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Julia Wilkinson AuctionBytes Blog
Covering auctions, collectibles and marketplace selling.

Julia Wilkinson is Editor of the AuctionBytes Blog and is author of the "eBay Price Guide," "eBay Top 100 Simplified Tips and Tricks," "My Life at AOL" and numerous ebooks about selling online. You can also find her writing on Yard Salers.
Mon July 2 2007 15:37:49

eBay Users Spending Less Time on Site

By: David Steiner
Sponsored Link
A check of Nielsen/NetRatings shows that eBay users are spending less time on the site than in previous years. In 2006, eBay trumpeted in a Seller Central Report on how buyers use eBay that visitors spend more time on eBay than on other sites, and that time spent on the site is increasing year-over-year. It used data from December 2003 to March 2005 to prove its point. A look at more recent data, however, shows the time spent has gone down.



I was looking at the Nielsen/NetRatings report along with other data to see if anecdotal reports had any merit - you can see my musings in today's AuctionBytes Newsflash article here.
http://www.auctionbytes.com/cab/abn/y07/m07/i02/s00

There's tons of data, I'm interested in hearing what readers have to say, please leave a comment below.




Comments (227) | Permalink
Readers Comments

eBay Users Spending Less Time on Site   eBay Users Spending Less Time on Site
by: Andrew Waites
       
Mon Jul 2 16:33:53 2007
Your data mirrors our business to a ''t''.

Andrew Waites
eValueville
eBay Users Spending Less Time on Site   eBay Users Spending Less Time on Site
by: Kewpieboots
       
Mon Jul 2 16:37:37 2007
I used to sell lots of vintage items on eBay UNTIL about 2 yrs ago when the prices for gas, eBay fees and USPS fees went up. I think the biggest hit was the gas prices. People quit bidding and buying in a sharp spike. It doesn't take a genius to understand that if you have to spend a lot of time listing and expending $$ for fees and have to sell your items for less than expenses that Sellers are not going to list either. eBay has affected a bunch of markets and not always in a positive way. It seems that Management wants the whole enchilada. Making eBay ''Fun'' doesn't bring profits into MY pockets.
eBay Users Spending Less Time on Site   eBay Users Spending Less Time on Site
by: Ed Tomchin
       
Mon Jul 2 16:38:50 2007
The answer is as simple as the nose on your face and as old as business.  If it's not broke, DON'T FIX IT.  
eBay Users Spending Less Time on Site   eBay Users Spending Less Time on Site
by: Fred Giuffrida
       
Mon Jul 2 16:41:20 2007
I'd add into the mix one inane advertising campaign after another. Seriously "IT"? I saw the next big TV ad splurge at eBay live and today I can't even remember what it was about except that I just shook my head and said, "When are they going to get a new ad agency?"

Then again, many experts believe TV ads to be ineffective vs. word of mouth, and eBay's word of mouth says that it's full of scammers and it's easy to get ripped off there.

Our sales have been down since Christmas.

~Fred

http://stores.ebay.com/paladinshops

http://www.paladinshops.com
http://www.myroadtoweightloss.com
eBay Users Spending Less Time on Site   eBay Users Spending Less Time on Site
by: Bruce
       
Mon Jul 2 16:53:00 2007
Like the economy, eBay is always up and down.  I concur that higher fees, reducing store visibility and the tons of myriad rules and regs eBay now enforces, all hurt sellers.  Most call it Feebay (I have to admit, my sales are up but I'm much more selective in what I list and they are listed with higher starting bids).
eBay Users Spending Less Time on Site   eBay Users Spending Less Time on Site
by: Jerry C
       
Mon Jul 2 16:53:12 2007
Great research Mr. Steiner. Graphs do show the truth, we use them in our business and I will be the first to tell you, your research is dead-on. Since the auction world does revolve around eBay, there are other things that may make sellers decide to leave eBay. Just a wild guess, but I would say eBays poor customer service. How can a company that has such a well adopted feedback tool for buyers and sellers not understand the importance of customer service? I don't get it.  There is no resolution to problems, eBay just does not want to hear it. Must be nice not to answer to anyone. I think buyers and sellers are fed-up. I think eBay is one of the biggest double standards in the online world. If they can fix their customer service issue, and I mean a real fix, then I am sure sellers, buyers and Wall Street will come-through with business.

You're right, sellers are business people and use eBay as a partner to make money. The keyword is partnership. It's not a one-sided relationship. If sellers can't find support, can't make a profit or always getting pulled this way and that way, chances are they may move on. The current feel on the eBay site is, "it's us against them".

It won't work!





eBay Users Spending Less Time on Site   eBay Users Spending Less Time on Site
by: osama
       
Mon Jul 2 16:54:14 2007
You hitted the point !!! I am a seller from Egypt selling on eBay since 8 years.... my business was very stable on eBay even with no paypal account since years untill the first of 2006 almost half of the profit and double the expenses.... Actually the changes on eBay and being very greedy is the reason of this site fall down or broke... If they don't change this soon sales on eBay will drop down more and more many sellers ( real sellers ) left eBay after many shooting stars...
eBay Users Spending Less Time on Site   eBay Users Spending Less Time on Site
by: ccharned
       
Mon Jul 2 16:58:41 2007
Great article!

I would also add the introduction of "eBay Express," commonly referred to as "ExpressMess," as a cause for the ennui, frustration and lower sales. Last year, eBay began implementing ExpressMess. What for, I do not know. It appears they want to be the Wal-Mart of the Internet and no one seems to have told them that Wal-Mart has already been invented. ExpressMess concentrates on new items, for the most part, that usually can be purchased with far less hassle at discounters like Wal-Mart. No wait, no shipping costs, etc.

At the same time, eBay began its endless tinkering with search, now euphemistically called "finding." The "finding experience" has deteriorated. Store inventory (which, the last I knew, comprised about 87% of eBay's listings, whether they like it or not) can't be found without difficulty, leading to a _decreasingly_ effective "finding experience." I could go on and on here but the SIS fiasco, the change in search after SIS (eBay has always denied this but many sellers believe it), the radically increased fees, the introduction of the seemingly pointless ExpressMess (from which one can't easily even GET to eBay, btw), and recent changes in the "finding experience," all have contributed significantly to the problem.

For several months now, eBay has foisted a "back to basics," as they call it, campaign for "core" (doublespeak for auctions) listings on us. But, eBay refuses to listen to its customers - the SELLERS - who tell them that "buy it now" and stores are where it's at. Many customers no longer care to wait a week or so to find out if they won an auction. They want to find the merch, buy it and move on. Which is what made stores great. IMHO, eBay missed an _opportunity_ to brand itself as THE central e'commerce store location on the Internet. eBay refuses to consider the idea that auctions might be...passe. Most of the time, sellers feel like they are on a rudderless ship - from which they are jumping like rats.
eBay Users Spending Less Time on Site   eBay Users Spending Less Time on Site
by: Arnie C
       
Mon Jul 2 17:11:17 2007
Your posting is very interesting and touches on very relevant points.  There is one however, that you fail to mention, which I think is equally important.  And that is the subject of listing clutter.  I remember in 2006 with SIS and lower fees that the average search used to come up with 100's of poorly priced and identical listings.  It was essentially so cheap to list that people were listing items even if they knew many would not sell.  Sure, this was great for listing figures but not for GMV.  I'm not saying the fee hike did not hurt all sellers but it hurt the low quality listings the hardest.  Since then, most of those have dropped off the system.  That is exactly why we have seen higher ASP's and higher GMV despite stagnant or even lower total listings.  One more thing, removing the clutter makes items easier to find and perhaps that is why the average user no longer needs to spend the 2 hours you mention.
eBay Users Spending Less Time on Site   eBay Users Spending Less Time on Site
by: L Armstrong
       
Mon Jul 2 17:25:47 2007
For me, the one thing that has most negatively affected my business has been the increase in fees.  

Your metrics show that all sorts of things are down on eBay, yet their profits continue to rise.  They are sucking it from sellers and treating sellers as if we are the source of their problems instead of the source of the revenue.

Remember, before they implemented SIS, they pushed hard to promote stores to their sellers.  They wanted every seller to open one.  Then, they did an about-face and started acting like we, those who had opened stores, were almost criminals.  We were punished with less visibility and higher fees, and told we were moving the site away from its core values.

If eBay wants to put the FUN back into 'finding', they need to help out the sellers and make it profitable for us to sell again.  
eBay Users Spending Less Time on Site   eBay Users Spending Less Time on Site
by: Jay Smith
       
Mon Jul 2 17:28:42 2007
The one observation that I would add is that as business people, sellers have an expectation that, over time, as they work the bugs out of a system and accumulate repeat buyers, the seller's sales will become more profitable. In the beginning we assume that we may have to operate on very slim margins (or even at a loss) just to build business, but that as operations mature that we will be able to operate with a stable, consistent (but perhaps very modest) profit margin.  However, every time sellers approach this point of happiness, eBay raises fees, changes the structure or search methods or item specifics, etc.,, eliminates/changes related support services (i.e. SAP changed to Blackthorne, etc.).  To a small business person, these ''small'' changes are huge and disruptive, often reducing or eliminating profitability for a while.  Added to that the dismal and completely disrespectful customer (seller and buyer) service and safety situation, I found myself realizing that there was no point at all doing all that work for a nominal return.  Instead I focused on our website (which was already underway), now increasing it to 1380 pages and growing fast (with an eventual likely target of around 10,000 pages).  If I could make as much money (still a modest amount) on eBay as I make in my other related operations, I would still be listing 150-200 items per week on eBay.  But that possibility ended a while ago.  eBay's conceit and arrogance are its downfall.  As a professional buyer (buying for our inventory) capable of spending significant sums for material I need, I find myself now spending less than 10% of the time I spent on eBay 2 years ago. Though it is still possible for me to spend as much money as I have available to spend (not a small amount), I just don't want to mess with it any more -- it is certainly not fun any more. I am so often angry about whatever eBay or PayPal has or has not done recently (some of which to my mind is almost criminal), that I try to find other ways to spend my time and money.
eBay Users Spending Less Time on Site   eBay Users Spending Less Time on Site
by: Marg
       
Mon Jul 2 17:29:56 2007
Like others have said, eBay is continually changing things, and NOT for the better. Just off the top of my head I would say the many new ''innovations'' are certainly part of the problem, such as:  
search (or ''finding'');  
the ''stars'' rating for sellers;  
bidder #1, #2, etc. on auctions over $200;  
the proliferance of non-ebay advertisements;
the new ''sell your item'' form;
the new ''feedback rating'' system (where the price one paid for an item is right upfront for all to see);
the faulty eBay auction counters;
disallowance of being able to offer cash as an optional payment;
the ongoing suspension of sellers who are purportedly in the lower 2% of sellers; and
although not in eBay's purview, the rise in USPS postal rates. I'm sure I could come up with a few more unfavourable developments!!




eBay Users Spending Less Time on Site   eBay Users Spending Less Time on Site
by: grumpy3b
       
Mon Jul 2 17:29:59 2007
Arnie C:

I agree completely that perhaps people are spending less time because the site is overall more efficent.

Also, users have begun to digest the site and how eBay works.  That too might lead them to find what the want and get out.  Saved searches, fav sellers, the watch ''and forget it'' list.  These all factor into the amount of time spent on the site.

For me metrics like bids/visit or items-viewed/visit would make far more sense as a gauge but no way is eBay ever going to release real data of any meaning what-so-ever.

heck with them we are done with eBay maybe next year and then it's gonna be fun to sit and watch as the place falls down for good.  BTW, PP is where the entire shift of attention has been...eBay is no longer in the only line auction biz, if you had not noticed, they are in the credit/payment processing business.
eBay Users Spending Less Time on Site   eBay Users Spending Less Time on Site
by: sharonhintze
       
Mon Jul 2 17:33:56 2007
I used to go to eBay before I went anywhere else, and ALWAYS to find something unusual.  I bought a lot! I also sold items with wonderful success but not as a full time seller. EBay sent a message not to long ago and asked the reasons why my spending had decreased.  I told them that previously there were ''Mom and Pop'' type sellers and I perceived I was getting a good buy. I could ''connect'' with these people and I felt comfortable and secure in purchasing.
Now there are so many big discount and
close out store sites it is not the same experience anymore. There were people I bought clothing from repeatedly that I can only assume aren't doing ebay anymore for the same reason I don't sell much anymore...the fees eat up your ability to make it even worth your while. There were eBay sellers I watched like a hawk to try to pattern after because they were always selling so much, now many are selling hardly anything or not selling at all.  I know the big discount companies surely have found a valuable outlet at eBay and I am sure they are bringing much more revenue to eBay than my little sales and purchases and those of other little Mom and Pop operations..and hey, that's what business is all about.  eBay is there to make money, not to satisfy us. I don't see how anyone can expect to change them.   I just hope someone will come up with another fledgling auction outlet that will be as lucrative and as interesting for us little guys as it used to be and let the big box distressed merchandise guys stay with ebay!
eBay Users Spending Less Time on Site   eBay Users Spending Less Time on Site
by: Beth Cox
       
Mon Jul 2 17:40:21 2007
I agree David, eBay has been broken for some time. We have gradually realized this as sales have diminished and fees have increased.
We had thought that a perfect feedback record and fantastic customer service would make us successful, but that turned out not to be the case.

We are gradually phasing eBay out of our marketing, and we have opened a real-world bricks and mortar store.
The eBay and PayPal fees combined have been running 18 to 20 percent of our total eBay revenues, and our sell-through rate from auctions has declined to maybe 30 or 35 percent some weeks. It has become increasingly annoying to pay fees for items that don't sell.

At present we are maintaining a low level eBay Store with virtually no auctions -- if people find our Store items, great; if not we have spent only pennies per item.
Meanwhile, we are developing an e-commerce Web site to mirror our real-world store.

We expect our eBay selling effort to just sort of fade away over time.
eBay Users Spending Less Time on Site   eBay Users Spending Less Time on Site
by: Ed
       
Mon Jul 2 17:40:23 2007
I had always looked at the volumes eBay always included in their quarterly financial reports like registered users, active users, gross sales in major categories, etc. I don't quite remember when but a few/several quarterly reports ago they stopped including many of the key volumes I had been watching. I felt, right then, that something was up. The data you've preseted seem to indicate why ebay removed the info. from their financial reports. Ed
eBay Users Spending Less Time on Site   eBay Users Spending Less Time on Site
by: Jamie Curtis
       
Mon Jul 2 17:46:02 2007
Impressive article, thank you.

I sold on a pretty small margin so price increases were disastrous for me, but I also wonder if having a choice of venues isn't a little bit of a factor in the slow down?  No one else is a large as eBay, but being number two or even three in the market can still attract sellers.  Besides, eBay makes most of their money from the big guys, and us small fry seem to have been dismissed without thought or regret....  Maybe we were a bigger piece of the action than we (or they) thought.
eBay Users Spending Less Time on Site   eBay Users Spending Less Time on Site
by: Trevor Ginn
       
Mon Jul 2 17:49:22 2007
Interesting in the UK Bebo (a social networking site) has overtaken eBay as the most searched term see

http://www.hitwise.co.uk/press-center/hitwiseHS2004/bebo.ph
p
eBay Users Spending Less Time on Site   eBay Users Spending Less Time on Site
by: Peter
       
Mon Jul 2 17:50:02 2007
1) The data on the slump trend matches our own decline in net and gross revenue on Ebay.

2) A lot of the reasons for this decline of business on Ebay are right on, but it is not about a multitude of reasons. It is about one reason which is at the top of the hierarchy of facts causing the decline: it is Ebay's core vision on her product.

Ebay has never seriously tried to analyze and understand the core reason for her success. Ebay is that odd company which had a lucky break, but never figured out how it got that break.

The core reason for Ebay's initial success was her unique laissez-faire marketplace offering. In a world where business people and consumers were otherwise restricted by government rules and tariffs, Ebay was a free trade area like none before, even in the worst regulated geographic area. Such freedom showed how efficient a free market can work, both producing optimal low cost and high revenue. It also gave sellers and buyers a lot of their personal time back, as they were able to trade from home, not wasting time traveling around.

In 2005 Ebay started to cater more and more to the moochers (politicians, lazy ignorant buyers, lazy business people) who wanted Ebay to give them privileges at the expense of the productive members of E bay (hard working business people, smart educated buyers).

Ebay started to impose rules and limitations on the productive people, like explicit censorship of specific words, anti-keyword spamming measures, limits to s/h, limiting visibility of products, limiting account use, limiting payment options, limiting store items visibility, abolishing specific subcategories, increasing fees most for high priced items etc).

From a laissez-faire venue, where buyers and sellers could set their terms on their own without interference from the venue management itself, the venue management became de facto a dictator, telling sellers as well as buyers how they should trade, instead of offering them options and letting them decide what to use and what not.

For sellers the Ebay venue management is now 'de factor' and employer, not a venue. Most of what we sellers need to do to sell, is directed, forced, not chosen.

Ebay's sole salvation, in order not to fail entirely, is to go recognize its laissez-faire roots and go back to them, but in its corporate culture and in its venue culture.

Anything else that is not a change back to its core philosophy would just an attempt to postpone its inevitable demise. Dictatorships never worked.
eBay Users Spending Less Time on Site   eBay Users Spending Less Time on Site
by: steve49
       
Mon Jul 2 17:54:26 2007
eBay's downfall is going to be their complete lack of communication with, and total disdane of, the sellers.

They treat the very people who are putting the money in their packets as the "enemy".

If you look at their own boards you'll NEVER see a "pink" (ebay employee) post in the discussions.  They won't offer to solve a problem, they won't even admit there IS a problem.

The latest round of suspending the "bottom 2%" of seller's with no explanation as to the reason for the suspension or what to do to get back on the "good boy" list is just the latest example of their arrogance.

When you treat your customer's (sellers) like crap they're not gonna be around long.  

The constant tinkering with the search function is equally frustrating.  Who know what you're gonna see when you hunt something.  I haven't even tried the "playground" (oh, puhleeze) yet.  

With their idiotic commercials, blogs, wiki's, playground, etc, I have to wonder what demographic they're going after anyway!
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