Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Guest Blogger: The BrewsNews! Cyber Monday

I am very pleased that Brews allowed me to repost this wonderful blogpost from earlier today. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. Make sure to checkout TheBrewsNews everyday for insight into the world of ecommerce.

Cyber Monday On A Micro Scale - One Multichannel Seller’s Experience

Of course I read all the stats about Black Friday and Cyber Monday so I can keep informed about how the economy is doing, according to the experts.  But, most important to me, is how my business is doing.

Cyber Monday, December 1st 2008, started out for me well.  I had a huge cup of coffee first thing and then I heard the Christmas music being cranked up in the packing department as they were getting into the spirit of things. 

Looking through the stack of orders I knew there was no way possible to get all the orders out that had already come in, much less any new orders coming in throughout the day.  So, I gave instructions that our website orders and Amazon orders were to take precedence and eBay orders for single items should be put ahead of larger eBay orders that take more time.  The flow of orders was to be monitored all day so that any new expedited orders would be prioritized as well.

Just as we were all hustling and bustling along, the phones were also ringing (a good sound this time of year).  Checking the messages of missed calls, we learn that eBay Seller Strategies team called Cyber Monday morning to chat with us.  We missed their call.  Darn it!  We were so looking forward to speaking with them today, of all days.  When they didn’t reach us, they sent us an email:

I wanted to quickly follow up on my call about eBay’s Seller Strategies Team.  Our team’s goal is to hlelp businesses like yours succeed on eBay.

Currently our goal is to help sellers increase conversion rate and optimize their listings for search.  We also want to make sure you are taking advantage of all the opportunities you have to increase traffice to your listings this holiday season.

I look forwad to calling you and discussing your goals on eBay.  I am confident you will find the information I have to share with you extremely helpful.

eBay Seller Strategies 
Shortly after the eBay email, we checked our inbox and we had an email from Amazon:


Dear merchant,We regularly review the products our customers look for on our website. During the past month, there has been interest in the product(s) listed below, but there was no available inventory from any sellers as of [Today's Date].
As you have listed these products for sale on our website in the past, we wanted to let you know about this buyer interest, in case you want to offer them again on Amazon.com. 

Item 1

Item 2

Item 3

Item 4
You can update your inventory quantities either one at a time or through a feed. To edit products one at a time, go to the Seller Central Inventory tab and click “Manage Inventory”. Find the product you want to update and click “Edit”. After updating the Inventory (Quantity), click “Save changes”.

For information on updating inventory quantities via feeds, view our Help pages in Seller Central:

Seller Central Help > Manage Inventory > Frequently Asked Questions > Managing Products and Inventory

Thank you for selling with Amazon.com.

Before I continue, let me stop here for a minute to give you a little info about us, in case you don’t know.  We have sold on eBay for 10+ years and shortly after we began selling on eBay, we developed our own websites as well.  This is the first year we are selling on Amazon.  We sell a variety of different products and we sell under 3 different eBay IDs.  When eBay made their announcements at the beginning of 2008, we knew we it was time to get on board with Amazon.  We had been intending on opening up an Amazon account for years but just never found the time to do it until eBay gave us the nudge we needed this year. 

In selling on Amazon, we decided to try only one of our lines of product as a test.  We wanted to learn the Amazon system slowly and carefully.  We chose a line to list on Amazon that has a  good margin, that was not saturated on Amazon but was declining on eBay, and that we have been selling for years so we are experts on the product.  

For just this ONE line of product we carry, we filled Amazon orders in excess of $2,000 on Cyber Monday and we had $1,600 worth of unfilled Amazon orders that we are working on filling today.  As a comparison, this one line of product has resulted in sales of $2,200 for the entire month on eBay.  Yes, that is right - one day’s worth of sales on Amazon far exceeded our month’s worth of sales on eBay for this one product line.  You can bet that by next holiday season, we will have all of our product lines, not just one, listed on Amazon.   

From our perspective as a multi-channel seller we can make observations that clearly show us why our niche-item sales have declined tremendously on eBay while soaring greatly on Amazon.  And it isn’t that the sales of these niche-items have simply been transferred to low-cost sellers on eBay as eBay’s charts and graphs show is happening for lots of items on eBay.  The sales of my niche-items are not being transferred among eBay sellers; the sales are disappearing on eBay altogether.  The buyers are leaving eBay in favor of alternate venues.  I see it very clearly from my vantage point as a multichannel seller.  I watch my competitors on eBay and I see that the vast majority of them have nothing listed on eBay.  Several are NARU as well.  And I am sure I am not alone.  I am certain that other niche-sellers are seeing the same thing happening in their categories as well. 

For me, I don’t care whether the item I sell is blue versus red just as I don’t care whether my profits are made on Amazon versus eBay.  I don’t “feel” any particular way about any venue.  Selling on a platform is not emotional for me.  The fact that eBay is declining at a rapid pace while Amazon is on the rise doesn’t make me happy or sad.  It just is what it is.  And I have to be aware of the trends so that I can take advantage of the opportunities.  I am not responsible for eBay or Amazon’s revenue but I am responsible for my business so I have to choose my business partners (ie eBay versus Amazon) wisely. 

In the aggregate, my sales this holiday season are on the rise and I am running out of product daily.  I place orders once, sometimes twice, a day because of the amazing Amazon sales that I had not been expecting.  And as I sell out of any particular product on Amazon, I am quick to remove the same item that I have listed on eBay so that I can put it back in stock on Amazon.  And so the cycle continues - my variety on Amazon is greater than on eBay because my sales are greater on Amazon.  And because my variety on eBay is less than before, my sales on eBay are less.  Sellers such as myself will continue to seek out those venues where our sales are the best.  And because we are bringing our great variety of niche-items with us to the platform, the new venues will benefit because of us and the variety will disappear on the old venue.

Cyber Monday was great for me and I am looking forward to the next few weeks as I know it only gets better from here.  I have more product arriving daily and I have a great crew of folks to help get the product out the door as fast as it comes in.  And, just as importantly, I have renewed energy and a deeper faith that the future is going to bring more prosperity for our company.   I am sure that 2009 will bring its own unique challenges and running your own business is always hard work… but I am up for the challenge.  

But, for today, I need to go grab another cup of coffee and get busy filling the orders that are already piling up.  It is Cyber Monday + 1 and there are only 22 more days to get items to their intended destinations.  The future, and all the great plans I have for 2009, will be here soon enough but for now it will have to wait just a few more weeks.  

Just my 15%


ms.pat said...

From all I read and hear it sure seems certain that Ebay is dying...by its own hand. That makes me sad. Back to Bonanzle :-)

nadine said...

So eBay's email gave empty shpiel, while Amazon's gave actionable suggestions? Why am I not surprised. It's worth considering just what prevented eBay sending the same email as Amazon did - for it certainly was NOT lack of data.

nadine said...

One more note on eBay's "useful" suggestions: the eBay home screen is currently showing me a section titled "Great finds for you" showing items similar to items I have recently viewed. This tend to be items similar to items I am selling as most of my searches are looking for comparable items. The section invariably includes items I am also currently selling.

eBay knows who I am. I'm logged in. So why do they offer me my own merchandise and call it a "Great find" for me?

ms.pat said...

How dare you question them? Don't you know they are all-seeing, all-knowing and allways right? LOL

Henrietta said...

Ditto what Nadine said. eBay's communication on one of the busiest commerce days of the year is right up there with "We hear you" total disconnect.

Anonymous said...

I hear that eBay management reads your blog, Randy. I need to keep this short and sweet but here are the basics -

We are a Powerseller already well over $1M on eBay alone this year. Currently 4.9+ on all DSRs. Always get the 15% discount, sometimes the 20%. Have never not paid an eBay invoice on time. Etc.

I do not want to get into details for serious concerns about our anonymity and also because the details are not the point here – the overall long term picture is.

For the first time in our history our account was flagged for a violation. It did not matter that the violation was based on incorrect information, we were flagged and with this particular violation told that if we had any more, our account could be suspended.

This cost us thousands of dollars to work around and in listings that we frantically pulled from the site that we new not in violation, but afraid they would be flagged anyway. And cost us even more in missed Holiday sales on other items.

The cold threat of account suspension without recourse for what I can only assure was a fully incorrectly placed violation was enough for us to realize that eBay could no longer ever be the core of our online presence. We can not live with the threat of a faceless exec behind the curtain deciding to pull a lever that will suspend our account during the Holidays ever again.

We will continue to sell on eBay, and we will add all of our products to eCrater and expand our Amazon presence and build our Yahoo store. We have just dumped thousands of dollars into Google Adwords with great success. Who knew!

It is diversification that we should have done long ago, but things had been so good on eBay, we kept putting it off. Which brings me to another point: Isn’t the most fundamental rule of business to take care of the customers you already have?

I have questioned many things that eBay has done over the last few years, many of these things (like DSRs and the new Feedback policy) I have come to not only accept, but embrace. But, when eBay threatens to basically kill our business over a non-issue, we have turned a corner. Believe me when I say that the threat to our account was totally unwarranted, but very real.

I believe the fundamental mistake eBay management has made, in the broadest sense, was trying to anticipate the challenges the marketplace would have down the road but then forcing sellers to explore other channels immediately due to their heavy handed approach. We, like so many, were happy on eBay and though we probably should have been more aggressively expanding our channels, we, like I am sure many others, were not. The frogs were not jumping out of the boiling water.

Now that path is accelerated for many of us. What may have looked inevitable in eBay’s management meetings a few years ago, has ironically been pushed to the forefront by their actions. I think they call that self-fulfilling prophecy.

I have to believe that the only people in the United States okay with the economy tanking would be eBay’s management – it covers the blunder of what they have done over the last two years.

For now, eBay can appear as another recession victim and the stock plummet can be explained away. But I am guessing that when you have a Board of Directors who have seen their wealth evaporate over the last year or so, at some point, someone has to pay. Well, the sellers have already paid dearly this year -- maybe it is time for some accountability to trickle up rather than down?

A few timeless truths perhaps they do not teach these days in MBA classes these days:
- Most businesses that fail under new ownership fail because new owners tinker with what works the best, thinking they know better.
- It takes 10 times more to attract new customers than to keep the ones you have happy
- Treat your customers the way you would expect to be treated

Anyway, I have a feeling some of eBay’s current management will be talked about for years in those MBA classes, but probably not for reasons of which they will be proud.