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What eBay needs to do

By Chris Dawson September 28, 2008 - 12:17 pm

Wow, that got some response, didn’t it? Thanks to everyone who left a comment on yesterday’s post, and in particular to Scott and Henrietta who responded on their own blogs.

In response to comments made by a couple of people, I want to emphasise that I am not complaining about lack of eBay sales. eBay still has buyers, and that is the reason that I and thousands of other sellers continue to list there. But compared to any number of other sales channels, our own websites included, eBay is becoming hard work. We spend time and effort jumping through their hoops, and in return, we don’t even get to feel that our eBay income is secure.

Today, I’m nailing nine theses to the door 😉 This is what eBay needs to do moving forward:

  1. A one-year moratorium on fee changes We’ve had two major fee reconfigurations inside nine months. Let us get on with selling without having to spend hours with a calculator refiguring our listing strategies.
  2. DSR granularity available now eBay judge us by our DSRs. We need a decent level of information so we can read these figures properly. At the very least, we want to see how many buyers have left us each score.
  3. Introduce a proper warning system for sellers suspended under SNP, with right of appeal, and a human being to talk to. Right now, any of us could lose our account at any minute, and do nothing about it. That doesn’t make for long-term business partnership.
  4. End secret policies (like the limitation on branded goods sales). We need transparency for all eBay policies. Secret listing limits and polices apparently applied inconsistently from seller to seller must end.
  5. Give us proper notice of changes to the site, and an end to polices being introduced piecemeal and retracted later I know eBay are trying on this one, but they’re not there yet. Policy changes should be thought out and announced well in advance, not introduced as a knee-jerk reaction to questions on the forums (like the ban on sub-99p items) or as accidental fall-out to other site changes (like the loss of ISV for UK BIN listings). People’s livelihoods depend on things like these, so stop changing them at a moment’s notice.
  6. Retract the ‘no paper payments’ policy, for the sake of your buyers No one believes this is about security; it’s only about eBay’s bottom line. Telling sellers they have to accept PayPal is one thing; telling buyers they can’t pay by cheque even if they want to, is a step too far. Think of the buyer experience.
  7. Feedback editing should be introduced when it was promised Lorrie said “before the holidays”. Subsequent announcements said “by the end of October”. It’s October this week, and I see no announcements about the roll-out. Sellers want this. Prioritise it.
  8. Remove all third-party advertising from the view item page The *only* possible action on the view item page should be buying the item. Stop distracting our buyers (yes, they’re our buyers: sellers are eBay’s buyers, and we’ve already paid for the view item page).
  9. Let eBay catch up with the rest of the internet With so many sellers listing so many items, eBay is always going to be a complex site. Every change made to functionality or layout, therefore, should seek to minimise that complexity. Make it easier to use. In particular, recognise that half of eBay purchases are now buy it now, and give buyers a shopping cart: buying on eBay should not be more difficult than buying on every other ecommerce site out there.

Over to you…

  • Mark Classic
    12 years ago

    Change within or change without.

    The last time something like this was nailed to a door, the world was changed, but the change had to be taken outside of the existing organisation…

    Has Ebay become institutionalised?

    Mark

  • Jimbo
    12 years ago

    The trouble is that eBay has such a diverse range of sellers that my “What eBay needs to do” list might be quite different to yours.

    I personally think a “what I need to do” list will be much more beneficial to most sellers.

    In my opinion eBay did needed to make some radicle change and that they have done. Time will tell if the changes were right or wrong for me as a seller but I’m hopeful.

    PS I wouldn’t imagine that there will be any more major changes till after Christmas (with the exception of possibly the editing of feedback, which, in my opinion, is not really that important).

  • 12 years ago

    I think you may be wrong there, Jimbo – it looks pretty certain there is something to do with postage costs happening next month.

  • Jimbo
    12 years ago

    #3 but will it have any impact on me? If it does have any impact, will it be negative?

  • 12 years ago

    Can’t really answer that until we know what it is, can we.

  • Jimbo
    12 years ago

    #2 oops radicle = radical 🙂

  • 12 years ago

    Great points.

    I wish I could believe that #1 will happen but I think we all know there will be some change in January. Actually I remember hearing on someone’s blog that the $0.35 fixed price insertion fees is only until the end of the year at which point eBay will revaluate it. Plus it could be the case that fees are now too high. I wouldn’t mind a “real” decrease.

    For #6 I actually like no longer having to offer checks/money orders as a payment method. I know I never actually had to offer it but I wouldn’t want to lose any business over it. I’ve had a very high percentage of bad checks (far more than bad PayPal payments). It also means that people can’t tell me they are sending a check and leave me holding the item waiting for it. I’ve lost a lot of money that way as well.

    Still strongly opposed to #7. People’s minds change over time. Making it editable encourages people to be rash when making decisions about when to leave feedback. You should only leave feedback when you think you are done with the transaction. To back that up there was a discussion in the forums where the buyer left negative feedback over an accidental misquote on shipping method (even though the two shipping methods are identical). The buyer left this feedback and bad DSRs before even receiving the product. And the buyer’s excuse, “I’ll retract it in October.” This was a real buyer, not some seller messing with everybody.

  • 12 years ago

    It’s a good starting point, but is anybody listening? I sure hope so.

    At my price point the problem is not with making sales on eBay. It is making a profit on sales on eBay. eBay’s take percentage is unacceptably high and the amount of time required to service the sale directly and proportionately reduces my ROI.

    Purely from a maths point, I am better off making less sales elsewhere.

    I think this is where someone comes and says ‘Oh goody, with you off the site more sales for me’ except I’m not selling what you sell and when my customers go elsewhere to buy chances are good somebody else there IS selling what you sell.

  • 12 years ago

    #7 you are quite right.

  • 12 years ago

    Sue (#3)

    I just blogged it –
    http://www.buildaskill.com/blog/2008/09/29/uk-careless-news-mail-re-disturbs-sellers/

    After doing so, and while here I just had the thought … Could it be perhaps that the loss of sub-99p listings is a fore-runner to category based capped P&P on the UK site … a sort of reverse psychology to prepare people for loading the item price to cover insufficient P&P maximums?

    Re: your #9 in the post – eBay India already has a shopping cart function (and has had for several months) … and remember it was GazLanNaThai who woke up the UK about India having the ISV fee (I prefer to call it IVF – eBay’s attempt at a shot in the arm) and predicted that the IVF would be introduced after the UK chopped visibility in spring 2007.

    It was also him that first spotted the arrival of the IVF on eBay Canada this year – 24 hours before eBay officially announced it was coming.

    Personally I no longer care, the UK cutting off of overseas shops subscribers last week (AFTER the changes had rolled) has shown me where all us expatriates are not wanted.

    In fact … now I remember why I dropped in …
    just wanted to say bye bye to all the UK users who’ve traded with me over the years – they know who I am. I’ll be on the other 27 eBay sites (but not the UK) if you want to keep buying.

    Ed

  • 12 years ago

    Ed: yes, I know eBay India has a cart; I blogged that months, if not years ago! That’s why I’m so mystified that it hasn’t been rolled out on any other site. The infrastructure is patently available.

  • just john
    12 years ago

    What about a decent customer support. I have never used a worse CS. They are ill informed do not know half the rules and can never sort a problem unless its in black and white on the help pages.

  • 12 years ago

    #12 I am convinced that eBay support has had it’s number redirected to British Gas by mistake, this is the only possible reason why they reply to every question with a completely unrelated answer,,

    there cannot be any other explanation,, you would have to drop to the very lowest depths of stupidity to stand up in front of share holders and tell them everything is under control given the facts to hand.

  • 12 years ago

    Add to the list..

    Reconsider the intention to withdraw the left hand shop navigation and replace it with the links across the top of the listing description (4 catagories plus a drop down box with perhaps 20 more).

    Buyers expect to see left side navigation and we should have the choice to use it.

  • 12 years ago

    And with reference to Best Match

    Its a joke ‘search on ‘GUDEBROD SILK’ … see 380068211688 and compare it with 280269154296

    The USA sellers product is currently at position 3 (total price £9.42 – no sales – average DSR’s) whereas my item is at 5 (total price £6.25 – good DSR’s)..

    A simple example to prove BEST MATCH is nothing but a piece of useless maths!

    Which is a better match? Even a simpleton can see its the latter…

    If in such a simple example the search results are clearly wrong what hope is there for the other few million listings???

  • Jimbo
    12 years ago

    #15 Paul but you have position 1, 2, 4 & 5 when I do the said search. What’s the problem?

  • 12 years ago

    #11 Sue

    I can only suspect they are still “perfecting” the shopping cart on India.

    Remembering India has two heavily used payment systems only available within India (PaisaPay and that one for paying direct to sellers from local banks), and that PayPal is not widely adopted there, there has been a lot of fine tuning and tweaking of the various payment systems there, this year.

    I do suspect we will all eventually get it, but also suspect that there are issues with direct bank payments. Oz, SG, and a number of other sites (including Belgium for example) have the option to input seller bank details when listing, and have them displayed automatically to winning bidders as a payment option. The Indian system goes a little beyond this and my feeling is that “eBay Payments” as opposed to PayPal, are having issues getting this to work as fluidly and as fully integrated as they’d like it to work.

    Best guess is they’re looking for some sort of API call back from the banks to confirm the payment happened.

    The banks globally are working on such systems – refer to the ipcno.com website for one such initiative. Toss in the increasing trend of “mobile banking & payments” via phones etc. and the writing begins to look like it’s on the wall for systems like PayPal etc, for non-international payments. The banks are even planning competing for the (to them, previously) unprofitable micro-payments business now – that’ll yield an interesting (and probably bloody) shake-out of the online payments industry.

    I also believe with all this rapid development in the payments world, eBay don’t want to be caught releasing an already outdated cart system, and that’s the prime reason for delivery delays on a global scale. This thought would be confirmed if eBay rolled out a cart to another minor site, with a different look and feel to the cart system, compared to India.

    Time will tell.

    Ed

  • Mark Classic
    12 years ago

    Just some thoughts on “Best Match” and “DSR’S”…

    With the current “invisibility” of the Best Match algorythm, Ebay can do what they please.

    They could favour any large seller as a sweetener to get them onside.

    We have already seen Ebay do this with Buy.com with a “special rate” for listing.

    Now if Ebay are prepared to give a special rate, who is to say why they would not give a “special” placement in search.

    The invisibility of “best match” is a concern, and until it is transparent, there is going to be this distrust of Ebay.

    Why keep it hidden other than to benefit someone?

    Keeping it hidden does not benefit the seller that is for sure.

    Keeping it hidden does not benefit the buyer (if it does I cannot figure out a reason). I know they can argue the best listings can get the best sales, but who defines what the “best listings” are and for who’s benefit?

    That is an irrelevant argument for the buyer, they just want to buy something based on their criteria, but Ebay have decided to set the criteria, which ultimately has to be in their best interests.

    If it were open, then sellers and buyers would know why there is success in some quarters and not others and respond appropriately.

    Keeping it hidden so that Ebay can favour corporate clients benefits Ebay, a wonderful sweetener, if that is indeed happening.

    “We will give you the best fees and the best placement if you put all of your inventory on Ebay, are you interested?”

    This is the only logical reason I can think of for having “Best Match” closed to scrutiny.

    Something that is hidden by nature is trying to hide something.

    Have you also noticed that DSR’s calculations are hidden…

    Now Buys DSR’s sit there at a comfortable 4.8 across the board.

    Could it be that DSR ratings are hidden to benefit corporate clients?

    Could it be that Best Match algorithm is hidden to benefit corporate clients?

    While it is all so hush hush, how will we ever know?

    Now if you were trying to bring a big seller online to replace all the small sellers, without alienating those small sellers, how would you do it?

    Would you create a system whereby you could do the following:

    1. Move out the small sellers that clutter the site with low value items.
    2. Give the corporates lower rates.
    2. Protect the corporates from buyer discontent with a weighted hidden feedback system.
    3. Favour the corporates in searches.

    That would work, wouldn’t it?

    And remember, the current changes are just the first year of a three year plan according to J. Donahoe (the MD of Ebay).

    A three year plan to achieve what exactly?

    The corporate selling hub of the internet?

    Thoughts?

    Mark

  • 12 years ago

    Well I have to say ebay did me the biggest favour in the world when they suspended me in March over £120!! lol

    Not only have I missed out on all these changes and constant hoop jumping but the company is doing better without it!

    When it happened and we relied on ebay 90% I thought that’s it, it’s over! But picked myself back on and forged on with the websites.

    Our website sales alone are more than we took on ebay 6 months ago (it was our 6 month anniversary on the 19th sept) let alone anything else we are doing:

    Unit spend is up

    Overheads are down, ebay is very time consuming

    Stupid emails and questions are down!

    Profit is up!!

    All I can say is move away, make the jump to your own websites and push at them and it will work, I’m not saying don’t have ebay as part of the plan just make it a smaller part!

    stu

  • katakitty
    12 years ago

    I can reluctantly put up with fee changes, DSR’s, policies etc but the number one issue for me as a buyer is the bl***y search ! I don’t want or require a list of alternatives because my criteria brought up zilch for cyring out loud.

    One of these days my teacup is going to go through the computer screen in frustration.

    Selling on eBay has always been a time consuming chore but more importantly buying has now become a chore and surely that can’t be right.

  • northumbrian
    12 years ago

    as A buyer I dont want to miss those items that are available, but are not available so to speak because the seller does not know how to get the item seen
    I want to see all that is available and then make my decision

  • Richard (from eBay)
    12 years ago

    Thanks Sue – interesting post. At least there are 9 rather than 95…

    I can’t comment on all of them – but I hope other staff might, if not necessarily here. 2, 3, 4, 6 and 7 fall more or less within my purview; here are my very brief thoughts on them:

    2 – Yes, makes sense. Although sellers can glean more from DSRs than they could before DSRs, I understand the hunger for more transparency as we build more benefits and sanctions on them. This is in plan, but it’s not likely we’ll see changes in 2008.

    3 – Also makes sense. We’ve made changes to the SNP system already this year to give all but the worst-performing sellers warning before we take action against their accounts. There are appeal routes now but I agree they could be made easier. From our point of view, the great majority of appeals that we handle now are from sellers who are ‘bang to rights’ – the close-calls and sellers with legitimite excuses are the ones who make the blogs.

    4. We’ll try to get as transparent as we can – I accept the current forest of policies and consequences are difficult to follow. Some areas may need to remain somewhat opaque despite this, either to prevent reverse-engineering by fraudsters or because some policies (like fraud risk management or SNP) are by their nature ‘model-based’ and hence difficult to communicate clearly.

    6. The ban on paper is a US move – we have no plans to replicate it in the UK, where the payments landscape is very different. You may scoff, but these moves aren’t to promote our bottom line. We’re pretty clear that they cost us about as much in lost buyers and sellers as they gain us in PP fees. They’re made to try to stem the flow of buyers (and, to a lesser extent, sellers) who experience financial loss on eBay. The paper ban is unlikely to be rolled back in the US.

    7. This is coming soon – at the very end of October. We’ll be trying to strike a balance between allowing sellers to get ‘unfair’ comments removed and not moving back to a world where buyers are harassed if they leave negative feedback.

    Regards
    Richard

  • Jimbo
    12 years ago

    #20, I don’t have any problem with the new search. I would say it is an improvement if anything.

  • Chris
    12 years ago

    Can somebody tell me how long it takes for the seller dashboard to appear? The announcement on 30th May implied that everyone with 10 DSRs in the last 12 months will get one. My DSRs appeared on My Ebay when I got my 10th DSR on 16th September and I now have 12, but still no sign of a dashboard.

  • 12 years ago

    Thanks for responding, Richard. Few more thoughts of my own then:

    with #4 “preventing reverse-engineering by fraudsters” – it worries me that eBay let this priority dominate. You punish all the thousands of good sellers you have, because of a few fraudsters. For example, you’re currently stopping many decent sellers from listing genuine branded goods, with a secret listing limit that they only know about when they hit it. How is this going to stop fraudsters, who’ll just open another account to sell fakes?

    and regarding #6, the paper payments policy – if a buyer chooses to pay with a cheque, that’s in spite of all the publicity all over eBay saying that PayPal is safer. At some point, you have to let buyers make their own decisions. If they choose to post a cheque, that should be up to them.

  • 12 years ago

    i did make this point on another forum 🙄
    but it did not go down well….but anyway

    How are we protected from buyers buying loads from a seller, not paying and then mutually agreeing the sale void

    is the item still search ranking improved.

  • northumbrian
    12 years ago

    whoops nearly forgot
    to say

    Oh goody more sales for me

  • Chris
    12 years ago

    I presume Richard (from eBay) will have no problem if next year the Inland Revenue decides that because some people fiddle their taxes the system is being changed. He won’t know how much he is paying, how it is worked out or when it will be taken. Random payments will be taken, which he will be unable to check, because the formula is a secret. There will be no Customer Services provided, unless he is among the top 10% of earners. Off course he could always ask a question on a forum, and get told he’s just a dolphin so he doesn’t matter.

  • northumbrian
    12 years ago

    wadda ya mean “SOME” people fiddle their taxes
    any one who can does 😆

  • 12 years ago

    #29 Not me, every pound I make at the car boot on Sunday will be declared….

    to my shoebox in the loft 😆

  • Chris
    12 years ago

    Just a slip of the pen Northumbrian. Was a civil servant for nearly 20 years, so I suppose I came in the category of those who couldn’t. Must mend my ways and get a shoebox. Don’t think I’ll keep it in the loft. No sense of balance and might fall on few remaining marbles.

  • 12 years ago

    Thanks for nailing these theses to the floor, Sue:) Hope someone is listening…

  • john
    12 years ago

    What is this “prevent reverse engineering from fraudsters?” That is such an excuse. How can a “fraudster” reverse anything if you guys actually set out what the SNP policies will be?

  • 12 years ago

    #19 Hey Stu, I read your story here earlier in the year and it’s great to read an update from you. Your website experiences are pretty similar to mine – it’s a much easier and more pleasant way to sell than the ridiculous hoops Ebay makes sellers jump through, isn’t it?

    My very best wishes to you.

  • 12 years ago

    A one-year moratorium on fee changes
    What should be remembered is the reports of Stephanie Tilenius’s speech to Channel Adviser at the beginning of April, where it was clearly stated on the Ebay Blog, et al that “She also made it clear that the concept of an annual price change no longer existed at eBay and that further pricing adjustments could come at any time.”

    http://ebayinkblog.com/2008/04/02/ebay-at-channel-advisor%E2%80%99s-catalyst-conference/
    (I was actually looking for a transcript of that specific speech when I first found Tamebay, who briefly reported it)

    It really appears that part of Ebay’s strategy is to stop any businesses that use their services from utilising a business plan. Living under the threat of price rises “at any time” does nothing for seller productivity, nor does trying to adjust to constant change.

    The points made by Sue above are entirely valid, but I don’t think that Ebay has any intention of slowing changes or co-ordinating them to benefit sellers. Incredibly no buyer that I have spoken to face to face has appreciated the changes either, most of them find having to constantly adjust, just makes Ebay too much work, and they reduce the amount they buy there accordingly. All of that said, I echo Sue above, I am achieving strong sales and very buoyant prices overall – that is the ONLY thing which keeps me active on Ebay. As a seller I feel like I have been treated with contempt this year – my overall fees as a percentage of my sales have risen by more than a third this year, and being in Australia I subsidise the discounts of UK and USA sellers (I would qualify for the top tier discounts if I lived in the UK or North America), and all the while my right to set the fair and reasonable terms of MY business are being undermined constantly (allegedly to protect me, and my buyers).

    There are still good sales being made on Ebay, but it is in SPITE of Ebay’s management, not because of it. However, this year, the Ebay brand has been damaged, and brand loyalty is fading among those who I speak to face to face. In my opinion the short term goals are adversely affecting the long term health of Ebay.

    Disgruntled (oinkless? ), Kevin

  • Board_Surfer
    12 years ago

    I would be happy if they would just stop sneaking Auction FVF rises into nearly all the change announcements.

  • 12 years ago

    It may be easier these days to figure out Google’s search engine algorithm than to understand all of ebay’s rules and policies. On top of that, they differ for each user.

    Just like with anything, when it gets too big, it gets screwed up. Still, there are new internet users everyday, who will become ebay users, filling the slots of the people leaving. I think ebay figures this as well, so they just do whatever they want, figuring they’re the only show in town.

    Where’s googbay?

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