Monday, March 31, 2008

Want Exposure on eBay UK? Pay Up!

eBay announced today that beginning in May -- now that is advanced notice -- they would open up eBay UK, Ireland, Canada default search to US sellers willing to pay for the International Visibility upgrade.

Here is the gist of the announcement from Stephanie Tilenius, General Manager eBay North America:

Coming Soon: International Site Visibility Listing Upgrade

In May, we're giving sellers who list on US and Canada sites a better option for international exposure by introducing the International Site Visibility listing upgrade. With this listing upgrade, sellers will be able to list on their local site and pay a
small upgrade fee so that their listing also shows up in the main default search
results to buyers across the Atlantic on eBay.co.uk – two sites for a great price.

In the US, the fees to use this optional upgrade are as follows:

  • Start Price $0.01 -9.99 - International Site Visibility Listing Upgrade Fee is 10
    cents
  • Start Price $10 - 49.99 - International Site Visibility Listing Upgrade
    Fee is 20 cents.
  • Start Price $50+ - International Site Visibility Listing Upgrade
    Fee is 40 cents.

The International Site Visibility listing upgrade offers sellers who want to expand their international business a great value – items with this upgrade show up by default for international buyers in the market selected in addition to the buyers in the seller's own market. This makes international listing economical and easier to manage than listing separately for international sites.

Data shows that depending on the category and start-price, it only takes one or two extra bids from international buyers to make up the cost of the International Site Visibility fee. For PowerSellers, using this feature also ensures that these UK sales are counted towards their Final Value Fee discounts.

Now, I haven't had time enough to digest this announcement yet, to give you my opinion but I will take a look at it and post my 12%. One thing to remember is that the eBay UK, Ireland and Canadian sites are all getting a comparable offer to list on the US site so there will be even greater competition coming from overseas.

Here is a post on the Tamebay blog from the perspective of eBay UK sellers.

My 12% still to come - In the meantime give me yours!

eBay's StubHub at The Masters Golf Tournament

I'm a golf fanatic! I'm always interested in hearing golf news. so the recent announcement that StubHub is sponsoring the 19th hole at this years Masters Tournament caught my attention.

"StubHub, the world's largest ticket marketplace, has announced the grand opening of The 19th Hole - StubHub Hospitality Clubhouse for the 2008 Masters Tournament in Augusta, GA, April 7 - 13. Golf fans looking for an alternative to the typical high cost and "VIP only" hospitality offerings at the Masters now have the option of a new, convenient retreat at a reasonable cost."

I've always felt that the management team at StubHub really understands their business and events like this, tying the StubHub brand to the venerable Masters Tournament are evidence of that.

I'm often critical of eBay, but I have to say I believe they are hitting on all cylinders over at StubHub and the eBay.com Marketplace team could learn a few things from those folks.

The eBay brand is part of popular culture, but it is also the butt of many jokes and in recent years has become synonymous with fraud and terrible service. The management team is trying to improve the buyer experience on the site but not really doing anything to change the perception of the brand itself and we all know the "perception is reality".

According to Jeetil Patel of Deutsche Bank, in a note to investors this morning; "we note that US page views have further weakened to -13% Y/Y in Feb-08, implying lower demand coming to the site." so it appears that eBay is still losing the perception battle.

I believe that eBay needs to drop their "Shop Victoriously" ad campaign and work aggressively to re-position the eBay brand, so that when consumers think of eBay they consider it the number one place to begin their online shopping, until the perception of the brand changes all of the changes on the marketplace will be for nothing.

StubHub is positioning their brand effectively, while eBay.com relies on past glory to position their brand. Its time that changed.

Just my 12%

Check Your eBay Invoices!

I have a request for those sellers who get their eBay bills around the 1st of the month. Can you let me know if the % of sales you pay to eBay has risen or declined under the new fee structure? Also, if you qualified for the 5% or 15% discount.

Please email me or comment on this post with your % of sales from February and your % of sales from March (I won't identify anybody). I'm just trying to determine if the fee changes eBay made in late February have had a negative or positive effect on your business.

If you were able to list more items because of the listing fee reduction then hopefully you saw your sales increase, but the FVF was raised as well, so your eBay fees as a percentage of sales may have also increased

For example; if you sold $100,000 in product on eBay during the month and paid eBay $15,000 in fees, your % of sales would be 15% -- just divide the total fees by the total sales. I don't need the raw data just the percentage M/M.

If your sales increased and your % paid to eBay stayed the same or went down, then the benefits of the fee changes are obvious (remember to factor in the FVF discounts, if any). If your sales increased but your % paid to eBay went up as well, then there is a problem.

Even the smallest of sellers needs to look at how much of their revenue is going to eBay as a % of their total revenues so they can determine the value of selling on the platform.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Resources for 3P (Third Party) Sellers

Resources for 3P Sellers: I figured I would put together a list of services available to 3P Sellers to help you work through all of the options. This is not an extensive list but it will get you started.

3P Marketplaces: (They bring the customers)


  • eBay (Open to just about every product category)
  • Amazon (Limited number of categories but growing)
  • Overstock (Limited number of categories)
  • Buy.com (New Marketplace with Limited number of Categories)
  • Half.com (Media Marketplace)
  • Play.com (UK Media Marketplace)
  • Etsy.com (Marketplace for Hand Made items)

3P Store Platforms: (You Bring the Customers)

3P Advertising Vehicles: (You Find the Customers)

Search:

3P Shopping Comparison:

3P Free Services:

3P Payment Services:

3P Seller Organizations:

3P Software Vendors:

I will expand this list as I come across additional resources for online sellers.

Now You Can Sell on Buy.com

Buy.com has opened up its platform for 3P sales and now you can sell on the Buy.com Marketplace:

Are you ready to put your products in front of Buy.com’s customer? The Buy.com Marketplace is the right program for you. If you are an established retailer with products to sell, the Marketplace program lets you leverage Buy.com’s customer reach and infrastructure to sell your products through the Buy.com website. As a Marketplace Seller, you are responsible for fulfilling orders of your products made through the Buy.com Marketplace, and ensuring buyers have a great shopping experience.

The fees are comparable to Amazon and other Fixed Price marketplaces, so I recommend you check them out. Here are some of the categories available to 3P merchants:

Computers, Networking, Electronics, Cameras, Software, Games, Books, DVDs, Toys, Sports, CDs, Cell Phones, Bags & Luggage, Jewelry & Watches

For additional information about the Buy.com Marketplace click here.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

eBay Hires New Chief Accounting Officer!

According to eBay's 8K filing with the SEC:

"... effective April 14, 2008, the Company will appoint Phillip DePaul as its Vice President, Chief Accounting Officer. Mr. DePaul will serve as eBay's principal accounting officer.

Mr. DePaul was most recently with OfficeMax, Incorporated, serving as Senior Vice President, Controller and Chief Accounting Officer since 2003. Mr. DePaul also served in the audit practice of Ernst & Young LLP from 1993 to 1998. Mr. DePaul is a certified public accountant and has a degree in accounting from Youngstown State University.

Mr. DePaul's offer letter provides that he will receive an annual salary of $350,000 and that eBay will recommend to its Board of Directors that he be granted an option to purchase 49,000 shares of eBay common stock and an award of 24,500 restricted stock units. The stock option will vest with respect to 25% of the shares one year after the date of his commencement of employment, and with respect to 1/48th of the shares monthly thereafter. The award of restricted stock units will vest with respect to 25% of the award on each of the first four anniversaries of the date of grant.

Mr. DePaul will also receive one-time bonuses in an aggregate amount of $135,000.

Mr. DePaul will also be eligible to receive relocation assistance, including assistance with relocation expenses from Chicago, Illinois to San Jose, California."

Here is some additional information on the new hire from Forbes I'm not sure what happened to the previous Chief Accounting Officer H. Baird Radford, III

There you have it, My Blog Utopia is a full-service information source on eBay.

Thanks Matt Ackley! Keep it Up!

I was checking out the eBay Stores board today when I came across a thread called: Traffic Down, No Ebay ads on Google! Normally I would just pass these by but I saw that a Pink (eBay employee) had commented in the thread so I clicked through. I was pleased to see that eBay's VP of Search Marketing was participating in the thread.

I was quite impressed that an eBay Vice President would take time to converse with the sellers on the stores board and even more impressed with the following comment.

JT

Yup, I get it. Our point of view believes that the buyer started on eBay and eventually found something they wanted so the next time they will start on eBay again. We have had vigorous debate on this in other threads and we never seem to come to agreement.

I also believe that we have to do more to align our incentives with yours and I hope as the year goes on you will see that we are trying do that. But until we do, I understand that you only have my words to go by and based on the history of the past three years, those words are probably not comforting.

Matt (bold is mine)

There are executives at eBay that do seem to "get it" and are working hard to make eBay a better place for every stakeholder (buyer, seller, advertiser, employee, investor, and vendor) and when I find one I do like to thank them publicly.

Matt, thanks for effort and the communication.

Very Interesting! But Stupid!

For those of you who never saw Laugh-in, that title will mean nothing to you, but it does say everything about this this blurb I found regarding eBay fees:

"Fees pay for the right to sell on eBay. Sellers do not purchase exclusive rights to Web pages on eBay. eBay may, in our sole discretion, and without your consent or payment to you, place third-party advertisements on any Web page ..." (bold is mine)

So, basically at their discretion they can put third party ads on your listings; Sellers do not purchase exclusive rights to Web pages on eBay, so that listing fee you are paying only buys you the right to sell on eBay.

Look, I wish they would just come out and say it -- "eBay is going to be a Shopping Portal". At least sellers would know how to manage their businesses on a shopping portal.

If this is the direction they are headed, the listing fee better go the way of the Dodo bird. Just charge a FVF and you can advertise and Best match to your hearts content.

Just my 12%

eBay Sure is a lot of Work!

eBay still drives a ton of sales for small businesses, but from my viewpoint it appears to be getting more and more difficult to operate an eBay business. From the customer service requirements to the constant changes. many eBay sellers are asking the question "is it worth it?

With the launch of Best Match, sellers are going to have to assess whether the effort to optimize their business for Best Match is worth the sales, that effort will generate. It appears to me that many would be better off buying Yahoo sponsored ads and paying to drive eBay traffic to their websites.

It becomes a trade off for me: Learn BMO to "hopefully" make eBay work or learn SEO and make my website work. If you are spending a ton of time learning something new, why not put that effort into your own website.

Obviuosly many of you can't just shut off the eBay spigot, but you can move to a marketplace that charges only when you sell something and then ween yourself off of eBay and use the money you are saving to drive traffic to your website. Think about how much simpler your business would be, if you didn't have the eBay hoops to jump through.

Is it worth it?

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

BMO - Best Match Optimization

I sometimes think if I just keep repeating that acronym enough times, it will become as commonplace as SEO (Search Engine Optimization). BMO is now crucial to the success of your eBay business.

As we all know, Best Match became the default sort for eBay.com searches on March 3rd and is designed to surface the most relevant products for each buyers search, as well as advantaging the best sellers -- all in the name of improving the buyer experience.

It is no longer enough to just list an item at the best price and make sure it ends at the right time, with Best Match you need to consider the following:

  • "High Demand" keywords and titles, proper categorization and item specifics.
  • Ending time, price, distance, listing type, Terms of Sale and Shipping price
  • DSRs and Power Seller Status
And that is just for Best Match 1.0, future versions will be even more complicated.

Why should you, as an eBay seller, care about this? Because if you do not optimize your listings for Best Match you stand a very good chance of being disadvantaged in search.

Many of you may remember the old auction extender program, that would in essence keep your listings on the first page of search results for your entire 7 day listing, well Best Match accomplishes much the same thing. Those listings that are optimized will show up in a higher position and remain there for a longer period of time.

Please understand, in this new world of eBay, if you are not advantaged in search you are in fact disadvantaged, so if you want to get the most for your listing dollars start working on BMO.

I believe Best Match will eventually force sellers to stop selling on eBay or move 100% of their business to stores, so if you don't take this seriously you may find your business in a world of hurt.

I'm not making any judgements about whether Best Match is good or bad for eBay that is for another day, my suggestion to you readers who sell on eBay, get working on BMO for your listings and business.

One more thing: Here is a link to the PeSA slide show that accompanied the Conference call today and here is a link to a handy little keyword tool to help you fine-tune your keywords. (Unfortunatley eBay may actually pull this, so if the link goes bad, sorry)

Also, don't forget to register for the PeSA/ECMTA Summit in New Orleans on April 22 - 24th. Click here to register.

Just my 12%

Don't Forget the PeSA/ECMTA "Best Match" Call Today

Remember, today at 1:00 PM PST PeSA will be holding a conference call regarding "Best Match" don't miss this opportunity. You do not need to be a member of PeSA/ECMTA to participate.

Here are the details again:

PESA/ECMTA is holding a conference call to help sellers develop Best Practices for Best Match:

Do you know where you stand with eBay Best Match? Join us as we discuss the specific factors that will impact your success and the best practice strategies you should be using to get your listings to the top of the search.

  • Best Match is changing the way you do business on eBay. Throw all your previously conceived notions and previously adopted business plans out the window.
  • Make your voice heard. eBay will be listening and reacting to the specific things you have to say.
  • Stay on top of the changes that are taking place right now with eBay's new search (Finding 2.0).

Who: This call is open to everyone (PESA members and non-PESA members) as we share what is working and what is not working.

When: Wednesday 3/26/08 1:00 PM PST (eBay time)

How: Dial in to 404-920-6689 and use code: 978527. Make sure to dial in early because there is a limit of 200 powersellers.

There is no better way to understand the impact that these changes are about to have on your business and no better way to grow your bottom line than to share a roundtable with 200 of eBay’s most accomplished professional sellers who are right there with you and focused on solving the problems you face in the trenches each and every day.

Just my 12%

Would eBay Acquire Overstock?

A recent Business Week article suggests that Overstock may be on eBay's acquisition radar, "Analysts see several additional targets for eBay this year that look like good deals. Overstock.com (OSTK), an online retailer that sells surplus merchandise at a discount, has declined 75% from its Oct. 31 high, to $9.50 a share. "It looks like a great bargain," says American Technology Research analyst Tim Boyd. (Overstock is adamant that it is not for sale.) "

IMO, the move makes some sense. Though I would think Amazon would be a more likely suitor. The purchase would certainly be cheap; Overstock has a high percentage of female shoppers and still a fair amount of traffic.

Ebay, of course would turn Overstock into a true marketplace and I'm assuming they would get out of the "owning inventory" business. They could open the door to a more controlled Fixed Price model and expand into numerous other categories providing more options for 3P merchants.

Overstock has never made a profit in its history, but that would change under eBay management -- they know how to wring profit out of a marketplace.

My chief concern is that eBay would run it like they do half.com or eBay Express and not commit any real resources to growing the business.

After Amazon and eBay, there are not many viable marketplace properties available any more; Overstock, Buy.com and Etsy are second tier marketplaces that can add value to both eBay and Amazon.

If eBay is seriously thinking about a move like this, I'm sure Amazon is not just sitting back twiddling their thumbs.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

eBay Says: "No Soup For You, eBook Sellers!"

eBay has done it again and thrown the "baby out with the bath water". In an effort to stop Feedback manipulation by buyers and sellers of digital downloads like (ebooks, templates, software etc,)

According to a recent announcement by eBay's Brian Burke:

"Digital goods are often reproduced at little to no cost to the seller. On eBay, this creates the potential for Feedback Manipulation (both real and perceived). To preserve the integrity of the Feedback system, effective March 31 all goods that can be digitally downloaded or transferred electronically must be listed using the Classified Ads format.

Using the Classified Ads format, sellers receive a 30-day ad at a fixed price. This solution enables sellers to continue to market their digital goods on eBay; however, because Classified Ad listings are a lead generation tool and do not result in transactions that go through eBay, Feedback cannot be exchanged between buyer and seller.

Sellers who wish to continue to offer digital goods can do so by selecting the Everything Else>Information Products category in the Sell Your Item form and choosing the Classified Ads format (not auction-style or fixed price).

For more information about the Classified Ads format, please read Advertising with Classified Ads.

Okay, so instead of doing a surgical strike to correct the problem, they carpet bomb in typical eBay fashion. If feedback manipulation is the problem than just don't allow feedback for digital items. Oh that's right, that would cost more money than the category is really worth so we'll just affect thousands of sellers and their livelihood because our ROI model isn't optimum.

I just wish eBay managers would take maybe a few minutes to think these things through before they make a huge policy change like this.

If you are an e-book seller and don't want to sell your book in eBay's classifieds, why not sell your e-book on Amazon. Heck you can even sell it for the Kindle. Just click here for all the details.

Selling your e-book on the Kindle may not make you rich, but it would make you feel better.

Just my 12%

Let's Talk Seller Dashboards!

If you are a Powerseller on eBay, you no-doubt have already seen your Seller Dashboard. Thanks to a faithful reader, I can share some images with you on just how this first version of the Seller Dashboard looks.

The seller is a Titanium Powerseller who's 12 month DSR's are:
  • Item as described 4.8

  • Communication 4.6

  • Shipping time 4.6

  • Shipping and handling charges 4.4

And here is what their 30-day DSR's are according to their Seller Dashboard:

  • Item as described 4.8

  • Communication 4.6

  • Shipping time 4.6

  • Shipping and handling charges 4.6

They have been able to increase their S&H DSR to 4.6 over the last 30 days and are eligible for the 5% discount, but not the 15% discount. They moved from 4.4 to 4.6 by no longer selling to Canada (at least that's the only change they made) but in doing that they are giving up on 10% of their sales. The good news , they now qualify for the 5% FVF discount but on 10% fewer sales.

I really believe it will be difficult for most Powersellers to qualify for the 15% discount without spending more money then they are saving from the discount. Each month they are in danger of losing the discount do to many things that are out of their control.

eBay managers run eBay, Inc. based on ROI assessments. They don't invest in something if it won't generate an appropriate return. eBay sellers are no different; that 5% or 15% discount on FVFs may not be worth the effort and/or expense needed to qualify for it.

Each seller needs to look at their business and see if it is worth it. It may be worth improving to gain the advantage in search via "Best Match" but what happens if you you add more customer service, you offer Free Shipping, etc and you still don't get into that advantaged group?Remember, if you are not being advantaged in Best Match then you are in essence being disadvantage. Is it worth it?

Just my 12%

I Need Seller Dashboard Info!

Since I don't sell on eBay any longer, I don't have access to the new Seller Dashboard. I would love it if one or two of you would send me some screenshots or some info from your Seller Dashboards. I will hide any user information.

Since the S&H cost DSR is being used to disadvantage sellers in Best Match, can you forward me your 30 day DSR for S&H and tell me if you charge actual shipping, free shipping or add handling charges.

I'm trying to determine if it is possible to raise this DSR in a 30-day period without significant changes in the way you do business.

Thanks! Send any info to rksmythe at yahoo dotcom or just post in the comments section.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Google Launches Shopping Cart!


This announcement comes from the Google Checkout team:

Dear Developers,

We're excited to announce the Google Checkout shopping cart beta, a new feature that provides sellers with a quick and easy way too ffer basic shopping cart functionality to their sites.

To see how this new feature works, take a look at the demo:

For information on how to implement and modify the shopping cart, please refer to the following documentation:




We'd like to hear your thoughts and experiences with the shoppingcart in our Google Checkout shopping cart forums:

And you thought the folks at Google were sleeping.
Just my 12%

New eBay Promo Only for the "Good Sellers"

Well this is certainly a new kind of promo:

"Hi everyone...I'm back with some good news. As you've heard us say a number of times already this year, great service will make the difference in 2008 and beyond. So to reward sellers who consistently delight their buyers, we're cutting insertion fees through the end of the month.

Starting tomorrow, if you have Detailed Seller Ratings (DSRs) of at least 4.5 on all criteria - and you specify your shipping costs or use the Shipping Calculator - simply list your auction-style item with a starting price of 99¢ or less to pay an insertion fee of only 1¢! New sellers who don't yet have DSR ratings are also eligible. This promotion will run through March 31st, so make sure to take advantage quickly.

Check out our
information page for all the details.

Sincerely,
Stephanie Tilenius

General Manager, eBay North America

Those pesky DSR's now you can't even participate in the promos. If you have low DSR's I would start looking for another venue because you will just be wasting your money on eBay.

First you are disadvantaged in search via "Best Match" and now Core will be flooded with new listings that will make yours even more invisible.

eBay is using both the carrot and the stick in the same promo. Wow!

Amazon Auctions 2.0?

With eBay marching towards a fixed price marketplace and marginalizing their Auction business, I sometimes wonder if it isn't time for Amazon to take their Auction platform out of mothballs and give it another shot. eBay auction sellers are growing increasingly frustrated with the direction eBay is taking and are desperate for another option.

Just a few suggestions if Amazon wants to do this:
  • Don't bury auctions in the Amazon.com site. Set them up as a separate platform and add an Auctions tab to Amazon.com.
  • Fill in the gaps in your product offering on the main site, by surfacing auction items when the product is not available and charge for this. Just increase the FVF when they show up in search.
  • Add auctions to your affiliate program to drive traffic. If eBay doesn't want to create eBay Classic why shouldn't Amazon do it. There are thousands of Auction sellers on eBay looking for another platform.
  • eBay sellers would love to sell on Amazon, but many sell in categories that are not yet open on Amazon.com. Amazon Auctions give sellers another real option to eBay.

I don't honestly believe Amazon will do this, but it might be worth doing the due diligence. eBay auctions are more vulnerable now then they have ever been, sometimes the timing is just right.

Just my 12%

Amazon Has Glitches Too!

UPDATE: Everything is back to normal now. I think Amazon got this fixed pretty fast.

Amazon's Seller Central application has experienced some extended downtime today. I have not been able to access my Seller Central account for nearly 2 hours.

I've occasionally seen small glitches with Seller Central in the past but nothing as extensive as this. Hopefully the site will be up and running very soon.

Apparently some sellers are able to get into their account but get the following alert:

"We are currently experiencing an issue that is impacting the "Manage Your Inventory" and "Add an Item" features within Seller Central. The ability to manage "storefront releases" is also impacted. This event is also impacting the ability to access the Webstore feature within Seller Central. Engineers are actively engaged on resolving this issue and we will continue to provide updates until service has been restored. (03/24 11:22 PST)

I will update this post as soon as I see they are back up again.

UPDATE: Okay, I can get back into my Seller Central account but I do still get the alert I've posted above.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

PeSA / ECMTA 2008 Summit in New Orleans!

PeSA, (Professional eBay Sellers Association) and ECMTA (E-Commerce Merchants Trade Association) will jointly sponsor the 2008 eCommerce summit, to be held in New Orleans this April 22nd through the 24th.

eBay's newly appointed President of eBay Global Marketplace Operations, Lorrie Norrington, will be the keynote speaker at the eCommerce Summit. PeSA has hosted a dozen events since 2003 in an effort to educate professional eBay sellers on industry and marketplace best practices.

eCommerce Summit Attendees, will be treated to 2 days of intensive learning and sharing with 20 sessions (see agenda here) that cover almost every aspect of e-commerce.

PeSA also recently announced the expansion of its membership criteria to include all eBay PowerSellers. Since its founding in 2003, PeSA membership had been limited to Platinum and Titanium PowerSellers and the new criteria will allow tens of thousands of Bronze, Silver and Gold PowerSellers to join PeSA.

"We are pleased that eBay continues to support our efforts to engage the eBay community in a professional dialogue promoting the health and vibrancy of the eBay marketplace," commented Joe Cortese, Founder and Chairman of PeSA. "And we want every professional seller to enjoy the many benefits of being a member of PeSA."

Effective immediately, all eBay PowerSellers, from Bronze to Titanium, qualify for PeSA membership. All new members will continue to receive complimentary membership in the E-Commerce Merchants Trade Association (http://www.ecommercemerchants.org/), which comes with over $2800 in e-commerce partner offers.

To welcome new members, PeSA is offering the following special offer: PowerSellers who attend the New Orleans eCommerce Summit in April will receive $100 off non-member rates in addition to free PeSA and E-Commerce Merchants membership. Interested sellers should use Invitation Code EBAYVIP during summit registration.

I recommend this event to all of my readers and I will be attending and hope to meet you in New Orleans. Here are 10 Reasons why eBay sellers and other online merchants should attend the 2008 eCommerce Summit.

Just my 12%

Identifying Shipment Types With Amazon's FBA!

I received a question this weekend asking how I figured out which of my FBA orders were Prime, Super Saver or Regular marketplace shipments. Since it isn't a simple thing to figure out, I thought I would post about it. I hear they are working on the reporting aspect of seller central and I hope that it will be easier to figure this out in the future but here's how you do it today:
  • Log-in to Seller Central and select the Reports tab at the top of the page.
  • Once on the reports page choose the Fulfillment option.
  • Choose the Customer Shipment Sales link.
  • You are now on the daily shipped items page. There is a link to change the period you want to look at. The default is the current day.
  • Sort the list by the Per Item Ship Charge column (Ascending)

Here's how to identify the shipments.

  • Amazon Prime shipments will have $0.00 cost for shipping.
  • Super Saver Shipments will be everything that is not $0.00 (Prime), $2.98 (Cd's, DVDs), $3.99 (Books, Video Games) $6.99 (Expedited Books, Video Games) $5.19 (Expedited CDs DVDs) and any International orders - $6.89 for CDs $12.49 books, and $12.29 for DVDs
  • Regular marketplace shipments will be everything that is, $2.98 (Cd's, DVDs), $3.99 (Books, Video Games) $6.99 (Expedited Books, Video Games) $5.19 (Expedited CDs DVD's) and any International orders - $6.89 for CDs $12.49 books, and $12.29 for DVDs

You can also export the list into Excel if you want to do some in-depth analysis.

Update: I also have some recent stats from a reader who is using FBA: (Sample size was 100 orders).

Prime: 25%
Super Saver Shipping: 53%
Regular: 22% (9 of which were international)

Just my 12%

There Here! Finally Seller Dashboards are Live!

It looks like they finally rolled them out this weekend. Remember this is just the "lite" version and it won't tell you a whole lot, but you should be able to see where you stand over the last 30 days.

Scot Wingo, takes a good look at the current version on his blog eBay Strategies.

Happy Easter everybody!

Saturday, March 22, 2008

An Idea to Maximize Your Exposure on eBay

I've been trying to find a way for eBay sellers to test Yahoo Sponsored ads on eBay and drive click-thrus to a low FVF webstore. I think I may have found it.

I know many of you don't like eBay's ProStore platform, mostly because it is run by eBay, but they are running a promo right now, that if done right, will let you test Yahoo's sponsored ads and possibly give you options outside of an eBay Store.

ProStores announced version #9, which will allow eBay Store sellers to import all of their listings automatically into a ProStore and then sync up inventory between the two platforms on an on-going basis. If you sell an item in your eBay Store, it will reduce the inventory in your ProStore and vice versa.

Normally I wouldn't suggest a ProStore, but they are running a great promo that will literally be no risk for eBay Store Sellers to test Yahoo sponsored ads.

EBay Store sellers can open a ProStore for free (the first month is free and there is no long-term contract), import their store listings into the ProStore and sign-up for Yahoo Sponsored ads to drive traffic from eBay.com to their ProStore. The beauty of this, is that Yahoo will give you a $100 credit if you sign-up your Pro-Store for their sponsored ads program.

So, open a ProStore free for one month, transfer your existing Store listings into your ProStore (they still remain in your eBay store) sign-up for Yahoo Sponsored search and limit your CPC budget to $100, which Yahoo will give you for free.

After you run through your free $100 in clicks, just analyze the results. How many click-thrus did you get from Yahoo to your ProStore and how many sales did they generate? Compare these numbers to your eBay Store sales and see if this will be beneficial to your business. Make sure to factor in the FVF difference on your ProStore sales (0.05% vs. 12% in eBay Stores)

If this test is successful, then you can begin to whittle down your eBay store listings to only the best sellers and put all of your inventory in the ProStore (eBay Store owners only pay $20.99 a month for a Business ProStore) Then in the future take the savings you get from fewer Store listings and spend that on Yahoo sponsored ads.

I only ask one thing; please let me know if you do this test, so I can write about the results. In fact, I will even help the first seller who decides to try this test for free. Just email me at rksmythe at yahoo dotcom.

Update: I have the first guinea pig (I mean seller) but I will post about my experiences with ProStores and also how this idea works.

If this is successful, I may have found a new revenue stream for myself.

Just my 12%

In a Perfect World - eBay ProStores

I've looked at eBay ProStores over the years, all 9 versions of it and it just seems eBay doesn't get it. ProStores should be the natural migration path for eBay Sellers; in fact Pro Stores should replace the eBay Stores/Shops platform completely.

In a Perfect World:
  • eBay would integrate ProStores into the eBay.com platform by allowing ProStores owners to post on eBay.com from their ProStores. ProStores would be the central hub for the sellers inventory and they would post CORE items and SIF items from their ProStore.They are doing something similar to this right now, by allowing Store owners to convert SIF (Store Inventory Format) items to Core. I can't imagine it is that difficult to add this functionality to ProStores.
  • eBay would allow sellers to link back to their ProStores from their CORE listings and allow them to actually create and maximize a brand and grow repeat customers. I'm even okay with only allowing them to link to a ProStore and not to a competing website. (Baby steps, folks).
  • The eBay Store Search would present items found in all ProStores. SIF format would be renamed PIF (ProStore Inventory Format) and allow sellers if they chose, to pay the reduced insertion fee for less visibility on the .com platform.

    Right now, an eBay Store seller lists only the amount of inventory in their eBay store that they can afford and any return business that they get still costs them 12% on every sale.

    In a Perfect World ProStore owners would maintain 100% of their inventory in their ProStore and develop a listing strategy that would use CORE listings for high traffic, high conversion items; PIF listings for items that moved regularly but more slowly; "Long Tail" items would be available in the ProStore at the current minimal ProStore FVF.
  • eBay and Yahoo would work out a program for ProStore sellers to use CPC (Cost Per Click) ads on the many eBay properties, including the growing Classifieds network. eBay and Google would develop the same program for International ProStore sellers.
  • Right now ProStores automatically submits your product catalog to Google Product Search (free). They also provide tools to do this with three major comparison shopping engines (CSEs): Shopping.com®, Yahoo! Shopping®, and Shopzilla®.

eBay's new management team has already broken one "sacred wall" with the announcement of category based pricing in media and it is clear to me that they want to make eBay.com a shopping portal rather than strictly a shopping destination. So why not break another “sacred wall” and give sellers the ability to actually grow and build an online brand.

In my scenario, eBay would be able to maintain their fee structure in each of their advertising venues (e.g CORE, PIF, Shopping.com, Sponsored Ads, Classifieds, etc.) and they would give ProStore sellers the ability to maximize their advertising dollars by building a brand and developing long-term relationships with their customers.

Once the ProStore seller has done business with a customer, it is up to them to work diligently to get them to return to their ProStore, where there is a minimal FVF and a fixed hosting fee.

This gives ProStore sellers a huge advantage over any other webstore platforms (e.g Yahoo Stores, Amazon WebStore, eCrater, Volusion, etc.) and sellers can finally gain a little control over their marketing expenses and their business.

Most eBay sellers do not want to leave eBay, they just want to sell product and they are willing to pay eBay for the traffic, they just want to control their business.

eBay management has the ability to make this happen right now and keep competition at bay. Will they do it? Only time will tell if this management team has the guts to create a “Perfect World” for online sellers.

Just my 12%

Friday, March 21, 2008

PeSA / ECMTA "Best Match" Conference Call

With Best Match now the default sort on eBay, sellers are frantically searching for information on how this will impact their business.

PESA/ECMTA is holding a conference call to help sellers develop Best Practices for Best Match:

Do you know where you stand with eBay Best Match? Join us as we discuss the specific factors that will impact your success and the best practice strategies you should be using to get your listings to the top of the search.
  • Best Match is changing the way you do business on eBay. Throw all your previously conceived notions and previously adopted business plans out the window.
  • Make your voice heard. eBay will be listening and reacting to the specific things you have to say.
  • Stay on top of the changes that are taking place right now with eBay's new search (Finding 2.0).

Who: This call is open to everyone (PESA members and non-PESA members) as we share what is working and what is not working.

When: Wednesday 3/26/08 1:00 PM PST (eBay time)

How: Dial in to 404-920-6689 and use code: 978527. Make sure to dial in early because there is a limit of 200 powersellers.

There is no better way to understand the impact that these changes are about to have on your business and no better way to grow your bottom line than to share a roundtable with 200 of eBay’s most accomplished professional sellers who are right there with you and focused on solving the problems you face in the trenches each and every day.

I would recommend this conference call because if you sell on eBay you need to understand "Best Match" for the good of your business. Hopefully the Seller Dashboards will be up by then.

Just my 12%

Amazon Launches FWS (Fulfillment Web Service)

Adding to their suite of API's and Web Resources, Amazon announced yesterday that they had launched AFWS (Amazon Fulfillment Web Service).

Techcrunch and a number of other blogs picked up this announcement but I'm sure many of you are confused as to what this really is. I'm going to try and translate it for you.

Before this announcement, a 3P seller had to manage all of their FBA orders through Amazon's Seller Central, which can be tedious at best. Now through these API's (Application Programming Interface) they can automate the process or write their own software to handle it.

For the small seller this actually means there should soon be more Software tools available to handle your FBA orders, which I am certainly looking forward to; companies like ChannelAdvisor, Monsoon, Fillz, etc will be able to manage the FBA process in their software and for the more technically sophisticated 3P Merchants, now you can program the FBA process into your existing systems.

In a nutshell, this will be good for 3P sellers and should help Amazon get some traction for their FBA program.

Just my 12%

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Subscribe to My Blog Utopia Reader?

Let me do the work for you! I spend most of my day surfing around the web looking for interesting articles on ecommerce, social networking, industry news, and other things that strike my fancy -- you shouldn't have to.

Each day I add 5 to 7 new articles and blog posts to My Blog Utopia Reader feed that may be of interest to you. There will be a lot of stories about eBay, Amazon and ecommerce and occasionally just some funny stuff I come across.

I can't comment on every article that I find of interest, so this feed allows me to add content for My Blog Utopia readers, without me having to add my 12%.

So why not subscribe to this excellent tool for keeping up with the ecommerce news of the day. Just consider it an extra value to what you read here on My Blog Utopia and best of all, its free.

Just my 12%

eBay Restructures - Layoffs Amount to Less than 1% of Global Workforce

According to Reuters, "EBay Inc. is restructuring its operations worldwide which will lead to a small cut in global staffing levels but with some countries hit harder than others, a company spokeswoman said on Thursday.

"It's less than 1 percent globally," Sravanthi Agrawal told Reuters, adding the main regions and countries affected by the online auctioneer's job cuts were in North America, Belgium, Spain and Austria.

"We shared the news with the employees internally," she said, adding the company had not yet made an announcement to the media.

"It's a globalization and centralization effort." EBay's restructuring was aimed at refocusing on its core business, Agrawal said. "

We first heard rumors of job cuts from Valleywag on Tues. and since then I've heard that several US Marketplace Vice Presidents and some Directors were part of the restructuring. The cuts also affected PayPal, where it is rumored that the Branding department was restructured.

eBay has over 15,000 employees worldwide, so if the number is less than 1% it is certainly not a significant number, but I have heard that some of those that have lost their job are long-time "True Blue" eBay execs. I have also heard that there may be additional cuts before the end of the month. It looks like John Donahoe is putting his stamp on the company and doing it all before Meg leaves so he can start his official tenure with a clean slate.

Over the last few months I have heard from other companies in the Bay Area, that they have seen a huge increase in resumes coming from eBay employees. So maybe the number of employees that are voluntarily leaving has allowed them to keep the cuts small.

If you check the eBay job board, many of the open positions for eBay are for summer interns. StubHub is still hiring though

UPDATE: Here is the official announcement from eBay.
Just my 12%

One Way to Get Around Best Match!

It appears to me, that one of the best ways to get around this new Best Match default and always be on the 1st page, is by participating in the Yahoo sponsored ads program.

On the US site, Yahoo Sponsored ads are on almost every eBay search. You no longer have to pay for a 7 day listing in the hopes you will show up on the first page for at least one of those 7 days. Instead you can use Yahoo's PPC program to get access to everyone who searches on your keywords. You also only pay when they actually click through to your website and in many cases your website doesn't have any FVF. Of course you would still sell on eBay those items that were most successful for that platform but you could move a great deal of your “long tail” inventory to your website and spend a lot less on sponsored ads then you do on eBay.

Heck, even sellers who have moved to eCrater and don't pay anything for their store can advertise using Yahoo's PPC program and get access to eBay's customers. You only pay if they click through to your store. You can choose keywords that you know buyers use in search and bid up your ads so that you show up in the top four ads for that keyword. Here is some info on how one former eBay seller is doing with the program:

“I pay $.15-$.35 per click & my conversion rate is 12-35% on all my ads. Bidding cheap on keywords will get you nowhere, you[r] ad has to be in the top 4 ads to get any solid traffic or sales. My average order is $48 & the average cost per sale is $1.12.”

I have a challenge for sellers who already have a website:

Sign-up for the Yahoo PPC (PayPer Click) program; Calculate your average eBay bill and make 10% of that amount your maximum monthly budget on Yahoo. Place bids on the keywords you know eBay buyers search on and then track the activity. My guess is you will start to see user activity immediately and sales should soon follow. Compare the COS (cost of sales) between eBay and the Yahoo ad program and see which platform gives you the most bang for your buck.

Also, if you are not able to sell directly on Amazon at this time becasue of category restrictions, you might consider applying for their Product Ad program and send Amazon traffic to your website as well. The Amazon Product Ad program is relatively new so I haven't heard any statistics on how well it is working, but online sellers need to start taking more control of their business and this is one way to do it.

I'm not suggesting a wholesale change from eBay, but this method is working very well for a number of eBay sellers. You will still get better sales velocity on eBay but when you compare the costs, I think you will be in for a big surprise.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

February eCommerce Numbers From AC Nielsen

I thought I would try something new and just post the raw numbers without any commentary and then use the comment section to add my 12%. Please give me your impressions of the numbers.

Here you go:

The top 10 online shopping destinations in February, with unique visitors in millions for this year, last year and growth/decline from prior year, according to Nielsen Online, were:
  • eBay, 56.60, 59.42, -5%
  • Amazon, 47.67, 40.76, 17%
  • Target, 22.57, 20.14, 12%
  • Wal-Mart Stores, 21.35, 20.11, 6%
  • Shopzilla.com Network, 21.16, 16.86, 25%
  • Shopping.com Network, 16.36, 17,82, -8%
  • Yahoo! Shopping, 16.08, 11,46, 40%
  • Dell, 16.06, 13,96, 15%
  • Circuit City, 14.30, 9.39, 52%
  • Best Buy, 13.45, 12.66, 6%

Unique visitors count only once for each shopper who came to a site, no matter how many times that shopper visited. This is a custom list compiled by Internet Retailer of the top e-commerce sites in this category based on Nielsen Online data.

Give me your 12% I'll add mine as we go.

Best Match Roll Call!

I am hearing conflicting accounts about the effect "Best Match" is having on eBay seller's businesses and I would like to get your feedback. Some sellers I've spoken with have seen a 30 - 40% drop in business, some are maintaining the same sales and others have done significantly better than before the launch of "Best Match".

Scot Wingo, recently posted on his blog that the data he was seeing suggested that things were improving. "... on March 3rd when eBay rolled BestMatch we saw an even larger and more across-the-board conversion bump. We've got some sellers seeing a 10-20% increase in conversions. I haven't seen anything this dramatically positive on eBay in a LOOOOOONGGGG time."

So, I thought we could just do a quick and dirty assessment of your business and whether you have seen an increase in sales, decrease in sales, or if your sales have remained constant. There are a number of factors that may account for these changes, but I'm specifically looking for information beginning with the 3rd of March.

Please comment about what you have been seeing in your business. Be honest and if you choose, use the Anonymous login to post. This is not a scientific survey, but I wanted to test the temperature of "Best Match" is having on your business. If you normally don't comment on Blog Utopia, please consider adding you 12% about Best Match (Good or bad).

I'm agnostic when it comes to "Best Match". I can see where it has been beneficial for individual sellers, yet detrimental to others. Please post about what you are personally seeing not what you are hearing.

Seller Dashboards Go Live This Week!

According to Jim Ambach, VP Seller Experience. The Seller Dashboard application will launch this week. There is no scheduled release date, but Jim did mention in the Town Hal last week that the first version of the Seller Dashboard would be available this week.

The Seller Dashboard is meant to give you more in-depth information on your eBay business; including information on DSR's, what your customer dissatisfaction percentage is, etc. This information will be crucial to your business as you look to improve your standing in Best match.

Update: From the eBay Announcements board today: "Back in January we announced the Seller Dashboard and I'm delighted to say that we are on track for our scheduled launch in May. By the end of the day today the discount module of the Seller Dashboard will be available for all PowerSellers. Because final value fee discounts for PowerSellers with eligible DSRs will begin appearing on sellers' invoices next month and our PowerSellers are eager to forecast and plan around their discount eligibility, we felt it was critical to release the discount module of the Seller Dashboard as soon as possible. You will see the Seller Dashboard discount module linked from your My eBay page. There you will find your 30-day rolling average DSR score and your PowerSeller discount eligibility. "

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

eBay PR Finally Got Back to Me -- Sort Of!

I occasionally submit questions to eBay's PR department to get clarification or comments about rumors, etc. Most of the time, I already know the answer they are going to give me, but I want to see it in writing. Well, for over a year now the vast majority of my questions never receive a response. I was beginning to take this personally, but I couldn't stop asking them questions.

To my surprise and delight, I received a response to my most recent question regarding the eBay Partner Network. But, there was something strange about the reply -- it wasn't from eBay’s PR department, but from a company called JustDriveMedia. Her name was Ali and she answered my question quickly and to my satisfaction. I even sent her 2 follow-up questions, which she responded to almost immediately (this is unheard of in eBay land).

I was going to write a post about the eBay Partner Network, using the information she provided, but instead decided to write about this apparent change at eBay's PR department.

Is this just a test or are they using JustDriveMedia to handle media requests for big announcements, like bringing the eBay affiliate program in-house? Is eBay PR still responding to media requests on other issues?

I'm sure Ina Steiner still gets responses directly from eBay, but I really don’t care who responds as long as somebody actually gets back to me. I have no problems getting all of my info from Ali at JustDriveMedia. Her role is to serve as an eBay spokesperson and get me the information that I am requesting and if you ask me she's done a fantastic job.

Hopefully, most of my future questions will just be handed over to Ali so I can get the info I need. BTW, there are no current plans to open up the eBay Partner Network to non-eBay websites, nor are their current plans to bring StubHub and other eBay programs in-house. My new best friend Ali said, "We're always looking to become more efficient and improve upon the experience of our affiliates and our buyers and sellers, so we'll evaluate the programs and make those decisions as they become necessary."

Thanks Ali.

Just my 12%

I Told You Buy Back Was Going to be Big!

I just came across an article entitled "Turn Clutter Into Cash" and seeing as “turning media item clutter into cash”, is part of my business plan (http://www.buybackdirect.com/). I figured I would see what the article had to say: "Amid a teetering economy, many people would like to pick up a few extra bucks. Desks and drawers in your house won't provide a steady supply of money, but it's becoming easier to convert household clutter into cash."

This is not really news, as eBay and Craiglist have developed huge businesses enabling casual sellers to sell their items online but as the article points out, "The drawback is that it takes time and effort to take a photo of the item, write out a description and upload the photo to the Web site. Then you will have to spend time with potential buyers answering questions, collecting the money and shipping the item.

While many people have great intentions of doing this, items that end up in drawers never seem to get sold. Other times, even though the items has value, it's too much trouble to put it up for sale."

It makes much more sense for professional sellers to buy the product back from the consumer, putting cash into their hands quickly, and then turn around and sell that product on Amazon, eBay or their own website; because that is what they do for a living. Sourcing, is one of the most difficult tasks for an online seller and finding a steady stream of quality product is a challenge.

I can tell you personally that buying back media items, from the consumer, gives me a steady stream of high quality DVD's CD's and Video Games. I turn around and ship them to Amazon FBA and sell them on Amazon.com. It’s a great business for a blogger.

If the concept works for media items, it can certainly work for numerous other categories and the article points out that several new websites are buying back Jewelry, Cell Phones and other Consumer electronics right now and turning “Clutter into Cash”.

As the economy continues to struggle, many families will look at the "stuff" in their homes and rather than try to turn it into cash by selling it at a garage sale, on CraigsList or eBay, they will just find one of these websites and sell it directly to somebody who does that for a living.

Maybe this was the problem with all of the Drop-off store failures, they didn’t buy the product -- they just sold it on consignment.

Just my 12%

Amazon Prime; The Competitive Edge.

While eBay continues to battle the negative "buying experience" of high S&H charges on their platform, Amazon has that problem covered -- it's called Amazon Prime.

In addition to their very successful Super-Saver program, Amazon has seen tremendous growth in Amazon Prime memberships. The company is tight-lipped about its Prime membership numbers, but they wouldn't be expanding internationally if the program were not successful. During the second half of 2007, Amazon rolled out Prime to 3 international marketplaces (Japan, UK and Germany)

According to a research note by Jeetil Patel of Deutsche Bank "Over the past year, services such as Amazon Prime have helped to shift consumer behavior, fuel cross-category shopping and consolidate wallet share into the hands of Amazon.com. This strategy has helped to accelerate user growth, purchase frequency and unit growth at the company in the past year, while the e-commerce market has deteriorated. Once again, we think Amazon Prime should fuel growth in 1Q 2008, based on shifting consumer behavior."

I've seen this growth first hand. I use Amazon's FBA program to fulfill my Amazon orders, which makes my items eligible for Super-Saver shipping and Prime members. In the 4th quarter of 07, 14% of my shipments were for Amazon Prime customers. So far in the first quarter of this year, 19% of my orders are going to Prime customers. Those are sales I would not be getting if I was self-fulfilling my orders.

For the $79 a year Prime membership fee, Amazon customers get the following benefits:
  • Free Two-Day shipping on over a million in-stock items sold by Amazon.com. $3.99 overnight shipping if you order by 6:30PM ET.
  • There's no need to group items to save on shipping. Order what you want, when you want.
  • Share one membership with up to four additional accounts in the same household and get even more value.

On eBay, sellers must ship product themselves, use a drop-shipper or outside fulfillment house and their actual shipping costs can vary widely depending on the volume in their business. eBay encourages sellers to offer Free Shipping but that becomes a huge financial burden to their bottom line and I certainly can't see any 3P sellers on eBay offering 2-Day shipping for free. But with Amazon's FBA program, 3P sellers like myself can participate in Amazon's Prime program and get access to a customer base that is growing and as Mr. Patel says in his note "This strategy has helped to accelerate user growth, purchase frequency and unit growth at the company in the past year, while the e-commerce market has deteriorated."

IMO, Amazon Prime will continue to grow and become a larger % of Amazon orders. I can't see any reason why today's 3P sellers wouldn't want to have access to that business.

Just my 12%

Sunday, March 16, 2008

eBay Takes Affiliate Program In-House!

According to Valleywag, eBay is getting ready to take their Affiliate program in-house through a new eBay subsidiary called eBay Partner Network, Inc. The eBay affiliate program is currently being run by Commision Junction.

Valleywag provided a link in their post that was supposed to link to the new live website but I was unable to make it work. [The link is working now] I did check with GoDaddy.com to see if the name was registered by eBay and it was. The domain was created on Aug. 23, 2007

This move makes complete sense, as eBay can cut out the middleman in the process and control the business on their own. Look for Shopping.com and StubHub to follow suit and move to the eBay Partner Network.

Amazon has been running their own Associates program for years it's time eBay did as well.

Update: eBay issued a press release today about the Partner Network. For more information got to affiliates.ebay.com

The Regular Couple Behind Bebo's Success!

Earlier in the week AOL announced that they would be buying Bebo.com for $850 million and I chose not to write anything about it because AOL bores me and I knew next to nothing about Bebo. Well, this morning I came across a great little article profiling the husband and wife team behind Bebo.com and was amazed to find out they will be taking home 70% of that $850 million – Wow!

This story meant a lot to me personally because it showed that failure is just a part of living and if you keep working until you find the right formula, success will follow. Sometimes, as I’ve posted in the past, you need to realize that your current business model is not working and either fix it or quit and start something new.

“This is the story of a couple of struggling computer entrepreneurs who met in a London bar and moved to California without enough money to pay for their accommodation. Michael Birch and his wife Xochi are now expected to make hundreds of millions of pounds from the sale of one of the hottest properties on the internet.” Says the TimesOnline in its profile of the husband and wife team.

Allow me to quote a large part of the article to give you a feel for their story. It is not unlike my story, except they are now some $600 million richer than I am. I’m sure many of you online entrepeneurs can relate to what the Birch’s went through to get their “lucky break”

Birch was born on July 7, 1970, an inventor’s son, and grew up in the Hertfordshire village of Cuffley. At school in Cheshunt he was a bright child who excelled at chess but lacked ambition. He said later: “I used to wonder what I’d do in life if computers hadn’t been invented. I don’t think I’d be good at much else.”

He was no more motivated after graduating with a degree in physics from Imperial College London, where he met Xochi at the university’s Southside bar. The dismal jobs market at the time prompted him to begin his career in the unlikely setting of Zurich Insurance. Computer programming and insurance struck him as the two most boring activities imaginable: “I was frustrated by the environment because it was very bureaucratic. But I found out that I really liked the computing side of it.”

Birch stayed in insurance for six years before becoming a freelance IT contractor. He gave up work to concentrate on his own ventures after Xochi gave birth to their first child. The rising property market enabled the couple to remortgage their flat in Richmond, southwest London, and ride out their initial disappointments.

Their first three dotcom start-ups were unsuccessful. Then the Birches hit a lucky streak. Their first success came with BirthdayAlarm.com, initially a simple alert service that evolved into an e-cards business. By the time the Birches decided to act on a long-standing plan to join Xochi’s parents, BirthdayAlarm was not generating much revenue, although it eventually began paying off and enabled the inlaws to move back into their bedroom and the young couple to rent “a really terrible apartment”.

The swift evolution of the internet captured their imaginations. “When social networking came along I just thought: wow, something to do with computers and it’s fun. This was invented for me,” Birch said. Envious of the success of Friends Reunited, he was galvinised into action by the appearance of Friendster, a social neworking site launched in 2002. After studying it for half an hour he began coding his own site, which went live 13 days later. Named Ringo, it gained 30,000 members within days.

However, the stress began to tell: “There was myself and my wife in this 120 sq ft office in the suburbs of San Francisco, trying to cope with the amount of traffic we were getting.” Overwhelmed and lacking finance, they sold Ringo within six months.
(bold is mine)

That brings us to Bebo, which began after the sale of Ringo and the rest is now history.

The world is filled with stories of “lucky” breaks that turned regular folks into millionaires overnight, but when you actually research their background you find that there were many failures and lessons learned before they became “lucky”.

As you look at your own life or business and wonder if you too could be this “lucky”, remember that quitting a failed business model, or having it quit on you is just a lesson in your journey to something greater. If your start-up, online store or great new product idea fails, just dust yourself off and get back in the game. Persistence pays off and you can’t get “lucky” like the Birch’s, unless you are actually in the game.

Many eBay sellers and start-up founders can relate to this story and though the degrees of your success are not on the same scale as the Birch’s, your story may be very similar. For those of you who haven't had your "lucky" break, take a look at your business model, make sure it still viable in this brave new world of ecommerce, make corrections, shut it down or morph it into something completely different and as long as you keep working hard, someday you too could be as “lucky” as Michael and Xochi Birch

Weekend Thoughts!

Most bloggers take weekends off because readership is usually down and there aren't very many stories out there to write about. Since my routine is pretty much the same on weekends as it is during the week, I thought I would come up with a weekend posting strategy to encourage my readers to visit My Blog Utopia on the weekends. The question I aim to answer; is readership down on the weekends because readers are doing something else or is it down because bloggers are doing something else and readers don’t have any reason to read?

During the week my two most active referring networks, after Roadrunner, are eBay and Amazon and that traffic disappears on the weekends, presumably because eBay and Amazon employees are home with their families, but I can't imagine them going cold turkey all weekend, even if its only to sneak in a brief Internet session between mowing the lawn and watching the kids soccer game.

I also know that you eBay sellers are online everyday, checking sales and answering endless emails, unless of course you have people to do that. So I'm going to try and find something interesting for you as well. Nothing heavy, just something to read while you are drinking your morning coffee or before you take your Sunday afternoon nap (who gets a nap anymore).

My idea is to cover human-interest stories or find funny and entertaining stories related to online business, to give you a different flavor on the weekends. The idea is to reach out on weekends when the noise has died down a bit and see if I can spike readership because I’m providing something of value to my readers.

I know that several of you will have to change your routine and add reading Blog Utopia to your weekend schedule and I realize this may cause some brief anxiousness, but you will get over it shortly and soon I will be hearing complaints if I’m NOT posting something on the weekends.

So for those of you who are tuning in this weekend to see this post, thanks for dropping by.

Just my 12%

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Now I Have Seen Everything!

I've lived 48 years on this earth and thought I had seen just about everything, well today I came across a blog post that just cracked me up. Time For Democrats To Boycott EBAY for Backing John McCain?

If you thought the seller boycott was a non-starter, then this post should make you chuckle. I loved this quote the most:

"Democrats helped build EBAY, helped Meg Whitman build the company into the giant it is today with 15,000 employees. Has the time come to pull the rug out from under her, show EBAY that choosing sides, backing a man and a party half the nations hates is simply NOT GOOD BUSINESS? Should America's Democrats cancel their accounts, orchestrate a boycott, hold online one day sick ins when Democrats avoid the site at all costs?"

Now isn't this plain silly? I did have a short laugh and thought I would share it with you. I hope i don't offend half of my readers, who are Democrats.

Just my 12%!

Friday, March 14, 2008

Record-Rama Music Collection for Sale Again on eBay

If at first you don't succeed, try, try, try again. "After a $3 million bidder turned out to be a fraud, the Record-Rama music collection is back on the sales block.

The record shop, based in the Pittsburgh suburb of Ross Township, is putting the 3 million music recordings back up for auction on
eBay starting next Wednesday, March 19", said store owner Paul Mawhinney in an interview with the Pittsburgh Business Times.

The new auction, which will require high bidders to submit credit information, will end at 9 a.m. Saturday, March 29.

If he doesn't get the offer he's looking for maybe I could take the collection off his hands on consignment and sell it through Amazon's FBA. That would keep me busy for a few years.

Just my 12%

Oops ... She Did it Again!

Meg Whitman is back on the Campaign Trail, helping former arch-rival Sen. John McCain as his new national co-chairman.

Once politics gets in your blood I'm guessing its hard to stop:

"Fighting between the Romney and McCain teams grew vicious in the weeks leading up to Super Tuesday, when McCain surged ahead. Even so, Romney said earlier this week that he had asked his fund-raising team to help McCain. Whitman released a statement thanking John McCain and saying she was “enormously excited to be part of his team.”

Stay tuned and look for Whitman to get a cabinet position if McCain wins in November.

Just my 12%

Are eBay's Changes Working?

It is really too soon to tell if eBay's changes will improve things over the long-term but Scot Wingo of ChannelAdvisor has been looking at the data and he says it looks good. "The results have been very profound, measurable and positive." says Wingo.

"First on Feb 20, conversion rates started a nice climb - especially for those sellers in the media categories that previously couldn't justify gallery. By our calculations many media sellers saw conversions increase 2-5%.

Then the media+fixed priced sellers started listing a little bit more. That saw some increased sales, and then sellers increased listings some more and that cycle is still continuing.

Then on March 3rd when eBay rolled BestMatch we saw an even larger and more across-the-board conversion bump. We've got some sellers seeing a 10-20% increase in conversions. I haven't seen anything this dramatically positive on eBay in a LOOOOOONGGGG time."


This is a huge bit of information coming from someone who has access to the data.

A healthy eBay marketplace is beneficial for all involved, so if these positive signs, that Wingo is seeing, become a reality long-term, then sellers should be very happy. If eBay's changes improve the marketplace, how could that be a bad thing?

eBay announces Q1 08 earnings in mid April so it will be interesting to see if their data shows the same improvement.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Amazon Merchants Get Click to Call for Support

Amazon just announced that Seller Central Merchants will now be able to use Click to Call functionality in their Seller Central Account.:

Click to Call Feature Now Available

We are very excited to offer a new service in Seller Central. You can now call Amazon Services support by using the new Click to Call feature in Seller Central.

Benefits of the Click to Call feature include improved account security and a streamlined authentication process. Because you are logged in to your Seller Central account when you make the call, we already know who you are. After a quick verification, we can begin helping you right away.

When using Click to Call, you will still receive the world class support experience that you are accustomed to. We highly recommend you use Click to Call whenever you need our assistance over the phone.

1. Log in to your Seller Central account.
2. Choose the "Get technical support" link found at the bottom of most Seller Central pages.
3. Select the topic you have a question or concern about.
4. Choose the "By phone" link at the bottom of the page.
5. Wait for the “Call back” request to pop up, or select the "Call Me" option
6. Fill out the short "Request call back" form and click Submit.

We'll call you back promptly to assist you with your questions.


Now don't everybody go calling them at once. It looks like they are having some issues in Seller Central today and hopefully will get those figured out. I've heard that eventually everyone will be using a Seller Central account so you might want to look into upgrading your account.

Momma Told Me There Would Be Days Like This!

I woke up today just like any other day and began my routine:

  • Checked eMail (Still no response from eBay PR, what do they have against me?)
  • Checked Google Reader - AOL is buying Bebo.com, big whoop! Yahoo still hasn't said yes to Microsoft, not much else. I did avoid reading the Sex Trade posts on Valleywag.
  • Searched Google and Yahoo for Amazon, eBay, Yahoo and Overstock related stories outside of my normal blogs. Nothing really stood out to me, except if I had $41,000 burning a hole in my pocket, I could have won an eBay auction to spend the evening with Scarlett Johansson. That's a lot more than Gov. Spitzer paid to spend an hour with "Kristen"? Maybe "Kristen" should have donated half of her hourly rate to charity.
  • Check eBay's Discussion Boards. - Same stuff as yesterday.
  • Checked Yahoo Finance to see where eBay's share price was - eBay is down again this morning.
  • Listened to yesterday's eBay Town Hall - Lorrie Norrington sure sounds a lot like Meg Whitman.
  • Started to write a post about what they were saying at the town hall but got bored and stopped. Sorry!
  • Went to my local coffee shop for my morning cup o' joe. Yes, I am perfectly capable of making my own coffee but this is part of my routine. I'm not nearly as bad as Jack Nicholson in As Good as it Gets.
  • Still can't find anything to write about so took a shower -- I know too much information.
  • Checked eMail again - Heard from a reader who is having problems with converting his current Amazon account to Seller Central because he wants to start using FBA. Amazon tech support is on the job. Heard from another reader who says Best Match is working for him.
  • Still nothing of interest is sticking out for me. I think I'll go get breakfast at McDonald's -- they stop serving it in 7 minutes.

I'll be back if anything interesting happens.... Okay, I'm back, I got to McDonalds 1 minute too late for breakfast. Now, how difficult is it to make a Sausage McMuffin for me even though I'm 1 minute late? Apparently I'm going to have to start a blog about McDonalds :) I guess its a bowl of cold cereal for me this morning. After reading this post many of you female readers will understand why I still haven't remarried.

  • Checked email, Google Reader, Search still nothing catches my fancy. Maybe I'll go visit some other blogs and leave stupid comments.
  • BTW, did you know that SDC (Shopping.com) listings were showing up on eBay Express? Apparently they have been there since late last year when SDC started their Shopping Cart Program. It was interesting to see that one of the sellers had a FB rating of 93.7 and DSR's around 4.2. Aren't there listing restrictions on Express. See, these are the kinds of questions I ask eBay's PR department; is it any wonder they never get back to me.
  • Okay, I think I'm going to go out and play with the dogs. There is just not much happening.

I'm Back! A special thanks to one of my readers for reminding me of the scene from Five Easy Pieces. It accurtely reflects my feeling at McDonalds this morning. Enjoy!


Here's another great scene that is very close to my experience this morning at McDonalds. Thanks to Steve L. for sending me the link. I completely forgot this scene from Falling Down

Momma told me their would be days like this.

Just my 12%

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

PerfumeBay Loses Trademark Appeal to eBay!

"A four-year battle with eBay Inc. has brought a name change at Huntington Beach’s Perfume Bay Inc. Web sites.

Perfume Bay, whose sites now are called Beauty Encounter, last year lost an appeal in a trademark infringement case against the online auctioneer and retailer.
"

It is funny how the Internet works. I live in Orange County, CA not far from Huntington Beach where PerfumeBay.com has its headquarters and this article was in the Orange County Business Journal but I actually heard about it from Sue at Tamebay -- in the UK.

I also thought it was quite funny that eBay never sued my former company Glacier Bay for trademark infridgement. Apparently the one count of the suit that PerfumeBay actually lost was: "The courts found Perfume Bay clear on eight out of the nine counts. The ninth count alleged that Perfume Bay couldn’t use the word “bay” next to the word “perfume” in its Web site address." (bold is mine)

Now don't get me wrong, I'm glad eBay didn't sue me for trademark infringement, but it sure looks like selective enforcement to me, which should negate their claim. Of course, I'm not a lawyer so who knows if that argument holds water.