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EcommerceBytes-Update, Number 328 - February 03, 2013 - ISSN 1528-6703     4 of 18

Sellers Choice 2013 Marketplace Ratings: Ruby Lane


By Ina & David Steiner
EcommerceBytes.com

February 03, 2013
 



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In January 2013, EcommerceBytes surveyed over 11,500 online sellers and asked them to rate the marketplaces on which they had experience selling. An introduction to the Sellers Choice survey along with a summary of the overall ratings can be found here, along with links to results for each of the 16 online marketplaces included in the survey.


Profitability:

Customer Service:

Communication:

Ease of Use:

Would you recommend:

Rubylane
Year Established: 1998
Description: Fixed price, shops; antiques, collectibles, fine art, arts and crafts
More Info

Summary:
Twos are wild for Ruby Lane. Aside from finishing second two years in a row, Ruby Lane also collected two individual awards - Communication and Customer Service - the same two they won last year. Ruby Lane has the distinction of being the most consistent performer in the Sellers Choice Awards over the past four years, never finishing below third.

Based on seller comments, Ruby Lane's key to success is its ability to attract quality buyers who are willing to pay for quality items. Many sellers remain loyal, noting in their comments how long they've been selling on the site. "It's a good place to sell real antiques, and that's really what the older Ruby Lane customer base wants; if you've got a bunch of "just stuff", have a yard sale instead."

Ruby Lane came in number three for profitability (6.39). It's worth noting that prior to the Sellers Choice ratings process, Ruby Lane raised certain fees which were fresh in sellers' minds.

While there were comments about fees, it seems, Ruby Lane gives sellers an opportunity to lower their fees. "There isn't anything we don't love, but we especially like the low fees and the opportunities to make them even lower. In 2012 our shop fees were just 1.9% of our sales - a record low since we took advantage of writing blogs, free listing days and shop referrals."

Sellers gave negative feedback for Ruby Red Tag Sales and the poor timing of those sales events. "I am also hoping they will quit having those Red Tag sales as they cheapen the site." Another seller wrote, "One BIG problem on Ruby Lane this year has been the Ruby Red Tag Sales which are, in my opinion, a terrible idea. They cheapen the site tremendously."

One seller felt the site was not the same as it had been in the past. "After many happy, successful years selling on Ruby Lane, I am no longer as enchanted with the site as I once was. I recommended it wholeheartedly for years, now I recommend it with reservations. My sales have plummeted, both in number and dollar wise. A privately held company has no accountability and no transparency. Questions regarding why RL items don't appear in Google Shopping are met with ridiculous answers."

Another seller remarked on Ruby Lane's reputation. "What I LOVE the most is the reputation they represent. Honest items sold by honest folks. In this business, reputation is everything. I would match my Ruby Lane against any other venue out there. I will sell here till I close the shop for good. That is how good they are. Because of them, my sales are up 50% over last year, and my traffic has almost tripled. You can't get all that anywhere else.")

Sellers like that Ruby Lane advertises the site and attracts quality buyers. "Buyers are more sophisticated in general and appreciate the quality they're willing to pay a little more for on RL." But some sellers mentioned fees, which were just increased to support ad costs, as a possible stumbling block. "Maintenance & advertising fees are a bit high, and paying to get more visibility (pay per click) is almost a necessity and also runs up the bill."

Sellers rated the site good for ease of use and customer service, and one seller noted Ruby Lane does not spam buyers. "Unlike some other sites, Ruby Lane doesn't bother my customers, email them with unwanted ads, etc.". However, some quibbles with customer service. "When computer glitches occur, management is rather slow in notifying its shops, if indeed it does at all."

"Owners LISTEN to sellers and make changes as necessary - very responsive. pleasant staff always willing to help. Not perfect, but close!"

Ruby Lane came in number one in customer service (6.98) and communication (7.03) and number three in ease of use. When asked "How likely are you to recommend Ruby Lane as a selling venue to a friend or colleague," Ruby Lane came in number two (6.64).

Reader Comments - The Good, The Bad, The Ugly:
I've been Selling on Ruby Lane since 2007. I've consistently made an excellent profit. Every year my sales increase. The functionality of the site is excellent. Ruby Lane's customer service and communication are beyond excellent. Admin invites Seller input and responds to Seller's requests and preferences. This site just keeps on doing everything right. Best site for Sellers of vintage and antiques, hands down.

Easy to use. Lots of traffic. Customers are terrific. Customer service to sellers is excellent.

If this was the first site I ever sold on; I would not know just how wonderful they are compared to other sites. Communication is always open and response is quick. They help me sell as an individual shop by helping me have the information I need to be good at selling on line. Other sites should take a look at the Ruby Lane shop manual and follow its lead. But, what I LOVE the most is the reputation they represent. Honest items sold by honest folks. In this business, reputation is everything. I would match my Ruby Lane against any other venue out there. I will sell here till I close the shop for good. That is how good they are. Because of them, my sales are up 50% over last year, and my traffic has almost tripled. You can't get all that anywhere else.

Been exclusively on the site since 2010 and am very, very happy with it. Great "customer service" for sellers and for customers.

The site is easy to use. Customer service is real and it is fast. They attract quality buyers. Complaints - the new photo system for the gallery leaves many seller's photographs cut off, it makes the gallery look sloppy and that hurts all sellers. Up front fees are high but it is still cheaper than paying all the fees ebay charges. More advertising and name recognition is needed.

This is my favorite selling venue. Great customer service. I sell well when I actively add new merchandise to my shop. That is the key to getting customer to come view your shop.

Very professional site dedicated to customers and sellers alike.

Ruby Lane is still my number one site - despite the recent fee increases and the lack of exposure on Google Shopping. Love the photos features, checkout, etc. Wish they offered Google Checkout - it might increase their Shopping exposure.

I really like Ruby Lane, but if you don't "list' everyday, you wont get the sales.... the fees have just gone up..which are due every month.... so its about $50-$60 to sell every month.... I don't know if I will continue with them after the rate hike, which is in March. I have to look at the bottom line and see if I should continue...but they are really good with a support system, great videos, they do want you to succeed.... and they don't take a part of the profit as do eBay and Etsy, but the flat out fees are seeming to be to high for my sales. They really do put money into ads...so that is nice.... as you can tell by my rambling, I seem to be on the fence... tee hee

Regarding ease of use, I am not happy with the way they handle furniture purchase orders, where the cost of shipping is taken care of directly between the buyer and moving company. I am unable to send the buyer a formal invoice through Ruby Lane with payment details because I have to either include a shipping cost (which I don't have), say that shipping is included in the price (which it is not), or say that shipping is free (which it is not). So I am forced to just send general emails back and forth to the buyer and the formal purchase order sits in limbo. That said, I am very pleased with how easy it is to add new listings.

Maintenance & advertising fees are a bit high, and paying to get more visibility (pay per click) is almost a necessity and also runs up the bill.

Sellers are given very flexible ways to control/reduce costs. Really like their purchase order system for documentation/record keeping for my business. They have surprised me with phone calls I did not request when I needed help with some function or other. Overall extremely happy. Any problems have been with customers not understanding the system.

I opened my shop 2 years ago on Ruby Lane and my selling experiences with the venue and clients has been very positive. I have highly recommended this site to friends and colleagues who in turn now have shops on the site.

Owners LISTEN to sellers and make changes as necessary - very responsive. pleasant staff always willing to help. Not perfect, but close!

I'm entering my fifth year selling on Ruby Lane and would never consider leaving this overall terrific venue. RL is a good choice for sellers who have larger inventories and are exclusive to the site. Buyers are more sophisticated in general and appreciate the quality they're willing to pay a little more for on RL. It's user friendly for both sellers and buyers and does a good job educating sellers on topics like SEO as well as constantly advertising a wide range of available items on it's social media pages. On the downside, owing to the site being a smaller player in the field, you'll have to work harder at self-promotion. Support is rarely needed and provided promptly but I do find site knowledge of their help desk staff is sometimes lacking and their responses can be somewhat patronizing.

I've just started selling on this site in Sept. 2011. Our sales have increased dramatically and they have a wide customer base.

I have maintained a store on Ruby Lane for 10 years (currently an exclusive shop, but have not always been exclusive during that time) and have always been happy with my sales and with my experience there. When I was not an exclusive shop, my other lackluster online sales always drove me back to exclusive status. They respond quickly when you have a question as a seller and are very happy to help you with any and all questions. The economic times have been hard and I had much more profitability 5 years ago than currently, however this past year has shown a slight upturn that I am very happy about. Ruby Lane, recognizing these hard times, has been very helpful in making it easier to sell here and reach more buyers. They have also had multiple opportunities to list at reduced rates and options for deep discount sales events that have been very useful to me to move stale merchandise yet still maintain a small profit. I will continue to sell on Ruby Lane exclusively.

Very professional in the way RL operates this site. Great customer service provided. Sellers are extremely knowledgeable as to what is presented and I believe buyers acknowledge this in a positive way. Site is uncluttered and easy to navigate. and because of RL's rule for product (20+ years old) there is a wonderful blend of antique and vintage product which you don't find on any other site. There is something to be said for uniformity and in this case it really works. Creates an environment for integrity and fosters trust amongst the buyers.

Ruby Lane is a non-invasive venue specifically for selling antiques and collectibles. Unlike some other sites, Ruby Lane doesn't bother my customers, email them with unwanted ads, etc... I appreciate their guidelines and efforts to make my shop as profitable as possible.

Have been on Ruby Lane for 6 years after trying ebay first, my high end vintage items are a good mix with the other quality items listed on Ruby Lane, the site is easy to use when listing and communicating with buyers and best of all they don't charge any fee based on the value of items sold, just a monthly per item charge and flat advertising fee, and gives me excellent worldwide exposure. Can't ask for anything more

We have tried several venues and have found Ruby Lane to be the most profitable for our vintage jewelry business. So much so that we have just opened a second shop for collectibles. There isn't anything we don't love, but we especially like the low fees and the opportunities to make them even lower. In 2012 our shop fees were just 1.9% of our sales - a record low since we took advantage of writing blogs, free listing days and shop referrals.

I wish I would have signed up with RL when they first started so I could be in on some of the price advantages of those customers, which I feel is really unfair to new customers, as it puts the burden of their profitability on them. They are also raising their prices and expectations of how much each store must carry at a minimum, which will be very difficult to meet since I have other venues for my business I need to devote time on (in other words I'll be paying for something I won't be using). Their customer service is not nearly as good as Tias.com, and it irritates me that in every e-mail they include a slogan that they have the best - drop it.

I have mixed feelings about Ruby Lane. We joined in 2009 and are still making money there, but the cost of maintaining a RL shop is not small. Even though they don't take a sales commission, their shop fees and advertising fees add up. Ruby Lane is behind the times in many ways - you can not print a shipping label or track an order through the site. They are not set up for mobile use, no RL app, and therefore editing listings, not to mention shopping, on Ruby Lane with an i-phone is extremely difficult. They also have arbitrary listing policies that make no sense, such as the ban on selling vintage swimwear and the rule that 1950s and 1960s clothes must have store tags sewn in. These are not realistic sales policies that address the needs of professional vintage clothing dealers. Still, they have a nice looking platform, and they have buyers there who are still willing to spend more money for nicer quality things - so we stay.

We recently had a problem trying to sign up for the new Amazon Payments that Ruby Lane was offering to improve sales. We wanted to take advantage of this, and we got help from not just someone at Ruby Lane, but a top Executive, and he referred us to someone at Amazon who was WONDERFUL! KELSEY was GREAT! She and her team kept at it, again and again, and the team at Ruby Lane did also, until we got it fixed and are now on line and up and running properly! Working with people who care makes all the difference. Thanks for all the hard work!

Ruby Lane is the perfect venue to sell vintage and antique items. The service they provide to their sellers is remarkable. We are treated as members of a large family and not as a source of revenue to the site. It took me a while to decide on a venue to open a virtual shop and I congratulate myself everyday for the choice I made to go with Ruby Lane.

I have used RL since 2002 and have very been pleased with my overall experience even through a declining economy. I have and continue to recommend the site to others in the antiques and collectibles business.

Great venue, and I am a very long time dealer with Ruby Lane but as a seller I am absolutely appalled by the square cropping of photos requirement - absolutely visually wrong! I love their efforts to keep current on the web, including the special push on finds for the month or theme, free or reduced listings. Red tag sale needs some work. 50% off is not always a viable option, and the timing has been horrible in the past months. Still, a great place to sell on line.

This past year was very good for sales. I think some personal strategies that I won't go in to here helped me tremendously. Customer service is a real problem on Ruby Lane, it is inconsistent (different answers from different reps) and very often unhelpful, and that obnoxious little tag line about their having the best customer service online is an infuriating source of mockery (eye rolls all around) among the dealers I know. If you've got great customer service you don't need to tell the folks you serve, they know. Ruby Lane is a private company and makes it quite clear that it's their sandbox. Suggestions disappear into a void with never an answer or a thank you. Ruby Lane uses third party sites (facebook and The Vintage Village) to communicate with shop owners rather than providing a place on their own site which would seem to be the sensible way to go about it. It's truly ridiculous for shop owners to have to go to a third party site and ask the Ruby Lane rep a question, who then goes back to Ruby Lane to find an answer, all because Ruby Lane Customer Service doesn't work. Ruby Lane's direct communications are written in what shop owners have come to call Ruby Speak which is often unclear and rife with opportunities for misunderstanding. Basically I just ignore most of what they have to say and follow my instincts about my shop, and this approach has paid off this year for me, I'm a happy camper sales wise, and as long as I don't pay too much attention to management I can maintain my sanity. One BIG problem on Ruby Lane this year has been the Ruby Red Tag Sales which are, in my opinion, a terrible idea. They cheapen the site tremendously. And this year the sales were a perfect example of Ruby Lane's poor communication and "my sandbox" mentality; shop owners got a survey asking about possible tag sale dates with NO OPTION for not having any tag sales, and the upshot of the survey was a tag sale at the very end of October, another at the beginning of December, and ANOTHER in the beginning of January, basically three in three months time when Ruby Lane had promised these would be infrequent. And yes, Ruby Lane will correctly (technically at least) say there were four in the year, but there were three in three months during holiday time! And to make matters worse, there was an executive decision to require 50% off, no more 30% and 40%. These sales STINK! So now that I've griped, I still have to say that this year I've been very happy with my sales, and recommend the site to SOME friends who are sellers. I think it's a good place to sell real antiques, and that's really what the older Ruby Lane customer base wants; if you've got a bunch of "just stuff", have a yard sale instead.

Was on Ruby years ago but stopped due to unwanted communications from wackos. Ruby seems to have solved that problem and I signed back on just a few months ago. So far so good. The only drawbacks are (1) the site is slow when listing and (2) the $100 cost amount for listing an antique doesn't really apply to a lot of antiques (for instance, if you are selling a small lace table cloth asking $100 puts it out of the realm for buyers on budgets; a $50-$75 antique listing cost would allow for more variety.

Has gone slightly downhill due to lack of oversight. I mean that lots of keyword spamming, there are fakes that slip through, and the overall quality has gone downhill. My traffic and sales seem to have dropped a bit also, but could be business overall has taken a slight downturn. But, they are still my number one choice.

Ruby Lane tends to give more coverage to its sellers of vintage items than to its sellers of artisan jewelry, who compromise a smaller percentage of its shops. While this may seem logical, it is also disheartening. Also, when computer glitches occur, management is rather slow in notifying its shops, if indeed it does at all.

Sometimes tough to get Live Chat and understand why you can't. Ruby Lane is a very polished and professional venue on which to sell. No garage sale or flea market atmosphere. Very organized, very classy. The best for all of those reasons and more. I'll never sell anywhere else.

Ruby Lane could improve its service to sellers but this is a small complaint. I find listing on RL to be very profitable, although perhaps a bit less so now that RL has raised its prices.

I really like RL but I don't think that they do enough advertising, and they just raised fees 50% which I think are unfair.

Very expensive venue, if I weren't a charter shop I wouldn't be selling here. It's a great place to have a shop, they are always upgrading, although the upgrade often cause glitches. I dislike the additional advertising fee (which they are just about to raise) as I do my own advertising due to my niche being very specialized. I know of no other venue that charges their sellers a separate fee for advertising. I am also hoping they will quit having those Red Tag sales as they cheapen the site. Other than that I am very pleased I must be - I've been there almost since they began.

Ruby Lane has changed over the years and I was not happy with them. They are partial to their favorite sellers and if you find your products in search be happy cause its not often. Yes they have programs to help with your shop as far as earning money. It takes a lot of time to write blogs which takes away from your listings. I finally ended my store there in Dec. It was just not for me.

This would be my favorite site if it were not so expensive to maintain your booth

Ruby Lane has shot itself in the foot by having 50% off sales REGULARLY on the site. My sales were much better before the sales started. They argue that participation in the sale is voluntary but the sale still affects my shop sales as buyers spend their money elsewhere. If I choose to participate, 50% off is mandatory.

High maintenance fees. Fees just increased. I felt in the past it was one of the best but I feel search results have declined and along with the fee increase I do not feel it is as profitable as in the past. I really hated to do it but I just closed my shop and transferred my items to Bonanza and to Etsy. Already sold some that were stale on Ruby Lane. Customer service and communications was fast enough but sometimes the answers were vague and I would have to ask again or just muddle my way though....that is the course I took most of the time.

I found the fees on Ruby Lane to be cost prohibitive. Only items that ever sold for me were high end pieces and then the profits were eaten up by the recurring fees.

Sadly Ruby Lane is no longer the premier AVC selling site that it used to be. I had a shop there for many years, and was exclusive for some time, but then they seemed to have blunder after blunder occur in the last few years, and the customer service has become inefficient (different answers from different agents) and often downright rude to sellers. (eg "If you don't like the way we do things, feel free to leave!" ) The fiasco over luring in existing RL shops to populate their now failed Ruby Plaza venture was handled in a very unprofessional way. The Cloud server migration in 2011 was done before they were technologically ready for it, which resulted in endless glitches and downtime, and some shops on different servers than others had extreme difficulty to continue functioning. The numerous Red Tag Sales, at an enforced 50% off, have cheapened the overall tone of the site. And now, after 2011 and 2012 held so many problems for RL sellers...they are gifted with a massive rate increase! So, I have taken their advice...I don't like the way the are doing things...so I left!

After many happy, successful years selling on Ruby Lane, I am no longer as enchanted with the site as I once was. I recommended it wholeheartedly for years, now I recommend it with reservations. My sales have plummeted, both in number and dollar wise. A privately held company has no accountability and no transparency. Questions regarding why RL items don't appear in Google Shopping are met with ridiculous answers. The 50% off Red Tag sales are their new draw, turning the site into a bargain basement. For the first time, I am considering giving up my exclusive on Ruby Lane and signing on with another venue, a decision that many long time Ruby Lane shops have already made. Sad, really.

Sellers Choice Awards
We thank all readers who took the time to rate the marketplaces. If you have comments about the survey results or the survey itself, please feel free to post them in the EcommerceBytes Blog.

About the author:

Ina and David Steiner are publishers of EcommerceBytes.com and have been writing about ecommerce since 1999.


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