Monday, September 29, 2008

eBay's Q4 Marketing Plan!

I honestly hate sitting through the eBay Town Hall meetings, but John over at ColderICE seems to enjoy it, so I'm taking the lazy man's approach to this and posting a link to his post.
John, posted an audio segment on his TwitWall (don't ask) about eBay's marketing plans for the 4th quarter.  It looks like they are committed to Internet advertising through Google; et al, coupons and PR -- I'm just overwhelmed by that plan.
Here is the link. Give her a listen and then give me your 15% in the comments section.

It looks like they have already begun the adwords campaign.

Just my 15%

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Bonanzle Keeps Growing!

As eBay continues to struggle and small sellers search to find a home for their product, Bonanzle seems to getting some traction and growing nicely.
Some Recent Stats:
  • Nearly 3,000 users (on Sept 19th they had 1700)
  • 122,000 listings (on Sept 19th they had 58,000)
  • Alexa Ranking is 225,199 an improvement from 344,257 on Sept 19th.
  • They are averaging 3,000 unique visitors a day and 4,000 visits with 40,000 page views on a daily basis.
  • Most importantly, GMV (General Merchandise Value) is growing daily
According to Bonanzle:
Bonanzle sellers, eager to escape eBay’s moves against smaller stores, have collectively rolled up their sleeves to help build Bonanzle as their new home.  Bonanzle Forums are regularly filled with sellers collaborating on grassroots marketing ideas, including one recent thread that had more than 50 sellers volunteering their personal time and resources to promote Bonanzle.  As Bonanzle seller cleosgreatdeals puts it, “The unique item market is what Pierre had in mind for eBay and it worked for many years. When it stopped working for us it was time to move into a new marketplace and learn about promoting.”  
I would recommend checking out Bonanzle if you are a small sellers looking for a new home.

Just my 15%

Friday, September 26, 2008

PeSA/ECMTA Oct. 1st Conference Agenda

Agenda for the PeSA/ECMTA conference to be held in San Francisco on Oct. 1st. This event is free with pre-registration.
  • 10:00 - 10:45 eBay
  • 10:50am - 11:35am Overstock Auctions
    Speaker: Doug Minnick, Director, Overstock Auctions
    Topic: New vision and product enhancements at your request
    Description: Enhancements to Overstock Auctions will include increased fraud protection, checkout process improvements, more third-party integrated payment options and the addition of bid cancellation and retraction. Overstock Auctions plans to integrate many of the site changes as early as November in time for buyers and sellers to capitalize on them during the holiday shopping rush.
  • 11:40am - 12:15pm Amazon Services
    Description: How to sell your products on Amazon, best practices for selling over the holidays, and new Amazon Services to help you grow your business.
  • 1:00pm - 1:30pm Vendio
    Speaker: Michael Levit, EVP Marketing, Vendio and Dealio
    Topic: Multi-Channel Selling Strategies
    Description: There are more selling options than ever ranging from large marketplaces like eBay and Amazon, to a comparison shopping sites, to BYOT (bring your own traffic) eCommerce solutions. Learn how to think about the expanding multi-channel world and where you should focus your efforts to get the best returns.
  • 1:35pm - 2:05pm EmailDirect.com
    Speaker: Kristine Dobson, VP Business Development
    Topic: Email Marketing Best Practices
    Description: EmailDirect provides web-based software that allows online marketers to easily: build email marketing campaigns, manage/segment email contact lists, send permission-based email messages and track the performance of email campaigns.
  • 2:10pm - 2:40pm nuCourse Distribution
    Description: Our on going commitment is to offer you the most innovative and efficient way to search, source, and resell the highest quality products, in the most cost effective way. nuCourse Distribution Inc is an online distributor of MP3 accessories, Consumer Electronics, Video Game accessories, Cameras & accessories, Speakers & Headphones, Computer Accessories & Peripherals, and much more. We pride ourselves in finding the new up and coming brands, as well as the tried and true brands, and delivering them to you in a nuWay.
  • 2:45pm - 3:15pm PhiConnect
    Speaker: Daniel Kim
    Topic: FREE eBay Listing/Management Tools for Powersellers
    Description: PhiConnect.com is placing a special emphasis on FREE eBay Listing and Management Tools for PowerSellers. Deviating from other eBay tools and free tools, PhiConnect.com provides unique features for eBay volume PowerSellers. The features include FREE auto scheduling, auto dispute rules, online return service, vendor management, sales information, item inventories, and many more.
  • 3:20pm - 3:50pm ComGateway
    Speaker: Lionel Sim, VP International
    Topic: Sell Internationally to Visa and Amercian Express card holders without fear of chargebacks or fraud. 
    Description: “With ComGateway, merchants never have to worry about fraud or chargebacks, nor will they need to charge a premium for shipping to cover their fraud-to-sales ratio. Moreover, the low US dollar makes it more compelling than ever for International shoppers to buy from our merchants” says Mr Paul Schmudde, President of ComGateway’s logistics operations.
  • 3:55pm - 4:25pm Winbuyer
    Speaker: Chance Lipsky
    Topic: “Thinking Outside the Box: New Trends that Increase Profitability”
    Description: With the rise of web 2.0, people are more open to “thinking outside the box”- finding new ways to cover costs and add to the bottom line. Learn about the latest solutions and trends that can increase your profitability. Specifically, we’ll be comparison shopping marketplaces, an innovative new way to increase conversion to sales and generate lead-based revenue. 

    specialtyretailshops
    Speaker: Christopher Deutsch, Co-Founder & Director of Business Development
    Topic: Introduction by specialtyretailshops
    Description: Specialty Retail Shops, Inc. (SRS) is a Scottsdale, Arizona based company acquiring, consolidating and growing niche, online retailers in the $31 billion specialty retail segment of the “Long Tail” of e-commerce. SRS transitions the stores at acquisition to a top-tier, enterprise-class retail platform that utilizes advanced marketing and fulfillment capabilities as well as consolidating administrative and corporate operations
Just my 15%

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Blast From the Past: The Art of the Layoff!

With all the talk about impending layoffs at eBay and Yahoo, I thought it might be a good time to read what Guy Kawasaki had to say, about laying off employees back in 2006. He directed the post to executives, about how to effectively layoff employees, so many of his ideas sound a little harsh. I honestly think, if layoffs are to happen then he makes some very valid points. Layoffs are already harsh, so don't botch the layoff and make it worse. Hopefully eBay and Yahoo managers take some of these suggestions to heart as they prepare for the coming layoffs. 

Some key quotes:
  • #3 - "Move fast. One hour after your management team discusses the need to layoff employees, the entire company will know that something is happening. If you think you need to layoff people, then do so because it’s unlikely that a miracle will happen. Once people “know” a layoff is coming, productivity drops like a rock. You’re either laying people off or you’re not—you should avoid the state of “considering” a layoff." Of course eBay and Yahoo have already diregarded this suggestion.
  • #9 - "Provide support. The odds are the people getting laid off aren’t “at fault.” More likely, it was the fault of top management—the same top management with golden parachutes. Hence, you have a moral obligation to provide services like job counseling, resume writing assistance, and job search help. There are firms that specialize in helping employees during “transitions,” so use them." Hopefully these companies have setup a transition process for their laid-off employees

Just my 15%

Upon Further Reflection - eBay AdCommerce

I read through the multiple AdCommerce announcements from yesterday, as well as the responses on eBay Ink and I have to say, I don't see the value here. I participated in the old Banner ad program, at the top of the SRP (Search Results Page) and got just a few click-thrus. eBay eventually canned that program in favor of Yahoo Display advertising.
To me, this program would only have value if they allowed sellers to click out to their own websites from the ads, or if there was no FVF on purchases made through those links.
eBay, of all companies, should know how expensive online advertising is, because they have pulled back on their own online ad spending, what makes them think cash strapped eBay sellers are going to pony-up more advertising dollars? Aren't insertion fees supposed to give them the exposure they need in search? Or is this just another way for the Diamond sellers to get broader exposure on the site, in categories and searches where there listings would not normally be found? When you don't pay listing fees, like the Diamond Sellers, it might make sense to try a PPC program for the added exposure, but for the regular, rank-and-file seller, paying the additional fees just won't generate the needed ROI (Return on Investment).

Why not allow sellers to link off the site? Amazon does it with their Product Ads program. 
eBay may still be a 300 lb. Gorilla, but they are more like the gorilla in the Inflatable Madness logo than King Kong. They have a perfect opportunity here, to give sellers a real advertising value and allow them to link out to their own websites, but instead they continue this "walled garden" approach to the site. 
A seller responded to yesterday's AdCommerce news; "It makes no sense to me if they aren’t going to let sellers advertise their websites."  and here was eBay's response: "People come to eBay to shop. Buying an ad on eBay gets your product in front of them when they are actually shopping for things you are probably selling. These ads have a similar look and feel to regular listings and we think buyers would be concerned if they clicked on one and were taken offsite. Rather, we think that a consistent shopping experience that is under PayPal’s buyer protection plan makes buyers more confident and more willing to buy more stuff from smaller businesses. Small business is the engine of eBay, and our ad network is here to serve their needs for more exposure to likely buyers.
In addition, ProStores users who sign up for our new Pay Per Sale model will be eligible to receive exposure on eBay. In this way, they can advertise their off-eBay items, and we think we have a very compelling opportunity for ProStores users to monetize eBay traffic as well." (bold is mine) 
How can they say this with a straight face? "we think buyers would be concerned if they clicked on one and were taken offsite" yet, they are already allowing non-eBay sellers to use Yahoo sponsored ads to click off to their own websites and they follow up that comment with "ProStores users who sign up for our new Pay Per Sale model will be eligible to receive exposure on eBay." What are they smoking up there in the executive offices at eBay? Let's see, we think it would be bad to click off-site unless of course you are paying us more money by using our Pro-stores.
Back in the day, this may have made some sense, when store listings were free and the FVF was 8% but not now when FVFs are rising and eBay still charges listing fees. After all, what are eBay sellers paying for now? Aren't they actually paying for exposure. Why would there be any additional need for a PPC program to link to their current eBay listings. Let's see... I can pay 35 cents to list an item for 30-days and then pay 15% to eBay when it sells and wow, now I can add a PPC program to pay eBay even more money.
My suggestion to eBay sellers is to run on over to Amazon.com and take a look at their Product ads program. This is what Amazon says; "Product Ads is an advertising program that allows sellers to promote their products on www.amazon.com. As a seller, you simply upload your catalog and set your cost-per-click bids. Amazon will then display highly targeted ads for your items on select product and search pages. Customers can click over to your web site and purchase the product directly from you."
After all, with a the upcoming holiday season approaching, where do you think the customers will be.

Just my 15%

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Has Google Stopped Sending Traffic to eBay?

Scot Wingo wrote a blogpost this afternoon about some strange trends he was seeing around the traffic coming from Google to eBay. "Ever since 9/16 when fp30 rolled along with a bunch of finding bugs, we have seen sales plummet in many categories with apparel and jewelry being hit the hardest.
While most sellers are focusing in on some of the eBay finding wackiness, one seller noticed Google had all but disappeared as a 'source' of traffic in their advanced store reports."
John over at ColderICE then looked at his eBay traffic reports and was able to graphically identify a declining trend in Google referrals to his listings. "I am seeing a downward trend of over 60% reduction in Google traffic to our eBay ads! At the highest point it was 6% of add traffic and now it is down to 2%. That is a pretty significant decline in a very short span of time."
So what does this all mean? Well. I think it is too early to tell exactly, but it may be another glitch revolving around eBay's launch of FP-30 or it may be Google playing some games (good luck getting proof of that).
What are you guys seeing? Are you noticing a drop in Google traffic over the last several weeks?
Just my 15%

eBay to Sell Advertising to their Own Sellers!

eBay announced today that they would be launching a new Advertising program called AdCommerce. The program should roll out this fall. Here are two post regarding the announcement.
  • From the eBay Ink Blog: eBay To Launch AdCommerce Program for Sellers
  • From the eBay Announcement Board: Coming Soon: eBay AdCommerce – A Text Advertising Solution for Sellers - "Over the next few months, we'll be introducing a new program call eBay AdCommerce. eBay AdCommerce is a pay-per-click advertising solution that will allow eBay sellers to advertise their listings and eBay Stores via a text ad on eBay search result pages.
    AdCommerce is one more powerful advertising option for eBay sellers who want to drive more traffic to their listings and eBay Stores. Your ads are shown near the bottom of search results pages to targeted buyers that are interested in your product line."
Okay, on face value, I like this idea, but of course the Devil is in the Details, so as more information is available I will add my 15%. This does confirm though, that eBay wants to become a shopping portal rather than a shopping destination, IMO.
  • Diamond Sellers and catalog product coming to the site this fall.
  • Advertising options for eBay sellers to advertise their websites
  • Sponsored ads all over the site currently.
  • Display advertising on the rise.
  • Advertising showing up on Item Description pages on eBay Australia.
eBay is becoming one big product search engine.

Update: I know, I just wrote the post, how can I be updating it so soon. It looks like I may have jumped the gun in saying I liked this idea. If sellers can advertise their websites in this type of program I like it, but if it is only for their existing eBay listings I'll pass. More info to follow.

Just my 15%

Best of the Blogs Today!

I know many of you only read My Blog Utopia :) but there are some other great blogs out there and here are a couple of recent posts that I think you would enjoy. 

Harry Rinker, a well-known expert in the antiques and collectibles field, is leaving eBay over its ban on checks and money orders. It's time to take a stand, he wrote in his column last week. "I will be damned to hell if I am going to allow eBay to dictate how I should pay for my purchases. My checks are good, none bounced. I am taking my business elsewhere." The syndicated column is published in antiques journals and newspapers in the US and Canada...

eBay really is just a venue.  They depend on sellers to list items so that the site will have a great variety and they depend on sellers to make buyers happy so that buyers will continue to return back to eBay.  Because eBay does not sell anything directly to buyers, they absolutely must ensure that sellers perform their duties.  But in their effort to “encourage” sellers to do what they want, sometimes eBay is not thinking about how best to “motivate” sellers.  And, as a result, sometimes eBay’s actions have unintended effects...

Last week, a guy posted that he couldn't believe what his eBay seller emailed him. Basically, the eBay seller emailed him that he/she wanted all 5 stars in DSRs because if he/she didn't get them, eBay would raise his/her fees, and he/she would then have to raise his/her shipping fees...

Just my 15%

Looking for Diamonds!

Imagine being a large Diamond eBay Seller, that launches 800K listings and finds that a great many of them never got indexed in search, so their sales are down just like regular eBay sellers. I wonder how they reacted to the recent news from eBay about listings not being indexed.
Well yesterday, it looks like Buy.com took most of their listings down, only to launch new listings within hours. I would have loved to have listened in on that phone call from Buy to eBay.
With more Diamond sellers already on the site but not quite up to speed and new ones coming in the next couple of weeks, how do you think they will respond to eBay glitches? 
My guess is that Buy.com is reevaluating their involvement with eBay. They had to double Customer Service to deal with the demands of the eBay marketplace, they are just as vulnerable as other eBay sellers to glitches, even with the lower fees they have to think that their Website sales and even affiliate sales have to be a lot less work for the money.
These new Diamond Sellers who are coming to the site, will find some of the same problems and I'm sure they will soon calculate the amount of work required into the ROI calculations and many of them may come to the same conclusion as regular eBay sellers, it just ain't worth it.

Just my 15%

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

eBay Recognizes Top Seller - Finally!

Congratulations Jack Sheng of eForcity on reaching the 1 million Feedback rating on eBay.

Back in the day, when an eBay seller reached the 100K Feedback milestone, they would receive a call from the President of eBay Marketplaces. When Glacier Bay reached 100K, I received a call from Jeff Jordan; a simple gesture that meant a great deal to me.
In 2005, when Glacier Bay passed JayandMarie for the top Feedback on eBay, I once again expected a call. Jay and Marie personally reached out and congratulated me, but nothing came from eBay. Many of the sellers I've spoken with, over the past couple of years, mentioned they have never received a call.

Well, it is good to see that has changed, though it took 1 million feedback to do it, two of Jack Sheng's eBay IDs have reached 1 million in Feedback and a 3rd is soon to pass the same milestone.

Jack should be commended for this accomplishment and certainly deserves a call from Lorrie Norrington.

Just my 15%

The Aussies, Know How To Get Stuff Done.

As I was getting ready for my day on the links, I took one last pass at the news to see if there was anything interesting to write about and low-and-behold this post on Tamebay showed up on my RSS reader: Third party ads removed from eBay Oz after member complaints

Earlier in the week, Ina Steiner at Auctionbytes had posted that sponsored ads were now showing up on seller listings at eBay Australia. This has been a concern of sellers for many months; wondering when this would actually happen. You can imagine the outrage in the seller community, but the Aussies don't take things sitting down, they are very active in trying to right perceived wrongs.
Earlier in the year they helped overturn eBay Australia's PayPal only policy and they have once again been successful in getting a reversal of this recent eBay change, at least in this instance.

In this case they used their heads and rather than just attacking eBay directly for putting sponsored ads on the listing pages they went directly to the advertiser, According to Tamebay;"And so some canny eBayers began to complain, not to eBay, but to Foxtel:
Send your complaint to Foxtel. If eBay stick their head in the sand about this, Foxtel certainly won’t, especially if they get lots of negative publicity about their product.
wrote one poster on the Australian PowerSellers Board. And that worked. Members who had complained directly to Foxtel received this email from their Corporate Affairs Co-ordinator:
These ads were placed on eBay by a third party, and it was never FOXTEL’s understanding that they would be placed in this way. We have asked that they be removed immediately."
Are you surprised that those ads no longer show up on item listings? Now of course they can certainly find another advertiser, but once the press gets this story, why would another advertiser want to risk the bad press. Sellers in the US can learn a few things from our brothers and sisters "Down Under" - don't stand for changes to eBay that are detrimental to your business.


Just my 15%

Monday, September 22, 2008

How Did I Do? 10 Ecommerce Predictions for 2008

It was a slow news day so I decided to check my top 10 Ecommerce Predictions for 2008 that I posted in Dec of 2007. Here is the link to the original post in-case you doubt me.
Remember, I wrote these predictions before Meg left and JD took over eBay. Check out my prediction batting average,so far with 4 months to go in 2008.

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.
What actually happened: Well, the jury is still out on this one; I was correct about both companies having trouble keeping their share price afloat. Not much chance of this actually happening now. 

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)
What actually happened: Meg left in Q1 of 2008 as I predicted and she was replaced by John Donahoe, so I was correct about this one. So far I'm batting .500

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.
What actually happened: I was partially correct about this one. Amazon has expanded their Auto parts category and has recently added a Motorcycle and ATV category; still not selling cars though. I'll call that a win though so i am now 2 for 3.

4. ChannelAdvisor will go public! (No need to expand on that). 
What actually happened: Well this one really didn't have a chance considering where the market is, nobody is going public these days. This was a solid no, so I'm back to .500

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.
What actually happened: This was one of those hair-brained ideas I had; looks like Amazon is just going to build their own Liquidation marketplace, no need for Overstock. I am now batting .400 still respectable but not going the right direction.

6. eBay will institute category based pricing for each of it's major categories.
What actually happened: Well, I got this one right, as eBay just made the change on Sept. 16th. Back to .500

7. StubHub will sign a deal with the NFL prior to next years football season.
What actually happened: Well, I will count this in the correct column even though the deal was just with one NFL team (Da Jets)

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.
What actually happened: Okay, no need to even discuss this one, I was flat out wrong. They even shut down Express -- Back to .500

9. eBay's PR department will return my emails.
What actually happened: They not only returned my emails (well some of them), but they invited me to San Jose in August for the Fee Change announcements. So I'm now 5 for 9

10. MyBlogUtopia will replace TechCrunch as the top blog (You have to think big folks)

What actually happened: Well, MyBlogUtopia did grow exponentially Y/Y but its not even close to TechCrunch - Maybe next year.

So in the end, I hit .500 -- to continue the baseball theme -- that would put me in the Hall of Fame in baseball, but is probably just so-so in the world of blogger predictions.

Just my 15%

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Its Sunday, Do You Know Where Your eBay Listings Are?

If you launched any CORE listings after 8:55 pm on the 19th, you "probably" don't need to worry that they are available in eBay search, but if you listed any items between the morning of the 17th and 6:30 pm on the 19th, that is another matter
During that period of time Medved showed an increase of 2.3 million CORE listings and it is unclear how many of those listings were not indexed in search, eBay's announcement just stated "some listings".
I know of several sellers that launched upwards of 50K listings during that period of time, and though eBay states they will refund listing fees for those listings that were affected, sellers are just going to have to take their word for it, because there is no way to determine how many of their listings didn't show-up.
We are going into the busiest time of the year for online sales and eBay is rolling out a new search, new listing formats and soon several new Diamond sellers, so it is not unreasonable to question managements judgement -- this is not the time of year for these types of changes.
It really makes you wonder, why Rajiv Dutta, President of eBay Marketplaces and Matt Carey, eBay's CTO have left the company this year. I think it is a safe assumption that they had a difference of opinion with the boss John Donahoe.

Update: According to the eBay Announcement board, the technical issue mentioned above has been resolved

Just my 15%

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Oops They Did it Again!

I was just going to kick-back this weekend and stay away from the blog, until I checked my RSS feed and saw the following announcement from eBay"Some items listed or revised between the morning of September 17 and 6:30pm PT on September 19 are not indexed into eBay Search. We are working urgently to resolve the problem for the affected items as quickly as possible.
At this time, we are asking sellers NOT to end and relist these items, because we don't know at this point whether the relisted items will index properly. However, we do know that new items will index properly, so if you'd like to end your affected listing and start a new listing from scratch, that will be fine, and it should index into Search properly.
We will update this post when we have more information. In the meantime, please be assured that we will be automatically crediting fees for all impacted listings (whether active or closed) early next week. Thank you for your patience, and we apologize for the frustration this is causing you." (bold is mine)
At least they mentioned they would be crediting fees, but what will they do about the lost sales?If a listing does not get indexed in search then it will not be available for a buyer to find. eBay's answer to this is; "if you'd like to end your affected listing and start a new listing from scratch, that will be fine, and it should index into Search properly." (bold is mine) 
How's that for confidence! With all that sellers have had to adjust to over the past 2 years, now they have to be concerned that their listings will show in search during the busiest shopping season of the year.
BTW, it is 5:16 pm PST on the 20th and the issue still hasn't been resolved.
Just my 15%

Thursday, September 18, 2008

eBay's 30-Day Fixed Price Format -- Success or Failure?

It is still too early to tell if the new 30-day Fixed price format is a success or a failure, but as of today, it looks like it is slow going.
According to Medved, listings are just north of 17 million which is 2 million more than before the launch, but that number seems to be lower than expected -- at least from analysts who have contacted me and asked "why the reluctance from sellers" to adopt the new format.
So why hasn't this new format taken off?
  • Technical problems: eBay's own Turbo-Lister software was not ready for the new 30-day listing format, at the time of launch. [According to the Announcement board this was resolved later in the day on the 16th.]
  • Wait and see: Sellers are very cautious these days and want to see how the new format works before they jump in.
  • Testing, testing, Testing: I've seen a number of tests using 3, 7, 10 day FP listings as well as Free Shipping on 30-day listings, but very few sellers have committed to anything yet.
  • Sellers are not dumb. They realize that until CORE gets flooded with listings, there store inventory will still get exposure and they pay less to sell in stores, than they would with the new format.
  • Many sellers have just moved on. They are sticking with what they know works on eBay and putting all of their energy into other marketplaces or their own websites.
This is going to be very interesting to watch because eBay can't afford to wait this out. If their metrics don't improve they are in trouble and if they can't get sellers to adopt this new format, it will be a difficult Q4
Just my 15%

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Are Rank-and-File Employees Smarter Than Their Bosses?

Interesting article from the Motley Fool. Here's my favorite quote.
"It's a neat approach, but the more startling implication is that executives aren't any smarter -- in fact, probably less smart, in a "street smarts" sense -- than their underlings. This naturally may lead shareholders to wonder why they're paying their executives so well, and padding their contracts with chunky stock options as retention tools, when the average Joes and Janes have more clarity than the MBA-bearing pros."


Just my 15%

Looking For Help With the New eBay?

eBay is conducting a workshop regarding the changes. Go here for more info.


Just my 15%

eBay Threw a Party and Nobody Showed!

Today is the first day of eBay's new 30-day Fixed Price Listing and I know it is still early but I don't see a huge increase in listings. Medved shows CORE listings at around 15.5 million, which is up slightly but not as much as you might expect.

Maybe sellers are rolling things out slowly and we will see a gradual rise in listings as the week progresses. 

Scot Wingo sees actual data from his clients and says; "Off to a slow start:
Given all the hoopla in the press and supposedly nashing of teeth around this new format, it's off to a slow start.  We have about 150 customers that have listed an FP30.  Here's one of the first ones if you want to see what it looks like 'live' on eBay.
Part of what's going on with the seller base is, for lack of a better word, eBay fatigue.  Sellers feel their businesses have changes so much (DSRs, BestMatch, etc..)  for so little/no/decline in sales that eBay is increasingly becoming a lower priority for them and thus they will tend to be reactive vs. proactive as they would have been as recently as 6 months ago.  To be honest, most of our larger sellers are spending their time getting their websites and other channels ready for the holidays and eBay just isn't a priority.  Of course this doesn't bode well for eBay, but it's the reality of what is going on in the grassroots of ecommerce.
So unless eBay puts a promo on the FP30, I don't see this mass switch to FP30 over the store format or anything until maybe Q1 after the holiday dust settles."

Just my 15

Monday, September 15, 2008

Free PeSA/ECMTA Workshop in San Franscisco Oct. 1st.

PeSA/ECMTA will be holding a free 1-day educational workshop in San Fransciso on Oct. 1st.

Here is a heads-up on topics and presenters:
  • eBay will be there and because of all the changes we expect this to be a very active topic as we will be 2 weeks into the 30FP change and sellers will have a chance to discuss with each other what everyone is learning to be the best strategy.
  • Amazon will be there to talk more about selling on the Amazon platform and preparing for the busy holiday season. If you have ever experienced the HOLIDAY RUSH on Amazon you know what I mean.
  • Overstock.com will also be there. They recently announced the new appointment of Doug Minnick and their expanded focus on growing Auctions.
  • OneNow is a new venture that went public today.  They have a very simple way to help sellers sell their goods to Asian countries without the mess.
  • We have a new tool provider WinBuyer that looks very interesting. They provide competitive market information across the net for items to keep sellers informed on the competition. They also help buyers know they are getting the best deal on a seller's website. 
  • Vendio will be there to share some new initiatives they are rolling out as well.
  • There will be a session on email marketing with emailDirect an email marketing company there to help members build or improve their email marketing campaigns.
Click here to register for this free 1-day seminar.

Just my 15%

eBay Brain Drain - Alan Lewis, Now at Ning!

I've traded blog comments and sat down with Alan at eBay Live to discuss the world of ecommerce and I'm sad to see him go. Alan, was the creator of the eBay Desktop application and a all-round good guy.
Alan, has landed at Ning, and recently blogged about the change:

"I'm breaking my unintended blog radio silence to announce that I have joined Ning as the platform product manager. Ning is a really cool company that lets you create a social network for anything. I am working with some great people at Ning. When I came in to interview I didn't know much about the company other than what I had read on Techcrunch, but everyone I met with really impressed me. I am not announcing what I am working on at Ning yet (keep track of the Ning blog if you are interested in that).
Of course joining Ning means leaving eBay. So why leave? My decision to leave was personal (in other words, it is none of your business), and had nothing to do with anything else that is going on at eBay right now. eBay has had some hard choices to make, and while I haven't always agreed with every decision they have made, the people who work there are basically good, and they are trying to do the right thing. Really."
I wish Alan well.

Just my 15%

Are You Ready to Rumble?

Tomorrow begins a new chapter in the life of eBay sellers in the US, as the new 30-day Fixed Price listing makes its debut. Are you ready?
Sellers have been working diligently on their listing strategies in the face of this new listing format, but there is much uncertainty. My suggestion is to take this gradually so you can modify your strategy as you see what works and what doesn't.
I worry that commodity product sellers will just throw everything into core to see what sticks. Remember you aren't Buy.com or one of the new Diamond sellers coming on board soon -- you still pay listing fees. Because you pay listing fees, conversion still matters.
My guess is the media category will be flooded with product from the big sellers, hoping to stake their claim on CORE. Once one big guy does it the others will have to follow. This is certainly going to be interesting to watch.
My suggestion to everybody out there, is take the next 30-days to learn how things work and come mid-October you will have the right strategy to have a successful Q4. Hopefully there will be enough demand on the site for all of you.


Just my 15%

You Can Find eBay's Soul At Bonanzle.com!

Over the past few months, I've heard quite a bit about a new ecommerce site called Bonanzle, so I finally took a look at it. I was surprised to find a fresh looking, easy to use site, that has a sense of community and reminds me a lot of the early days of eBay.
During eBay's formative years, the site grew as sellers sold their wares to other sellers. It was a real trading community. Soon after going public, eBay began to change and if you look at the site now you might say they've lost their soul.
Bonanzle, has a fresh, 2008 look and feel, is easy to navigate and has some nice Web 2.0 features that help facilitate a sense of community. Many of the sellers there, sell to each other, raising the comparison to the early days at eBay.
Many of my readers are small sellers, who are struggling to find an alternative to eBay and while there are many choices out there, each of them has there own issues. Bonanzle has the "soul" of eBay and is benefiting from the network effect that helped eBay grow.
Bonanzle, allows eBay sellers to import their hard earned feedback, as well as their current eBay listings and sellers can be up and running in no time. The site has a merchandising feature called a Bonanza, that allows sellers to participate in a sale or promotion and benefit from focused traffic. 
I reached out to the Founder, Bill Harding, to get some information on traffic and other statistics and here's what I came up with:
  • As of last week there were 1714 registered users, and they are growing by 50 users a day on avg.
  • There are 58,000 items listed on the site. They are adding about 1,000 new items a day.
  • Their Alexa ranking was 1,857,292 on Aug 2nd and they are at 344,257 today
  • They are averaging [3000] plus visits a day with over [2,000] uniques and growing.
The site just came out of Beta and is ramping up for the holiday season and based on what I've seen and heard from those who've already set-up shop there, Bonanzle is putting the fun back into online selling.
For many large sellers, fun is not part of the equation, but for the small sellers who make-up the backbone of eBay, online selling is more of a lifestyle choice and they want to enjoy what they do.
If you are an eBay seller and looking for an alternative to eBay for your product, I would suggest you try out Bonanzle.com
For those of you who have already setup shop there, please use the comments section to share your impressions.

Just my 15%

Sunday, September 14, 2008

The Network Effect Works in Both Directions!

According to Wikipedia: "In economics and business, a network effect (also called network externality) is the effect that one user of a good or service has on the value of that product to other users....
.... Over time, positive network effects can create a bandwagon effect as the network becomes more valuable and more people join, in a positive feedback loop."
We've seen real world examples of the "network effect" in the exponential growth of companies like MySpace, Facebook, Twitter and one of the first "network effectors," eBay.
During eBay's formative years, the site was dominated by sellers, or more accurately traders; as most users on the site, both bought and sold. As the site grew and became part of popular culture, the "network effect, began to have an impact and propelled the site to exponential growth. As the user base grew, the mix of users began to change; creating positive results for sellers. Soon there were more buyers than sellers and I can attest to the benefit this had for those of us making a living on eBay; as a seller, my business grew over 400% from 2002 through 2003, but as word spread, that sellers were "making millions," it began to also increase the number of sellers coming to the site. 
At the beginning of 2004, I was projecting sales of $6 million by the end of the year, but when all was said and done we only reached $4.6 million, a 28% increase from the year before. My company began seeing problems in March of 2004, as a flood of new competition came to the site and I was slow to react, but that's another story. I believe the media category started to see problems before other categories.
Adam Nash, a former Director of eBay Express, explained this phenomenon in his A Eulogy for eBay Express; "It all started in Q4 2004, which was a real wake-up call for eBay. It was the first quarter where the metrics made it clear that there were significant issues with the way buyer demand was scaling on eBay.com." 
So the issues we see on the site today, began almost 4 years ago and nothing eBay has tried since has been able to stem the tide:
  • Stores in Search - tried and then reversed after 45 days.
  • Punitive fee increases on Stores (Aug 2006)
  • Official Launch of eBay Express [eBay Live 2006]
  • Re-focus on CORE with Windorphins and "Shop Victoriously" (2007)
  • Meg leaves Q1 2008
  • New management and new Focus on Fixed Price (2008)
Through all of these attempts at reversing the trend, we have seen no improvement. In fact the current problems on the site are greater than at any time in eBay's history; buyers have disengaged and sellers have moved to other venues. 
Has the "network effect" worked its magic in the opposite direction? I think a case can be made for that. Buyers left first and are being followed by sellers, the exact opposite trending of the early years of eBay.
The fact is, it takes less time to unwind something then it does to wind it up. eBay grew from 1995 to 2004, to reach the top of the mountain, but it appears, once they go to the top of the mountain they they just rolled over the other side; that growth is unwinding and appears to be spinning out of control. 

Just my 15%

More Rumblings About eBay Layoffs!

eBay hasn't yet confirmed any layoffs, but I guess I'm not the only one who thinks they are on the way. According to Barrons; "Brian Blair and Ryan Hunter of investment-research firm Wedge Partners noted that eBay's business is "deteriorating," and that the company is preparing to fire as many as 10% of the company's 15,000 person workforce."
The layoff numbers that I am hearing are consistent with 10% of the eBay workforce and most of the speculation, centers around the Marketplace business, and will include International.
In labor law, there is a regulation for employers called the WARN Act, which helps ensure advance notice in cases of qualified plant closings and mass layoffs. Basically requiring the employer to give 60-days notice to employees of a major layoff. One provision makes it possible for eBay to avoid the WARN notice.
WARN is triggered when a covered employer:
"Lays off 500 or more workers (not counting part-time workers) at a single site of employment during a 30-day period; or lays off 50-499 workers (not counting part-time workers), and these layoffs constitute 33% of the employer’s total active workforce (not counting part-time workers) at the single site of employment" (bold is mine)
Since eBay has many locations, even within the San Jose area, and the WARN Act only applies to US jobs, they may be able to avoid requirement of the 60-day notice.

Just my 15%

Friday, September 12, 2008

eBay Shipping Cap Goes Into Effect Oct. 5th.

eBay posted a check-list for sellers to get them ready for the 4th Quarter including dates when various changes would go into effect. Here is the complete list

By October 5th:
Revise your shipping costs so they're below the maximum shipping costs, or use the shipping calculator to determine shipping costs based on your buyer's location.

So those categories affected by the new shipping cap, be sure to note the date and make the necessary changes.

Update: Max shipping only affects the Media category at this time, so if you sell in other categories you won't need to worry about this at this time. Here is the link to the Max shipping charges for Media.



Just my 15%

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Update: The New eBay Fixed Price Fees are [Permanent]

Rather than give my 15% on Brews post I figured I would just link to it. I think it provides eBay sellers with some valuable information regarding the changes at eBay.

Update: Apparently there is some confusion about this as Lisa has pointed out in my comments section and Richard from eBayInk mentioned in the comments on Brews post.

Further Update: I've received confirmation from eBay that the new Fixed Price fee structure is permanent and not just a promotional price.


Just my 15%


Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Houston We Have a Best Match Problem!

As many of you may know, eBay's Best Match sort has been experiencing some issues over the past 2 weeks. eBay hasn't yet acknowledged this problem publicly, but sellers are burning up Tweeter, Discussion boards and bloggers email boxes.
From what I understand, eBay search results are all over the map and sellers are deeply concerned. 
As I posted earlier this week, Best Match sort is now incorporating Recent Sales History and perhaps the problems sellers are seeing is because that roll-out hasn't gone well.
Here is the chief concern for sellers: 
We are only 6 days from the launch of eBay's new 30-day Fixed price format and few sellers have any confidence that eBay's Best Match will be working correctly at that time. If a seller commits to a plan which include a great number of 30-day Fixed Price listings, they will be committed to that for a 30-day period, which is a lifetime on the Internet. If there are issues with Best Match that are not resolved quickly, this may be too much of a risk for sellers to jump into this new format.
I realize, if there is a problem, eBay will work to resolve it, but I've been hearing reports of problems with Best Match for the past two weeks and they still haven't been resolved.
My buddy Kevin Harmon at Inflatablemadness did an impromptu poll of sellers on the PeSA Discussion board tonight asking: "On a scale from 1- 10 how confident are you that Best Match will work beginning on the 16th"? and while not many have wade-in yet the consensus so far is a 2 on a scale from 1 -10.
I don't want to harp on this, but eBay sales make-up a large portion of these sellers business and the fear is palpable. If Best Match doesn't work "out of the box" and it takes eBay 2 weeks to fix the problem, we may actually have some sellers closing their doors.
It may not be that dire, but sellers can't be sure.


Just my 15%

AuctionBytes Responds to eBay about Diamond Power Sellers

A little back-and-forth about the new Diamond Power Sellers. For those of you unaware of what has transpired here is a timeline:
I wouldn't imagine anything further will be coming from eBay, though I would ask them to clearly layout their "Diamond Power Seller" plans for the rest of the year. Right now, the "eBay seller community" is deeply concerned about the future of selling on eBay in light of the new 30-day Fixed Price listing format and speculation that the "really Big Guys" are coming in mass to eBay. 

In strains credulity to state that this influx of large sellers won't have any impact of current sellers. Just look at the Books category on eBay right now after the Buy.com deal. Buy.com has dominated the category to the detriment of existing sellers.

If there was enough demand on the eBay marketplace right now, the introduction of these large sellers might not have an impact, but there isn't enough demand on eBay and these large online retailers will dominate their categories putting thousands of small sellers on the brink of going out of business.

David Steiner said this in his response to Griff's post: "You often have to look past what eBay says, and look at what they don't say to get a clearer picture of what's in store for your future. eBay did not deny the existence of the pilot program, or that these catalogs are coming. eBay did not deny free listing fees for these top-level sellers (in fact, it confirmed that fees for Diamond level PowerSellers are negotiable). eBay did not adequately address the fact that while these Diamond Sellers will fill out the breadth eBay's product offerings, many Powersellers who sell the same inventory will likely suffer.

In defense of larger sellers coming aboard next month, eBay stated, "In fact, big sellers have been a part of eBay since nearly the beginning; Sears, Disney, IBM, Dell, HP, etc to name a few. Some remain. But some found they couldn't compete with existing sellers on eBay who by dint of their smaller size of operations, tend to operate much more efficiently than a bigger business."

What eBay doesn't mention is that many of these large corporations were not able to compete on the eBay platform because they were paying listing fees just like smaller merchants - which is why eBay has changed the fee structure for these Diamond-Level sellers."

When I ran Glacier Bay, I asked eBay every year to negotiate our fee structure and every year they said "we don't do that". Large companies always negotiate deals for high volume transactions and this years "Diamond Seller" negotiations are no different. Up until recently eBay had leverage to resist discounting, because they were the only place to sell, but now that they are losing their mojo; they are being forced to "discount" because that is the only way these big guys will come to the site. I know Griff call this speculation, but it is just logical. Big Retailers will not come to eBay unless the risk of listing is removed, so he can call the "free listings" rumors as speculation, but there is no other explanation.

Just my 15%

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

"Darlings of the Valley" Continue to Sink.

I usually stay away from Wall Street on the blog, but I just can't help commenting on two former "Darlings of the Valley" eBay and Yahoo. 
  • Since rejecting Microsoft's buyout offer of $44.6 billion back in the early part of the year, Yahoo's share price has sunk to $17.78 a share and the companies Market Cap is now $24.6 billion. The free-fall is happening even though they have a search outsourcing deal with Google -- maybe the regulatory concerns are having an effect.
    How can shareholders put up with this? Sure the market as a whole is down but the Microsoft offer looks like a killer deal now.
  • eBay just crossed into $22 territory ($22.92) for the first time in 2 years and there are no signs that the trend will reverse itself. If this trend continues does the $19 price target of Deutsche Bank's Jeetil Patel come into play during the first quarter of 09'? At $19 a share is the company in play? With $4 billion in cash and a consensus value of PayPal at $15 billion, does eBay, Inc. really come into play for Google or Microsoft when the Market Cap is $24 billion?
The next few months are going to be very interesting to watch. Investors are already voting with their shares.

Just my 15%

eBay: Recent Sales History Starts ... Now!

Chris at Tamebay, had a post regarding the early start of Recent Sales History for Best Match and Brandon of ECMTA pointed me to the eBay Developers page regarding the change, so I figured I would take a look at exactly what is happening.

According to the eBay Developers blog: "Recent sales will start to factor into Best Match sorting in mid-September, but the tracking starts now.

We think recent sales is a great way to tell a great listing, so we're going to start boosting those listings in search. If you start listing in multi-quantity now and then continue to relist those items when they expire, you'll start accumulating a "recent sales" score reflecting the recent purchases of that item. When the feature is turned on, you start reaping the rewards.

Forget to relist? You’ve got a couple of days to get that item back up on the site and keep your score. Remember, you must do it as a "relist" to have your score carry over. And you can't make major changes to the listing (for example, changes to title, category, condition, increasing price, etc.)." (Bold is mine)


So in theory, this looks like a good idea to get a jump on your competitors, right? Well, there are some issues:
  • The new fee structure goes into effect on the 16th so anything listed between now and then will have the old listing fees. For example a 7-day Fixed price listing with a qty. of 4 and a start price of $25 would cost $4 to list for 7-days and then when you relisted it you would have to relist it as a 7-day FP in order to continue to track your sales. Of course you could convert it to a 30-day once you relisted. Does it really make sense to pay $4 for that first listing to give you that jump on your competitors? It may for some of you, but don't go crazy with this. You are more than likely not going to sell enough in the next 7-days to spike your recent sales much and you don't need to shell out $4 on the "hope" it will help.
  • You have to include multiple quantity in the listing to get credit for recent sales. 
  • If you list on Weds. you can convert the listing into a 30-day listing on the 16th and pay an additional 35 cents but at least the original $ could be spread-out over 30-days. Still not recommended for anything but your hottest selling product.
  • Warning: There is a possibility that if you convert to a 30-day listing from a 7-day that the recent history may not carry-over. I've asked eBay for clarification on this. Update: eBay confirmed that if you convert a 7-day listing to a 30-day your sales history will follow, just don't raise the price, change the category, title or any item specifics.
I would think long and hard about whether this will give you enough of a head start to make it worthwhile, especially as we have no clue what will happen from here on out with Best Match 

Just my 15%

Overstock Starts Selling Internationally!

Just in time for the holidays, Overstock.com will begin selling Internationally.

"Online retailer Overstock.com Inc. on Tuesday said it launched capabilities that enable it to sell to consumers in 34 countries.

The discounter said the new markets include Canada, the U.K. and the members of the European Union. The site locates users and displays pricing in their local currency, automatically adjusted to daily exchange rate fluctuations.

Overstock.com said on Aug. 27, the day of its "soft launch," the site recorded orders from 17 different countries. Traffic has increased since, without marketing.

"With the weakness of the dollar the time has never been better for international customers to purchase American goods, creating a great opportunity for us," said Patrick Byrne, Overstock.com chairman and chief executive."

Source: Associated press

Just my 15%

Monday, September 08, 2008

"Selling on Amazon" Webinar

If you currently sell on Amazon, or are considering it, then you won't want to miss ChannelAdvisor's upcoming WebinarIt’s Time to Take Full Advantage of Selling on Amazon

"ChannelAdvisor will be hosting a webinar this Wednesday, September 10, 2008, at 2 p.m. EST on how to build and grow your Amazon business.

Listen to Scot Wingo and Sam Wheeler, Director of Merchant Services at Amazon Services, as they discuss the various Amazon programs and best practices for succeeding on this channel. Better yet, they’re available for Q+A after the main act to answer questions that you may have." 

Don't miss this great informational opportunity. You can register here.

Just my 15%

eBay Responds to Blog Post About Diamond Power Sellers

Just click on the title to go to the post at eBayInk. No need to add my 15%

What Are Your eBay Plans this 4th Quarter?

eBay sellers are only 8 days away from the new fee structure and there is huge concern regarding the new 30-day Fixed Price listings and how they will be displayed in search. Add to this the speculation about a raft of large sellers coming to the site in Oct. and you can imagine the fear gripping regular eBay sellers who make their living on eBay.

What are you planning to do this 4th Quarter? 
  • Are you curtailing your eBay listings and moving inventory to other sites?
  • Are you shutting down your eBay business and going back to the weekend flea markets and swap meets?
  • Are you just plain quitting selling online?
  • Are you increasing you eBay listings because of the new lower insertion fees?
  • Are you just trying to survive the quarter in hope that the changes will be positive?
  • Many of you can't just leave, how are you coping?
I can't imagine trying to plan your business around eBay this 4th quarter; there is so much uncertainty.

Please use the comments section to tell me what you are thinking. If nothing else, it will help you get it off your chest and may help others to know they are not alone. If you see positives in the changes then let me know that as well -- It doesn't all have to be gloom and doom.

Just my 15%

Friday, September 05, 2008

UPS Loans Money to Small Business!

Wow, tough times call for tough measures, I mean innovative measures.  According to Business Week, UPS is going into the loan business with the launch of Cargo Finance.
I loved this quote:
Cutting fuel costs is one thing; building a finance business is another. UPS's Vukas figures loans will average around $150,000, and he anticipates one or two defaults for every 100 loans issued. "UPS does well with its cash flow, so they have some money they can use [for loans]," says Penn State's Coyle. "But it's a little risky in today's market." UPS has offered such financing to customers over the past decade, but much of the lending was government-backed.
Read the entire article here and sound-off in the comments section.

Just my 15%

Will it be Feast or Famine for eBay Sellers in Q4!

I've written before, about the slowing buyer demand on eBay and that the changes being made do not directly target solving that problem. Instead, eBay appears to be trying to manage the decline, so that the share price doesn't take a major hit, kind of like constantly refilling a tire with a slow leak; at some point the tire will just give out.  

As sellers prepare for the 4th quarter, there are many unknowns, especially with the new 30-day Fixed Price listings. Scot Wingo does a great job of explaining the challenges sellers are facing and making suggestions to help them formulate a Q4 strategy, in his most recent blog post.

One thing from Scot's post that stood out as a big concern was: "You may be asking: "why are sellers are so obsessed with this topic?".  Since eBay started changing the finding experience with the introduction of BestMatch, sellers have lost more and more control over how their items show up.  Buyers seem to no longer be going beyond the first page of results.  The first page of results has 50 listings and sellers are limited to 10 items/page now so the BEST case is 20% coverage.  The worst case is 0." (bold is mine)

If this is true, listings not on the first page of search results will have little to no exposure and since Fixed Price listings no longer use TES (Time Ending Soonest) in the Best Match sort, there is a real possibility of never showing up on the first page for the entire 30-days of your listing. 

If you can find a way to get on the first page and stay there, you will still get sales, but if there is too much competition for a particular search; or your DSRs don't quite measure up; or you don't offer Free Shipping, there is a real likelihood you will never get on the first page.

Now one caveat to the scenario mentioned above, is the use of Auctions: Because eBay is still showing Auctions by TES (Time Ending Soonest)  and has rolled back the de-duping of auction listings, the only way to guarantee that your listing will show-up on the first page, at least once during the 7-day listing period, is by listing the item as an auction. Even low DSR sellers will get that much exposure.

There is still a ton of business being done on eBay but it may actually be declining Y/Y, so sellers now will have to fight over those sales and for those that find the right strategy, they will thrive. Those that do not find the right mix will be left out in the cold.

Add the big guys, like Buy.com and others on their way and you add one more level of complexity for the average eBay seller.

So will this be feast or famine for eBay sellers? "You betcha!"

Just my 15%