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%

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Wow, That is Hard Work!

Shill Alert - Warning I am going to promote Buy.com.  (I know that is shameless)

I had a great first day working at Buy.com. Got to meet some great people (no, they didn't have three heads) and see what the company had on tap for the marketplace. It is clear they are committed to growing the Buy.com marketplace business. 

Buy.com has over 4 million unique visitors a month and a very active merchandising program that includes marketplace merchants. Some very exciting things in the works.

We will see how day two goes, but I like what I'm seeing so far. The sky is the limit. Of course you know I wouldn't tell you if I hated it :)

If you get a chance checkout the marketplace merchant info.

Just my 15%

Is Skype Finally for Sale?

This morning from Tech Ticker.




Just my 15%

Monday, January 26, 2009

Randy Gets a Day Job!

Sorry for that title, just couldn't figure out how to lead into this, but I have exciting news, at least for me its exciting.

On Tuesday, January 27, I begin a full-time consulting arrangement with Buy.com as their Merchant Evangelist. 

My role with the company will be to reach out to third-party merchants and introduce them to the platform, solicit feedback on what merchants need from the marketplace and work on ways to drive sales to Marketplace sellers. 

I will serve as an advocate for merchants within the company on product management and marketplace issues. My goal will be to assist the marketplace team in making the Buy.com marketplace the ideal platform for third-party merchants to sell their wares.

I will not be involved in Buy.com's eBay business. I will have plenty to do working with merchants to maximize their use of the Buy.com platform.

With my background as a third-party merchant with GlacierBayDvd and my years observing and commenting on the ecommerce business at MyBlogutopia, I'm excited about the opportunity to be the voice of the merchant within the company. 

In the past, I've blogged about the need for eBay to have an experienced merchant working inside the company, as an advocate for sellers. Well, I am going to get that opportunity at Buy.com, and I'm pumped about it.

As for MyBlogUtopia, I will continue to blog about issues facing 3P merchants in ecommerce. The views and opinions expressed on these pages will be my opinion solely and not that of Buy.com. Of course I will promote the Buy.com marketplace here from time to time, but I'm hoping to develop a specific blog just for those issues.

2009 is going to be an interesting year and online merchants will have lots of options. I'm going to do my part to make sure you know how Buy.com can work for your business.

I look forward to working with many of you and please don't hesitate to reach out to me. I don't have my Buy.com contact info just yet but you can reach me in the meantime at rksmythe at yahoo.

And yes, I will continue to blog about eBay, Amazon and the rest, but I will always try to be fair. 

Just my 15%

Where One Door Closes, Others Open!

We've all been reading the news of layoffs, business closings, etc. and the "bad news" will most likely continue through the rest of Q1, especially in the retail environment. This can be a devastating time for many laid-off workers, but there is a silver lining. 

My guess is that many of these laid-off workers will look into starting their own businesses and dare I say start selling online. The folks being laid-off are not just minimum wage earners, some I'm sure have many years of experience and strong network connections that can help get them started running their own business.  

Jobs are going to be hard to come by, so unless these unemployed workers are going to sit at home waiting for a check from the government many of them are going to have to make a living.

I would envision a renaissance in the small business world and certainly an increase in those selling online. Not everyone is cutout to be an entrepreneur, but there will be thousands of new businesses rising from the ashes of these recent layoffs.

If I can make a political comment for just a second. Mr President, make sure to address small business in your stimulus package. Get this nation running again by encouraging Americans to innovate and achieve through small business.




Just my 15%

Will eBay Unload Skype?

Everyone's talking about Skype today. Well, not everyone but at least the tech press and bloggers are. 

It appears much of the interest in the subject has come from what John Donahoe said during the eBay earnings call. “Skype is a great standalone business.” Therefore many are reading into this that eBay has put Skype on the block.

I normally don't talk much about Skype, but thought I would give you my 15% on subject since everyone else is.

Skype has been informally "on the block" for awhile and eBay certainly would have sold it by now had a reasonable offer been made. The problem, as I see it is, nobody will want to pay eBay's price. eBay paid $2.6 billion and most would agree they overpaid, so even though the company is arguably more valuable today then when eBay bought it, the market for these types of deals is much different.

Skype, will generate maybe $600 million in revenue this year which is admirable, but the margins are thin and technology changes so fast these days, the company will have to continue to invest to stay ahead of the game. Switching to a new technology is as simple as downloading a new piece of software.

So, the only way eBay will sell Skype in this environment, is if they add "Best Offer" to their "Buy it Now" price and take a bath or heaven forbid they run a 1 cent no reserve auction. 

I don't see eBay getting offers close to what they paid for it 4 years ago.

Just my 15%

Amazon and Overstock Earnings This Week.

Last week we had eBay's earnings announcement and this week we get two other marketplace coming out with their Q4 numbers.
  • Amazon - January 29th. I'm looking for double digit growth Y/Y for revenue and units shipped and single digit growth in profit. Amazon's Q4 earnings will prove the value of third-party sellers on the platform.
  • Overstock announces Q4 earnings on January 30th and your guess is as good as mine on how they will do. I see trouble in Overstock's future.
Just my 15%

Bonanzle Closing in on 1 Million Listings

Just thought I would give you all an update on what's happening over at Bonanzle. They are approaching a milestone of 1 million listings in about 6 months time. Currently they are at
 989,658 and should reach 1 million by the end of the day and they are doing this while making hard decisions; like limiting booths (storefronts) to 10,000 listings max

Here are some other numbers.
  • 22951 users
  • 6763 Sellers
  • 180,000 unique visitors a month (Dec's numbers) and growing.
There has been lots of talk recently about the eBay alternatives and it seems like there is a new site opening up just about every day -- not all of these alternatives will survive, but I think Bonanzle has one of the best shots.

First off, they are not trying to be something they are not. They are concentrating on small to mid-size sellers of unique and hard-to-find items rather than going after large retailers or commodity type items. They are already at break-even financially in less than a year and will be expanding their marketing efforts in the months ahead now that they have a solid base of product and they understand community and are keeping an open channel of communication with their users.

2009 may be a challenging year for eBay, but alternative sites like Bonanzle are going to get some traction in this down economy.

Just my 15%

eBid Expands Marketing Efforts in the US

eBid.net, the largest auction alternative to eBay announced yesterday that they will be expanding their marketing efforts in the US. According to the press release: 

"To support its 2009 growth ambitions eBid.net will re-invest its 2008 profits into US marketing initiatives to include key strategic partnerships and national advertising. Additionally, to make its site slicker, quicker and easier to use, eBid is investing in technical and design improvements. These include its ‘Ninja Lister’ desktop software application to enable offline auction creation and ease the transfer of auctions from other sites; its first public API to support third party applications and widgets; sales tax calculations for US and Canada; the creation of a Who’s Online System to bolster an already huge and vibrant online community and the introduction of non-English versions of the site."

eBid Co-founder Mark Wilkinson added "In this tough economy, we want to ensure that sellers make great profits on our site and buyers, who are increasingly looking for second hand or discount items, get the best deals around.  To help our community during these tough times, part of our investment will include regular and ongoing cash back promotions for both buyers and sellers as thanks for helping us take a large chunk of the online auction market.” 

eBid is entering its 10th year and continue to grow, likely taking some auction business away from eBay because of the high fees on the eBay site. With this commitment to expanding their marketing efforts to the US, the company is taking a much more aggressive path than in the past.

It will be interesting to watch as the year progresses.

Just my 15%

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Change is in the Air at ChannelAdvisor

There have been some rumors going around that ChannelAdvisor was preparing layoffs. The company has issued the following press release: (I will add my 15% at the end)

CHANNELADVISOR ACHIEVES OPERATING PROFIT AND ANNOUNCES RESTRUCTURING

Leading provider of e-commerce channel management solutions has solid fourth quarter growth despite tough economic backdrop 

Research Triangle Park, NC– January 23, 2009 – ChannelAdvisor, the leading provider of e-commerce channel management solutions, announced today that it reached operating profitability in the fourth quarter of 2008. Additionally the company plans to undertake restructuring to further streamline its business and better position itself for an uncertain economic downturn. 

In the fourth quarter of 2008, ChannelAdvisor recorded gross merchandise value (GMV) of $775 million and for the full year, ChannelAdvisor recorded GMV of $2.6 billion. This represents 34% growth in GMV from 2007. Additionally, the company continues to experience strong customer growth, now boasting more than 110 top internet retailers from the prestigious Internet Retailer magazine’s Top 500 list.  Over the last year, the average ChannelAdvisor customer’s sales grew at 7% while eCommerce grew at 4% proving that retailers continue to find great value from ChannelAdvisor’s solutions during this economic slowdown.

In the fourth quarter of 2008, ChannelAdvisor recorded revenue of over $10 million and for the full year, ChannelAdvisor recorded revenue of over $35 million. This represents 44% growth in revenue from 2007. Even in this challenging economic environment, ChannelAdvisor reached operating profitability in the fourth quarter of 2008 and will continue to see growth, reach goals and strengthen their position as an industry leader.

ChannelAdvisor plans to undertake changes geared to optimize its workforce, facilities and products in order to adjust to the current economy while positioning to leverage future growth in 2009. As part of the changes, ChannelAdvisor is reducing its global workforce by 19%. Those whose jobs will be eliminated will be offered severance.

“ChannnelAdvisor had a solid quarter and we will continue to focus on profitability and growth in 2009,” said Scot Wingo, Chief Executive Officer of ChannelAdvisor. “The restructuring steps we’re taking are designed to better position the company for potentially deteriorating macro economic conditions. These steps will lower our overall operating costs and enable us to weather the current economic storm.”

About ChannelAdvisor Corporation
ChannelAdvisor Corporation provides technology and services that enable leading online retailers to maximize their products across multiple ecommerce marketplaces such as eBay, Amazon.com and Overstock.com, comparison shopping engines such as Shopping.com, Shopzilla, Nextag and Google Product Search and search engines such as Google, Yahoo! and MSN. In 2008, ChannelAdvisor managed over $2.6 billion in gross merchandise value (GMV) on behalf of its customers. ChannelAdvisor solutions combine best practices, on-demand software and integration technology to help retailers sell more products, faster, by automating labor-intensive, manual functions so they spend less time optimizing campaigns and more time solving marketing and business issues. ChannelAdvisor has expanded its retail technology and services by acquiring Rich FX media solutions. MyRichFX™, RichImage™, RichCatalog™, and RichCircular™ are now part of the ChannelAdvisor rich media technology and service solutions that ChannelAdvisor offers. ChannelAdvisor's customers include GSI Commerce, Brookstone, Abebooks and Motorola. ChannelAdvisor Corporation is headquartered in Research Triangle Park, NC with offices in Atlanta, Seattle, New York, the United Kingdom, Australia, Ireland and Germany. For more information, visit http://www.channeladvisor.com/.

-----

So yes, the rumors are true, they are having layoffs in addition to other cost cutting measures; "ChannelAdvisor plans to undertake changes geared to optimize its workforce, facilities and products in order to adjust to the current economy while positioning to leverage future growth in 2009. As part of the changes, ChannelAdvisor is reducing its global workforce by 19%. Those whose jobs will be eliminated will be offered severance." according to the press release. By my calculation that would put the number of laid off worldwide at around 50.

I spoke with ChannelAdvisor CEO Scot Wingo about the restructuring and he said; "2009 is going to be a challenging year. We reached operating profitability in Q4 and we liked that, we plan to maintain that profitability throughout a tough 2009."

Layoffs are never fun, but are sometimes necessary to get a business to the right size for sustained profitability. ChannelAdvisor reached operating profitability in Q4 on $10 million in revenue and in light of the current state of ecommerce, management felt more layoffs were needed to continue 2009 profitably.

Now, I've been hanging around the CA guys for years and I've never seen them release annual revenue numbers before, so with this announcement it appears they are being as transparent as possible -- $35 million in annual revenue is not a small company, especially in the SaaS (Software as a Service) space and hard choices needed to be made.

Reaching operating profitability in Q4 was quite an accomplishment, especially this year, but you can't just assume that business will stay the same. Hopefully the laid off employees will find work shortly. 

Just my 15%

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

eBay Q4 Earnings - First Blush!

I know you are all expecting my typical assessment of eBay's quarterly earnings, but I don't have the heart anymore. I've written this post 4 times already and each time I say "what difference will this make?"

I have been shouting about the troubles at eBay for over 2 years now. I've offered suggestions; I've criticised management and I've banged my head against the wall 100's of times, but nothing has changed. A once great company continues to struggle and now they can't even look further than Q1 of this year to see where they are headed.

It did not have to be this way, but it is.

Amazon will announce earnings next week, on the 29th, and while there numbers will be muted by the failing economy, they will be light years better than eBay's were. John Donahoe and his team are now "on the clock"

If you want details on the numbers please check Auctionbytes and eBayStrategies, they should have plenty of coverage.

Just my 15%

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Silence is Deafening!

Usually, I hear a lot of chatter in the days leading up to eBay's earnings reports, but things have been decidedly different in the last few weeks. I haven't quite put my finger on why?

It is possible that eBay watchers have extremely low expectations for Q4 results and expect eBay's guidance for Q1 to be muted as well. There is almost a feeling of resignation that 2009 will be a wash and so everybody is looking at other options.

I know sellers that I've spoken with are working hard to lessen their dependence on eBay, though many of them still sell on the platform. They've jumped through so many hoops in the last year they are unwilling to continue jumping and just trying survive the ride. Many are thriving on their websites and other platforms and eBay is becoming a smaller portion of their overall business.

I'm not sure if this silence is a good thing for eBay. It is probably not a good sign for the company when people stop talking about them. The feeling of eBay is "so yesterday" starts to take hold. John Donahoe was even concerned about this back in April of 2008 when he was interviewed on the eBayInkBlog. Richard Brewer Hay asked:

Q. Any advice to the new guy?

Listen and have passion. Our goal is not to be a finely tuned, smooth, perfect machine. The minute our community stops talking is the minute I worry. Because their opinions, constructive criticism or praise, stem from passion. People are basically good – that is our belief. And we will not shut our ears to what people have to say – we will embrace it. [bold is mine]

I agree with Mr. Donahoe, the minute the community stops taking is time to worry. Have they stopped talking, probably not yet but we will know better when eBay makes their annual announcements later this month. 

When there is no longer much "noise" it could mean that people have stopped caring. When that happens the silence will be deafening.


Just my 15%

Monday, January 19, 2009

Not Everything is Scalable.

Thanks to JayandMarie for providing a link to this video clip.

The clip is called "The Speech" and was produced in 1989 for United Airlines. I'm not critiquing this as an advertisement, instead I want to look at the message in the content.

Setting the stage:
Pay close attention to what is happening here. The CEO of an unnamed firm is having an all-hands meeting, everyone looks nervous. 



Don't jump down my throat about the feasibility of eBay reaching out to their sellers. I'm speaking conceptually, "big picture" here. When I reached 100,000 feedback with Glacier Bay, I received a phone call from eBay North American president Jeff Jordan congratulating me. He didn't need to fly out and visit me. With that one call, I felt that I was part of the success of eBay.

I've written many posts criticizing the MBA approach to management: metrics rule and if you can't scale it you shouldn't waste your time. 

In management meetings at these large companies they always ask the questions "What is the ROI?"; "Can we afford to do this?" Those are valid questions as long as they also ask. "Should we do this?"; "Can we afford not to do this?"

Sure, 200 clients is a far cry from reaching out to eBay's 1 million plus sellers, but I wonder if eBay's Seller Experience team will ever have a meeting like this; imagine the cost of all those plane tickets. 

Just my 15%

UPDATE: Everyone Wants to be an Online Marketplace.

The King of all online marketplaces (eBay) is wounded, so it makes sense that competition would rise up to take some of their business away, but when GoDaddy.com announces they will be launching a marketplace, it is getting ridiculous.

GoDaddy.com has lots of traffic, roughly 3 million uniques a month, but how much of that traffic is going to GoDaddy for anything other than domain names and related services. There are some serious issues to consider:
  • How are they going to get product? Just saying you have 3 million unique visitors each month and throwing a 10% FVF on each sale isn't going to entice sellers to sell on the platform.
  • Perhaps they can bring on related product that would make sense to their current user base. GoDaddy users are tech oriented and dominated by males, just look at the GoDaddy.com ads at the Super Bowl in two weeks to identify who their market is.
  • A marketplace needs much more than traffic. They would be much better off selling sponsored links and advertising to online sellers than to facilitate the sale of real product on their site. 
  • If they do not get to a critical mass of product selection, users will just pass over the marketplace.
  • Online merchants want to get eyeballs in front of their items, but they have limited resources so dealing with another  marketplace with dubious credentials for selling product won't be high on their list.
  • Competing with the "Big 2"; eBay and Amazon and the "Little 2"; Buy.com and Overstock not to mention all the specialty sites doesn't make much sense to me.
I haven't seen their marketplace yet, so I won't call this effort "dead on arrival", but they have a huge hill to climb before the GoDaddy marketplace is viable.

UPDATE: Okay, here is a link to their marketplace http://shops.godaddy.com

Just my 15%

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

eBay Alternatives Ranked by Alexa.com

As far as marketplaces go, eBay.com still gets the greatest amount of traffic, but I was curious if any of eBay's competitors were gaining on it. Of course Amazon passed eBay briefly in the 4th quarter of 2008 and according to Alexa the 2 sites are neck and neck currently.

I'll break the sites down into 5 groups: The US sites will begin with the worldwide ranking but be ranked by their US ranking. UK sites are ranked by their UK ranking. The Alexa ranking takes into consideration Page Views and Reach.

The Big Guys:
  1. eBay.com - #20 worldwide and #8 in the US
  2. Amazon.com - #31 worldwide and #11 in the US
The Not as Big as the Two Above Guys: (but millions of unique visitors a months)
  1. Overstock.com - #616 worldwide and #110 in the US
  2. Buy.com - #724 worldwide and #185 in the US
  3. Etsy.com - #904 worldwide and #238 in the US
The Up and Commers. Growing the fastest
  1. Ecrater.com - #6233 worldwide and #1606 in the US 
  2. Bonanzle.com - #38754 worldwide and #5930 in the US
  3. Neweggmall.com - #31,271 worldwide and #6526 in the US
Some of the Rest 
  1. Blujay.com #37654 worldwide and #7518 in the US
  2. Wigix.com - #56850 worldwide and #7979 in the US
  3. OnlineAuction.com - #78,988 and #21,079 in the US
  4. AtomicMall.com - #119,254 worldwide and #22,562 in the US 
Top UK marketplace Sites
  1. ebay.co.uk - #90 worldwide and #8 in the UK
  2. Amazon.co.uk - #227 worldwide and #12 in the UK
  3. Play.com - #745 worldwide and #19 in the UK
  4. ebid.net - #16204 worldwide and #1629 in the UK
  5. CQout - #86083 worldwide and #6920 in the UK
To provide some perspective; the worldwide Alexa ranking for My Blog Utopia is #218,401 and in the US #54,811


Just my 15%

Monday, January 12, 2009

eBay Q4 Earnings Call Announced!

The eBay Q4 earnings call will be held on January 21st, 2009 at 2:00 PM PST. You will be able to get the first blush earnings info from the web, CNBC and Fox Business but the conference call will have all the detail.

You can listen in by linking here on the 21st

This is possibly the most important earnings call in the history of eBay and certainly John Donahoe's most important call. Q4's numbers will tell the story of how the recent changes have worked and if they do not meet the top end of expectations the Street will not be happy.  

Here's my 15% on the numbers: 

I believe that eBay was able to meet the top end of their guidance for the 4th Quarter, but that all other marketplace metrics (users, traffic, GMV, etc) will be down Y/Y. In their guidance for the 4th quarter they really lowered the bar of expectations, so meeting or slightly beating their guidance should not be celebrated with a party. They will still be flat to down Y/Y

Look for a non-GAAP EPS of $0.41 as opposed to $0.45 in 2007 and revenue for the quarter at $2.16 billion as opposed to $2.18 billion .  The buzz in the marketplace today is nothing like it was in early Oct. when eBay came out before the earnings call and lowered expectations. I believe they were able to fix the search problems of early Oct in time to save the quarter but they will still be flat or down Y/Y. 

This news, taken on its own, should give the share price a bump; that is until Amazon announces their numbers later in the month. 


my 15%

Sunday, January 11, 2009

WhatDoISell.com Amazon FBA - Replay

It was my pleasure to spend some time with Lisa Suttora of WhatDoISell.com last week; discussing Amazon's FBA program. She just posted a link to the replay and I'm excited to make it available for My Blog Utopia readers.

You can download the interview or listen online whichever you prefer. http://www.whatdoisell.com/amazonfbateleclass/

Let me know what you think.

Just my 15%

Friday, January 09, 2009

Skype Discussion on Tech Ticker

I usually don't write about Skype -- it doesn't really interest me -- but this video clip was interesting from an investor standpoint. The second half of the clip is not Skype/eBay related. Source Tech Ticker




Just my 15%

New Amazon Webinars - WebStore and FBA

Amazon began holding Webinars back in Q4 of 2008 and it looks like they will continue pretty aggressivly in 2009. There are two Webinars being held in the next couple of weeks that will be of interest to online sellers:

Wed, 1/ 14 - 10:00am PST

Introduction to WebStore by Amazon
WebStore by Amazon provides you with a branded e-commerce site backed by the support, selection and expertise of Amazon. WebStore is easy to set up and comes with a number of great marketing features so you can start selling in minutes! Learn more about owning your own WebStore. Space is limited. Reserve your seat now!      

Wed, 1/28 - 10:00am PST

Understanding Fulfillment By Amazon (FBA)
Learn how Fulfillment by Amazon can help you achieve your 2009 fulfillment needs and grow your business without the fixed costs of setting up and maintaining your own infrastructure. Space is limited. ! Reserve your seat now

Just my 15%

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Former Microsoft Execs end up at eBay!

Thanks to a tip from my faithful reader Moonlight, I found out that eBay purchased a small Seattle firm in Dec. (must have been a very small transaction not to make the news) and in the deal they got two former Microsoft Search executives. I'm not sure if that is a good thing or not.

According to ZDNet;
"Two years ago, when Microsoft’s search and advertising unit was even more of a revolving door than now, two long-time managers, Christopher Pane and Dane Glasgow, parted ways with Microsoft.

(Payne was Microsoft’s search chief — when the company’s search engine was known as “Windows Live Search” (not just Live Search); Glasgow was General Manager of Live Search.)

In January, Payne resurfaced — as an eBay employee."
Since I'm still wearing my Tin Hat from the previous post, maybe the reason eBay hasn't identified the speaker at Internet Retail, is because he just came on board and they don't have his picture and bio yet. Though these two execs are more search oriented than retailer/seller focused, so they wouldn't likely speak at IREC.

Maybe Microsoft will just buy eBay and we will have a whole new bunch of execs to discuss --just thinking out loud.

Update: eBay did confirm the acquisition and hiring of the two executives mentioned on the eBayInk blog.

Just my 15%

Tin Hat Alert! eBay Management Changes Afoot?

An analyst buddy of mine was checking out the speaker lineup for the Internet Retailer Conference to be held in Boston this June and he noticed something odd in the press release. After announcing the featured speakers and stating this was going to be the best speaker line-up in the history of the conference, came this:
"Other featured speakers at IRCE include a soon-to-be-named key executive of eBay, who will explain how the #1 e-retail portal is evolving to help established web merchants expand their Internet reach;"
Now, the way this was worded seems to intimate that there will be a "new" soon-to-be-named eBay exec. at the conference. Of course, they probably meant that at the time of this press release eBay hadn't announced the executive who would be speaking. Okay, now you can put on your Tin Hats.

I checked the speaker lineup further and there are several mentions of eBay speakers during sessions and an eBay exec is Featured on the June 17th (but there is no picture). So, you all know me, I decided to have some fun with this. I'm sure eBay just didn't provide this information in time to be included in the press release and website, but there are two other possibilities:
  • A featured speaker, at this type of event, is usually a senior executive, so it could really only be one of four eBay execs; John Donahoe (not likely) Lorrie Norrington President of eBay Marketplaces, Stephanie Tilenius, Sr. VP of eBay North America or Dinesh Lathi, VP of Seller Experience, so why were they not named? Perhaps none of those executives are assured of being with the company as late as June 2009, so they don't want to name somebody and then have to replace them.
  • Or they just haven't drawn straws yet to determine who will speak. After all they were able to provide the topic of that featured session:
    "In its more than dozen years of existence, eBay has evolved with the Internet, from providing millions of entrepreneurs an easy way to start a business to enabling established retailers to extend their reach on the Internet. Now, with a change in leadership, eBay is going through further evolution that the company hopes will attract and engage more consumers and boost revenue for eBay sellers. An eBay executive in charge of transforming the user experience at eBay will lay out in detail where eBay is heading and how retailers large and small can take advantage of the new eBay."
Now doesn't it seem odd that eBay has agreed to send a featured speaker and even provided the content of that presentation, but they were not able to provide the actual speaker information?Just thought I would throw that out for discussion. Maybe June is just too far a way for them to schedule.

Just my 15%

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Sharing my 15% about Ecommerce in 2009 with ColderICE.com

Just checked out John Lawson's blog over at ColderICE.com and was blown away by his intro to our little talk from last week. Thanks for the props John.

John and I converse quite a bit about the world of ecommerce via Twitter and his podcast interviews and so this interview is just something we would like to share. I'd love to hear your comments. I'm just sharing my thoughts on the world of ecommerce and yes we did discuss Buy.com, but that was only a small part of our discussion.



Just my 15%

Let's Talk Amazon FBA!

Please Join us this Thursday, January 8th at 11:00am Pacific,I will be joinging Lisa Suttora of WhatDoISell.com to discuss the Fulfillment by Amazon program and how it can benefit your business.

Basically, I'm going to share my experience with the service over the last year and cover it from start to finish. This will be less a "How To" use the service teleseminar and more a "Why" use the service teleseminar.

So why not join us Thursday, January 8th at 11:00am Pacific, for a free teleseminar on the power of using Fulfillment By Amazon (Amazon FBA) in your online business. 

Reserve your seat immediately below.  Can't make the live class?  By registering now, you'll receive immediate notification when the replay is ready.


Hope to see your there.

Just my 15%

Infopia Appoints New CEO

Infopia, the leading SaaS [Software as a Service] provider of eCommerce software services, announced today that Coleman Barney has joined the company as President and Chief Executive Officer. As CEO of Infopia, Coleman will bring extensive experience in eCommerce and business improvement to fuel Infopia's continued growth serving mid-market and enterprise online businesses. He is succeeding Bjorn Espenes, former CEO and President, who will continue as a member of the Board of Directors for Infopia.


I'll add my 15% as I get more info. Infopia competes in a tough business with ChannelAdvisor, Mercent, Monsoon and others helping retailers manage their multiple sales channels. 

It is interesting that a new CEO would come on-board during a real challenging time in ecommerce, but as outgoing CEO Bjorn Espenes says "Infopia's successful expansion into higher end, multi-marketplace online businesses demonstrates our ability to support increasingly complex retail environments," said Bjorn Espenes. "We looked for someone with a proven track record who could take the company to the next level. Coleman brings his results-oriented style to a business that saw record results in 2008 - a perfect combination."

We'll have to see how this move plays out in this very competitive environment. Good luck Mr. Barney.

Just my 15%

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Etsy Improves Search -- Adds Relevance

According to Auctionbytes: "Etsy is replacing its existing search technology with Solr, an open-source search system used by sites like Netflix and Zappos. Etsy said the new technology would provide it with the foundation to scale in terms of speed and functionality and is the first in what it expects to be a series of improvements to Etsy's search function throughout the year."

As Etsy grows and adds listings to its database, the need for search improvements becomes evident. The need for more relevant search results increases as you grow. Relevancy is a tough component to add to search because you are adding some subjective elements to an objective search using an algorithm that weights keywords. Google does a great job with relevancy but search is their core competency.

eBay should have considered using an outside search technology like Solr, instead of bringing search in-house and screwing it up. Sorry couldn't just leave an Etsy post alone without adding my 15% on eBay. Notice Etsy doesn't have anything called "Best Match" in their search. :)

Just my 15%

Did Your DSRs Take a Hit this Christmas?

When I was selling at Glacier Bay DVD, we always dreaded the after Christmas deluge of negative feedback -- we didn't have DSRs at the time. The holidays are a tough time for customer service, as you run out of inventory quickly and there are delays in shipping as well as in transit.

With DSRs being a major part of an eBay sellers exposure in search, it is even more crucial now to not get overwhelmed.

So how did you do? I would imagine Shipping Time DSRs took the biggest hit. 

On Amazon, the feedback rating is just one element of your total performance rating and has nothing to do with where you show-up in search. Since I used Amazon's FBA I was able to maintain a 98% Feedback and a .21% Order Defect Rate. 

A 98% FB rating on Amazon is like a 99.5% on eBay because Amazon customers only leave feedback on maybe 15 to 20% of transactions. The Order Defect Rate is a combination of Neg Feedback, A to Z claims and returns and Amazon likes to see that number below 1% of all transactions.

Did your DSRs get you lowered in search and make your listing fees even more costly, or did you survive the holiday rush with search standing intact?

Just my 15%

Monday, January 05, 2009

Meg Whitman Steps Down from eBay's Board

According to the Wall Street Journal, "Meg Whitman stepped down from the boards of Procter & Gamble Co., eBay Inc. and Dreamworks Animation SKG Inc. effective Dec. 31"

Right now the speculation is that she is preparing a run for Governator (sorry, Governor) of California.

Here is a breakdown of the race still 2 years off.

I'll keep my 15% to myself on this subject.

So How Did We All Do in Q4

I had my best quarter of the year, but stopped buying product just after Thanksgiving, so Dec sales were lower than Nov. -- I was selling strictly from existing inventory. 

The beauty with using Amazon FBA and not buying any product in Dec. was I worked way less than in any other month in 2008 and I was substantially more profitable. I still haven't decided if this is a lifestyle business for me or if I want to grow it into another Glacier Bay. I do miss the game a little... ok a lot.

So how did you do? No need to give hard numbers just provide % +/- year over year and % of revenue that came from each marketplace you sold in.

Thanks in advance for the info.

Just my 15%

Amazon FBA - Time for a Test!

I've been singing the praises of using Amazon's FBA program to ship my product and now its time for you to test the service as well.

Amazon is offering a $1,000 rebate between January 1st and March 31st, 2009. [For new accounts only]

Qualified merchants will receive a one-time rebate, which will include:
  • The actual cost of their inbound shipments to an Amazon fulfillment center up to the amount earned per the below schedule, and
  • The actual cost of Fulfillment by Amazon fees incurred through the merchant's Amazon seller account between January 1, 2009, and March 31, 2009, up to the amount earned per the below schedule. Refer to Fulfillment by Amazon Pricing for information on fulfillment fees.
Qualified merchants are limited to one rebate.
  • The dollar amount of any rebate earned will be deposited to or used to offset any negative balance in the merchant's Amazon Seller account on or before May 1, 2009. The rebate will be titled "Miscellaneous Adjustment."
  • Qualified merchants will receive credit for the actual amount spent on inbound shipping to an Amazon fulfillment center and Fulfillment by Amazon fees (for example, if a merchant sends Amazon 501 units between January 1, 2009, and March 31, 2009, at a shipping cost of $150, and incurs $100 in Fulfillment by Amazon fees for units fulfilled by the Fulfillment by Amazon service, it will receive $200 in rebate credit for shipping costs and Fulfillment by Amazon fees charged to their Amazon seller account during that time period).
How to Take Advantage of the Offer

Qualified merchants can automatically take advantage of this offer by sending their product Units in by March 31, 2009. Link here for more information.

FBA opens your product up to Amazon Prime members as well as making it eligible for Super-saver shipping, so you can get access to a completely different Amazon customer than you are used to with self-fulfilled orders. I highly recommend the service.

Just my 15%

Friday, January 02, 2009

Webinar - The Amazon WebStore

Amazon is holding a webinar on their WebStore offering on January 14th at 10:00 AM PST it will run about 45 minutes with time for questions. Sign-up today.

Introduction to WebStore by Amazon.
WebStore by Amazon provides you with a branded e-commerce site backed by the support, selection, and expertise of Amazon. WebStore is easy to set up and comes with a number of great marketing features so you can start selling in minutes! Learn more about owning your own WebStore.

Just my 15%

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Happy New Year! Postive Thoughts for 2009

I've enjoyed the time to relax this past 2 weeks, I hope you haven't missed me too much. Originally I was going to write a 2008 year in review post, but thought nobody wants to relive that, we all know how bad 2008 was. A New Year's post is a time for optimism; even if it is only fleeting.

As I look at the rest of 2009 from the vantage point of this first day, I'm excited about what lies ahead for the online seller:
  • By mid 2009 eBay sellers, large and small, will finally understand what the "New" eBay is. In 2008, eBay lost its mojo and there is really no getting it back, but I am hoping it will still be a viable alternative for a great many sellers. If new management comes on board mid-year, they won't return it to its former glory, but it should still be a very viable sales channel for many. If new management doesn't come on-board, eBay may be in for another rocky year.

  • Large Auction sellers will expand off of eBay in 2009. Some of the larger eBay auction sellers will follow the lead of emovieposter, bargainland and aacsautographsand launch their own independent auction sites. JayandMarie should follow their lead, but I don't know if Jay has enough desire left to make that dramatic a move.

    eBay will still be the auction platform for the small to mid-size seller and a liquidation channel for large sellers. Also, adding an auction component to an existing website will start to get some traction in 2009. Auctions are still a viable business model for lots of items.
     
  • Online sellers will become less dependent on marketplaces like eBay, Amazon and others. 2009 will be the year when many sellers hit their stride with their own websites. Many will concentrate much of their efforts on launching and growing their own websites, while using marketplaces for profitable incremental sales and to expand their reach.

  • Small eBay Sellers will continue to migrate to sites like Etsy, Bonanzle and eCrater lessening their dependence on eBay. eBay will be part of their business but no longer all of their business. Hopefully there is still room for the small seller on eBay in 2009.

  • As the big retailers struggle in a slowing economy the most nimble online sellers will find opportunities to exploit. There will be lots of inventory available at liquidation prices and even opportunities for smaller sellers to get access to that product without buying a truckload at a time. In fact there may arise consortiums of online sellers who join together to source large loads of liquidated product. Co-opetition will be the buzzword for 2009
In 2009 the independent online seller will have many opportunities available for growth even in a slow economy. The lean and efficient operations will be able to take advantage of opportunities when they present themselves. 

I'm looking forward to 2009.

Just my 15%