Sunday, November 30, 2008

My Full Year FBA Stats!

I actually shipped my first items to Amazon FBA back in late Sept of 2007 but really didn't get enough product up to the site until late Oct of 2007 so I consider November 2007 as my real start with FBA.

I was curious as to how much product I still had in Amazon's warehouse a year later and was very pleased to find only 10 items had not sold in 12 months and four of those were books that I had priced for the long-term. As I looked at the numbers I came away with some interesting results.

In a Year Time:
  • I have shipped over 17,000 different items to Amazon's FBA warehouse.
  • As of this blog post, I have 1623 items listed. (I had over 2,000 on Weds.)
  • 76% of the items I currently have listed have been there for 60-days or less.
  • 86% for 90-days or less.
  • 6% of the items have been in Amazon's warehouse for longer than 6 months.
I sell used media items, mostly DVD's, so these numbers might fall very nicely into a sweet spot for FBA, your results may vary. I may not have much left on the site after Cyber Monday :)


Just my 15%

Bonanzle Just Keeps Rolling Along!

Each week I follow-up on the Bonanzle story, I am more impressed. In a short amount of time the Bonanzle team has grown the site exponentially. Still not large by most standards, but their growth rate is quite impressive.

As of this post Bonanzle passed 11,000 user registrations and has nearly 450,000 items listed. 

Over the last month:
  • They have added international shipping capability.
  • Buyer wish lists.
  • Expanded categories.
  • New Servers to handle the increased traffic load 
  • Just in time for Cyber Monday they have launched Booth Coupons for sellers.
  • Daily sales in Nov. have risen by about 250% over average daily sales in October.
  • What is in the future? An affiliate program and customized user recommendations will be launched in the next month.
According to CEO Bill Harding; "At Bonanzle, the key to making sales is to be an engaged part of the community.  It is no coincidence that many of our most successful sellers are also active forum posters, bloggers, and multi-channel Bonanzle promoters."  

Traffic is on the rise according to Harding; "This week will be our first week to break 1 million page views for the week.  It's been extremely active, but the new servers are handling it admirably and I expect it to continue to be a great shopping season for our sellers."  

I really enjoy following the Bonanzle story as they develop into a real viable alternative for eBay sellers and those just starting out. Traffic is on the rise, products and features are in place and sales will follow.

Just my 15%

Amazon vs. eBay: Black Friday Traffic Comparison

Alexa.com is not always considered the best source for traffic statistics, but it is the only site out there that can give us a snapshot of traffic this past week. I've compared Amazon to eBay in these graphs and the comparison is for the last 7 days through Black Friday.

Alexa.com Reach

















Alexa Pageviews

















Alexa Rank

















My sales were up big on Amazon on Black Friday, several of my associates who sell on eBay did not get a sales bump on Black Friday. How did you do?

Just my 15%

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Merrill Lynch Online Pricing Survey!

And the Survey says! Merrill Lynch as just released the results of their 4th annual onlin pricing survey. Many experts beleive the low prices will be the key to holiday season sales.

Pricing survey highlights Amazon prices and selection
For our Fourth Annual Holiday Pricing Survey, we aggregated prices for the 60 most popular Books, DVDs, CDs, Video Games, Electronics, and Toys at leading online retail sites such as Amazon, eBay, and Overstock, as well as multi-channel retailers such as Wal-Mart and Target (which is powered by Amazon) as well as specialty retail sites.   Among traditional retailers (excluding eBay), Amazon had the best prices in 4/6 categories (although differences were minimal vs Wal-Mart), up from 2/6 last year, and best selection. 

AMZN: Retail price edge in 4/6 categories, best selection  
Versus traditional retailers, Amazon was the low-price leader in video games, CDs, Toys, and Electronics, and was very competitive in the other categories we surveyed.  Amazon had the most selection of items with 59 of 60 items in-stock from Amazon or 3rd parties (Apple's iPhone was not available). The network of 3rd party sellers remains a competitive advantage over multi-channel retailers regarding hard to find items such as the Nintendo Wii and specialty electronics.  We are impressed with Amazon's search and shipping programs, and expect Amazon to continue to gain share given relative advantages.

EBAY: Deals available, customer experience the wildcard 
For the fourth year in a row, we found eBay to offer the lowest published prices (using buy-it-now) in most of the categories we surveyed; however, variation in shipping rates offered by sellers makes the experience less consistent and often eroded the pricing advantage (Amazon less expensive in 2/6 categories including eBay shipping fees). eBay (C-3-9, $12.88) gets a plus for selection, though, as 60 of the 60 items we surveyed were available including Apple's iPhone. However, we were at times frustrated with the search experience on eBay, as it was difficult to find even popular items within search results.  

Plenty of shipping offers this holiday
We found that most retailers in our survey (6/7) were offering some sort of shipping promotion, ranging from free shipping for purchases above a specified amount to $1 shipping for all items. Amazon has the most consistent shipping policy across products, but some 3rd party items do not have free shipping.

Conclusion: Amazon shines L.T., but margins a N.T. risk  
Online retail remains a highly competitive/transparent market for eCommerce consumers with limited price differential among general retailers, and we see margin risk this holiday from 1) increased pricing competition driven by a more value oriented consumer and 2) shipping competition.  For long term investors, Amazon (C-2-9, $42.19) is delivering on a strong customer experience with lower pricing, leading selection and site technology that we found to be best in class. 

Just my 15%

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The World Finally Understands!

I've been sharing my 15% about the decline of eBay for close to two-years now and it appears finally that the rest of the world is writing about it too. Ina Steiner had an interesting post this morning comparing eBay and Amazon traffic and the Silicon Alley Insider had this post about eBay's nearly 2-year decline in unique visitors. 

IMO (In my opinion), the changes being made to eBay have marginalized the site and made it just another marketplace -- nothing is really special about it anymore. It is a bad copy of Amazon and now a bad copy of the classic eBay. 

Instead of concentrating on what made eBay unique and special, management decided to innovate themselves into oblivion and well that experiment is failing miserably and the metrics show it -- finally the metrics show it.

According to Nielsen Online eBay's Unique Visitor numbers have declined since January of 2007 from a high of 62 million to the current level of 49 million. Since these numbers cover a nearly 2 year period of time, you can see it isn't the economy that is causing this decline. 

I haven't just been bitching because the changes affected my business or that of my friends. The numbers say the changes aren't working. How long will it take before the BOD (Board of Directors) says enough is enough?

Just my 15%

Expose Your WebStore on Twitter! #ShopTwitter

I'm trying a little experiment over on Twitter, why not join me and spread the word. It is called #ShopTwitter

What is the experiment? Basically, I've created a Twitter thread for online store promotion. I have no idea if this will generate any sales, but its free so its worth the effort. The idea is to expose your online store to millions of Twitter followers in one simple list. This is certainly not very sophisticated but nothing ventured nothing gained.

This is not the same as Twibbler and you should only promote your stores not individual listings. Please only post one tweet for each online store.

Here's how it works:
  • Setup an account on Twitter; if you haven't already. It is very simple and you won't be able to participate in the promotion unless you setup the account. Don't worry about learning Twitter right now just follow these instructions. This link will take you to the Twitter sign-up page
  • Once you have created the account or if you already have one setup, type a store promotion tweet into the comment box underneath "What are you doing?"
Here is an example

InetMediaSource - DVD's, CD's, Video Games and Books eligible for Amazon Prime members http://www.inetmediasource.com #shoptwitter

If you have a coupon code add that as well. You only have 140 characters, so be as concise as possible. Start with your Store name and then a short description including important keywords, don't forget to include the url of your store. You must also include #shoptwitter in order to get in the list.

The point of this exercise is to introduce your product to the world of Twitter. If we get enough stores listed the list will show-up as a hot topic on Twitter and will get additional exposure.

I just started early this morning and already I've been introduced to some great eBay stores, websites, Amazon stores, etc.

In order for this experiment to work, I need to call on the power of social networking. If you add your store please at least consider buying something this holiday season from one of the stores listed, also post these instructions to your blogs and forums to get others to participate.

Happy #ShopTwitter



Just my 15%

My Recent Podcast with ColderICE

If you get bored reading the stuff that I write, why not listen to the stuff I say? If you have time during your busy day, why not take a listen to the conversation I had about ecommerce with John over at ColderICE.


Just my 15%

Amazon Opens Grocery Category to 3P Merchants

Grand Opening of the Amazon.com Grocery Category
Nov 24, 2008

Earlier this year, a new category for merchants was created on Amazon.com. It is our pleasure to announce the official "Grand Opening" of this category and to invite all merchants to participate.

You can add products using Seller Central Add a Product, Amazon Seller Desktop, and product templates. Pre-approval is not required for selling in Grocery. 

Note that item_package_quantity and standard_product_ID (UPC, EAN, or GTIN) are required fields, and products without these values will not be accepted. See Seller Central Help for full details on listing products.

Welcome to Amazon Grocery!

If you have items that would fit in this new Amazon category, then head over to Amazon and start selling.

Just my 15%

Monday, November 24, 2008

Buy From Someone You Know This Holiday Season

I know many of you will be shopping online this Christmas and I thought it would be good to make a suggestion: Buy from someone you know:
  • If you are a PeSA/ECMTA member, buy from another member.
  • If you are on Twitter, make sure to buy from one of the folks you follow or that follow you.
  • Sellers on Bonanzle should buy at least one of their gifts from another seller on Bonanzle.
  • If you shop on Amazon, make sure to buy from the 3P sellers as well as from Amazon.
  • If you are an eBay seller, buy from someone you know on eBay.
I normally don't suggest links in my comments but this week, I'll make an exception. If you are a reader of MyBlogUtopia please add your website, ecrater store, Bonanzle booth or eBay store to the comment section of this post so other readers can browse through your items. This is the one time a year where you can promote your stuff on the blog.

If you are planning on buying from an eBay seller, make sure to search for their item on Microsoft Live so that eBay and Microsoft will pay 25% of the tab.

Blatant promo: If you are planning on purchasing media items this holiday season. I have over 100k DVD's, CD's Book's and Video Games in stock and ready to ship and they are all eligible for Amazon's Super-Saver shipping or Prime Shipping.


Just my 15%

Saturday, November 22, 2008

eBay Diamond Sighting! SmartBargains

Just came across a new Diamond seller. Don't have specifics on the deal they got, but it looks like no listing fees. They only have 540 current listings and zero feedback so far.

Their S&H seems a bit high, but I'm not in the apparel categories so maybe not. They are competing in the Handbag, Shoe, Jewelry, Bed and Bath categories.

SmartBargains is #100 in the Internet 500 list and has a website at http://www.smartbargains.com


Just my 15%

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Cyber Monday Tips For Amazon Sellers

Every year, Cyber Monday creates a giant sucking sound on Amazon, where product just moves like crazy. This year may be different because of the current economic climate but you still have to be in the game. It may be slower for items with plus $200 prices (unless they are game systems) but I believe media product and items under $200 will still sell well.

Here are some tips for Amazon sellers:
  • Make sure Amazon has enough inventory, even if it means you reduce inventory on eBay or another marketplace. FBA sellers will just need to work hard this week to get as much product as they can up to Amazon's FBA warehouses, so make sure you load up this week.
  • In the Amazon Marketplace, you don't have to be the lowest price on Cyber Monday. I know this is counter-intuitive as everybody else is going to be discounting like crazy, but remember that all of those lower priced items ahead of you will sell-out and you will then be the lowest price. You still have to discount to get the sale but you don't have to be the lowest. One caveat: If you have very deep inventory on any sku's lowest price will be your friend. 
  • If you use a seller tool that gives you inventory counts from your competitors make sure to monitor that closely.
Those are just a few suggestions for Amazon sellers this holiday season.


Just my 15%

Blogging Holiday!

Actually, I just wanted you all to know that I may be a little quiet on the blogging front this week as I am working extra hard to get as much product as I possibly can shipped to Amazon FBA in time for Cyber Monday.

I have to get the product there before Thanksgiving in order to have it received by Monday. Of course every time I've said that I'm going to busy, I usually blog anyways, so take it for what its worth.

Just my 15%

Monday, November 17, 2008

Could Meg Whitman be the Next CEO of Yahoo?

Shocking news today that Jerry Yang will be stepping down as the CEO of Yahoo and going back to his position as Chief Yahoo, whatever that means. Valleywag, not usually a source I quote, suggests that Meg Whitman might be considered to run Yahoo.

What do you think?
  • Is Meg determined to get into politics? She may run for Governor at the end of Arnold's term.
  • Would she risk her legacy if you became CEO of Yahoo? John Donahoe is ultimately going to get the blame for eBay failing, but Meg can't avoid the connection. If she turned around Yahoo, she could reclaim her status.
I think she is an obvious choice to be on the list, but not too sure she is right for the job, or more importantly whether she would even want the job.

Just my 15%

Checkout by Amazon Webinar - 11-20-08

Amazon is presenting another webinar for sellers on Thursday Nov. 20th at 10:30 am. This one will be about Checkout by Amazon.

Why reinvent the check-out wheel? Find out how you can take advantage of the proven, familiar checkout experience of Amazon.com on your own website. 

Why you care: 
  • Increased conversion: Amazon's familiar checkout experience, 1-Click ordering, A-to-z Guarantee, and tens of millions of customers who can checkout without re-entering information helps convert customers on your website. 
  • Reduced bad debt: Amazon's proven fraud detection capabilities, chargeback controls, and risk management processes reduce bad debt.
Pre-registration is required: Register here.

If you want to keep up on all the great webinars and podcasts on ecommerce topics, The Brews News is keeping tabs on everything here.

Just my 15%

Why Managers Make Poor Decisions!

During my morning reading, I came across an article from Business Week called Bad Management: Why Managers Make Poor Decisions. What caught my eye was this quote: "Why do smart, powerful executives make really dumb decisions?"

The article goes on to review Sydney Finkelstein's new book Think Again which identifies four biases that lead otherwise savvy managers astray. I will certainly buy this book.

The article itself doesn't go into much detail but I did like this one quote as it is spot on regarding eBay's John Donahoe
"Finkelstein has identified four internal biases that often lead to bad decisions: inappropriate prejudgments; inappropriate experience; self-interest; and attachments.

The first two are the most interesting. Prejudgment happens when we choose a course of action and ignore any advice or information that does not hew to that predetermined path. (The lead-up to the war in Iraq comes to mind.) Inappropriate experience, meanwhile, is basically a "What worked before will work again" attitude that's unfortunately quite common in executive boardrooms. It helps explain why financial firms got more and more enmeshed in subprime loans and collateralized debt obligations. "It's not just arrogance—they do these things because they were right before," says Finkelstein. "But it becomes dangerous when you do not heed the warning signs."
This is clearly what is going on with John Donahoe "Prejudgment happens when we choose a course of action and ignore any advice or information that does not hew to that predetermined path."

I'm past the point of believing that JD will turn this ship (eBay) around and now more interested in getting everything on-the-record for the next management team.

Just my 15%

Sunday, November 16, 2008

eBay Chases the Lowest Price

Most of us know that for commodity items, the lowest price usually gets the sale. That is especially true when it comes to media items. So, after listening to the eBay Top Seller webinar the other day and reading The Brews News' take on eBay's Low price Limbo, I figured I would give you my 15%. 

What eBay wants for Christmas:
  • Lowest price on the Internet
  • Free Shipping
  • World Class Service
Now, how are they going to accomplish this? Oh, that's right, they will pull levers to motivate (manipulate) sellers to do their bidding.

When eBay was an auction site, low prices were not a major concern. Most items started with a very low bid (1 cent to 99 cents) and then established a price based on the bidding. All you really needed was two bidders willing to duke it out for the item. Sometimes a seller was fortunate to get much more for their item than they would have, had they established a fixed price -- it was a very efficient marketplace. Today, unfortunately eBay has become a fixed price marketplace.

A fixed price marketplace requires low everyday prices on items in order to achieve the same sales velocity as with auctions. Sellers already understood this and early on began gaming the system with low item prices and high S&H. The consumer just looked at the purchase price and bought the item -- of course they then complained that the S&H was too high.

A perfect world for eBay would be to have those low prices from earlier this year in addition to low or free S&H -- that would be Utopia for them. Instead sellers (trying to make a profit) reduced their shipping or made it free by adding that extra S&H money into their purchase price. Basically the price now was way too high for the buyer -- they like Free Shipping, but they like their low prices more.

eBay has no skin (no inventory) in the game, but they know that the consumer wants the lowest price, so they have a dilemma. If sellers do not price competitively, not only with other eBay sellers, but also with Amazon and other websites, then the consumer looking for that deal will go elsewhere to buy that item. That is especially true in this current economic climate. Heck eBay even gives them sponsored links and banner ads to find that deal elsewhere.

For most eBay buyers though, "Free Shipping" is only a good deal when they feel they get a really good price on the item.  eBay managers don't seem to grasp this. They look at the data and read the focus group reports and say just add "Free Shipping" and all will be well -- Hello McFly!

Here is an example from a media seller who tested "Free Shipping" and lower shipping on his items for a month when FP-30 was launched:
  • Low purchase price and $6.99 for S&H
  • Medium Price and $2.99 for S&H
  • Higher Price and free shipping.
The seller tried to make the same amount of profit off of each option.

Guess which format sold the best ... of course option number 1 did by a 10 to 1 margin over Free Shipping listings and the $2.99 S&H didn't fair much better. 

So my guess is with this recent drive to lower prices that eBay isn't seeing the velocity of sales that they want and are now pushing the lower your price strategy -- It boggles the mind, how bright people can be so utterly clueless.

I know they know how to read a P&L because that is one of the first classes taught at B-school, but since they don't actually buy product they don't have COG (Cost of Goods) in their P&L. 

There isn't enough money in the whole process to buy product, ship items for free, pay eBay, discount the price, and walk away with any money for the seller. BTW, that is the reason they sell in the first place so they can make a little money -- it is basic math.

I think the problem must be; eBay believes that sellers have no COG, or they have 80% margins because in the old days that was the case -- stuff from the sellers garage or some kind of surplus deal. Today sellers are buying from distributors and paying more for product. There margins are usually very tight. If eBay managers actually took the time to read a sellers P&L they would see that there isn't enough money in the deal now at their current prices, let alone after they discount more and offer free shipping.

I just wish John Donahoe and crew had a clue what a seller's P&L looked like.

Just my 15%

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Amazon Holiday Selling Tips Webinar

Amazon will be holding their first selling tips Webinar for this holiday season on Weds. Nov. 19th at 10:30am PST. 

What will be discussed:
Managing your inventory, orders, and customer contacts can keep you extremely busy during the holiday season. To help you manage it all effectively, we’re conducting a quick webinar covering: 
  • What to expect during the holidays 
  • How to remain in good standing 
  • Growth opportunities 
  • Sources for further information
Amazon appears to be reaching out more to sellers to provide the information they need to be successful, don't miss this webinar as space is limited. You do not need to be a current Amazon seller. Also check out the Amazon Seller Support blog for current Amazon related information.

Just my 15%

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Recap of Top Seller Webinar!

This recap isn't going to be very long. 

There were no big announcements; they said "Best Practices" about 100 times and that was about it. I don't even sell on the eBay anymore and these "Best Practices" are just plain obvious.

The most important statement from the entire webinar was "Recent Sales" are the key element of the Best Match algorithm for Fixed price. Basically if you get sales on a listing, don't ever let that listing run out of inventory and don't change:
  • Price - You can lower but you can't raise.
  • Don't change your title.
  • Don't change your category
  • Don't change your items condition.
If you have multiple quantity product available for that listing make sure to always keep it stocked and relist with the same listing number or use GTC.

Basically you can win the SKU if you fine-tune your FP listing for recent sales.

My Best Practice: After 60 days if you have listings with no sales and few hits, put them back in stores or stop listing them all together, becasue the listings with sales will always have tha advantage.

Just my 15%

Wall Street is Beating Up Ecommerce!

Wow, watching the stock market right now is painful. The beating that eBay and Amazon, among others, are taking right now is bordering on insane.

At the time of this post, there was a slight uptick in the market and Amazon moved back above the $40 per share level and eBay moved above the $12 per share level. How can anybody know when these stocks have hit their bottom. 

Both of these stocks look to be very good buys right now; if this was a regular market. I honestly never saw eBay going below $12; at least until after the Q4 earning call. Perhaps the market is just pricing in the downturn for all of 2009 right now and this will soon turnaround.

I have more faith in Amazon long-term than I do eBay, so I would be more inclined to buy Amazon at $40 than I would eBay at $12 but I'm willing to wait until this market at least makes the appearance that it is turning around.


Just my 15%

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

eBay Top Seller Webinar - You are all Invited!

Apparently, eBay has seen the wisdom in making tomorrow's Top Seller webinar available to all sellers and thanks to Scot Wingo, I can give you the details.

The webinar is being presented by eBay's top seller team tomorrow (Thursday November 13th) at 1:30pm Pacific, 4:30pm Eastern.

Here are the meeting details:
  • Webinar link
  • Meeting ID: 111308  - secret code for attendee entry: 'attend'
  • Dial-in detals are: ( 866 ) 501 – 3202 / ( 706 ) 679 - 2073        
  • Conference ID:  72758551

Here's a sneak peek at the agenda according to Wingo:
  • Refresher on policy changes
  • Best Match/Search 
  • Driving demand for the holiday season 
  • Coming soon/2009 preview  
I'm going to be listening in and will post after the presentation but I would recommend that you participate if possible. eBay is reaching out to provide information that will help your business, so make time in your schedule. Those sellers who do not get this information may be at a disadvantage this holiday season.


Just my 15%

Small Online Sellers May Have an Advantage

This will be more of a stream of consciousness post then anything else, as I'm just commenting on the terrible retail news we have been hearing in recent days. What is the old saying? The bigger you are, the harder you fall".  The only major retailers not affected by this seem to be Wal-Mart and Costco.

Here is some recent news:
Large retailers have so much money tied up in facilities, labor, inventory, and advertising that the smallest downturn in sales can affect them. Small online sellers still have overhead, inventory and advertising, but their needs are not as great and when you are already close to the ground you don't hit very hard when you fall.

Small sellers should be looking at this downturn as an opportunity. Get as lean as you can get and start looking for those deals. Companies like Circuit City, Linens & Things and Mervyn's will be liquidating inventory, so there may be some real opportunities out there.

Consider the current economic climate, much like a forest fire. The damage will be swift and devastating, but the benefit will be the new growth that come after the fire ends.

Small sellers are nimble and crafty, they need to take advantage of those traits during this trying time.
 
Just my 15%

Monday, November 10, 2008

eBay's Coupon Strategy!

It may just work! 

While, I don't believe coupons are a viable long-term strategy for eBay or any online retailer for that matter, they certainly are going to be big this holiday season.

eBay just launched their holiday marketing campaign, which is heavily weighted towards coupons and Microsoft CashBack, following a trend on the Internet this holiday season.

According to ComScore, those shoppers  "who earn more than $100,000, "the market meltdown has simply hammered their confidence. They're on pins and needles," he says. About 85% of those in this higher bracket agreed with the somewhat apocalyptic statement "I am more afraid about the economic future than ever before." This group is driving the increase to coupon sites, with 37% more of these shoppers using them than before."

So the wealthiest online shoppers are flocking to coupons sites for savings. 

The nice thing about eBay's coupon program is that sellers don't have to discount their product, eBay, PayPal and Microsoft are paying the discounts. 
  • 30% off of an eBay purchase of $100 saves the consumer $30 (Through Microsoft Live's CashBack), but the seller gets the full $100.
  • Sure eBay is buying customers, but eBay sellers will benefit. At least through Christmas.
This Christmas, coupons may just be the right strategy to get buyers in the door.

Just my 15%

DHL Restructuring

The weak economy continues to take its toll on businesses as DHL announces they will cease offering Express and Ground service in the United States beginning January 30th, 2009. They will however continue to offer their Global Mail solutions as well as International package services.

Global mail includes the popular SmartMail service used by many online sellers. If you currently use SmartMail, it might be worth getting clarification by contacting your DHL representative.

Just my 15%

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Bonanzle Gets Some TV Coverage.

Seattle area TV channel King5 did a news feature on Bonanzle just recently, as the upstart website continues to grow and get recognized.
  • Alexa Ranking - 77,976
  • Items listed - >250,000
  • Users - 8,000
This is pretty impressive for a site that just came out of Beta in August. I will continue to follow the site and provide updates as I get them.

Just my 15%

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Let's Just Get Through This Christmas!

Online sellers look forward to the 4th quarter each year, because the sales and profits often make their whole year a success, but this year many are concerned that the traditional bump at Christmas time won't materialize. Many are saying; "if I can just make it through Christmas, I'll be okay".

This is going to be a rough 4th quarter for online sales and if you plan on continuing after the new year, it is time to make hard decisions about your business.
  • Cut overhead costs as much as possible: Small businesses often don't have much room to cut because they are generally very lean, but it will pay to assess your business expenses and make the necessary cuts.
  • Ask yourself if you really need to hire that additional help to get you through the 4th quarter. 
  • Most sellers have already made their inventory purchases for the season, but when it comes time to re-order make sure you have a good idea how fast that product will move.
  • Take a close look at where you sell. If the marketplace you sell on is not profitable or requires more effort that the profit is worth, it is time to look elsewhere.
It was during the 4th quarter of 2005 that I made the decision regarding Glacier Bay. I had restructured the business to make the 4th quarter profitable again, but I needed a sizable profit to give me enough confidence to continue. Unfortunately, I never reached my profit goal and shut the business down in January of 2006.

If you haven't already assessed the health of your business and established some 4th quarter goals, I recommend you do that right away. 


Just my 15%

Monday, November 03, 2008

Looking for more Dolphin Stories!

I'm going to be traveling for the next several days, so I may not have a chance to post much, but I wanted to solicit information from you for a project I'm working on.

I believe the only way to force eBay management to change the course they are on is by reaching out to the Board of Directors and specifically Pierre Omidyar, with details on the carnage that their changes have caused, but single letters and individual stories do not carry much weight I will need 100's of real incidents to make my point.  I am asking for my readers to submit their stories, so I can put together a little package for the eBay Board of Directors. 

Here are the rules:
  • No anonymous submissions" If there is no way I can prove what you are saying I won't include your story. I also need to have as much history on your account as possible. If you choose I will keep your name and user ID out of the blog, but I will personally need to vouch for you. If the Board of Directors requests your account information, you give me permission to reveal that only to them.
  • Don't make stuff up.
  • Please provide me with information on PayPal, Suspension , Trust and Safety issues and personal stories of how eBay changes have affected your business and employees. If your business has been affected by the new Diamond Sellers let me know or perhaps you have had to layoff employees because you were a dolphin caught in the Trust and Safety net.
  • Provide me as much detail and data as possible.
  • Please don't be abusive and confrontational in your stories, I want just the facts.
  • Perhaps, you just decided eBay was no longer for you and you've moved on. These stories carry just as much weight because eBay is losing good sellers. 
The point of this exercise is to make the Board of Directors aware of the impact these changes are having on real people; their users. 

If I only receive a couple of stories, then this will be a fruitless exercise, but if I can present hundreds of verified stories, then the BOD will face a Public Relations issue. During the worst economy in 80 years eBay is putting people out of business. 

Help me put together the most comprehensive presentation possible. This is where the power of social networking is needed. Each of you may know 1 or 2 sellers who can tell their stories and they know 1 or 2 others and so on. 

Where are the dolphins? I need reams of information and I need you help.

Just my 15%

Sunday, November 02, 2008

The Dolphins Keep Getting Caught in the Net.

I get emails quite often lamenting the changes eBay has made to the marketplace business. eBay's Trust and Safety drags their fishing nets through the marketplace hoping to get the sharks that are causing the most trouble, but more often than not they get the dolphins too. Dolphins are those sellers that get suspended by eBay because their system automatically singles them out for skirting the rules or something more grievous, yet if a human actually looked at the sellers account they would find it was a simple mistake and now they are screwed.

Last week a seller reached out to me with his story. I have decided to post his letter to me because I know him and can vouch for him. Unfortunately his story is not unique. 

Yesterday I was a good eBay Seller.  I had sold more than 50,000 items totaling more than $2.5M over the past 4 years.  My feedback was well over 20,000.  Today I am a bad eBay Seller, according to eBay, and am currently serving Day 1 of my 7 Day suspension.  I’m sure this has happened to other eBay Sellers before, but it has never happened to me and I am compelled to describe what I am going through.
 
As you can imagine, I personally don’t list thousands of items on eBay; rather I have a 15 person staff that helps.  Despite specialized employees and regular training, we are human and, as Alexander Pope wrote in An Essay on Criticism, “To Err is humane;”.  One of my employees made a mistake, which is to say I made a mistake as I am responsible.  We listed an item that was reported by a rights owner as being counterfeit.  I can assure you with 100% certainty this item was not counterfeit; a fact that is completely irrelevant to eBay.  It was reported as counterfeit so it will be treated as such.  Disregarding the truth, eBay has suspended my account for 7 Days because of this mistake.  One item out of more than 5,000 items listed in the past 60 days caused all that follows.
 
In reality, a 7 Day suspension impacts much more than 7 days worth of business.  A 7 Day suspension really means that your account is marked as “No longer a registered user”, any communication with any other eBay member is severed and forbidden, previously sold items are removed regardless of status (paid, unpaid, pending shipment, etc.), current listings are removed and no listings are accepted for the next 7 Days.  So I am receiving scores of emails from eBay customers with pending transactions very nervous about what happens next.  In all honesty, I am also nervous about what happens next.
 
I have decided for the benefit of my family, my employees and my customers to attempt to work through this disruption.  My mother told me many times growing up that it is not what happens to you that matters, rather how you deal with it that is important.  I have eliminated all of my personal expenses that I can, furloughed 12 of my employees for the next week and communicated as well as I can with my existing customers of our situation.  Thankfully my family, my employees and a vast majority of my customers understand.
 
It is important to know that this situation started with a mistake.  Completing Pope’s quote, “To Err is humane; to Forgive, Divine.”, one asks when has eBay ever forgiven?  Yet eBay makes many admitted mistakes and we not only forgive them but are required to do so.  Pope’s essay also speaks of how criticism can sometimes cause more damage than the action being critiqued.  I believe mistakenly listing one item out of 5,000 does far less harm than putting 12 employees out of work and countless customers’ purchases in jeopardy.  This approach cannot improve the buyer’s experience on eBay.
 
This situation has finally convinced me that I am in a dysfunctional relationship with eBay.  Usually I am treated as a captive customer with no alternatives.  At best, my concerns are received as a nuisance and at times, my questions concerning their policies are met with outright contempt.  Yet, I still sell on their site and still pay my fees.  I refuse to be a fool and a victim any longer.  As soon as I am back on my feet, I will not sell another item on eBay.  I will not accept another payment via PayPal.  And I will tell anyone who will listen about my experience.  My relationship with eBay will end here.
 
Signed,
 
One More Ex-eBay Seller
This seller's story is similar to many others over the past few years. eBay doesn't care because the numbers are not substantial. The dolphins continue to get caught in the nets and eBay just shrugs.

Update: I requested information from the seller I quoted above, on previous VeRO violations, as a few commenter's have mentioned, eBay does not suspend on the first offense. 

According to the sellers history they received 3 VeRO notices within a 6 -day period for the same item and they contacted their TSAM and were told they would not be suspended. I beleive the monthly VeRO limit is 5 notices. Of course that didn't hold true. 

Further Update: It gets even better. The original VeRO claim for a counterfeit item (they were not selling a counterfeit item) was on Oct 23rd and the other notices on the 29th were follow-ups to the first. So there was really only one VeRO claim.

Imagine what happens to sellers who do not have access to a TSAM.
 

Just my 15%