Tagged: money

Improve your online business – buy from your competition

Everyone is trying to sell their items on line these days through a website or ebay. The big guys will always be there but a large percentage of sales are pushed by smaller companies that you compete with on one level or another. Ever wonder why your competitor has higher DSR stars or better feedback ratings than you? Occasionally, a good way to check your own operations or to get a feel for how other companies handle their post sales procedures can teach anyone a few shortcuts or cost savings ideas.

A few interesting points to check are:

  • Checkout system – How easy? What processing method? Ease of selecting item specifics etc.
  • Communication – What e-mails do you get when you checkout? Do they cross promotions with mailing lists and repeat customer tactics after after the purchase?
  • Packing Materials – You may learn a few cost savings techniques in shipping supply reduction or alternatives, invoice information and paper marketing materials.
  • Customer Service – Call up after you’ve received your item and even if all is well, test their customer service department with e-mails or phone calls. Test their returns and exchange procedures and length of time etc. Playing the unhappy customer has never been so fun!

Testing a few of these areas can help you find strengths and weaknesses in your own and others post sale transaction. Your routine might be comfortable, but with everything involved after the sale it can be easy to look past an improvement that can make a big difference when multiplied by all of your outgoing shipments.

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Sources to find and research top Power Sellers on ebay

Once in a while it’s interesting to go out and see who else is selling and how big some of the companies on ebay actually are.  Searching through the core can be tedious but a few websites and tools can help you locate and see some of their statistics rather quickly.

  • Top Sellers List – A rather cheap database that extracts just the basics of high feedback sellers. While feedback score is sometimes irrelevant to success, it does give a general indication of “status” on the marketplace. Sellers have to submit potential user names to scrape information from but the list has most of the big names included.
  • SellerDome – Another database that has a few more search options and organized a bit more than others. One feature I like is the row that shows what category the user is in. Scanning down the list to find categories of interest are easily found.

After you find some competition or interesting names you can always use hammertap or terapeak to get their revenue and listing data.  The data can sometimes be a bit behind but offers some potentially valuable starting points for finding out whose out there selling in volume.

Just bought 30 shares of Ebay Stock at 15.25 ..gamble or good call?

I’ve been monitoring ebay stocks price pretty closely the past few months and for some reason I kept telling my self it gets much below $16.00 I would take a “gamble” and scoop some up. For some reason, it just seems like the right time. I’ve put some money in stocks before and have money in a Fidelity Roth IRA …but I would never consider my self even half way intelligent with stocks.

However, as a Titanium Powerseller and someone who has his hands in ebay for 12+ hours a day, I’m thinking this is a good call (for now).

  • For starters, ebay’s stock has been doing poorly the last few months if not past few years down from $40 on it’s 52 week high. Could it really tank below $10 …my personal opinion is no.
  • Obviously, ebays recent policy changes have had the market down and some sellers either adjusting or leaving the marketplace – most have made up their mind by now and things are starting to seem a bit more consistent. The vibe still hasn’t improved but sellers are implementing new strategies and at least not feeling like they’re playing as much of a guessing game with a bit of experience and testing of auctions in the past few weeks.
  • Also, last week when the stock market plunged 700+ points ALL stocks were doing poorly; to the point that global markets were taken severe beatings! I considered ebays plunge last week due to economic factors …not necessary ebay’s marketplace.
  • The 700+ Billion $ bail out has now been approved and a SMALL bit of hope is putting a bit of confidence into peoples heads and the market (or at least better than when they couldn’t come to a resolution). Please note the word SMALL.
  • The Holiday season is approaching and we’ve had a few customers mentioning they’re buying our items for gifts for the Holidays. The summer was very slow this year but even in a semi-recession, you can expect lots more sales from the past few months.

With all of this being said, it seemed a bunch of external and internal factors have been hitting ebay hard all at one time. More importantly for my purchasing decision, as a “large” ebay seller and tax payer, I see ..again a SMALL light at the end of the tunnel at the least. Especially with an election a few months away …no matter who wins, people will feel a page is being turned for the better after the previous administration has left office. I feel ebay is a buy because some of the weights of the marketplace and economy have been lifted off ebays shoulders and I’m willing to buy a few shares to see if this is the case! Lets see what happens in the next few months! 🙂

Ebay FAV Double Discounts on Oct 14th – How much can you save?

There’s one thing ebay rules are changing for the better these days. Companies who give great customer service, have great DSR stars and have above average feedback scores will be greatly rewarded with discounts coming in mid October 2008. What does this mean for those who qualify? HUGE discounts (double) in FAV fees that can help your bottom line!

First of all, for those who are so upset with the policy changes this year should really reconsider their operations. Many are saying that reaching 15%-20% off is close to impossible and I was one of them. We are in a cut throat category with lots of competition dealing with used, refurbished and new electronics. Things happen with electronics and you can even experience a 5% defect rate buying directly from manufactures with brand new items.  Currently we qualify for 15% off and our DSR stars are rising to where 20% off is not an impossible reality.

Starting October 14th, Ebay will give double your FAV discount located in your seller dashboard for those who offer free shipping on their items. For those with 5%-%20, this can mean hundreds if not thousands of dollars in savings per month off your bill.

Example: Previous to ebays fee structure change, we were spending $2.50 to list a single item that was $39.99 with some listing upgrades and paying $3.80 for each item that sold totaling $6.30 per item that sold. Now ebay has given us a free gallery image and a free subtitle (with free shipping) reducing this cost by about $.75 cents.

Now, the FAV fee without any discounts is $6.60! That’s a HUGE increase from $3.80. But take into consideration that the insertion fee is now only 35 cents, reducing the front end fee by $2.15 cents per item. With a 15% discount, doubling this so 30% because we offer free shipping on the item, we will only pay $4.62 cents per successful listing saving $1.68 per item from their fee structure before the increase and discounts were announced. Times this by 10 per day and 30 days per month, this one specific line item will save us $504 per month. Now times this by your top 10 line items and you’re sure to save thousands a month, only paying for successful auction with the ebays new successful based pricing tiers.

My take on Ebay’s move: It’s very simple. They want to separate GREAT sellers from average and below average sellers. The thing is, even those who “boycot” ebay or are leaving really make little to no impact on ebays bottom line in most categories.

Example: We monitored a close competitor that was selling the same item as we were. His feedback was 98.2% and was obviously paying squaretrade $10 per negative feedback to be removed. When ebay made the feedback changes, he dropped below 98% (went down to 97.2%) and lost his powerseller status and 2 months later was NARU. (No Longer a Registered User). Does ebay miss his sales? Not really, our sales almost doubled on this item because the buyers were still there! The new rules simply made it harder for someone who did not take care of their customers shut down and threw the sales to someone who did resulting in nearly identical sales being purchased, just spread across fewer sellers.

Also, because the sales are shifting towards a company who offers customer support, longer warranty periods, faster shipping and a great product etc …the buyer will be more likely to revisit ebay because of the buying experience that they had, and hopefully be a return customer of the seller who offered them a prestine buying experience.

Conclusion: It will probably take several months into 09′, but ebay is moving towards Amazonification where just not everyone is allowed to sell on ebay. Those top merchants will be rewarded with search standard exposure rates in the core, double discounts in fees and repeat/more buyers for those with the total buying experience. When someone gets ripped off or even encounters a simple error in their buying experience they hold ebay accountable not the seller. They flock off the ebay to buy elsewhere resulting in less sales potential for legit sellers and then no one gets the sale.

Tip: Take care of your customers. Phone support, email support, clearly stating your return policy and abide  by it 100% if there’s a problem. Get your DSR stars, feedback etc up NOW because those who have done this even before the changes are reaping the benefits in success ratios and increases in sales.

Hammertap and Terapeak not up to date with ebay changes

Going through some seller searches, it’s very definite that listing research tools (hammertap and terapeak) have some serious tweaking to do with their software platforms before we can consider them serious tools after ebay’s policy changes this year. Research on seller competitors and reports have stats way off and not even  close to a ball-park figure.

One main reason people use these research tools is their ability to look up recent trends within the past week or month on how a certain product has performed and tracking competitors sells to find new products and trends to take the guess work out of listings to reduce listing fees and guesstimate success ratios. Let’s take a look.

What I found: For starters, they’ve been unable to update 30 day listings formats in any of their stats. As many ebay sellers start to pump their auction out with Fixed Price 30, having these stats to make better decisions is a great way to take a lot of the guess work out. As you can see below, weeks after the new updates, FP 30 items are neither listed as a listing type or duration making many sellers who’s product fall under this category useless for research.

Falling along this same idea, trends change so fast on ebay in a 7-30 day period, that completed auctions can no longer be a standard for research data. Most sellers want to know what’s sold or is selling within the past few days or weeks, not over months and months of data.

If I wanted to do a search for “Unlocked Motorola V3 Phones” …using this tool I am only going to see finished auctions and BIN items that were successful/unsuccessful. But when I do a search (not under completed and on current items) I see dozens of fixed price 30 auctions up and selling WELL.

With the current programming, Terapeak and Hammertap will HAVE to implement some type of current listing data to flow into completed auction data. Until a 30 day listing ends, (which is way to long to grab real time data in E-Commerce for current trends), sellers will be unable to really get a feel of how their items might sell with post-sales data.

Ex: I see an auction for Motorola F3 Unlocked Cell Phone up that is a featured FP30 listing. Under purchases, it’s sold 350 phones in the past 10 days and still has 20 days left. Terapeak isn’t going to take those 350 phones into consideration till the auction ends in 20 more days. Two other sellers have similar auctions up accounting for over 700 purchases on FP30 with at least 15-20 days left before they end. Only 1900 of these phones sell per month leaving about 30% of sales data out of the equation and taking. Even more importantly, neglecting the MOST RECENT sales data. By the time these end, prices can easily change in the cell phone category leaving sellers with unreliable up-to-date research data.

Competitor research is also completely off. After researching our user names sales in the past 7 days, this is the screen shot that I get.

These number are completely off.  Our inventory system gives us very accurate reports on weekly/daily sales and we actually averaged about $18,000/day this week and by tomorrow will have done about $80,000 in gross sales. Again, terapeak is taking ONLY completed auctions into consideration and is unreliable because the tool won’t current (not yet ended) FP30 auctions into their equation.

We also averaged 380 packages per 24 hour period this week, taking reliable reports from shipworks. Terapeak is saying we only sold 973 pieces.

Conclusion: I think they’ll eventually change this but have to really think hard on how to merge completed auction and current sales data and even more importantly, represent it in a way that benefits their customers. Also thinking about the options the users will have to graphically or numerically represent data around these new issues is sure to be a large task in their R&D departments.

For others, research might not be as off. It all depends on the category and nature of products being sold as many categories will not be selling in FP30 because it doesn’t make any sense. Other categories such as consumer electronics, DVD’s, CD’s etc are sure to feel this effect.

Tip: All sellers should do a basic search from the main page of ebay.com to check current FP30 auctions. Check their success, prices, keywords etc as these research tools will not have accurate data till after 30 days (if they make the update by then)

Ebay getting rid of Skype? Selling to Google?

Skype was bought by ebay nearly 3 years ago but has since then failed to implement a real advantage within ebay’s core. Ebay saw Skype as a daily function for users to manage customer contacts, answering questions and pre and post sale concerns. However, sellers and buyers have failed to take advantage of this feature within their listings.

CEo John Donahue said to the Financial Times

“What we’re testing this year are the synergies,” Mr Donahoe told the Financial Times this week after Ebay reported its latest earnings. “If the synergies are strong, we’ll keep it in our portfolio. If not, we’ll reassess it.” That could lead to the disposal of the business, he indicated.

This news comes after Skype reported strong Q1 revenue up to $162 million dollars, a 61% increase from the previous year. This year it’s expected Skype will generate $500 million and be profitable. This may lead ebay to sell the VoIP company with the hopes of having a money making buyout. Rumor talks point to Google.com, who would more likely be able to find a better use for it’s services if Ebay users do not hop on the waggon in the next 8 months.

We do not comment on market rumor or speculation regarding acquisitions, Generally speaking we are constantly in discussions about potential partnerships in cases that will be mutually beneficial for users, advertisers, and publishers. – Spokesman for Google

The reasons for the service not being a match on ebay are numerous. Sellers contribute that software advances in auto-answering services and advanced platforms to handle customer service management leave little need for the service. Also many larger sellers that previously used the platform have choosen to host toll free phone lines with other VoIP companies. Every buyer or seller has a phone number when they need to get in touch, but not everyone has a Skype account loaded with cash.

Ebay Scammers on Judge Judy

Was looking around you tube killing some time and I found a funny ebay video. Aparently two women from Orlando bought two cell phones but were scammed by another woman and her husband for sending two pictures of cell phones. The scammers even admitted to going on a shipping spre with the extra cash. Personally, I think Judge Judy needs to be in charge of the fraud department for ebay and paypal.

Ebay’s Sept. 20th Announcment Re-Cap on Policy Changes

  • Recent sales of multi-quantity listings
  • Reasonable and free shipping – Mainly for the media category.
  • Significant Incentives for free shipping – increased visibility, free subtitle and double FAV fee discount. (Changes made October 1st)
  • No Money Orders or Checks – Must use paypal or propay for easy checkout experience
  • Sellers Must have 4.3 DSR stars to sell on ebay after October 1st

  • Moving to successful based pricing – Low insertion fees for those selling “like” items over and over. Really important that they consolidate their listings with multi quantity listings. As people buy, listing will be rewarded with more exposure and savings on fees.
  • Now that time ending soonest is not a factor in Best Match, 30 day FP makes sense to keep up for as long as possible.
  • A good time to move Ebay Store inventory to FP30 listings
  • No changes to auction style fees
  • Ebay’s take on Best Practices to improve DSR ratings
  • Communication DSR – Communicate post sale with tracking, thank them for the purchase and handle any post sales concerns.
  • Leave positive Feedback after you have accepted payment! Not after they’ve left it. Builds communication early and gives a positive tone.
  • By October 5th, revise shipping cost to market average or free shipping
  • Specify return policy on all templates in ebays format, not just in your listing template.

Questions and Answers:

1) Why did you increase the FAV in media category compared to other categories?

Drastically reduce upfront fees. If you use the catalogue you only pay 5 cents.

2) How is ebay educating buyers on DSR and feedback comments and remarks?

New format for leaving feedback asking buyer if they have tried to resolve and leave accurate feedback.

3) What happens if the shipping calculator shows a higher price than the average cost in my cateogory?

If item is heavier, mult-quantity use flat rate shipping at or below the shipping cap.

4) Why have you required Paypal and electronic payment?

We are offering more options and it gives more visibility when you offer these options. In the future we will integrate 3rd party and other applications in the checkout process as an alternative method. Propay is also an option and is competitive.

5) Will the recent sales carry over when I relist my item?

Yes

6) Whats the future of stores if you want me to move my items to FP30?

Still important, you’re able to drive more traffic by offering them on the core results. Stores are still important for internal traffic transfer of similar items and getting customers once in your listing to go to your store. Most traffic to stores comes from clicking within the auctions.

7) Will auctions and BIN rotate in the core results?

Ebay is using “intermingle” as their term. They will be rotated but be specific for trends with DSR, past sales and maximum exposure for increase sales price and turn over percentage.

8) I heard that the Uk is going to get rid of stores. Does that mean it will be gone in the USA as well?

It will not be removed in the Uk and the USA and we think it’s very important in both markets.

9) Some sellers are listing ipods in flower category to avoid FAV fees. What are you doing to address this?

These listings will take advantage of relevancy policies. They will get a negative mark and receive less exposure.

10) When is ebay express closing?

Ebay express will close on September 18th.

11) When you integrate merchant Credit Card options in the checkout, will the credit card information be transferred to the sellers?

Yes

12) Will the credit card integration be available to Canadian’s in January.

Probably not, but looking for options.

13) International orders have concerns for DSR stars with shipping and transit times. What steps are you making to set realistic expectations for buyers with Shipping and Handling DSR stars?

We will reinforce longer transit times and buyers should as well. Let the buyers know realistic transit time, leave feedback when checkout is complete and not only let them know how long it will take to ship, but highlight how long it took you to get it out the door and offer to stay in constant contact after the sale.

14) Will setting “Standard Flat Rate Shipping” count as offering a shipping option?

Yes

15) Are pre-orders still valid?

Yes up to 30 days. Nothing has changed.

There seemed to be alot more questions on media, feedback DSR abuse by buyers and other questions that revolved around the above. What I took away is sellers need to communicate, specify shipping options and realistic expectations and optimizing listings for the new format. Most of these questions came from the message boards and even after this announcement video the vibe is that even with ebay’s explanations, members are still frustrated with the changes.

You can listing/view this entire macromedia flash session here.

Are Ebays Policy Changes Worth it?

There comes a time for all to seriously consider what it would be like if they didn’t sell on Ebay. For some, it would mean the end of business. For others, it might be the best decision you ever made. Ebay’s consistent and “for the better” changes in 2008 have left sellers using lots more resources to try and achieve the same margins as they were used to.

The plain of the fact is that all these rules are geared at long term changes within their marketplace.

  • Feedback – I just checked our feedback and the results are black and white. Out of a toolhaus feedback search, 48/56 negative feedbacks have come from users with under 50 feedbacks. Of the 48 who left feedback, half were new users within the last year or so with under 10 feedbacks. That’s 85% of negative feedback is from this trend. The others who left negative feedback were varied (ill call it ebay experience).

This type of ratio shows a real problem where these new buyers have unrealistic expectations in the buying process. Many leave negative feedbacks because the item was lost in the mail (and they declined shipping insurance), failed to read the full item description for something that was spelled out in the clear and have fail to abide by your return policy that they accepted. It just seems those veterans who have have bought or sold in any quantity from the first days realize they can take advantage of a good customer service department without throwing in the towel and neggin someone. — Especially for those company’s who truly pride them selves in customer service and would of made the customer happy.

  • For volume sellers or those who make a living on ebay, the changes have hurt their business in one way or another. Weather it’s fees, feedback, search standard etc …the changes have effected a large portion of sellers to some extent.  To alot of sellers, spending lots of resources on man-power or new internal processes to implement the new changes can be very time consuming and costly. The big thing is we haven’t seen any REAL changes yet – only suggestions with the promise that a better market place awaits us. This has left many companies frustrated with the lack of an inconsistent marketplace.

Scot wingo, CEO of Channeladvisor had a very good perspective on this fatigue at his blog.

Part of what’s going on with the seller base is, for lack of a better word, eBay fatigue.  Sellers feel their businesses have changes so much (DSRs, BestMatch, etc..)  for so little/no/decline in sales that eBay is increasingly becoming a lower priority for them and thus they will tend to be reactive vs. proactive as they would have been as recently as 6 months ago.  To be honest, most of our larger sellers are spending their time getting their websites and other channels ready for the holidays and eBay just isn’t a priority.  Of course this doesn’t bode well for eBay, but it’s the reality of what is going on in the grassroots of e-commerce.

These comments hit home for many sellers who feel they should be able to market their product and the customer will decide on price, reputation, transit-time and customer service.  Ebay now feels like a mathematical equation that requires a MBA in Amazonification to sell sell sell when they feel their business is reputable and legit.

Without a doubt, E-bay’s changes have and will change the way we do business on the giant. For now, it seems like a struggle to keep up and myself and other sellers are reluctantly putting our faith in ebay to see things on the upswing in the near future.  Hang on for the ride if you so dare!