Monday, December 31, 2007
New Years also gives me a whole year to look forward to -- new adventures, new stories and new opportunities. New Years Eve is the holiday for optimists and I'm about as optimistic as they get.
2008 is going to be a interesting year from this blogger's perspective. eBay is making the last few changes to their platform and will soon announce a new fee structure. Amazon, looks to continue their momentum into the new year as they expand their 3P business and continue to grow sales faster than ecommerce as a whole. I generally don't blog about politics or the economy but be prepared for some posts in those areas - at least if they impact online sellers.
Here's to leaving all of the mistakes and problems of 2007 behind and looking forward to all that 2008 has to offer. Happy New Year!
Just my 5 cents!
Friday, December 21, 2007
- eBay managers often use "Leave of Absence" to recharge themselves or find new employment. It is actually ideal because they can always return to eBay.
- Meg has been exercising options regularly all year and certainly could afford to defer her compensation for an extended period of time.
- John Donahoe has been hitting the PR trail heavy over the last month and looks to be in line to take over while Meg is away, either as interim CEO or officially as the new boss. If he's successful, with the changes he's making, Meg can leave knowing that the company is in good hands. If he fails then she can come back (assuming Romney loses) and save the company.
- She is very involved in Mitt Romney's campaign and I would say if he wins, she will be offered a cabinet position (Commerce Secretary) and who would turn that down. By not leaving eBay officially she hedges her bets. If Romney does not get the nomination then she can come back to eBay. By taking a Leave of Absence she can work on his campaign indefinitely.
I'm sure you can come up with other reasons this idea makes sense, I've just listed a few. If I was a betting man I would say that Meg will announce here Leave of Absence in January and hit the campaign trail for her good buddy Mitt.
So, I guess if anything really interesting comes up between now and the new year I'll post about it.
Just my 5 cents.
2008 is shaping up to be an interesting year for eBay sellers as management makes fee changes and rolls out more "buyer experience" initiatives. In fact, I would say that 2008 will be the make or break year for this eBay management team.
I hope all you sellers got all your shipments out in time this year and can relax just a little over the next week, take a breather and re-energize yourselves for next year. Its time to make hard decisions on future plans for many of you and I wish you well.
Just my 5 cents.
Thursday, December 20, 2007
eBay CEO Meg Whitman to Speak in Iowa
by: Hani Durzy
Thu Dec 20 2007 13:56:26
Hi all -- I just wanted to clarify a couple of things that Ina and others have brought up. Yes, Meg is a supporter of Gov. Romney, who is a longtime friend and former colleague of hers; in fact, she is his National Finance Co-Chair. It’s a purely personal choice and is not representative of the views or opinions of eBay Inc. It also has no impact on her ability to address the day-to-day operational needs of the business. Meg was already on personal vacation time this week when she went out to Iowa on behalf of the Romney campaign; she paid for the travel and expenses entirely out of her own pocket, and didn’t use company aircraft to get there.
As a high-profile executive, Meg has a lot of company among business leaders who have chosen to publicly support one candidate or another (Cisco’s John Chambers is a McCain supporter; Warren Buffett backs Clinton, just to name two.) But as a private citizen, Meg has the same rights as everyone else, including the right to back whatever candidate she chooses. "
Now, this is what a PR person should be doing, this is the first time I've seen a blog comment from Hani Durzy. I appreciate him speaking to the facts behind Meg's trip to Iowa. One question I do have; Why doesn't eBay PR make a concerted effort to comment on blogs and message boards. Hopefully this is a sign that they are changing their tune.
“The thing that distinguishes great managers is that they care about their employees,” said Whitman, who joined eBay in 1998 when she was hired by its founder, Pierre Omidyar.
The second principle involves being the right person in the right job at the right time with the right values, she said.
No. 3 is the ability to focus, focus, focus. She said it is better to do five things very well than to complete 15 tasks in a mediocre manner."
Maybe these suggestions fall under the category "Do what I say , not what I do" I am sure the first item is accurate. I've never heard that employees don't like Meg.
The second item is very appropriate, at this time in the life of eBay. Perhaps Meg is no longer "the right person in the right job at the right time with the right values" and the last quote regarding focus is curious since she's spending much of her time on the campaign trail rather than focusing on the problems with the site.
Just my 5 cents!
I think that Overstock is a great site and fills a need in the supply chain but I don't believe it will ever make money with Patrick Byrne as CEO and since he owns controlling interest in the company only a meltdown will put Overstock in-play for acquisition.
I've said in the past that I believe Amazon should acquire Overstock. Amazon management has proven their ability to make a low margin business work and would be able to turn Overstock around but Patrick Byrne is in the way.
Wednesday, December 19, 2007
There is a rumor building that Shopping.com has been billing clients for non-existent clicks and so far I'm not getting anywhere with any of my contacts. That could mean there is nothing to the rumor or I'm just not asking the right people. I've contacted eBay PR but do not expect a return email.
If you have any information or examples of phantom billing please contact me or post in the comments to this post.
UPDATE: Apparently there is nothing to this rumor. eBay's PR department has still not replied to my request for information (what a surprise) but I can't find any evidence that there are problems with Shopping.com billing practices.
UPDATE on the UPDATE: Hold the phone, it appears there may be some truth to the rumor after all. Stay tuned, I will post info as I receive it. Still haven't heard back from eBay PR.
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
Here are some examples:
- Amazon Q2 07' Earnings report analysis - A pretty bearish assessment considering where Amazon's stock price is today.
- Collection of articles and posts related to eBay Live Events - Its really amazing how the same things are said year after year and nothing really changes.
- Amazon vs eBay Auction Wars - We know who won this battle but there is a new battle brewing.
- eBay Announcement Archives - There are tons of fun little tidbits tucked away in past eBay site announcements. (SIS and related posts are fun to read)
- Meg and the Machine - This is where we find the " "A monkey could drive this train." quote
I hope you find them as enjoyable and if you come across an old article or blog post that is interesting please let me know.
Both posts referred to a recent interview of Donahoe by The Financial Times in London. It certainly appears that John Donahoe is next in line to be Meg Whitman's replacement and as he increasingly takes a more upfront, active role, it is clear (to me at least) Meg will be leaving sometime in 08'.
I am already on record as saying I think she will leave by the 3rd quarter of 08' but is it possible she would leave sooner? Perhaps as early as Q1? What do you think? I think it is pretty evident that she will be leaving, maybe the only real question is when? Tell me what you think.
Monday, December 17, 2007
As conversion decreases because of the number of listings on the site many sellers may find that 70% of their core listings do not sell the first time, so many sellers automatically relist the unsold listings to take advantage of eBay's relist credit (if the items sells the second time the listing fee is credited). The problem arises when a seller, who normally doesn't use gallery, took part in the free gallery promo and relisted the unsold item. eBay does not allow you to modify relisted listings so the gallery that was used when it was free is used again at the regular price of 35 cents. If the items sells you would get a credit for your listing fee but still have to pay the 35 cents for the gallery image -- feature fees like gallery do not come with relist credits. If the item does not sell the second time then you would again pay for the listing fee as well as the gallery fee.
If you are a large seller and rely heavily on automated software for relists this can soon run you into a hefty bill that you weren't accounting for. In one case a large seller, who normally does not use gallery but lists thousands of auctions a week, realized his gallery bill alone on relists would be close to $3,000 for the week following the promo and decided not to relist any listings that were part of the promo. Instead he listed fresh listings without gallery.
So, if you do not normally use gallery but did take part in the free gallery promo make sure to weigh the numbers on your relists. Is it more cost effective to just list new items without gallery then to relist unsold listings?
"The combination makes sense because Amazon's strengths have always been eBay's weaknesses: service and site interface. eBay's global network effects, meanwhile, though much diminished in recent years, would make the combined company the world's dominant commerce platform."
Surely a combined eBay/Amazon would be the "world's dominant commerce platform" almost immediately but Amazon doesn't need eBay to accomplish this, they have charted a course for their business that will eventually make them "the world's dominant commerce platform"all on their own. While eBay struggles to maintain the status quo, Amazon works diligently on a long-term plan.
Here are 5 reason's this idea is a pipe dream.
- Culture Clash - Amazon is run by entrepreneurs, visionaries, long-term thinkers. eBay is run by consultants who micro-manage the bottom line, are only concerned with the quarterly results and only make changes when they are forced to. The company cultures are too divergent. Jeff Bezos is not going anywhere, so eBay managers would need to adapt to the Amazon way of doing things which means most of them would head for the exits.
- Amazon doesn't need Auctions, they tried this on their own and it didn't work. Fixed price is the future and Amazon is the king of "Fixed Price". Auctions have matured in the biggest eBay markets and will continue to mature in other International markets. Amazon, is charting a different course with its 3P Seller business and will eventually become the #1 marketplace for professional sellers. While eBay will continue to be the place for the casual seller.
- Amazon, is a technology company, eBay is not. Amazon is investing in its platform for the long-term while eBay tries to figure out how to grow without investing in technology or infrastructure.
- Amazon doesn't need PayPal, though I'm sure they would love to own it. Amazon, looks at payments as a cost not a revenue stream and their goal is to cut costs so that they can increase profitability. PayPal is best suited as a stand-alone company but that won't happen in the near-term because it would expose the major weaknesses in the Marketplace business.
- Amazon will get there on their own. They have a long-term plan and they are working on that goal. Adding eBay would be a distraction that would derail their efforts in accomplishing that goal.
IMO, eBay would be much better off merging with Yahoo than Amazon as the company cultures are very similar and eBay is heading more towards an advertising model then a retail model. Amazon would be better off acquiring Overstock.com or Buy.com than merging with eBay.
Just my 5 cents.
Friday, December 14, 2007
I originally just glanced over the list of new hires until this morning when I noticed one of them was the new PayPal CMO (Chief Marketing Officer).
Barry Herstein is Chief Marketing Officer, responsible for PayPal's global branding and marketing initiatives. Herstein was formerly CMO for American Express International's consumer business where he developed and implemented integrated consumer marketing strategies designed to grow AmEx usage outside of the U.S.
While, it appears Mr. Herstein was brought on to develop the Global PayPal business, I believe if PayPal wants to get traction on the other side of the eBay wall, they need to consider a comprehensive ad campaign including, for the first time ever (as far as I can tell) a TV ad campaign. After all Visa, Amex and Master Card all do extensive TV advertising. If PayPal wants to play with the big boys they will have to also. PayPal is an established brand on eBay but needs to become a worldwide consumer brand, that requires the kind of reach TV provides.
Just one suggestion, hire an agency other than BBDO, New York.
Just my 5 cents
Thursday, December 13, 2007
In contrast, the Apple Computer ads with PC Guy vs. Mac Guy are excellent. When I see those ads, I actually stop surfing to watch. After seeing one recently, I was struck by the realization that the ad could just as easily be eBay Guy vs. Amazon Guy but since Amazon doesn't do TV advertising and eBay wouldn't do a similar ad because they would be compared to PC Guy, I don't see anything similar coming from them. Unfortunately, we won't be seeing them anymore either; according to Fresh Intelligence Mac Guy is no longer a part of the campaign going forward because after the initial success the audience began to identify with PCGuy as the underdog. Maybe eBay Guy could be the underdog.
The point is, there are very clever ways to get your message across and the Apple ads were very effective but even they have a shelf life. My suggestion to Michael Linton: when it comes time for the next ad campaign lets think outside the box a little. Maybe hire the Ad agency (TBWA\Chiat\Day ) behind the Apple ads.
Just for fun, here is a recent PCGuy vs. Apple Guy ad. While watching it, just imagine the PCGuy is eBay and the Apple guy is Amazon. Pretty powerful huh? I hope eBay can come up with a much better campaign next time.
According to comScore: Amazon only visitors grew 3.8% Y/Y from 16.2% to 20% while eBay only visitors declined 5.6% from 46.9 to 41.3 and visitors that overlap and visit both sites grew 1.7% from 36.9 to 38.6. This growth in overlap visitors appears to all be coming from eBay where it looks like eBay only customers are venturing out to add Amazon to their shopping sites but Amazon only customers are not adding eBay to shopping sites they visit.
The trend is obviously heading towards Amazon. eBay still has a huge lead in visits but that is due to their monopoly of the Auction space.
If you would like to listen to the replay of the conference call please send me an email and I'll get you the info.
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
There is this from an article about the investment posted by the Baltimore Sun: Scott W. Devitt, an analyst with Stifel, Nicolaus & Co., said "the deal demonstrates how retailers might shave operating costs.He said that 2 percent of Amazon.com's operating margin goes to credit-card processing fees and that Bill Me Later's costs would be about 0.5 percentage point lower.
Retailers are often frustrated in their efforts to lower processing costs with a credit-card industry that "essentially operates as an oligopoly," Devitt said.
Amazon, realizes that they need to increase their margins and are taking a 2-pronged approach. They are expanding their high margin 3P Seller business while investing in technology to cut operating expenses.
The impact of this deal with Bill Me Later, may not be felt for several quarters but it certainly shows Amazon is moving aggressively to cut costs.
Expected Fee Changes In 1Q Neutral to Slightly Negative
· Drastic Fee Structure Change Expected. We are expecting eBay to make category price changes in early 08 that would lead to a drastic shift in listings fees to final value fees. More specifically, we expect eBay to reduce domestic non-motors, non-real estate, category listings fees by 50% and increase final value fees by 30%. The change would reduce listings fees to ~40% of revenues per listing from ~60% today; shifting the risk in the model to eBay as the company will become more reliant on back-end fees, which are more variable than the front-end guaranteed listings fees.
· Needed to Readjust Seller Economics. We believe that this is something eBay has to do to readjust the seller economics and possibly bring value back to the eBay platform. Our numerous contacts within the industry are in agreement that eBay has no choice but to walk down this path.
· Analysis Shows Modest Negative Impact to Financials. Our analysis of the expected fee change shows that it would lead to a 2% reduction in eBay’s 08 domestic core transactions revenues, or one cent reduction in our non-GAAP EPS estimates, while increasing sellers’ revenues by 4%. A sensitivity analysis incorporating various listings fee and final value fee scenarios, shows that eBay could lose upwards of 27% of its domestic transaction revenues in our most aggressive assumptions but actually increase revenues by 18% in our more optimistic assumptions.
· Satisfy Sellers But Does Not Address Buyer Demand. Overall, we believe that the fee structure change would pacify sellers who are dissatisfied with the economics on eBay, convince them to stay on the platform, and lessen the GMV bleed to other channels. Moreover, eBay can reduce the listings fees and come close to a revenue neutral scenario. However, a fee structure change does little to solve the problem of lack of buyer demand on the platform.
We all know some major fee changes are coming to eBay in Q1 of 08' but will "Seller Fatigue" negate any benefit to eBay. If the last three promos are any indication; sellers just pocketed the savings while overall listings increased just slightly. This is going to be an interesting first quarter.
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
All of the blog posts referencing Green Monday were from November except of course this one. All of this got me wondering. Is eBay trying to create something where nothing really exists?. Is the second Monday in Dec really anything bigger than Cyber Monday?
We've all heard of Cyber Monday and Black Thursday but not much about"Green Monday" supposedly the busiest day of the year on eBay. You would think if that was the case some people would be talking about it.
Monday, December 10, 2007
This tool is very slick and will help sellers to monitor their DSR ratings more effectively, so they can improve any areas that may be falling into the bottom group of sellers. DSR ratings are here to stay and will eventually be used to advantage or disadvantage seller listings; this tool will help sellers monitor how they are doing.
Of course, this does take sellers up to the 19th perhaps that last day they can feasibly still ship items for Christmas so maybe eBay won't do anything new. My feeling is that they will not do anything promo wise until the first of the year, though I believe they should make gallery free on all listings going forward.
Sellers, be aware that this sale ends on Weds, so make sure if you only use gallery because its free, to remove it from your listings starting Thursday or you in for a surprise on your eBay bill.
Friday, December 07, 2007
Ralf VonSosen, Vice President, Marketing and Catherine Cherubino, Vice President, Business Development have left the company and there has been no announcement regarding their replacements or the reason they are leaving.
The two are still listed on the Executive Team profile on the company's website. The press contact email on the site just bounced back to me so my attempts to get information are ongoing.
I won't speculate as to the reasons for the departures but will update this post as more information becomes available.
Update: Ralf apparently left 2 weeks ago and as of this update is no longer on the Executive Team page at their website. Catherine's picture is still there though. maybe until my next update.
Thursday, December 06, 2007
Hopefully StubHub will win out. That would make me almost prophetic in my 2008 predictions. Get working on that CT.
After reading the article, it is clear that the differences between eBay and Amazon are even greater than many of us imagined.
""Shareholders should not expect to make any money on 'Harry Potter 7' -- I will tell you that right now," the Amazon.com Inc. chief executive told the gathering, which took place in June near the company's Seattle headquarters.
That his declaration carried a prideful tone rather than one of foreboding illustrates a key Bezos character trait, one that has seduced customers and -- at times -- frustrated the investment community. The 43-year-old founder of Amazon stubbornly keeps his sights on the oft-stated goal of building "Earth's most customer-centric company," with seemingly little regard for turning a profit in the short term."
I've been following eBay for nearly 8 years and that is not a statement Meg Whitman would ever make publicly. Profit has always been the driving force behind eBay's actions. eBay lives and dies buy its ROI (that's kind of catchy) But that approach means that you don't invest in customer-centric initiatives until it is required of you to "keep the train on the track"
These two companies have drastically different management styles. Amazon is run by an entrepreneur while eBay is run by a professional manager. Amazon invests in their growth while eBay manages their bottom line. Amazon makes decisions for the long-term, eBay makes decisions for the quarter.
Interestingly they both live by the data. With eBay, metrics guide most decisions and with Amazon it is much the same.
"Bezos' love of figures is hardwired. He cut his teeth with Wall Street players such as Banker's Trust and D.E. Shaw, the latter of which was founded by a former computer-science professor from Columbia University who developed high-tech quantitative trading systems. Bezos is known to prefer decisions based on data, often reminding his management team that, in the decision-making process, the right data can put the most junior person in a company on par with top executives."
When Amazon opened its doors to 3P sellers in 2001 many investors, employees and pundits thought they were crazy to allow others to compete directly with their own products.
"In some cases, the prices of competing merchants undercut Amazon's prices on the same items, resulting, unsurprisingly, in lost sales.
The notion, according to Bezos, was that such information would create an overwhelmingly positive experience for customers, whose future purchases could make up for the near-term hit.
"This was a very controversial decision inside Amazon," Bezos said when quizzed by a shareholder on the practice at the annual meeting. "But from a companywide point of view, our view has always been to say, 'Let's be simpleminded about these kinds of cannibalization decisions and cut through the complex thinking by just [asking] what is better for the customer.'
"And," he continued, "if we side with the consumer on that kind of decision, over time it will force the right kind of behaviors on ourselves."
Because of this devotion to serving the consumer, Amazon has become a viable marketplace for 3P merchants. While it is difficult, if not impossible, for these merchants to brand themselves on the Amazon platform, at the end of the day, selling more product takes away some of that pain.
Amazon deals with Wall Street differently than eBay as well.
"We felt that if you're really were serious about [building a business], the question was how we should do things in the short term," Covey said. "One is you put customers first. The other is not to get trapped in short-term interest of Wall Street. Jeff thought all that through from the very beginning."
Alberg agreed. "Jeff doesn't pay much attention to the stock price and [to] what analysts say is valuable. In his mind, what's really important is how much cash the company generates. He holds to that."
While in the early days, Meg used to say we don't pay attention to the share price, their actions over the last 2 years reveal a different story.
Amazon, under Bezos is continuously testing the boundaries. eBay, under Whitman is managing the bottom line. The difference between the entrepreneur and the manager.
Just my 5 cents!
Wednesday, December 05, 2007
1. eBay and Yahoo Merge! At some point next year I see these two companies coming together as their respective share prices flounder. I just can't see investors putting up with another year like the last two. Yahoo is a on a short leash and eBay will be, especially as they move towards changing their marketplace fee structure.
2. If eBay and Yahoo don't merge, I believe Meg Whitman will leave the company to begin her next adventure. John Donahoe is becoming more of a public figure and seems to be the likely replacement. If #1 happens then I believe Meg will stay. (Remember for entertainment purposes only)
3. Amazon, will continue to make in-roads in the 3P business and add Automobiles towards the end of the year and will begin directly competing with eBay Motors.
4. ChannelAdvisor will go public! (No need to expand on that).
5. Amazon will acquire Overstock.com and that will be the end of TV commercials with "Its all about the O" as the tagline. Overstock has a decidedly different customer demographic then Amazon (60% female) and would fit into a portfolio of ecommerce sites.
6. eBay will institute category based pricing for each of it's major categories.
7. StubHub will sign a deal with the NFL prior to next years football season.
8. eBay will separate Stores from the core site and provide Store Sellers with the marketing tools to market their products all over the web including listing in eBay's Core, co-op advertising through Yahoo and listing on Shopping.com. In order to make this work they will need to develop a separate platform with a shopping cart system. They already have this with Express so all they need to do is make Express the UI for each store while the current listing system supplies the inventory. With this new site sellers would pay a single monthly hosting fee and only pay listing fees or FVF if they choose to sell through eBay's CORE or a Stores based Site like Express (don't worry sellers it won't be the same Express as we see today), or they could market to their product using paid search or other methods. Store/Shops would become the worlds largest collection of independent Websites. This is not as difficult as they seem to want to make it -- Express front end and Stores back-end for each individual store. The technology is already in place.
9. eBay's PR department will return my emails.
10. MyBlogUtopia will replace TechCrunch as the top blog (You have to think big folks)
Tuesday, December 04, 2007
Both stocks are floundering and there are far more synergies then problems with a joint union. I've posted about this before, Scot Wingo has mentioned it several times as have so many others.
Today, the Motley Fool joins the cavalcade, calling for Harry and Sally to finally get hitched. Stop dancing and make a commitment. The Fool's take is very interesting.
What do you say Meg? Why don't you and Jerry get together for dinner and drinks and if he doesn't propose you go right ahead and do it.
Imagine if similar deals are struck in other regions where eBay has had trouble gaining traction. Does this lay the groundwork for eBay, Yahoo and Alibaba to do a deal in China? How about eBay and MercadoLibre doing a deal for South America (they already own a minor stake in Mercado Libre), GMarket in Korea and Qxl Ricardo in Eastern Europe. Once they are entrenched in the auctions business doesn't it make sense that PayPal, Shopping.com and Classifieds would be next.
About a year ago many pundits were criticizing eBay (including me) for losing ground in Asia, this new deal with Yahoo Japan may be the first volley in eBay's new strategy to take over the auction world.
Just my 5 cents!
Monday, December 03, 2007
"Yahoo Japan and eBay are apparently set to combine their online auction sites. Although an announcement has not yet been made, the Nikkei claims that operations are set to begin before the end of this year, and that Yahoo Japan users will soon be able to bid on items listed on eBay’s US-based site. Next year, Yahoo Japan items will be listed in English on eBay, allowing users in North America to bid on items from Japan."
So I guess eBay and Yahoo aren't going to merge they are just going to get in bed together. I wonder how Yahoo shareholders feel about this move. It's like letting the "fox in the hen house"
Its a good deal for eBay though. Haven't figured out if it will be good for sellers just yet so stay tuned.
Just my 5 cents!
The press is saying that ecommerce is alive and well so lets put some meat on that bone and see which marketplace or channel is working best for you. Don't be afraid to tell me if eBay is doing well for you because ultimately if eBay is doing well other sellers want to know.
So either email me or post a comment about your Q4 so far. This is not a scientific survey, I'm just taking the temperature of the marketplace business.