Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year!

As 2009 and the first decade of the 21st century winds to a close, I wanted to wish everyone a Happy New Year.

I haven't blogged much in 2009 and I really have missed it. I'm still working on my New Year's resolutions and returning to regular blogging may still be one of them.

It has been a very interesting year in ecommerce and hopefully the signs of a recovery continue to improve. As we look forward to the next decade I have nothing but best wishes for all of your endeavors.

See you next year.

Just my 15%

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

WalMart Marketplace - CNBC Video















Just my 15%

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Not Another eBay Video!

I don't have much time to write these days, but I came across this video clip from CNBC where an analyst says “[EBay] took the buyer base that they had for granted and basically let the sellers run the business to the benefit of their individual businesses, but not to the benefit of the buyers ...”

So I thought I would have some fun and see what you guys and gals thought. Listen to the interview and give me your 15% in the comments














Sam, I posted another video just for you.

Just my 15%

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

The Corporate Blogger - An Interview with eBay Blogger RBH



Just my 15%

Blast From the Past: Let's Talk Sales Tax on the Internet.

Sorry to rehash an old blog post, but I thought it was relevant in light of the recent news coming from Amazon and Overstock. The wave of States going after online retailers for Sales Tax collection is becoming a Tsunami. This post was originally written in January of 2009.

Brick & Mortar stores have been complaining for years about the competitive advantage online stores and catalog companies have regarding sales tax. To be completely honest, I make most of my online purchases at Amazon because I don't like paying sales tax. I like the current system just the way it is, but it will change and sooner rather than later. [I now make all of my online purchases at Buy.com and pay sales tax because Buy.com is based in California.]


Unfortunately the tide has turned and will soon be gathering steam as State after State follows the model New York started:

"New York state won a round in court against Amazon.com over a new law requiring out-of-state online companies to collect sales tax from shoppers in New York.


The law applies to companies that don't have offices in New York, but have at least one person in the state who works as an online agent -- someone who links to a Web site and receives commissions for related sales."

Of course this is just round one of the court battle and my guess is that Amazon will continue this fight up the Judicial ladder until it is presented to the US Supreme Court, but it is just a matter of time before sales tax is charged on every purchase from Brick and Mortar to online stores.


I'm resigned to the fact that it will happen in the near future, but I'm very concerned with the implementation. Small business cannot manage collecting a different sales tax for every city they ship to, it would cause an undue burden on all but the largest of companies.


In my years selling online with Glacier Bay, we shipped to every single state in the US and managing the different sales tax requirements for each local jurisdiction would have made my low margin business implode. Just look at the different tax rates for each state.


I think there is a simple solution, but as yet I haven't heard any lawmakers presenting it, though I'm sure I'm not the only one to come up with it.


The Internet should be treated as its own locality with a flat sales tax rate of 4 - 5%. All sales on the Internet need to have the same sales tax rate irregardless of where the customer is located. Payments need to be made to a national clearinghouse for distribution to the states.


This of course will only be the first stage of the process because once governments start seeing the cash they will of course want more. In the first iteration though, local governments will not take part in the revenue unless they work out a deal specifically with their state's tax department.


Let me be clear, I do not want this to happen, but it is inevitable that sales tax collection will come to the Internet and online retailers need to band together now to enact something close to what I've presented (and I'm sure others have as well) while they still have some negotiating leverage.


The key is not to solve the tax problem all in one fell swoop, but to come up with a workable solution that gets state government tax revenue and does not put an undo burden on retailers to collect that tax.


Just my 15%

Monday, June 15, 2009

Shopping Engine "TheFind" gets UpFront with Information

If you are in Boston this week, for the Internet Retailer show (IRCE), make sure to stop by TheFind's booth #422 to hear about a new program for retailers.

The announcement won't be made until Tuesday, but I have some of the details, so since I'm already here in Beantown, I figured I would share them with you.

As the name implies, The Find will display merchant information UpFront within TheFind’s product search results, on a retailer’s own web site, and elsewhere on the Web, providing participating merchants with a way to get higher quality traffic, establish and reinforce their credibility, and improve their conversion rates.

Shoppers clicking on a retailer’s UpFront button will now easily be able to find store information such as:
  • Contact methods, including web form, email address, phone number and chat
  • Security, business and privacy certifications
  • Payment and shipping options, return and exchange policies, and other charges
  • Store locations and hours
  • Ways to connect with the store such as Facebook, Twitter, blog and email newsletter.
Here is a picture of what the UpFront results look like when you mouse over a listing on TheFind:
Click on the image to enlarge.

Basically all of the merchant's information in UpFront for the shopper to see before they click on the listing; increasing conversion.
UpFront is all about helping customers quickly find the critical information they need when shopping so they can get down to the business of choosing and buying products. “ said Siva Kumar, co-founder and CEO of TheFind. “Stores that make a commitment to putting their information upfront in as many ways as possible are paying close attention to the maturing expectations of online shoppers and are more likely to acquire loyal customers. Last month TheFind sent shoppers to over 100,000 different online stores, so we are very focused on providing ground-breaking tools like UpFront that support both shoppers and retailers, and improve today’s online shopping experience.”
Please visit TheFind.com to find out more about the UpFront program. For a limited time, the annual service fee for the program will be waived for qualifying merchants. Retailers can register for the UpFront program by visiting TheFind’s Merchant Center. or visit TheFind's booth #422 at IRCE. June 15th-18th


Just my 15%

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Thursday, May 28, 2009

I Told you Buy Back Was the Future

Many of you know I used to buy back DVDs and CDs directly from consumers and then re-sell them on Amazon, using FBA -- I still love the concept. 

I guess it was just a matter of time before Amazon copied me :) It looks like they just recently launched their new trade-in store for DVD Box Sets and Blu-ray Discs. I'm hearing rumors that they are buying back around 1,000 units a day right now without any announcements. Imagine if they actually did it the right way.

Earlier in the year they launched the Buy Back/Trade-in concept with Video Games and apparently it was a success, so expect the program to expand to Text Books soon and then from there consumer electronics and much more.

Just my 15%

Monday, May 04, 2009

Citigroup Take on ChannelAdvisor Catalyst

I normally don't just repost investmnet notes from analysts but since Mark Mahaney's take on CA Catalyst was pretty much the same as mine I figured I would do it this time. I also like that he mentioned Buy.com. :)

  • Takeaways From Upbeat ChannelAdvisor Conference - Last week, we attended the ChannelAdvisor (CA) Catalyst 2009 Conference in Raleigh, NC. Per the company, attendance was in-line with last year, with participation from companies like Amazon, eBay, Google, Buy.com and many large, medium and small retailers.
  • Takeaway #1: Tough Times? Yes, But CA Clients Surprisingly Upbeat - There was general consensus among the retailers we spoke with that while these are clearly difficult times for retail, the online retail channel remains strong. Many of the conference participants had successfully diversified their online channels beyond eBay Marketplace and were seeing success with Amazon's 3rd party channel, and direct to their own Websites through Comparison Shopping and Search.
  • Takeaway #2: AMZN Continuing To Gain Momentum Vs. EBAY As Platform - AMZN's 3rd party channel continues to be well received by sellers we spoke with. AMZN closed the conference with a big push to get sellers to try fulfillment by Amazon (fba), and Amazon Product Ads, a CPC based advertising model that redirects buyers to seller product landing pages off of Amazon.com's Website. All in, AMZN continues to gain momentum vs. EBAY, the largest online marketplace. We estimate that AMZN was only 60% the size of EBAY in '08 in terms of total U.S. GMV (excluding Vehicles), but could surpass EBAY by 2011 (AMZN-EBAY crossover point) -- see page 3 analysis.
  • Takeaway #3: A More Sober EBAY Committed To Competing For Buyers And Sellers - eBay pitched its simple message that it plans to compete aggressively for buyers by providing better selection, value and trust in its marketplace, and by providing sellers with high velocity, efficiency, and predictability. While eBay openly admitted that it has plenty of work to do, it pointed to evidence that it is making progress: 1) a tripling of fixed price multi-item format items since September, 2) 30% of live listings now include free shipping, and 3) under new DSR system, roughly 80% of sellers qualify for some form of discount.
  • Takeaway #4: Google Market Share Gains Continue Unchecked - We didn't hear anything incrementally new from the Google presentation, but consensus among sellers we spoke with was positive on both traffic and ROI trends. One presenter boasted getting $7 of margin back for every $1 spent on Google.


Just my 15%

My Podcast Interview with Auctionbytes

I sat down with Ina Steiner last week and spilled my guts about Buy.com :) If you have 20 - 30 minutes today to take a listen and then comment, I would love to hear your thoughts. 



Just my 15%

Monday, April 27, 2009

One Size Does Not Fit All!

When it comes to ecommerce and social networking and for that matter just regular life, most of us form opinions about things from a very narrow viewpoint; our own experiences. If we don't like it or understand it then it is not worth discussing or paying attention to. I've always known this but never spent much time thinking about it. 

This morning, I was reading a blogpost by Ina Steiner about the impact of Twitter and this little factoid stood out: "Worldwide visitors to Twitter approached 10 million in February, up over 700% vs. a year ago" no matter how you shake it, 10 million visitors a month is huge. This information alone should, at the very least, encourage online merchants to check out Twitter to see if there are any benefits to be gained there, but then I read the comments to Ina's post:
"by: Jim S.
Sat Apr 25 15:38:57 2009
Maybe I'm in another world but I think Twitter tweets are annoying and the biggest waste of time yet. Who cares what someone is doing at 12:01pm? I put it right up there with people constantly yakking on their cell phones in public places."

by: clueless
Sat Apr 25 19:43:32 2009
Maybe I'm an idiot but I just do not get twitter. I have signed up for twitter. I still don't get it. What am I missing? I have a couple people I'm watching. But I still have no clue. Cannot see what all the fuss is about.

by: Ming the Merciless
Sat Apr 25 21:21:32 2009
IMO, Twitter exists primarily to promote the sales of 3G mobiles and expensive 3G net minutes.

It's another new tool for the growing hive mentality in this country.

Whether it or any of the other social networking sites like Facebook will actually produce significant member e-commerce sales remains to be seen."
This sample of comments points out the problem: "Because I don't understand it or think it is useful, it must be a waste of time" 

Rather than investigating Twitter to see if there are any benefits in its use, we take a few cursory glances and read about what someone had for dinner and make a judgement that it is a waste of time. It may be, but making a judgement from reading a few Tweets hardly gives you enough information to make that assessment.

I try to learn from others, as much as possible, because if I rely solely on my own perspective, I often miss the big picture. Twitter didn't immediately make sense to me, but once I spent some time with it, I began to see the power. It allowed me to connect more effectively with my blog readers. I was able to meet a wide variety small business owners, that I would never have met any other way -- Twitter is a great networking tool, for those who utilize it. Sure, there are seemingly unimportant things being tweeted, but that doesn't make the tool worthless.

I use Twitter, I see the value of Twitter for me, so my opinion is based on a narrow viewpoint (mine). My dad hates Twitter and thinks its a waste of time. He has never even been to the site. Twitter may be a waste of time for you, but I would encourage you to at least investigate whether it can help your business

Just my 15%

Saturday, April 25, 2009

I'm Back Baby! Regular Posts on MyBlogUtopia

I figured since I was spending my entire week working to make the Buy.com Marketplace a successful sales channel for 3rd party merchants, I would start using MyBlogUtopia to talk about what we are currently doing and possibly even give you a scoop or two about what we have planned -- this will allow me to get back into a regular blogging schedule.

I won't write exclusively about the Buy.com Marketplace, but that topic may dominate my posts. This is not an official blog for Buy.com so the opinions expressed here certainly should not be construed as the official position of Buy.com -- MyBlogUtopia will remain strictly my 15% but with no listing fees :)

It is my view that online merchants should be selling their product in multiple channels, including there own website and I would hope that Buy.com would be one of the channels.

We are not yet open to every category of product, but hope to keep adding categories as we grow. Here is a list of current categories:
  • Apparel & Shoes 
  • Bags & Luggage
  • Books
  • Buy for Business
  • Cameras
  • Cell Phones
  • Computer & Office
  • DVDs           
  • Electronics
  • Fragrance
  • Games
  • Home & Outdoor
  • Jewelry & Watches
  • Music
  • Networking
  • Software
  • Sports
  • Toys & Baby
And we will be launching these stores shortly:
  • Pets - (Currently accepting merchants)
  • Health and Beauty - (Currently accepting merchants for Beauty products)
  • Automotive Parts
  • Musical Instruments - (Currently accepting merchants for Pro Audio products)
  • Office Supplies - (Currently accepting merchants for Business Equipment products)
You can sell your new, used or refurbished product on Buy.com, just as long as you accurately describe its condition. 

So if you are looking for a new sales channel, why not take a look at the Buy.com Marketplace. We would like you to "Make your next sale with Buy.com"

Just for fun check out our latest TV commercial with Howie Mandel. This one is special because Howie is promoting Jewelry and Apparel which are 100% marketplace categories on Buy.com





Just my 15%

ECMTA Ecommerce Summit - Atlanta, GA June 3-4

Just wanted to give you a heads up that I will be speaking at the upcoming Ecommerce Summit in Atlanta, GA on June 3rd and 4th. The subject, of course, will be about the Buy.com Marketplace, but I will also be sharing my 15% on ecommerce -- probably won't be bashing eBay because they will be speaking also.

If you can make it to Atlanta on June 3rd and 4th, I would love to meet you and hear about your business. You can find all of the details at the ECMTA website.

Just my 15%

Friday, April 24, 2009

Scot Wingo's White Paper on eBay Changes

Scot, has taken an in-depth look at eBay's Spring changes and put his thoughts together in a White Paper that you can get here for free.

If you still sell on eBay, this is important information for your business.

Just my 15%

Friday, April 17, 2009

Buy.com a Sponsor at ChannelAdvisor Catalyst Conference

Just thought I would announce that Buy.com will be a sponsor at this year's ChannelAdvisor Catalyst. Several members of our "Marketplace" team will be there (including yours truly), so make sure to stop by our table and say hello.

I'm looking forward to this years event, to catch up with some old friends as well as make some new ones. Hope to see you there.

Just my 15%

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Rumors of My Demise Have Been Greatly Exaggerated.

In case you are wondering ... I am still alive and doing very well. 

Contrary to a little rumor going around. I have not stopped blogging because my new employer Buy.com, told me too. I'm not blogging much lately because I'm very busy at my new job and my time and energy is being spent helping make Buy.com's Marketplace the best place on the web for online merchants.

I still follow eBay, Amazon and even Bonanzle. In fact I just talked to eBay managers yesterday about Tuesday's announcements, but when I sat down to write the post, I just lost interest -- Ina, Scot and Tamebay covered the announcements very well; there was no need for my 15%. 

The only reason I'm blogging tonight is because a commenter on Ina's ProStores blog post mentioned a rumor that I stopped blogging because my boss at Buy told me to stop bashing eBay. Anyone who knows my boss would laugh at that.

I still love blogging and will get back to it regularly when I can figure out a better writing schedule. I am a creature of habit and I had a routine that has changed since I started working at Buy. I haven't figure out a new schedule yet.

For those of you still reading: 

I really love what I'm doing. I'm going on my 3rd month at Buy.com and really enjoying myself. Not many people even know that Buy has a marketplace, but that will all change this year. I call us "the little marketplace that could", because nobody even includes us in the marketplace discussion. Buy.com is known as a retailer, but we are so much more than that. 


Just my 15%

Sunday, March 29, 2009

While Some Run Away From eBay, Mercent Moves Closer.

Over the last couple of years many 3rd Party Software vendors have diversified off of eBay to other marketplaces. As eBay has slowed down, many of them have begun searching for growth elsewhere. 

Now, kind of like Salmon swimming up-stream, 3rd Party software vendor Mercent has actually expanded onto eBay. 

Mercent began in 2004 by integrating large retailers onto the Amazon platform and now they are doing the same with eBay; through eBay's Large Merchant Services. In November of 2008, Mercent launched SmartBargains on eBay and last week they announced the launch of online retailer Altrec.com.
"Mercent™, a leading provider of online marketing technology and services for retail merchants, today announced that the company is an approved member of the eBay Certified Provider Program. The program qualifies companies with expertise and experience in growing eBay seller businesses, and provides sellers with the tools to locate them.  Mercent also announced the launch of a new eBay storefront for online retailer Altrec.com, integrated with eBay’s Large Merchant Services using Mercent Retail™, the company’s hosted online marketing software." 
"By partnering with Mercent, the extension of Altrec.com’s e-commerce presence onto eBay was predictable and efficient, and we’ve seen immediate results,” said Kevin Bauer, VP of Business and Product Development for Altrec.com.  “Our product pricing, inventory, and merchandising offers are all automatically updated on eBay, resulting in a high-performance eBay presence.”

Mercent provides enterprise retailers like Altrec.com the ability to optimize listings across eBay, and efficiently process high order and payment volumes through eBay and PayPal. Mercent is the first eBay integrator to leverage eBay's new Large Merchant Services, designed to increase profitable, high-volume product sales for large sellers on eBay." 
Mercent seems to be bucking a trend here, but it looks like they see an opportunity to introduce their clients to a completely new market and customer base, after-all everyone is looking to grow incremental sales. Look for Mercent to launch more large retailers on eBay in the future.


Just my 15%

Friday, March 27, 2009

Shopping.com Listings on Completed eBay Items

This has actually been happening for awhile now and I didn't blog about it because it doesn't seem to do anything except get everybody riled up. eBay will continue to maximize their use of sponsored ads and shopping.com listings on pages they feel are not competitive; in this case a completed listing.

I wasn't going to blog about this but my buddy John Lawson of ColderICE did a video blog on it so I thought I would post his take here at MyBlogUtopia




Just my 15%

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Another eBay Top Seller Summit

I know I haven't been around much lately but I still hear stuff that is going on at eBay. Most of the time I shrug but today I figured I would just blog quickly about the new Top Seller Summit being held at a secret location in Florida.

It will run for one day and then we won't hear anything knew until April sometime when I hear the big announcements are going to be made.

I'm not real sure why it took so long for them to hold another of these Top Seller meetings but unlike the last one when no real information leaked out, I'm hoping somebody gives in and shares a little. 

Just my 15%

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Half.com Moves to eBay - My 15% Update!

I've been talking about this move for years now, I'm glad I can finally say, "I told you so!" BTW, this change was tested back in the days of eBay Express.

The details are a little bit murky and the deal isn't actually happening until May, but lets take a look at how this change might actually work:
  • Half.com listings in Books, DVD, CD and Video Games will be available on eBay.com only if the Half.com merchant opts into the program. 
  • Items with a price under $1 on Half.com will not show on eBay.
  • There will be no listing charge to be included on eBay, but the items will not be available in search, they will only be available via the product pages. The product pages do not get as much exposure as items in search, so the additional exposure for Half.com listings may be minimal.
  • The product pages look a lot like Half.com; where the top 4 offers per product condition (New, Like New, Very Good, etc) are shown on the first page. Half.com results will be mixed in with the eBay listed items but still only 4 will show (per condition) on the first page. We all know that if you aren't on the first page, the chances of a sales are greatly reduced.
  • Orders will be processed just like they are currently on Half.com, except payments will be made to your PayPal account and available immediately. It will be interesting to see how eBay manages the sales process when a merchant has a Half.com listing and an eBay listing in the same order.
That's the basics on how it actually works, but much more important is how sellers react to the change. 

Since there is no cost to list, I can't imagine that current eBay sellers will not begin listing also on Half.com, but since there will be limited visibility of Half.com items on eBay, most will continue to list on eBay, hoping to get additional exposure/sales from their Half.com listings.  

On Half.com items are sorted by lowest price and sellers are only rated on 3 DSR's (No shipping cost DSR) but DSR's have no impact on sort order. Half does not have Best Match.
We don't quite know how items will be sorted on eBay after this change, but lowest price seems to make the most sense -- who knows what eBay will decide on.

I'm not sure how much of an impact this will have on eBay sellers, it really depends on how many buyers actually click onto the product pages. If that number is large, the impact may be substantial, if very few look at those pages then it will be minimal.

I know a lot of sellers are worried about the increased listings drowning out their paid eBay listings, but I don't think it will effect DVD's, CD's and Video Games as much as it will Books; especially text books, unless the product pages become the standard way buyers find product.

For the most part Half.com is [mostly] just a text book marketplace and two times a year (Jan and Aug/Sept.) it gets lots of traffic. In between all of that it isn't all that vibrant of a site. 

The real interesting aspect of this for me will be how Textbooks begin to sell on eBay.  With Textbooks students usually search by ISBN number. If this search method is used on eBay it will show the product pages and that kind of traffic could be substantial.  

If this test is deemed a success by eBay, look for this approach to be duplicated in other categories with Shopping.com listings.

Update:
I spoke with eBay about this coming change and most of what I have written above is accurate but the section on DSR's needs a little more explanation: Half.com only rates sellers on three DSR's.  -- the one they do not rate sellers on is Shipping Cost. Having one less DSR will not advantage or disadvantage a Half.com seller when their items are listed on eBay.

I was told that this change is a test of a new buying experience on eBay and it made sense to use media as the guinea pig (my choice of words). 

Certainly there will be sellers who try and game the system but how much of an impact this will have on current eBay sellers depends greatly on how many buyers click over to the product page. Knowing eBay buyers, they hate change just as much as sellers.


Just my 15%

Thursday, March 12, 2009

eBay Analyst Day - Morning After

After a big party there is often a huge hangover. So, what are the analysts saying the morning after eBay's big PayPal coming out party?

Jeetil Patel - Deutsche Bank
"eBay hosted its analyst day yesterday, at which management provided details behind its financial goals for 2011. While filled with long-term optimism, we thought the analyst event lacked near-term reality with respect to the current deteriorating fundamentals. In light of no near-term (2009) guidance, anticipate acceleration in growth, competitive pressures and economic backdrop, we think it's difficult 
to put much credibility into the 3-year plan. We think investors should gauge eBay against near-term performance. We reiterate our SELL."
Justin Post - Bank of America/Merrill Lynch Research
Analyst Day overview - PayPal will do heavy lifting
EBay held an analyst day, introducing its new management team (70% of top executives are new or in new positions) and outlining its plans to turnaround its core while continuing to grow its PayPal and Skype businesses. Biggest positive: 2011 growth targets for PayPal ($4-5bn) and Skype ($1bn+), which even with flat Marketplace rev. would put total rev. at $11bn, well above Street at ~$9.0bn. Biggest negatives: No obvious fixes to marketplace share losses, and US net debt position limits ability to attract value investors with buybacks.
2011 outlook well above the Street
EBay expects to drive $10-12bn in '11 revenue vs street at $9.0bn (BAC-ML at $8.8bn) with $4-5bn from PayPal, $5-7bn from core, and $1bn+ from Skype. Implied operating income target is $2.3-3.9bn, above our $2.1bn estimate even at low end, and EPS at midpoint would be around $2.10, vs our $1.54.
Why we are lower than management's outlook
Guidance is based on a return to a more normal economic environment in 2010, with marketplace maintaining share in '10 and growing share in '11. With Amazon, Craigslist and Google growing users, we expect marketplace to remain under pressure, which could have a spillover effect on PayPal and advertising.
Maintain Underperform - share headwinds in '09
Upbeat presentation, but one message from the day was that eBay was still early in their turnaround and that things would get worse before they would get better.  We believe that the Market is putting companies, and especially turnarounds like eBay, in a "show me" box and we think other stocks are more likely to react positively to signs of an economic turnaround.
I will post additional Analyst notes as soon as I receive them.

Update: Here are three more from the Silicon Alley Insider Blog. "Analysts Barf All Over eBay (EBAY)"


Just my 15%

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

eBay's Big Plan - CNBC Video

PayPal, PayPal, PayPal















To see the entire interview go to CNBC

Just my 15%

eBay/Amazon Smackdown CNBC (Video)














Just my 15%

Move Along - Nothing to See Here!

That's how I feel about today's eBay Analyst day -- the first one since 2006. It is going to be much ado about nothing as far as I can tell.

Looking through my crystal ball, here is what I see.
  • Paypal, Paypal, Paypal - They will lead off the presentations today by discussing Paypal and Paypal and Bill Me Later will take up a lot of the discussion today.
  • Marketing Services - The new shining light for eBay Inc. Marketing Services is now a billion dollar business, made up mostly of advertising and StubHub.
  • Marketplace - We still face challenges in the business but we are on the right path, yawn.
  • Skype - Continues to be a great stand alone business that is not currently a distraction (until you analysts ask about it)
There you have it, the entire day, condensed into 4 bullet points. 

eBay's share price has gone up in the last day with the rest of the market, by the end of the day, you will know what Analyst think of their plans. Now move along there is nothing to see here.

Just my 15%

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Amazon Gets Into the Buy Back Business.

Sometimes great ideas just take resources to make them happen and when you are Amazon, you have a ton of resources.

Today we find out, thanks to ZDnet, that Amazon is now in the Buy Back business, though they call it Trade-In. Consumers can trade-in their used video games to Amazon in exchange for a credit on Amazon for future purchases. Could DVDs, CDs, Books Consumer Electronics be far behind.

It isn't clear what Amazon does with the used Video Games once they have them, but rumors have circulated that they are working on a program, where they will begin selling used "Certified Used " video games and compete directly with their 3P merchants in the used space. 

My guess is they would not sell them directly under the Amazon name but more than likely through the Warehouse Deals business, which currently handles returned merchandise, etc.

Tin Hat Warning!

I don't want to be an alarmist here but this opens the door for Amazon to compete against their 3P merchants and my guess is that won't go over well.

I know this idea works because I bought back used media this way. When Amazon gets into this business it gets a little scarrier for 3P Merchants in the media category.

Just my 15%

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

What I've Been Up To!

I know you all love my recap posts, so here's what I've been up to lately:
  • Not as much blogging: I'm sure my regular readers have noticed I don't post as much these days and there are a number of reasons for that. First reason is; I have a day job and that has changed my schedule a bit. I still haven't come up with a better schedule for blogging. Second, I'm tired of writing the same eBay stuff. After 2 years making suggestions and writing about eBay, I'm pretty much burnt-out. 
  • I'm really enjoying my time at Buy.com. This is week number 6 and I'm starting to get into a routine. Buy's marketplace business is growing and there is a ton of upside, so it's a lot of fun being part of that and for the record, CEO Neel Grover does not have horns.
  • My own retail efforts are on hold. While I am still selling used media items through INet Media Source it is mostly liquidation of inventory that I have in at Amazon's FBA warehouse. I'm getting down to the really long-tail items now because I'm not replenishing product through the Buy Back website any longer.
I'm committed to making Buy.com's marketplace business a win-win selling option for online merchants. We aren't open to every merchant yet, but as we grow categories and our product catalog we will expand opportunities for many online merchants. Right now we are very much under-the-radar as a marketplace, but we won't be able to keep the site under wraps for much longer.

Anyway, that's what I've been up to in recent weeks and I hope to get back to more regular blogging as I develop a new routine. Hang in there, I'm not going away.


Just my 15%

Saturday, February 28, 2009

I Like Carol Bartz! Update

I generally don't talk about Yahoo much unless I'm making fun of them, but I noticed recently that Yahoo's share price had stabilized and in fact Yahoo's Market Cap was now greater than eBay's by more than $3 billion.

I've also been very impressed with new CEO Carol Bartz -- I like her style. Today, Ms. Bartz blogged for the first time regarding the upcoming restructuring. I don't know much about Yahoo's current structure but it looks like some needed changes are being made.

Some key points from the blog post that I like: 
"I’ve noticed that a lot of us on the inside don’t spend enough time looking to the outside. That’s why I’m creating a new Customer Advocacy group. After getting a lot of angry calls at my office from frustrated customers, I realized we could do a better job of listening to and supporting you. Our Customer Care team does an incredible job with the amazing number of people who come to them, but they need better resources. So we’re investing in that. After all, you deserve the very best."
and
"Finally, a note about our brand. It’s one of our biggest assets. Mention Yahoo! practically anywhere in the world, and people yodel. But in the past few years, we haven’t been as clear in showing the world what the Yahoo! brand stands for. We’re going to change that. Look for this company’s brand to kick ass again."

Now she sounds like the type of CEO that should be running eBay. Perhaps in the coming months she will :) I may have to bring back my Yahoo/eBay merger posts.

Update: Now this from the Silicon Alley Insider: Can We Have A Carol Bartz For eBay, Please?

Just my 15%

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Introduction of the Kindle 2 on CNBC

I really just wanted to embed a video clip from CNBC for the first time. (I've only been suggesting it since 2006) So I chose a clip on the Kindle 2
















Just my 15%

Best Buy is Getting into the Secondary Market

According to a blog post by Best Buy CMO Barry Judge;
"We have a new team at Best Buy called the Secondary Market Team. Most people don’t have a clear idea of our vision in this area or what the team is doing. This is a team that gets me very excited about the future at Best Buy, let me tell you why.

Secondary markets refers to all the buying and selling involved in “non fresh” product. Things like vendor overstock, consumer returns, refurbished, used, etc. that are often sold through alternative channels like auction sites, clearance centers, overstock stores, etc. You might be shocked to learn that secondary market electronics sales represent an estimated $15B market in the United State. This is a space where Best Buy has only just touched the surface of all the opportunity. Getting our “fair share” of sales in this market is easily a $1B revenue opportunity for us."
What this ultimately means to the secondary market is unclear as Best Buy is in the planning stages, but it is clear that more retailers will be thinking along these lines. 

Could Best Buy eventually open a marketplace of their own? Judge hinted about that;
"Now that we have the ability to receive, process, and re-sell products in these markets, it opens up opportunities for new business models which were not previously feasible. Things like extended product support or “trade in to trade up” privileges may become viable because we have the ability to extract the value from secondary market products through alternative channels."
Just my 15%

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Update: "eBay" Top Online Retail Name in Search for Jan. 09'

See I can say something positive about eBay. 

Clarification. After re-reading this info, I need to clarify something. "eBay" the name was searched 19,321,000 times in January. This list was not searches done on eBay. So folks are going to Google, Yahoo, Live, etc. and searching on the name "eBay" 14 million times more than they searched on "Amazon" in January. Sorry for the confusion. I should have read the press release closer.

["eBay" led all online retailers names in searches in January, according to Nielsen Online and Internet Retailer. "eBay" outpaced "Amazon" by some 14 million searches]

Here is the list of the top 20 retailer names searched in January with the number of searches for each, according to Nielsen Online:

1) ebay, 19,321,000
2) walmart, 6,061,000
3) amazon, 5,227,000
4) best buy, 4,058,000
5) target, 3,742,000
6) netflix, 3,067,000
7) circuit city, 2,990,000
8) home depot, 2,790,000
9) sears, 2,020,000
10) lowes, 2,005,000
11) office depot, 1,700,000
12) macys, 1,452,000
13) costco, 1,395,000
14) staples, 1,351,000
15) qvc, 1,283,000
16) walgreens, 1,247,000
17) barnes and noble, 1,120,000
18) kohls, 955,000
19) kmart, 947,000
20) office max, 927,000

[These are not searched conducted on eBay, but searches done on the Internet for the name "eBay" Perhaps, folks are searching on the name "eBay" in conjunction with another term (possibly product name) They just go to Amazon and the other retailers rather than search on them in search engines.

With this revised look at the data, what are your thoughts?]


Just my 15%

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

My Visit to ColderIce.com - Podcast

I know, I haven't been writing much lately and I hope to change that in the coming weeks, but I have made the rounds a bit on the podcast circuit. 

Here is my most recent podcast interview with John at ColderIce.com and this evening I will be on the Auction Wally show at 8:00 PM est.

I've been at Buy.com now for a month and I'm starting to get into a bit of a flow with my routine, so I should be back writing more frequently soon. Of course there are a number of sources out their in the blogosphere for ecommerce/eBay news so I'll continue to write about stuff I think I can add my 15% too.

Aren't you all proud of me for not turning this into a Buy.com commercial?

Just my 15%

Monday, February 23, 2009

Scot Wingo's Amazon vs. eBay Series! Updated

I couldn't think of anything earth shattering to write about, so instead I thought I would highlight a great series of blog posts by Scot Wingo, CEO of ChannelAdvisor, comparing eBay and Amazon.

The entire series originally consisted of 4 Episodes (Episodes being Scot's tribute to Star Wars) but has since morphed into a Q&A post and part A and B of Episode 3.  Stay tuned this series could go on for ever.
Episode IV may take several more blog posts, who knows. Anyway, Scot has some great stuff in these posts.


Just my 15%

Richard Brewer Hay Interview at ColderIce.com

I know, I've been throwing up lots of media clips and podcasts recently, but nothing much has been happening that I want to add my 15% too.




Just my 15%

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Tech Ticker: More Retail Carnage.

Here is an interesting video clip about the carnage affecting major retailers in 2009



I'm seeing a very interesting trend here. The mainstream press continues to beat the "depression" drum; Brick and Mortar retail is in real turmoil; The Consumer's discretionary spending is not happening to the degree it needs to help these large businesses stay afloat and yet Amazon and Buy and other ecommerce pure-play sites are still growing. 

There will be winner's and losers during this recession and online merchants will be among the winners. In fact I'm hearing from many 3rd party sellers that they are continuing to show stronger sales then they anticipated. 

Spending is down and those companies that over-built or have huge overhead are not able to manage the sales downturn, many of them are too heavily in-debt to survive this turmoil. Small merchants on the other hand are not leveraged to the hilt, they have access to customers on their own websites and at marketplaces like eBay, Amazon, Buy.com  and the smaller sites. 

People are still spending but the big guys are the ones taking the hits. Smaller players are getting access to product that is being liquidated and are able to actually grow during this downturn. 

2009 will be a tough year for the Brick and Mortar and Click and Mortar retailers but 3rd party merchants may be the lone bright spot in this terrible retail environment.


Just my 15%

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Tech Ticker - Retail Outlook Is Worse Than You Think, Ford Models CEO Says

I didn't really think the CEO of Ford Modeling Agency would have anything to offer my readership but this clip had some interesting nuggets about the economy and the current retail environment -- take from it what you can.





Just my 15%

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Amazon Shows Sponsored Links Above the Buy Box

I was doing some research on Shoe Merchants who sell online, so that I could reach out and introduce them to Buy.com, when I searched on Rockport 7100 Men's Walking Shoes on Google. There was a link to Amazon so I figured I would see who was selling the item over there.

Here is the page that was displayed. Now I have never looked for shoes on Amazon before so this may not be new. Click on the image to see a larger version.


There is messaging at the top of the buy box that says "Customers viewing this page may be interested in this Sponsored Link" followed by the text for the sponsored link "Don't Buy Men's Rockport 7100 Shoes Until You See InsiderPricing Here!      ShoesRUs.net/Rockport"

So it appears Amazon is being very aggressive with the placement of their sponsored ads by placing them at the top of the page above the Product Detail. 

I haven't seen this on Amazon before and it only seems to show-up when you click onto Amazon from organic search in Google, Yahoo or Microsoft Live. I couldn't get the sponsored link to show-up on media items though.

With all the concern over sponsored ads showing up on eBay listing pages, it looks like Amazon beat eBay to the punch. 

Sponsored ads are not going away and when Amazon is showing them above the product detail information on product they themselves sell, I have to ask why?

Since I'm not privy to the data, perhaps it shows that customers who click on the sponsored link still come back to purchase on Amazon and if they don't at least Amazon made some money on it.

Updated:
[Thanks to Hallie over at the PeSA board, I checked into the ClickRiver aspect of these sponsored links and it looks like ClickRiver is only available for service businesses, so this program may be handled by a new department or by a 3rd party service. If you get any info please email me]

Update 2: It looks like once the visitor clicks on an Amazon site link the sponsored ad no longer shows up above the detail page. Perhaps Amazon is trying to monetize that % of visitors who link to the site and then bounce back to Google to look for something else. This would explain why the sponsored link gets such a premium placement. If it was lower on the page, the "bouncer" wouldn't see it long enough to click on it.




st my 15%

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Why eBay Will Have A Problem Being Amazon

If you don't change the perception of eBay in the world, consumers will still believe THIS is what eBay is all about.




eBay is part of popular culture and is known just as much for these types of "items for sale" as the hard to find product or great deals. If eBay is to grow they need to change the brand and that is not an easy thing to do.


Just my 15%

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Meg Hits the Talk Show Circuit

No comment here just posting a clip from Meg's trip to the Today Show and an interview with hard hitting interviewer Matt Lauer :)



Just my 15%

Half.com Comes to eBay!


I started hearing rumblings of changes coming to eBay's media category, during the summer of 2008, those changes are now live on the site and all I have to say is... they just turned eBay Media into half.com.
  1. Listings grouped by item condition
    Brand New, Like New, Very Good, Good, and Acceptable. I like this idea because I sell used product but if you are not in the top 4-5 items in a search you might as well kiss sales goodbye. If they go to free listings (I think they will) at least you won't lose money listing stuff that won't be seen.
  2. Standout with Sub-title
    Sub-title is now prominently displayed on the left had side of the screen, so make sure to use it to draw attention tom your listing
  3. Best value box 
    "Best Value" box shows 1 item representing the best value for the buyer. The item is selected via Best Match, considering total price (including shipping) and the seller’s track record—seller’s search standing must be "Raised". This is eBay's version of Amazon's Buy Box but they I don't trust eBay to select the "Best Match" let alone the "Best Value" My first search had a "used good" item in the Best Value box but you didn't know that until you clicked on the listing itself.
  4. Formats mixed
    Buyers see a mix of Best Match Auction-style and Fixed Price listings. They are only showing 4-5 items per condition so the buyers choices are limited. Used items are most likely to be auctioned so auctions should dominate the items displayed in search.
  5. Shipping revealed
    Buyers see shipping charges right up front. 
Media sellers should be watching things closely over the next couple of weeks as this new sort display takes hold. Remember you are still paying listing fee's (even if only 5 cents) but if you don't get into the top 4-5 items for your condition you will probably never be seen.

Certain sellers will dominate the "New" media category now, but used items will get more prominence and be easier to find. 

Some observations
  • This move effectively kills the SIF (Store Inventory Format) format in media -- it was on life-support anyway. 
  • If you are smart and have raised standing you can dominate the media category for your sku's. A lot of sellers will see their sales drop substantially. eBay needs to repeal listing fees on media items immediately.
  • This is a very good move for sellers who sell used items and opens the door for improved bids on auctions if you can get raised standing in search.
  • It will take some time to sort this all out, but it looks like it will soon be feast or famine for ebay media sellers.

Just my 15%

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

TheFind100, the Top Specialty Stores of 2008

TheFind, Inc., the leading shopping search engine and web destination for discovering lifestyle goods, announced today the winners of the inaugural TheFind100, recognizing the best 100 online stores in sixteen shopping categories. These categories include: Apparel, Appliances, Baby Clothing, Bags & Luggage, Crafts, Food & Wine, Furniture, Garden, Health and Beauty, Home, Jewelry, Kids & Family, Kitchen, Pets, Shoes, Tools & Hardware, and Sports & Outdoors.

TheFind100 annual list can be found by visiting www.thefind.com/thefind100.

Over 500,000 online stores and retailers can be found on TheFind, and over 11 million people are visiting the TheFind every month. This sheer diversity illustrates the great achievement that these 1,600 merchants demonstrated by being clear favorites of users searching within each specific category.

“At TheFind, we are committed to connecting shoppers with the best stores and online retailers, and believe that by recognizing unique, specialty retailers with this annual award we will go a long way to promoting the very best of online shopping,” said Larisa Hall, Vice President of Marketing for TheFind Inc.

You can read the entire press release here.

I just recently came across TheFind through some relationships on Twitter and I really like the way they handle product search. It is much more visual and shopper friendly than Google's GoogleBase, IMO.

Check out The Find today and submit you product information, you don't want to miss out on 11 million visitors a month who might be introduced to your product.


Just my 15%

Monday, February 09, 2009

It's Official - Meg Runs for California Governor in 2010

We've heard the rumors before but now its official with the launch of her campaign website. http://www.megwhitman.com


Just my 15%

New eBay Store Format Slowing Down Sales?

I've been hearing some interesting anecdotal stories from sellers that have seen sales slow down once they opt-in to the new eBay Stores format, so I thought I would reach out to my readers and see if you were experiencing the same thing. Apparently sales return when sellers opt-out of the new format. 

Please let me know what your experience has been. 

The new stores format becomes the default in March so if there are problems eBay needs to address them now before they have to rollback another change.


Just my 15%

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

It's February, Where are the eBay Announcements?

Normally by now eBay would have made their big announcements for the year, so I'm wondering what's up. Sure, they make big announcements now in Aug also but late January is traditional for the biggest announcements.

I've heard everything from a shopping cart to the ending of SIF (Store Inventory Format) I can't help thinking that "free listings" are coming to media and that reduced FP-30 listing fees are coming to everybody else. Inquiring minds want to know.

Maybe the uncertainty of the economic environment has thrown their forecasts for a loop or maybe they are just struggling to get everything completed, but sellers are going to want to know sooner or later.

What do you think the changes will be?

Just my 15%

Friday, January 30, 2009

Overstock.com Throws a "Hail Mary" Pass at the Super Bowl

Overstock.com earned $1.01 million in Q4 of 2009, though they lost over $12 million for the full year. I believe the profit in Q4 is the only profitable quarter in their history.

According to the earnings announcement, they were able to make this profit by cutting expenses:
"Combined technology and G&A expenses decreased 17% to $21.5 million in Q4 on lower depreciation and compensation credits. The company had accrued profit sharing and executive bonuses throughout 2008. These were reversed in Q4 resulting in a one-time benefit of $3.7 million when the company decided not to make a profit-sharing contribution and the senior executive team requested not to receive a bonus. For the year, tech and G&A expenses fell 5%. Total operating expenses were tracked down 29% for the quarter at 9% for the year. Operating income for the quarter was a positive $5.7 million compared to a loss of $6.8 million in Q4 2007."
This is good news right, and the share price proves it by gaining 12% today. Then tonight I see the following press release:
"Overstock.com, Inc. (Nasdaq: OSTK ) announced today that it will be airing a 30-second Super Bowl advertisement featuring Overstock.com spokesperson Carlos Boozer. The commercial is scheduled to air immediately following the halftime show."
I'm not sure what I'm reading. I feel like I'm watching a Twilight Zone episode. Overstock is going to spend upwards of $3 million for a 30 sec. spot, an amount that is 5% of their total marketing expense for the entire year of 2008; Gone in 30 Secs.

Is this a "Hail Mary" pass? Aren't their more effective uses for that $3 million? This better be one very exciting TV spot.  I'm sure there are more effective marketing uses for that money.

Observers of ecommerce, will be able to see how much of a spike in traffic Overstock gets from this ad buy looking at the various traffic management sites. 

If you are a 3P seller on Overstock, let me know if your Overstock sales improved following the Super Bowl.

Just my 15%

Tech Ticker - Amazon Crushes Earnings

From Tech Ticker:




Just my 15%

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Amazon Beats the Street!

This just in. Amazon beat the Street's estimates for Q4, both on the revenue side and on the bottom line.  North American revenue gre 18% Y/Y and International revenue gre 19%  Y/Y.

According to MarketWatch:
Amazon reported earnings of $225 million, or 52 cents a share, compared to earnings of $207 million, or 48 cents a share, for the same period the previous year. Revenue grew 18% to $6.7 billion. Analysts had been looking for earnings of 40 cents a share on revenue of $6.48 billion, according to consensus estimates from FactSet Research.

Guidance for call for Q1 revenue of $4.525 and $4.92 billion and operating income of $125 million to $210 million

Amazon did not offer full-year guidance, basically because nobody else is so this allows them to follow suit. That's just my opinion so take it for what its worth.

More detail after the conference call. Apparently, it wasn't the economy.

Update: Here is the link to the earnings press release

Just my 15%

The ChannelAdvisor Investor Pitch and Review

Thanks to ColderIce for finding this video clip, so I thought I would share it with you. I think it is quite interesting to hear the analysis of ChannelAdvisor buy eBay's Director of Corporate Strategy.

Sorry for the quality of the video, the folks who produced this don't seem to understand the audio part of video production.

Let me know what you think.
BTW, I want to commend VatorTV for allowing bloggers to embed their videos into our blogs so that readers don't need to click out to see them. Other services like TechTicker are doing this as well but the big boys like CNBC seem to be living in the dark ages when it comes to this type of stuff.
Just my 15%

Amazon Announce Q4 Earnings After the Bell

It is the day many of you have been waiting for, the day that Amazon announces how well they did during the 4th Quarter and also the day we see if "it's the economy, stupid" or there is some other reason eBay is faltering.

I think most analysts anticipate that Amazon had a good quarter so, if the numbers just meet expectations the stock will probably remain range bound. If the numbers are better than expected the share price should do well after hours.

I am very curious to see if Amazon will follow eBay's lead and only give Q1 guidance, or if they will look further down the road to assure investors and other stakeholders that they see light at the end of the tunnel. 3P merchants have just as much interest in this as investors do.

I'll be back later today with the numbers.

Just my 15%

Infopia Ecommerce Leaders Summit - March 3-5, 2009

It’s Time to Maximize Your Competitive Advantage

eCommerce Leaders Summit is the most comprehensive gathering of eCommerce leaders in 2009 for SMB online merchants! Why should you attend? A strategic plan is not enough. Learn from business leaders and other successful online merchants how to make eCommerce success a reality. 

What are some other benefits you’ll get from this year’s eCommerce Leaders Summit?
  • Make quality decisions based on “no nonsense” metrics and tactical plans
  • Implement eCommerce efficient operational workflows
  • Be ahead of the curve when it comes to achieving business scale
  • Successfully overcome customer satisfaction issues that accompany exponential growth
  • Accelerate growth in tough economic times
  • Learn how to optimize growth and profit across website and marketplaces, drive high quality traffic to your website and convert visitors to purchasers. Now is the time to invest in success.
Keynote Speaker - Mr. Guy Kawasaki

Mr. Kawasaki delivers a blueprint for competing with other online organizations for customer attention, dollars and loyalty. He draws upon dozens of examples to share how to ethically and effectively defeat the competition.

Arguably the best entrepreneur of our day, Forbes columnist, Apple evangelist, author of 8 books, including best-seller “Art of the Start,”  venture capitalist and highly acclaimed speaker, Guy explains that the difference between mediocre and great is usually only a few adjustments away.

Ecommerce Leaders Summit, is being held in Salt Lake City, UT from March 3 - 5 and there are only 2 days left to get the early-bird discount and save $150. For more information or to register please visit the conference website.

Just my 15%

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Do You Want to Work with eBay?

I found this video clip of an interview with eBay's Director of Corporate Strategy, Eric Stuart and thought you might enjoy it. You can also read about it at Vator News.



Just my 15%

eBay - Can We Ship Your Product Too?

As Ina Steiner points out in yesterday's blog post; eBay has been surveying sellers to measure their' interest in a fulfillment service -- presumably run by eBay. I guess they are considering something similar to Amazon's FBA program.

On a basic level this is not a terrible idea. Small to Medium sized sellers are looking for alternatives to storing and shipping themselves. The problem I see with this, is that eBay is involved in the idea and they do not have a very good track record on these types of initiatives. 

I'm not sure how they would be able to compete with a world class fulfillment operation like Amazon. With Amazon's FBA, you get customer service, gift wrapping services, expedited services access to Prime customers, etc. and all Amazon has to do to compete is bring down the cost of their Basic Fulfillment service. If that happened, eBay's service would have a hard time getting off the ground. I can't think of any reason sellers would choose eBay's system over Amazon's FBA unless of course eBay had a program like Super Saver shipping, Prime or subsidized free shipping. Just not sure eBay could come up with enough reasons for users to take part.

If this were to actually come about, it would most likely mean that eBay would buy an existing fulfillment business -- they are not  very good at creating their own stuff. I'm sure there are a number of companies out their that would fit eBay's needs at least structurally.

My guess is that eBay wants to create their own version of Prime and the only way that makes sense is if they can control the costs of fulfillment.

It will be interesting to watch. Either way online merchants can use Amazon FBA or maybe the new eBay Fulfillment to ship products sold on the Buy.com website -- isn't this a great business. :)

Just my 15%