing a PPA model for Ad Words that may have a huge impact on online sellers. In this limited Beta test sellers can set a specific fee per action. Here are the details from Google. This new wrinkle may be what kills the Golden Goose (eBay). PPA is a godsend for those sellers who have avoided using Google’s AdWords up till now.

According to Jeetil Patel of Deutsche Bank in a research note on the Channel Advisor Conference “Having attended the ChannelAdvisor Catalyst e-commerce conference, we believe that third-party sellers currently on eBay are increasingly diversifying their channels to incorporate direct (incl. paid search and comparison shopping) and most importantly Amazon.com. Seller feedback towards Amazon.com was particularly positive while eBay feedback was more bearish.” He goes on to say “…the same sellers have been aggressively shifting a portion of their inventories to Amazon with strong success (especially in the media categories). Sellers indicated that higher pricing; lower commission and higher collections (relative to eBay) represented key advantages for Amazon. However, it is important to note that sellers still enjoy profitability on eBay, yet would like to grow these profits (either by way of eBay, Amazon or direct).”

It is clear that eBay’s large sellers are increasingly looking for alternatives to eBay and that the exodus has begun. If a product sells profitably on eBay it will stay on eBay but sellers will move the Long Tail over to other marketplaces like Amazon or their own website. eBay’s catch phrase “Whatever IT is you can find it on eBay” may need to be revised to “Whatever IT is you can find it on eBay, except the Long Tail.” Of course eBay will be able to direct you to the Long Tail -- on other sites -- through their paid search links via Yahoo and Google.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Another Cheap Listing Day for Auctions on eBay!

Tomorrow (March 14th) eBay is once again running a discounted listing day for auction items only. I sold on the site for 5 years and I honestly have never seen so many discounted days. Could it be that the vast majority of sellers only list in core on these cheap listing days? This is just a hunch and I could be completely wrong but I would expect another discounted listing day on or around the 28th of March. See my earlier post on SIS.

Ask Bill Cobb a Question!

I am hoping to get 10 minutes with Bill Cobb at a conference next week in North Carolina. If you had the opportunity, what one question would you ask him? I will gather all of the questions together and ask as many as I can and report back. Please keep the questions civil. Thanks!

You if you have a Squidoo Lens you can ask your question on my Lens. (A Lens is similar to a MySpace profile).

Monday, March 12, 2007

eBay Promoting Stores and New Sellers Again!

I was driving to get my coffee this morning when I heard my first eBay radio commercial ever. It was a 30 second spot encouraging people to find something around the house to sell on eBay and giving them their first 3 listings for free. This seemed odd to me because most eBay advertising in traditional media is geared to the buyer. This is the first time I’ve ever heard a radio ad for eBay let alone one promoting selling on eBay.

My first questions were: Is eBay, having trouble getting new sellers to replace those that are leaving? Could it be that the metrics are finally showing a leveling off in seller growth? If so, are existing sellers in line for some incentives to stay? I couldn’t help that last question; it is my nature to be optimistic.

Then I got home to do my morning surfing and saw this, on the eBay Announcement board: Grow Your Sales with eBay Stores – 30-Day Free Trial Offer. Wow, eBay is (I know it should be “eBay are” but it just doesn’t sound right and its my blog) once again promoting stores. After last years store fee increase I had the impression they didn’t want any more clutter. What will more stores do to reduce the clutter?

I think these two events are telling (here goes the conspiracy theory). eBay traditionally doesn’t promote anything unless it is new to the site or their metrics show the numbers are going in the wrong direction. It’s been my experience that they make changes very quickly if the metrics are not going their way so I have to come to the following conclusion: Sellers are leaving and not enough newbies are joining to make up for it! Is there any other explanation?

March will be an interesting month because SIS skewed eBay’s 2006 numbers and it is apparent they are having problems retaining sellers right now. PayPal is being very aggressive with new promotions and now eBay Stores are once again being promoted. I wonder how balanced the site is now. Stay Tuned, this could get interesting.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Squidoo is what eBay's My World Should Be.

I've been playing around with Squidoo.com for a couple of days now and have come to one conclusion. This is what eBay's My World Profile should be.

In an perfect world, if eBay weren't so determined to control the universe, the My World profile would allow sellers to generate incremental income from the content they create while expanding their ability to connect with their customers and maximize their marketing efforts. Imagine if you had a Squidoo Lens with eBays traffic. Of course we don't live in a perfect world so sellers that are creative end up going off of eBay to find tools like Squidoo.com to help them connect with their customers and network with other sellers and heaven forbid, generate incremental income.

The money you make at Squidoo.com may be small initially but if you use it as a tool for finding new customers connecting with existing customers and networking with other sellers your business will be better for it. Check out my Seller Evangelist Lens on Squidoo (I know the name sounds a little weird but it grows on you).

Just my 5 Cents!

Friday, March 2, 2007

eBay Store Sellers! How Would you Like This?

I normally use The Digital Napkin to discuss new ideas but since this idea directly affects eBay Store Sellers I thought I would bring it up here. Okay here goes:

Since eBay wants to increase listings in CORE and disadvantage Stores in search, how about if they provide store sellers with a new referral credit? The credit would be 50% off of the sellers store FVF on purchases that began with a link from a CORE listing , Store Bookmark, Watched Item or Return Customer -- The Watched Item credit may be a little too much to ask.

A great many store purchases start with a CORE listing that the customer thought was interesting but before purchasing they decided to look in the Sellers store for something else. This credit would serve two purposes. It would reward Store Sellers for listing in CORE and possibly increase the number of CORE only sellers that would open stores.

Blogs are a great way to get feedback for this type of idea so please add your comments regarding the CORE referral credit.

Additional comments: The idea is not an all-or-nothing concept. For instance if you think sellers should get a FVF credit for purchases made by return customers let me know.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

The Problem with Ebay Express!

Is it possible the biggest problem facing eBay Express in getting traction with online commerce is its name? I often wonder if the association with eBay is what is keeping the site from reaching its potential. The eBay brand has taken some big hits over the last year. The stock is no longer the high flyer it once was, every day there is a new scam reported in the media or a celebrity is selling her hair and Judge Judy is now punishing scam sellers. As I have mentioned before, when I was running GlacierBayDVD, I often had a hard time explaining why I was selling on eBay. The questions I would hear, “Isn’t eBay a flea market or a huge garage sale? Or “why don’t you have your own site”?

Amazon recently announced their new vertical ecommerce site called Endless. As far as I can see the Amazon name is downplayed on the site. They didn't choose to call it Amazon's Endless or something else like that. eBay itself chooses not to rebrand a site when they buy it (Shopping.com, Half.com, Skype.com, StubHub.com come to mind) and of course that makes complete sense. They paid for the Brand as well as the site and the users. I know it is very expensive to build a new brand but eBay was willing to spend millions on a failed TV ad campaign in September touting eBay Express as "eBay, but with new stuff". They could have spent the same amount of money advertising this great new ecommerce site caled Express - They wouldn't have even needed to bring up the "New" angle because that would have been assumed. Sure they are pulling inventory from eBay.com but they could certainly have just called the site Express. The customers don't care where they are getting the product as long as it is in the condition they expect and at the right price. They certainly would have been able to bring more non-ebay shoppers to the site than they did.

Now it will be even more expensive to Re-Brand the site so they are stuck trudging along with the eBay albatross hanging around their necks. What do you think? Am I off-base here?

Monday, February 26, 2007

One-Year Anniversary of eBay’s SIS (Stores in Search)

I just realized we had recently passed the one-year Anniversary of the introduction of SIS, on Feb 13th 2006, and it got me thinking. If, as eBay stated, the reason management chose to remove Stores from Search in late March of 2006, was due to the effect it had on the buying experience, then the Year over Year CORE listing numbers should be fairly consistent. If, as Store Sellers believe, eBay removed Stores from Search because CORE listings dropped like a rock then we should see a huge Year over Year gain in CORE listings. Of course eBay ran 2 listings sales in March (One was actually started on Feb 28th) so that might mask some of the gains.

Here is the timeline:

Feb 13th, 2006 eBay launches SIS
Feb 28th - 10 cent Core listing sale.
March 15th - 10 cent Core listing sale.
March 28th, 2006
Chris Tsakalakis announces the plan to remove Stores from Search
April 6th, 2006 eBay begins to remove Stores from Search

It will be interesting to see the numbers. According to Bob Peck of Bear Stearns “In the eighth week of 1Q07 . . . U.S. Listings [were] Down 16% Wk/Wk Post-Promotion. We estimate that sellers listed 13.1 mn core items on the U.S. site last week, down 16% from the previous week, as the previous week’s listings were boosted by the 50% off listings promotion. Listings were down 27% Q/Q but flat YoY.”

The key will be to watch these numbers over the next 6 weeks. I’m sure it took a couple of weeks for sellers to realize the increase in store sales was related to SIS. In fact as I mentioned in the timeline above, eBay had a 10 cent Core listings sale on Feb 28th of 2006. (They don't do discounted listing days unless the metrics show there is a need) and then again on March 15th.

Here is my analysis: eBay started to notice the drop in CORE listings around the end of February, that is why they had to be propped up by the listing sale on the 28th then because the listings did not recover they had to have another sale; not more than a week after the items from the Feb 28th sale had closed. The items from the March 15th sale closed on March 22nd and I'm assuming the CORE listings did not recover so they had to make the announcement on March 28th that they were removing Stores from Search.

I’m looking forward to the next 6 weeks. The weeks they did not run listings sales should indicate the impact of SIS.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

eBay Sellers and the Email Counundrum!

This topic may not apply to sellers who sell someplace other than eBay but hopefully you can get something from this post. Also, for a great many small volume sellers eMail is not a problem. But, for many medium to high volume eBay sellers, just the mere mention of answering email sometimes causes loss of bodily function. Customer Service (answering emails) is possibly the most frustrating aspect of doing business on eBay (followed closely by the constant changes made on the platform and fees -- but that subject is for another day).

When I started to grow my business I brought on my first employees to package and ship product. I still answered all of the email and I remember being on vacation with my family for 1 week and still taking at least 2 hours a day to answer email. You should have seen the looks I got from family members.

You see, with eBay the number of emails can be overwhelming. Before you actually even sell an item you will receive numerous ASQ (Ask Seller a Question) emails that range from “Is this New? to “I saw this at Wal-Mart for $10 can you beat that and ship it for free?” Most sellers start out answering every email because they want to provide the best service possible but many quickly decide not to answer any questions submitted through the ASQ form because, to put it bluntly, many of those emails are Stupid! How many times can you answer the question “is this sealed” when you have the words ”new sealed” in the title of your listing. Remember you are answering these emails before you sell a single item and you will get an additional 2 – 3 emails for every item you sell. I always saved the ASQ emails for last and then depending on how frustrated I was I either deleted them in mass or browsed for legitimate questions.

So what do you do about all the emails? If you want to stay in business and keep your feedback pristine then you have to answer them. You can hire employees to do this and transfer the frustration onto them but that can be expensive not to mention burnout those employees. You can setup auto-responders that only seem to frustrate the buyer or you can change your thought process. Instead of saying to yourself, “I hate answering email” get used to saying “email makes me money and the more emails I answer the more money I make” Now, step away from the computer and say those words as if you mean them “email makes me money and the more emails I answer the more money I make” It’s amazing how this change in thinking changes your perspective.

So, how do emails make me money? Let’s take the ASQ emails first: you are probably not the only seller who received the same email. Many times, potential buyers will ask the same question of you and your competitor. The first seller to give them a satisfactory answer almost always gets the sale. Often customers are testing your communication skills so if you don’t answer their question they will just find a seller who will.

Consider each time you receive an email as another dollars worth of exposure and don’t be afraid to up sell them on other items in your store, give them the url to your store with the referral ID, alert them to any sales you are running (now that Markdown Manager is available) and assure them you are the seller to take care of their needs. This builds return business and may even reduce the amount of additional emails they send you. Some customers just want to feel comfortable and they don’t need to have their hand held through the rest of the process.

Remember each email you send or respond to is an exposure to your marketing message. It should contain the information the customer was asking for as well as encourage them to come back and purchase again.

Here are some key email rules:

  • Answer all emails as if you made money on each (the exposure is very valuable). You may also take business away from a competitor or encourage a future purchase
  • Answer the customers question joyfully even if it was stupid. (Change your perspective; don’t ask them why they can’t read).
  • Up sell and alert them of promotions also encourage return visits to your store for future purchases, do this in every email you respond to or send. Remember they are going to read your email because you are responding to a question they asked, take advantage of that.
  • Send “we received your payment” emails (This can be automated, just make it as personal as possible and sign a name not “customer service”) .
  • Send an email to let them know you left positive feedback. Again, this can be automated.
  • Mark the item as shipped in My eBay and send them notification along with any tracking information.
  • Send a follow-up email approximately 2 weeks after you shipped the product just to make sure it has arrived. (If transit time is longer; then adjust when you send the follow-up email) BTW nobody else does this so be the first. You may get customers for life.

Now when you see 50 – 100 emails in your in-box don’t despair just see dollar signs. When you change your way of thinking you will reap the rewards.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Why Adding Google Checkout to eBay is Good for Sellers!

I've written several articles on the PayPal - Google battles over online payments and won't go into those same issues again -- I will add some links to those articles at the end of this post. What I would like to discuss is the need for Google Checkout to be accepted on eBay from a seller's perspective. Remember, I'm The Seller Evangelist so I look at issues from the seller's perspective.

I came across another article on Google Checkout today and something struck me. According to eBay spokesman Hani Durzy "It's our responsibility to encourage payment systems that have a historical track record and desire by community to use it," Durzi said. "Google Checkout has very little historical track record ...we see a very low level of interest." The first part of that statement is funny. Google has had a year to fix the technical issues with Checkout and is now available on 100 of the top 500 shopping sites on the Web and Google itself has a tremendous track record as a company. So that argument is pointless but what about the statement “we see a very low level of interest." The idea that sellers don't have any interest in Google checkout is like saying “Jared, doesn’t like Subway sandwiches” Does eBay really expect us to believe there is little interest in offering this service?

When I was selling I spent close to 4% of Gross Sales -- including S&H -- on PayPal fees and I was getting PayPal’s best rate. The percentage was high because we had a low AOV (Average Order Value) so the 30-cent transaction fee hit us hard as a % of sales. In 2004, my best year on eBay, I spent close to $180,000 in PayPal fees; do you think I wouldn’t have any interest in adding Google Checkout and their no fees promotion?! You have to be kidding me! I would have jumped at adding a no fee option. So the idea that sellers don’t want Checkout is ridiculous but where eBay gets wiggle room is that eBay buyers have shown little interest in adding Checkout. Pardon me, but buyers aren’t interested because they don’t have the option. Give them the option and see how fast they adopt it.

I can tell you this; Google is not going away so at some point they will work out a deal with eBay to include PayPal in Google Checkout in exchange for allowing Checkout to be accepted on eBay. This would be beneficial to both buyer and seller and is inevitable.

Recent articles on the Google - PayPal battles:

And there's new guy coming into the payments area:

Friday, February 16, 2007

What the Heck is a TSE?

Is the TSE (Tailored Shopping Experience) the Wave of the Future!

It is evident that the Tailored Shopping Experience is here to stay. The TSE approach is what many of the big Internet Retailers are betting their future growth on. Amazon announced their own TSE - http://www.endless.com/ in January and here is a list of current eBay TSE marketplaces, according to the 3rd quarter 2006 earnings call: eBay Motors, eBay Express, Shopping.com, and Meg vaguely referred to their Classifieds portfolio as a TSE (Kijiji, MarketPlus and Gumtree, among others) One marketplace she did not mention was Half.com which has been eBay's Red-headed step-child. They can't seem to figure out what to do with Half.com, though sometime this spring they will be adding Half.com listings to Express. In January eBay announced they were buying StubHub.com to be their Tickets TSE. The StubHub deal closed this past week.

I’ve been very critical of eBay for the moves they made in 2006, so it surprises me that I see some positives in this march towards more TSE marketplaces. I have written about eBay’s vulnerability in Vertical marketplaces and this TSE approach seems to address that issue head on. Back in Oct. I wrote that I believed this new approach made the rumors of a StubHub purchase even more likely and look what happened.

If eBay can create TSE’s for Collectibles, Electronics, etc. they can re-invigorate the marketplace and keep the other TSE competition at bay. The best way to improve their relationship with sellers (if they care to) is to make a more successful marketplace. TSE marketplaces are the right move.

Wow, add this post to my article on the Stores Markdown Manager, that ran in Auctionbytes this weekend and you would think I was practically an eBay Cheerleader. Let me state for the record, my focus is on the success of online sellers not just eBay sellers. If I come across something I believe is positive for sellers, I will shout it from the rooftops. Even if that means I'm being positive about something eBay is doing.

Can EBay Be Used as a Customer Acquisition Tool?

Sellers! Change Your Thinking About EBay!

Let's talk about Customer Acquisition as a concept. Sellers who sell on eBay need to change their mindset, even sellers who are presently happy with the world of eBay. My suggestion is quit thinking of eBay as your home on the Internet and start thinking of it as a marketing tool. You are not "eBay sellers" you are online sellers who happen to sell on eBay. Repeat after me; I am an online seller and I sell on eBay -- I may need to start a 12-Step program for eBay sellers --remember, even if eBay is presently your only sales channel, you are using eBay to bring you customers. This change in thinking is crucial if you are to take control of your business. Change your mindset. You sell online! I know it can be difficult, but eBay is changing and right now we don't have a clue what it will ultimately look like. Look out for your business, eBay is looking out for theirs.

Ebay still brings tons of high value traffic to their site-after all they are the world's largest auction site, but the times "they are a changin" now that eBay has introduced Sponsored Links, purchased Shopping.com, and announced they are adding Half.com listings to CORE search, I believe it is becoming clear they want to become to shopping what Google has become to search-Google's recent innitiaves with GoogleBase and Google Checkout may hasten this change, but that is yet to be seen. Whether or not this actually happens sellers need to start looking at eBay as an acquisition tool rather than a destination. The key to this strategy is to open your own webstore/website for your product. Because of the lack of transparency in eBay's Store Referal credit, eBay stores should not be considered your webstore but a marketing tool just like CORE auctions. If eBay ever develops a transparent Store Referal system then sellers may be able to consider an eBay Store over their own independent website.

Pardon me for a brief diversion OT: In Oct. I wrote that eBay Stores should become a hosting solution that feeds listings to multiple marketplaces and should have it's own shopping cart. There are currently far more eBay Stores than they will ever hope to have with ProStores and eBay Stores are much easier to work with. eBay could charge sellers a tiered monthly hosting fee based on inventory in their store and let them list according to their own marketing plan. Each TSE would have its own listing profile and listing/FVF fees. If sellers choose not to list on these TSE's, that will be there decision, they can find some other way to get shoppers to their Store items (Google AdWords or possibly Yahoo Sponsored ads on eBay). Enable sellers to feed their listings to eBay CORE, Stores, Express, Shopping.com, Half.com, Motors, Classifieds etc.

Since there is no movement by eBay to implement an idea like I've detailed above and there is no business reason to market to a Store that charges 10% FVF I would suggest launching your own WebStore. There are many WebStore options at present and many more on the way that offer low cost entry. MonsterCommerce, Yahoo Stores, Amazon WebStores, and eBay's ProStores offer entry level WebStores. These stores will help you list your product and facilitate transactions but be aware they are not marketing tools. You will still need to do the work to bring shoppers to your listings.

So, how can you bring customers to your WebStore from eBay? Unfortunately, since the eBay marketplace is very unsettled at this time I'm not going to mention hard and fast rules for moving eBay customers to your website, but I will provide some basics. As the "New" and I hope improved eBay is unveiled I can get down to more specifics. If I read the tealeaves correctly, eBay might be facilitating customer acquisition in the future, so if you have your own webstore now you will be able to quickly make use of the new eBay (of course maybe I read those tealeaves in my dreams).

In 2005 we launched our own website at glacierbaydvd.com. We had limited expectations for the first year, and we spent a great deal of money to develop the website and integrate it with our software, much more money then I expected or what I would suggest anyone else spend. My plan was to take the first year to grow sales at the website organically by reaching out to our existing customer base, through word of mouth, and through SEO (Search Engine Optimization). I was pleasantly surprised that we soon had regular sales. There wasn't a day that went by that we did not sell five or more items, not 900 to 1,000 a day like our eBay sales, but an acceptable start for a new website. Because we had been losing money since early 2004, we could not spend anything on paid search so growth was going to be limited. (I believe, had I made the decision to launch the website a year earlier I might still be in business selling media products today just probably not on eBay. What do they say? Hindsight is 20-20.) Unfortunately we also had some problems with SEO so all of our web business came from word-of-mouth or existing customers. At this time I didn't have a clue on how to move our eBay customers to our website other than the basic ideas of including our web address in every email, etc.

That experience, though, taught me some very important lessons and revealed some roadblocks in marketing to our existing customer base. Over our five years of selling on eBay we had built up a customer database of over 400,000 buyers, but we found it very difficult to move a large chunk of our eBay customers to the website. We had good success with eBay newbies and some longtime regular customers but the vast majority of our customers preferred eBay. We offered shipping incentives and lower prices on the website but not much worked, so I began to analyze the problem and came to the conclusion that the problem was the eBay buyer.

Ebay buyers are a unique crowd: They are very comfortable with the site and are generally not inclined to try something new like a website. EBay is the only real venue for auctions (I know this upsets some of you, but it is true), and the majority of eBay customer's purchase through auctions. EBay's feedback system also keeps those customers coming back to eBay because they want to see the unique feedback number increase. If you get a chance, look at some of your current customer's feedback and check their feedback received from sellers. You will more than likely see feedback from your competitors, which means those customers bought from your competitors too. This happens a lot in the Media Category. One other barrier to moving customers to your website is eBay's TOS (Terms of Service). Please read it carefully, so as not to violate any rules, though I suggest you get as close to the edge as possible.

Fortunately, for sellers listing on eBay today, some of these issues are changing. Today's EBay buyers are more willing to venture out to other sites because of a decrease in trust in the eBay marketplace. It may take several orders before they move completely but if you treat them well they will be more inclined to try you again over an unknown seller on eBay. New eBay customers are your best option, you can identify them by their low feedback. Often, low feedback buyers scare sellers; I would suggest these are the buyers you should target. Your regular customers should be easier to move as long as your WebStore/WebSite makes for a pleasant shopping experience.

So, now that you have changed your mindset you can look at eBay as you would Google Adwords, or Yahoo Paid Search or any other marketing tool. In fact with the introduction of sponsored links in search you can now send eBay customers to your webstore and away from eBay.