Archive for January, 2007

No More Auction Extension Tools

Monday, January 22nd, 2007

eBay just announced new policy that squishes tools that automatically extend the length of auctions. Some sellers used these tools thinking well, if it has a day left and nobody’s bid, I can change a 3-day listing to a 5-day listing, and get two more days. You might also have those extra days towards the top of search results since once again, your item will be ending soon. Tools came out to automatically extend these listings. One infamous one was marketed (at the time) secretly by "Ethical Technologies," who soon went out of business (though evidently not because of this tool).

I was always against the concept of extending auctions like this as I felt it worked against the spirit of auctions as well as shopper expectations. I may choose to bid (or not bid) based on the idea that that listing ends in a day. I want that item, and maybe I chose to bid on the one ending soonest. Maybe I’m watching that item, and maybe I’ve set a bidding program to bid for me closer to the listing’s end.

Next thing I know, maybe the listing’s end isn’t the end! Instead of being the winner, I may have just bid on something with two more days. That’s going to seem a bit odd, and doesn’t match the experience I wanted as a shopper. If it doesn’t match the experience the shopper expects on eBay, it’s probably bad for the marketplace.

eBay didn’t say much over time until right now. These tools are now toast. I’m glad they are since I didn’t think they worked for the marketplace. eBay knows where money is made, and if they thought people made money with this strategy, they would have let these tools continue. I can only then surmise that it was either not making enough sales OR it was pissing off too many shoppers/buyers. Good riddance, auction extension tools.

Sellers, time to really work on your strategies now that you don’t have this one!


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eBay eCommerce Forum Report

Monday, January 22nd, 2007

("reprinted" from my mailing list)

I was just at the eBay eCommerce Forum, and I wanted to share some of what I heard and my commentary. :)

Changes Around The Site

I like the new changes. I think that breaking feedback down into where sellers are good or bad is good for buyers, but also good for sellers. Now is your chance to shine in all areas of course, but to really stand out from other sellers who may not be as good as you are in certain aspects of selling. I like that eBay wants to make the site and especially search simpler, faster, and easier. We all know people want to find what they want, choose the right one from the right seller, and place that bid or make a purchase. Anything eBay can do to make that easier is great for the whole marketplace. I’m looking forward to more integration with Skype since I’ve liked the eBay-Skype purchase from the beginning. A site that sees itself as being about fun and community SHOULD provide ways for people connect, and not just provide the main way to pay.

One interesting thing on the slide for eBay’s general plan was that they have eBay, Kijiji, and some others for purchasing. PayPal for paying. Skype for communicating. But blank spots where eBay said they want to be involved in "finding" (aka search) and "entertainment." I think it’ll be interesting to find out who eBay buys next (or partners with) to add "finding" and "entertainment" more strongly to the portfolio. That means that when they make those moves, please don’t be surprised, and don’t fall for the quotes you’ll see in the media about how bad these moves are. There is a larger plan here, and I think that plan is a good one… no matter what some CEOs want to say. :)

The Main Message I Heard

I think that those of us who heard the speakers took away different things. One thing I took away from Meg Sloan’s presentation, which was echoed by Bill Cobb and others, is that eBay now has hard data that shoppers who see their eBay experience as fun are more likely to bid or buy. eBay is telling you that personality in your listings can drive sales.

When we used to say this, most people told us no… sales are only about your feedback. Or only about your pricing. Or only about having a good picture and a good description. We heard from lots of sellers that listing design, layout, and organization had NOTHING to do with making sales. We disagreed, but people pushed against us. Now, eBay is saying this based on research. I am hoping that this will stop people from pushing against the message.

We have been saying this for 6 years, so we’re glad eBay is catching up. :) We know this from our work and our clients. The personality that we design into listing templates works. Shoppers are more likely to be buyers. They trust you more, and you stand out from other sellers and items. Now that eBay is going to push this message this year, you can be sure we will be reminding people to get personality into listings.

We know you don’t have time to write a listing with personality. That’s why our templates work so well. They are built in personality for every listing. You can just drop in the facts. I’ll be covering more on this during my February 5th eBay workshop.

The Fees Go To Everything

I hear a lot of people, especially around fee raise time, saying where do the fees go? "eBay doesn’t need any money so why are they taking more?" Would you like your buyers saying that about you? You have lots of money; why try to get more by marking up your shipping! It’s all the same. A business needs revenue to first stay afloat and then grow. If eBay is hiring more and more people to deal with bringing in buyers, researching what will make people shop and spend more, handling your account, and redesigning things that don’t work well, that’s where the money goes. It’s not like all the money go into the pockets of Meg and Bill. The money is spent on making changes, hiring more people, making the site more stable, and working against fraud… among other things.

"But we all know eBay is down. Traffic is down. Sales are down. Why take more fees when we all need relief?" I hear this from just about everybody except for most of my clients. Most of my clients tell me their sales are up while other people come up to me and say things like, "We all know eBay is down." Really? I just keep hearing about sales going up. Maybe it’s the personality in the listings since I still see personality in design nearly exclusively from our clients. If your sales are down but your items are in categories where there is a good market on eBay, then it’s YOU. We don’t get to blame eBay for everything. Some things are in your control.

I Love Singing :)

I hope that those of you who attende the Forum were able to hear my mini-concert on karaoke night. :)


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Can You Bleep That?

Friday, January 19th, 2007

The Wall Street Journal said that this was one of the best ads of 2006. I’m going to agree mostly because it was probably cheap to produce and is insanely viral. You might send it to someone after seeing it.

http://www.shaveeverywhere.com/

Don’t watch it if you’re offended by bleeped body parts or implications that men shaving/trimming certain parts of their body can make certain parts look bigger.

Evidently sales well exceeded expectations after this ad.


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Bill Cobb Says…

Thursday, January 18th, 2007


“I hope Mr. Wingo puts in his blog what a terrble singer he is.” – Bill Cobb

Sorry my picture is rotated.


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Other People Who Think Originality Is Highly Overrated

Thursday, January 18th, 2007

Evidently Gene Simmons is not alone in thinking originality is highly overrated. Here are some edits I did to say that some more current songs are stealing from older songs. The first two are not my best editing work as I was doing something quick and dirty to make a point. The third, I’m more proud of my editing skills. :)

Sorry, Alanis
Sorry, U2
Sorry, Queens of the Stone Age

Are there no original thoughts left? And these songs were probably bigger hits than the ones they ripped off. But no lawsuits? The older artists could have sued in my opinion.


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“Originality Is Highly Overrated”

Wednesday, January 17th, 2007

The 16 December 2006 Wall Street Journal somehow had Gene Simmons chiming in on current rock music. OK, I thought that could be interesting. Who does he think is a great current musical talent?

Evidently, being the master of spectacle, he seemed to pick out people who are spectacle. He likes The White Stripes, and Jet, citing that "Originality is highly overrated."

He’s Gene Simmons (well, actually, he’s Chaim Witz and born in Israel, but that’s another story). He could have just said, "F*** innovation."

He likes Snoop Dogg and Sean "P Diddy" Combs (he’ll always be Puffy to me, of course) for selling a lifestyle. He even liked Paris Hilton for having a catchy song.

What’s he really saying. To me, he didn’t point out any amazing singers, amazing song writers, amazing producers. He mostly picked people who are known almost MORE for their image than their music.

So it’s about marketing.

But I still think that original thoughts and innovation are probably more underrated than overrated.


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Intiimacy Tips From A Biased Source

Tuesday, January 16th, 2007

For yesterday’s post, I hit the KY Jelly website just in case there was a use for that product of which I was not aware. While there, I noticed that they offer intimacy tips. OK, what are your tips?

Tip #2 was to "enlist a wager." Now in general, I imagine the target audience visiting the KY website to feel not very sexually fulfilled and maybe somewhat disconnected from his or her partner. So what exactly would the wager be? I bet we don’t have any fulfilling sex this week?

Tip #6 was to eat chocolate together for the euphoria feeling. Well, thanks for not suggesting any harder drugs that can produce those effects!

Tip #7 was to forgive your partner for a grudge you are holding on to for a LONG time. The website says that even if you are TOTALLY right, getting rid of that grudge will relieve stress. Hey, if people could do that, they may not need to visit this website. What if the grudge is worthy and maybe you should just break up with the other person for whatever he or she did? That sure would be a stress reliever.


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I Can Carry WHAT On A Plane?!

Monday, January 15th, 2007

In honour of my flying today, today’s post is about something I read on the TSA website about what I can and can’t carry on a plane.

I can have a quart-sized zip bag of some toiletries. It can’t be a gallon bag folded over. It has to be a quart bag. HA HA to all the terrorists who stocked up on gallon bags!

I can bring toothpaste, but it has to be a mini tube that holds 3 oz. or less. I cannot bring a regular sized toothpaste tube that only has a little left and is squeezed out. HA HA again to the terrorists who wanted to fly with half a regular sized tube of toothpaste!

I can bring an unlimited amount of KY Jelly on the plane.

What?

Correct me if I’m wrong, but the main if not only usage for KY Jelly is what we euphemistically call "personal lubricant." If I can’t engage in certain relations on a plane, why would I need to bring an unlimited amount of KY Jelly on a plane?

Could I try to board a plane with a whole case of it?


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Whose Fault Is It When eBay Sellers Struggle?

Friday, January 12th, 2007

It’s easy to hear about eBay sellers who struggle. They’re posting to discussion forums. They want to be interviewed. They’re very vocal! And they often blame eBay for their failure. What’s really going on? I can’t say what’s going wrong for 100% of these people, but I have looked at plenty of their businesses when hearing about them. What do I see over and over?

Bad/wrong products

Very often, these people may be trying to sell in areas that are too crowded. They might be using drop shippers since that’s an "easy" way to sell. It’s "easy" but you have hundreds of competitors trying to do the same "easy" thing in the same place. More supply than demand, and there go margins and people just keep lowering prices to try to be one of the few that sell.

Another variation of this is having the knock-off or no-name version of a product. Some areas of eBay have very brand loyal shoppers. Someone who wants a Prada handbag may look for a Prada handbag and only want a real one. She’s not going to look for, find, or want your knock-off version. I’ve also seen this happen say if there is a very popular system for learning a new language. Those might sell very well. Then, there is a cheaper maybe lesser-known system for learning a language. Hey, people might want the better one, and your no-name or lesser version just may not really fly on eBay.

Another variation of this would be products that are unique or unknown. Examples might include:

  • A new way to juice oranges. I may go to eBay looking for a Hamilton Beach juicer, which I’ll find, but I won’t find some other way to juice oranges.
  • A pendant that holds the ashes of a loved one. Nearly zero people are looking for that on eBay, so even if you are the only seller of it, you might sell 10 per month. After fees and effort, that may not be worth it!
  • A new product launch. People may not know you yet, so they may not be looking for you.

Lack of eBay knowledge / poor choice of listing strategies

I often see struggling sellers have put everything or nearly everything into their eBay Store. Why? Fees might be lower to list there. But in return, Store items are less likely to show up in search results. Over 80% of eBay sales are made from search results. So if your item isn’t there, you may not make that sale.

Some people don’t understand the importance of titles, and might write "telephone" as the only title word. I’ve seen that! Anybody who searches for "new telephone" won’t find that item. People think the title has to be like a great name for a book when it really needs to be full of keywords a shopper might look. Over 71,000 listings have "L@@K" in the title. I’ve never bought from an item that had that in the title. That four characters that could go towards a word I actually used when searching. I don’t search for "L@@K bluetooth GPS." Do you search for L@@K or WOW?

Amateurish / angry listings

What people put in their listings can affect if people choose to buy or not. Do you want to buy from the guy who treats you like you’re very likely to be a deadbeat and never pay? Do you want to buy from the guy whose listing has threats and grumpiness? How about the listing that has small, blurry pictures? What about those 2-line listings that leave you wondering 200 things about the item? What about the items written in bad English? Don’t those make you feel like that person may be hard to communicate with?

There are ways to present yourself and your item in a way that people just won’t like. You catch more flies with honey. Changing your attitude can help your sales. I once looked at the listings and About Me for a big complaining eBay seller. I thought his listings looked horrible and his About Me page had paragraphs about how eBay is screwing him. Do you want to buy from that guy? He likes to complain that eBay doesn’t do enough to bring him buyers, but I think he’s made his own bed.

Believing everything they read / hear

Many of the people who have told me they are struggling took the advice they read in a book and/or heard from a seminar. Some of them even went to some sort of "internet wealth" seminar and bought a system that was absolutely going to make them money on eBay.

There are good authors and good speakers out there, but there are more scam artists than quality information… or so I feel. It’s important to really research people before buying in. Doing the right research might make you know ahead of time that the information may be slightly skewed or total crap. :) And if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

It’s not eBay’s fault if you fall for a scheme that delivers to you a flawed or faulty business model.

Then what IS eBay’s fault?

The only thing I will say is eBay’s fault is when I hear that a specific situation was mishandled. Say through a mistake in the system, someone gets a temporary suspension for something he or she didn’t do. That’s a mistake, and that’s eBay’s fault.

But when someone has bad item presentation, and/or bad products, and/or bad strategies, and/or a bad attitude towards shoppers, that is that person’s fault. I would love to see some of these angry people take responsibility for their own choices and in some cases, their own faulty business models.


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For People Who Think eBay Is Faltering…

Thursday, January 11th, 2007

In December, I had two separate conversations that I found interesting. I want to share them with you, and make you think about how the sources of information sometimes affect the information itself.

First was a woman who said that she talks a lot to people who are members of PESA. She said that they said that someone from Wall Street did a study of online shoppers, and out of 100 shoppers, 17 will go to eBay and 60 will go to individual websites. The conclusion was that eBay is faltering and in big trouble because that’s not where shoppers are going.

I told her that was junk science and basically crap unless and until I hear the next logical piece of information, which is once those people get to those sites, how many are buying and what are they spending on average? I hear from a lot of people who run their own websites that a VERY small percentage of people who visit actually buy. They get a lot of people leaving on their home page, and they get a lot of abandoned shopping carts. What if 12 of the 17 that land on eBay buy and 2 of the 60 people who land on websites buy? Then who’s faltering?

The other conversation was on the phone with a potential client. He tells me that eBay is "struggling." I said OK, where did you get that information. "I don’t know," he says. This reminds me of a conversation I once had with my Dad.

Dad: "The internet is getting bogged down and slower."

Me: "Where did you get that information?"

Dad: (smiling) "I made it up."

It’s interesting how quickly and easily people will gravitate to the negative with no real data. What else made this guy think eBay was struggling? He was reading a discussion board of complainers. Well, sure! Listen to all the people whose sales are going down and who are not taking responsibility for it, and you will surely think that eBay is out there, purposefully destroying businesses for no reason!

Next time you think you know something, next time you think you’ve got some statistics, consider the source of those statistics. Is it a person or group who has made a name for themselves as purveyors of negative press on eBay? Is it people who may be messing up their own businesses but want to point fingers? Consider the source before you make a decision about your own business based on this "data."


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