Posts Tagged ‘eBay & ecommerce’

An example of why Amazon is winning against eBay

Wednesday, March 6th, 2019

We were looking at small desks online and identical items are available for sale on both eBay and Amazon. These identical desks, for reference, are the first of this specific products offered under the search ‘small desk’.

Here are the two offerings to compare and contrast:

And on Amazon:

A few things leap out. Firstly, the price. The Amazon desk is nearly half the price. But eBay offers free postage! Amazon postage is £6.95 and delivers to the whole of the UK (including Northern Ireland, which is important in this case.) The Amazon item also has reviews, if not universally positive and also an experienced seller and the confidence that they are stiffer on seller standards than eBay. (On eBay this seller has only 6 reviews in the past month or so.)

Which one would you buy?

Tools and Services for eBay Sellers

Friday, October 15th, 2010

Here are some tools and services that have caught my eye recently that should be of use to online retailers and eBay sellers.

Parcel Checker
eBay sellers have to take a keen, even obsessive, interest in postage services and couriers. It’s one way that sellers can stay competitive and provide that vital 5 star service that buyers want. But it’s surprising how many sellers might be in a bit of a rut. It’s worth keeping an eye out for new services and offers to make sure that you’re getting the best deal on the best services. Sending bulky or heavy items requires a courier and there are loads of services out there to choose from. That’s why I like this parcel checker which is basically a comparison engine for couriers. Prices depend on speed and the nature of what you’re selling but this takes the heavy lifting work out of getting the best deal.

eBay iPhone App
Probably the most significant development in the eBay marketplace this year has been the dramatic rise in people using their Apple iPhone and other smartphones to buy goods. eBay itself reckons that Brits buy something every 10 seconds using their iPhone. If you have an iPhone check out the eBay app. It’s free from iTunes. As a seller, it’s well worth exploring, not least to check out how your items and listings look on a mobile. eBay is pinning a lot of hope on mobile as a future for the marketplace so keep an eye on developments. These are interesting times.

One of the most exciting things about eBay is the wealth of data there is out there about buying habits and trends. But many sellers are flying blind and not getting to grips with what’s selling, for how much and what the next hot items will be. That’s why is a fascinating service. It’s a US-based business that slices and dices all the buying activity on eBay and presents it in a very easy and digestable way. eBay changes fast and using a tool like Terapeak means that you can monitor your own sales and compare your own activity with the marketplace in general. Are you doing better than your competitors? If you were considering a major investment in stock, for instance, then taking a look at Terapeak would give you an indication of whether you were getting a good deal or not. Taking the guess work out of buying stock is well worth the modest fees they charge.

I’ve been hearing good things about recently from eBay sellers. It’s a website dedicated to selling liquidated and surplus stock. Lots of eBay sellers are often keen to get their hands on more things to sell at the right price and Stockshifters sells all sorts, usually in job lots or the pallet-load. The array of different lines and stock is dizzying, everything from fridge freezers to DVD box sets, and I can see it becoming a vital source of supply for lots of sellers.

eBay: Don’t you think it looks and feels tired?

Wednesday, June 9th, 2010

eBay has been part of my life since I first worked for the company in July 1999. In all those years, I’ve usually been selling something and certainly buying something each month. My selling goes in fits and starts. And for the first time in ages, over the past few weeks, I’ve been having a clear out and flogging off bits and bobs. I’ve been maintaining an inventory of 30 or so items every week and it’s been a useful reminder of what eBay selling is all about.

Of course, 30 items is a miniscule number of listings compared to many eBay sellers. People who make a living from eBay, and businesses who trade full time, often manage inventories of hundreds of lines and thousands of items. I’m in the nursery by comparison.

It’s a useful excuse for me though and a good impetus for me to make some eBay related posts over the next few days.

Here are some top line observations:

I remain astonished by the vibrancy of eBay. It has so much traffic. I’ve been selling stuff and getting good prices. I get loads of visits and have no complaints about what eBay claims when it calls itself the world’s biggest online marketplace. It is, it really is, a remarkable marketplace to plug in to.

Blimey, the fees have gone up. eBay is expensive. And it’s not just eBay’s fees. It’s PayPal too. More of which in a future post.

Most people on eBay are lovely. But I feel buyers have become more expectant and demanding. That’s fine. But I’m a bloke fitting my eBay selling around other things.

How crap is Turbo Lister? It was never really up to scratch: it’s always been an acceptable utility but it’s not classy, clever or comprehensive. It’s a 20th century app in an iPhone age. The integration, for instance, with eBay’s pre-filled items descriptions is arduous.

PayPal needs a massive shake up. It’s a good service. They handle money impeccably but it’s not a friendly and easy service to use. The help and advice sections are not good at all.

I guess my overall impression is a bit insubstantial. Why does using eBay and PayPal feel a bit like going back in time? I’m no tech snob, I’m not an early adopter. I’ll always value substance over style. But selling on eBay feels unpolished and unexciting.

It’s 2010. Sites like Twitter, software like WordPress and devices like the iPhone make eBay look and feel old. The only really important question is “does that matter?” The more I’ve been using eBay of late leaves me thinking that it really does. They’re at risk of being left behind in what is increasingly a shiny web world.

eBay Europe vs

Tuesday, December 16th, 2008

ebay logoTameBay have confirmed what’s been rumoured for some time: eBay offices across Europe will close, teams are merging, jobs will be lost and operations are being streamlined and centralised in London and Switzerland. eBay Inc. announced in October that circa 10% of jobs would be cut from a marketplaces workforce of approx 10k. The good news? Reportedly, none of these job cuts are hitting European Customer Support staff. Skype and PayPal are also unaffected.

There is obvious logic to these cuts. Any business should keep a sober eye on staffing and, in an eBay Europe context, it’s obvious that some countries haven’t delivered results that justify the staffing they’ve enjoyed. Judicious staff cuts can be part of the sensible strategy any company pursues. Not least in times of recession.

But even in these straightened times, the significance of these job losses and the related restructuring shouldn’t be lost. Ever since eBay landed in Europe in 1999 (with the purchase of and the establishment of, it has pursued a ‘local’ strategy: teams in-country utilising local talent and knowledge to translate the eBay playbook into a language the native population will embrace. It has been a phenomenally successful approach. eBay marketplaces in Britain and Germany are massively profitable and represent eBay’s second and third biggest marketplaces respectively (after the USA). eBay is now decreasing its staffing in Europe for the first time.

There is flab at eBay. But is it in Europe? The European operation is lean in comparison to the much larger organisation at eBay HQ in San Jose. There multiple campuses are occupied by many thousands of employees. Cuts are being made stateside, but if estimates that the eBay Europe changes represent a net loss of 300 jobs (and I reckon that’s a reasonable, even slightly conservative, estimate) then proportionally the knife is cutting deeper on this side of the Atlantic.

One thing that concerns me enormously is the loss of expertise. The calibre of eBay staff is very high. And it seems obvious to suggest that the needs of eBay buyers and sellers in Main Street USA are different enough from those in Munich, Manchester, Marseille, Madrid and Milan to justify a team that reflects that diversity as closely as is profitable. The restructuring will mean that great experience and knowledge will be lost.

Restructuring is a tonic that eBay management turn to with the ease and enthusiasm of a drunk who thinks that just one drink first thing in the morning will solve the problems of the day. The ‘re-org’ is god. Constant structural change revered. Looking back at my seven years with eBay, I can’t even count the different teams, divisions and managers I served under.

But a ‘re-org’ (restructuring, streamlining, rationalising, retrenchment, whatever you want to call it) is only ever that. It’s not a substitute for the right strategy. Come January, a new, probably somewhat disorientated, and slimmed-down team in Zurich and London will have to work out what’s next. There is huge profit and growth to be found in Europe. The essential health of the marketplace is sound but the challenges facing eBay in Europe are huge. I’m concerned that these changes will diminish eBay’s ability to prosper in these difficult economic times.

Can a reduced, pan-European team chart the course to the reinvigorated growth that Wall St. and shareholders demand? I’m not sure. But once the short-term savings of job cuts have passed, it’s certain that analysts will still want eBay to find its old magic. So, what’s the next trick?

eBay: Can ‘diamonds’ be forever?

Thursday, December 4th, 2008

eBay’s level-playing field was one of the features that marked it aside from the competition and set it on course for phenomenal success. The level-playing field promised equality of opportunity rather than equality of outcome and the same fees and rules for all. If there were benefits or incentives, they were transparent and obtainable on merit. All sellers were created equal and could aspire to and achieve greatness through only hard work, customer satisfaction and playing fair.

Unlike today, big businesses didn’t have a hotline to eBay HQ. The creation of ‘diamond’ PowerSellers (where big sellers or retailers new to eBay can negotiate terms with eBay execs) put a great big rut in the increasingly unlevel playing field but eBay was firm that standards wouldn’t be compromised.


To quote eBay’s Dinesh Lathi last week: “In terms of the Diamond Tier of PowerSeller, we are willing to negotiate special pricing with any seller who can meet the very high customer service and volume requirements we demand of these sellers.”

Enter Smartbargains. A big American retailer and, according to Randy Smythe and Tamebay, one of eBay’s newest ‘Diamonds’. Their Feedback is shabby and they don’t seem to be selling much either. Justifiably, there have been highly critical voices from established sellers. After all, Smartbargains are presumably getting preferential ‘diamond’ fees whilst falling short of standards other sellers are held to.

When I worked for eBay, as eBay UK’s Community Manager, I was often asked how I coped with the seemingly endless chorus of complaints from members on the discussion boards. I’d usually point out that much of the chat and discussion wasn’t negative at all, and actually there was a lot of positive comment and amazing member-to-member help going on out there. Secondly, I’d add that much of it was justified and, even if it wasn’t, every member had bought the right to whinge as much as they liked because they paid our wages. And then finally, I’d suggest that the clamour was a good thing: “They complain because they care. When they stop caring, that’s when we’re screwed.”

So as eBay follows this course with diamond powersellers, they should beware. An amazingly passionate, knowledgable and hard-working group of people are watching and scrutinising. When a ‘diamond’ slips, it’ll be big news. So, it might be time to tighten up the entry criteria of these essentially endorsed sellers.

Check out

Tuesday, December 2nd, 2008

I’ve been enjoying It’s a shame they don’t have a UK site (but they’re working on it) and I’d hardly call it perfect (some of the image quality is shabby) but it’s a fun way of dicing/slicing/enhancing the eBay search experience. Here’s a search I did for Dr Who items that kept me absorbed in a way that eBay’s own search hasn’t done for ages.


Whilst it’s great that a pictorial search has been developed by picclick (and I’m keen on any innovative developments that make finding items more easily): why isn’t eBay rushing out something similar and better? Etsy is definitely the marketplace leader in this field.

Not eBay’s VAT Announcement

Friday, November 28th, 2008

abLike many people (see TameBay), I’m staggered by eBay’s breathtakingly arrogant post regarding VAT. You’ll recall that the government announced Monday last that VAT would be reduced from 17.5% to 15% for 13 months starting Monday next. With customers firmly in mind, late Wednesday eBay made an Announcement on a change that will impact many eBay sellers. I used to write Announcements for eBay UK. Here’s my translation of their latest offering:

***Changes to VAT on 1st December 2008 – advice for sellers***

From 1st December 2008, the UK VAT rate will be reduced to 15%. This widely tipped change took us entirely by surprise but it’s only taken two and a half days to come up with advice and guidance for the thousands of sellers who rely on eBay as a source of income.

We’re making changes to so that the site’s ready for the changes. Here are those changes in full:

We are making no changes.

In one of the busiest weeks of the year, we suggest that you spend your precious time amending your listings to reflect this change made by HM Government without consulting us.

We could make have automatically changed the site so that all quoted rates of 17.5% were amended to 15%. We could also have made it easy for sellers to bulk edit VAT rates. But rather than bother our tech team we thought we’d inconvenience the thousands of busy people who pay our wages and ask them to do it themselves.

If you do need to amend your listing here’s what you need to do:

Current listings with no bids or sales made yet:

Simply spend hours tediously amending your listings one by one.

Current listings with bids or sales made:

If the listing has already had sales, you can:
1. wait for the listing to end then edit it and risk sanction from HMRC.
2. end it manually and then edit it. Needless to say, you will still be paying all your fees. There is no bonus for complying with government regulations and helping your buyers.

N.B. If you have paid for ‘Featured First’, end the listing and then relist you will not be refunded for any paid-for benefit you have not received. These redundancies don’t pay for themselves.

Tiny Glimmer of Generosity

Changing your item description will no longer affect your recent sales score, so if you need to change the item description to reflect the new VAT rate your recent sales score will not be affected. Just rejoice.

VAT on fees? Guess what: no change there. We moved to Luxembourg ages ago and it wasn’t for the nightlife.

And to close, we’re going to add insult to injury. Even though we’re running an ad campaign saying that eBay is 25% cheaper than the High Street we’re gonna make a veiled hint saying ‘pass the VAT cut on or else”: With strong competition and early discounting coming from the high street this Christmas season we know buyers are now, more than ever, being attracted to great value bargains.

Worse things happen at Woolworths!


The eBay Team

The Sunday Times on eBay Shill Bidding

Monday, January 29th, 2007

eBay fraud is big news. It does happen, of course it does, but it’s nowhere close to the sensational levels that warrant a front page expose in the Sunday Times. You can read the article here.

I certainly don’t think shill bidding is ‘widespread’. In fact, in my experience with eBay, shill bidding is not only taken very seriously as a policy infraction but the company has become much more sophisticated over the years in detecting it. Moreover, it doesn’t pay. If you shill bid and you win (as sometimes you surely will), you still have to pay the fees.

It’s annoying that an article such as this can be published without right of reply by business sellers, who rely on eBay for a living. Whipping up unbalanced fear does affect consumer confidence, it tarnishes the reputation of everyone who trades there.

I’m certainly going to write to complain about this article and strongly suggest that other eBay sellers do too. Quite simply coverage such as this is bad for my selling and shouldn’t be allowed to stand.

Oh, and another thing. To the journalists and sub editors of the Sunday Times. The past participle of ‘bid’ is also ‘bid’. It’s not ‘bidded’.