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Is it Time That eBay Did Something for Sellers for a Change?

August 30th, 2006 by Skip McGrath

eBay Fee increases, killing ebay keywords, ad deals with Google and Yahoo –what’s Next?

If you have ever been to eBay Live and attended the last night’s gala, eBay has a wonderful tradition of welcoming you.  As you line up to enter the hall where the gala is held, several hundred eBay execs and employees are lined up on both sides of the asile applauding all the eBay members as they walk in.  The tunnel of applause is eBay’s way of showing appreciation to their members.  It takes almost an hour for 10,000 or more people to enter the hall and the clapping and cheering and high-fiving never lets up. Even Meg Whitman and Bill Cobb are there.  This is so cool!  It’s like running a gauntlet of applause and it sets the tone for the whole evening.

Lately, as a seller, I feel like I have been running another kind of gauntlet.  I had a dream last night where I was running through a hallway and eBay employees were all trying to smack me.  It seems as if eBay has forgotten their roots.  I exchange emails and speak with dozens of eBay seller’s every day.  The most common comments I hear from other sellers are along the lines of: “Wall Street is now running eBay,” or eBay is more concerned about the stock price than about us.”

As a stockholder for over four years who has made quite a bit of money on eBay stock (albeit not recently), I too want eBay to run the company in a manner that increases growth and profits.  But I also make my living on eBay as a seller.  Seller’s have always been the lowest fixture on the eBay totem pole.  I understand that.  Unless the platform is a safe and fun experience for buyers, there won’t be anyone to sell to.  But buyers also flock to venues where they can find a great selection of products.  So you get the old chicken or the egg conumdrum.  If eBay doesn’t start treating sellers better, they will eventually depart the platform and eBay will start losing buyers.

The reason eBay has very few competitors is that no other auction venue can attract the thousands of seller’s necessary to list products that would then attract the buyers.  eBay is losing some sellers, but for the moment, it is a trickle.  The truth is,  there are other venues with lower fees and easier policies, but those platforms have very few buyers.  The large venues with buyers such as Amazon have much higher fees.  So for the time being, eBay is still the place to be.

What I am seeing more of is multi-channel selling.  It used to be that only the Platinum and Titanium PowerSellers sold on their own web sites and other venues such as Amazon eShops, Overstock and Yahoo Stores.  Today that trend is acclerating.  It’s not that sellers are leaving eBay –they’re not to any large degree.  What they are doing is selling in additional venues at the same time.  Multi-channel selling –once the province of the big guys is now spreading to the gold, silver and even some bronze PowerSellers.

This will eventually have an effect on eBay’s market share.  The launch of eBay Pro Stores was an attempt to capture some of this traffic, but they have not been a big hit.  I think it’s time that eBay focused on their seller community and started doing something for them besides the occasional free-listing day, or a 25-cent gallery featured sale.  And please don’t tell me how great Skype is or will be.  I can barely keep up with my email –I don’t have time to answer 30 or 40 phone calls a day from people viewing my auctions.

I hope you are listening eBay.  I am not a critic –I love eBay and everything it’s done for me.  I want you to be around years from now and still growing strong.

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