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An interview with Dan Wilson

By Chris Dawson June 4, 2007 - 11:18 am

Dan Wilson, ex-eBay Community Manager, TameBay guest blogger, and, of course, author, has a new book out this week. Make Serious Money on eBay UK is a brand new, completely up-to-date look look at ecommerce: how to get started and how to expand your business both on eBay and beyond. TameBay talks to its author.

So what have you been doing since leaving eBay?

Since I left eBay I’ve been doing all sorts of things and doing a bit of traveling. There are lots of people out there who want to know about online communities, eBay and ecommerce in general so I’ve been in demand as a consultant. I’m currently doing a stint with BT Tradespace, a new online community for small businesses. It’s definitely something that every eBay sellers should take a look at.

I’ve also, obviously, been writing the new book and I’ve also written a series of articles in the Daily Telegraph about eBay. I’m now working on a new book about internet marketing aimed at small businesses, due out next year.

Why did you want to write a new version of the book?

eBay has changed immeasurably since I first wrote Make Money on eBay UK in 2004. Most importantly the greater professionalism of the army of eBay sellers who use the site to make a living has changed the texture of the marketplace. Of course, some people are still starting out (and all that’s still in the book) but I think what people need keenly is about making more money and making more sales and helping sellers build sounder foundations for their eBay business so there’s much more in the book about that.

Equally, the changes that Google has precipitated are significant as is the ever-changing safety environment. The whole book needed to be brought up to date and extended: so that’s what I’ve done.

I also really wanted to look beyond eBay and how eBay sellers can use eBay as a springboard for other selling online. It strikes me that every serious eBay seller needs to be expanding off the platform and looking for other sales opportunities either with their own website or with other marketplaces. It represents too much of a business risk to have everything riding on eBay alone and truth be told if you’re selling on eBay you have all the skills to sell elsewhere.

Why are you still writing about eBay now you’ve left?

eBay fascinates me. I love the diversity of people that use the site and I am constantly amazed by the ingenuity of eBay sellers. I also love buying on eBay. It’s somewhere that you can genuinely find bargains as well sidestep the big chains and buy from individuals and small businesses. In the UK every high street looks the same and by using eBay I feel I am supporting small concerns and cottage industries which is preferable from further lining the pockets of Mr Tesco and the rest.

From a selling point of view eBay remains the easy way in to ecommerce and with internet shopping still on the up I firmly believe that taking a business online should be on every business’s list of priorities.

You were an eBay employee for eight years. Does your book not inevitably just tell people what eBay want them to know?

I’m not sure I was ever completely on message! eBay has had no editorial input into the book and has not censored or edited it in any way. But it is unabashedly pro-eBay. People can make up their own minds but the new content on safety and my views on taking your sales off eBay certainly benefit from me being ‘outside the tent.’

Your book talks about other marketplaces and having your own website; is eBay dying?

eBay is in rude good health but it has changed. Buyers too are becoming more sophisticated. Time was that eBay was one of only a few places where people would come straight to and shop but now they start with Google and the landscape is more fragmented. Sellers who want to keep on increasing their sales into 2008 and beyond need to look at other venues in addition their eBay selling.

Other marketplaces and a seller’s own website have advantages: lower costs, greater control, different rules to name a few.

Which other marketplaces would you advise sellers to seriously consider?

It depends what you’re selling but I’ve heard a lot of positive comment about Amazon. What is fairly obvious to me is that the ebay-a-likes (eBid or Tazbar for instance) aren’t getting cut through. I don’t think that eBay’s hegemony is going to be challenged by one single eBay-like venue: you can’t out-eBay eBay. But what we are seeing are small, niche marketplaces finding an audience and doing well such as abebooks, specialistauctions and petsmart. I suspect we’ll start hearing about more smaller marketplaces and I advise sellers to have a pop and examine the results.

But more significant than other marketplaces is the opportunity offered by a seller’s own website. Every seller who is making a living on eBay needs to start building their own website in addition to eBay. Of the many sellers I’ve spoken to none has ever said they regretted setting up their website. Most regret not having done it sooner.

For those who’ve read your book but still have questions, can you offer any more help?

I’m happy to answer any questions that your readers have. :O) Feel free to leave them in the comments.

Do you have a special price for your book for all TameBay readers? 😉

I’ll be selling it on eBay in the next few weeks: I’ll link from my blog. Til then, Amazon is probably the cheapest option.

  • 12 years ago

    I see you mention specialist auctions – it is a nice site, the people involved are great, and the range of goods offered is getting better… but I STILL can’t see many actual sales….

  • 12 years ago

    Josordoni,

    It’s all in the sales ehh ;O) but as I recall, when we kicked off eBay in the UK, it took a long time to really get going. I think if sellers want other venues that work they have to put work in to begin with without immediate results. If all the sellers on a new venue pull together and promote it, it stands a good chance of taking off.

    What strikes me as excellent about specialistauctions are the named and pictured ‘category guides’ who give it a personal feel. Now obviously this is a difficult aspect to scale up but it’s reassuring to all and a nice touch.

    Dan

  • 12 years ago

    Thanks Dan, it certainly seems to have been set up with excellent ideas in mind – the expert moderators for each section have to be a good idea.

    Your comments about ebay in the early days are interesting, it is easy to forget ebay had to start somewhere. I wonder if it is easier or harder to start something with nothing else to compare it to?

  • 12 years ago

    Hey Dan, good to see you’re keeping busy and doing good work 🙂

    If you were to start an auction site yourself, what three things would you do / offer / include which you think would give it an edge?

    I guess what I’m asking is if you think folk should spread their wings a bit and look at other venues, what do you reckon is most important to look for 8)

  • 12 years ago

    I wonder if, in the face of the eBay monolith that we now see where everything is counted in millions, even much smaller yet successful marketplaces will always seem quieter or less successful. I suspect we’ll need to change our outlook and stop thinking in terms of one great big marketplace where one size sorta fits all.

    Like I said, I find it very unlikely that anyone is going to out-eBay eBay, but I can see something niche, taking a different expert slant succeeding if it can deliver the all important sales.

  • 12 years ago

    Thanks for the fast answer Dan 😀

    I see one of the biggest problems faced by the smaller and specialist venues is raising their profile and becoming visible to buyers and sellers alike. Do you have any advice to offer these sites / niche markets which you think could make them more attractive to potential users?

    Since eBay has become both a verb and a noun – just like hoover etc – isn’t it going to be really hard for any site to break into this market successfully, whether niche or not.

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