Mylene Mangalindan's article in the Wall Street Journal yesterday began, "Some online retailers are moving away from eBay." (You must have a paid subscription to the Journal to access the article.) She goes on to cite Wigix, Silkfair, Etsy and Oodle as alternatives that "aim to offer more hand-holding for sellers - and charge lower fees - than the behemoth eBay."
I read the article just after getting a letter from a couple who told me they are leaving eBay, the type of email not uncommon these days:
We, as well as many others, have decided that our eBay days are pretty much over. We are closing our eBay store this next Sunday. We will offer a few things online closer to the holidays when maybe we can make some money. We have been PowerSellers for several years now. We actually sat down the other night, in the few spare minutes we get a day, and figured out our net profits. We weren't really surprised that after paying for everything we weren't making any money.
Small sellers feel large sellers have an unfair advantage in terms of fees and placement in search. Large sellers are coping with the Best Match algorithm in their placement in search, and they fear the new Diamond level sellers like Buy.com whose listing fees are waived (and more Diamonds are coming).
Sellers have demonstrated for years that they will put up with a lot from eBay, but they have always voted with their pocketbooks. This year, they have had to put up lots of change - much of it unwelcome - and plenty are doing what the above-mentioned couple is doing - looking at the bottom line to see if it makes economic sense to stay on the platform.
What's markedly different this year is the demoralization that eBay partners are feeling. It's not just sellers who are disgruntled - it's also the people who help eBay sellers: vendors, education specialists, authors, template-makers and others. Who knows what the morale is inside the company?
And more changes are on the way. eBay announced at eBay Live they would be coming out with price changes (these are assumed to be category-based fee changes) and a limited feedback-withdrawal process yet to be determined. It's impossible to foresee how these changes will be received until eBay reveals more information.
I'm also certain eBay will announce changes to its Accepted Payments policy to further limit which methods of payment sellers may accept. One likely theory is that eBay will require sellers to accept only electronic payments and will ban checks, money orders and postal orders and would likely roll out the policy change in time for the holiday shopping season. This change would be extremely unwelcome by small sellers.
And of course, eBay is changing the "finding" (search) experience on the site.
The law of inertia sets in with sellers - it's easier to keep doing things the same way on the same platform. But eBay has set sellers in motion with all of the changes they are making, and it cannot guarantee the direction in which sellers will move, as I think the Journal article makes clear.
This quote from a seller in the article may reflect how many small sellers are feeling: "I don't need a million people to see my things, just the right people,..."