EcommerceBytes Soundoff: Letters to the Editor - July 7, 2013
By Ina Steiner
In every issue, readers soundoff about issues important to them. From shipping issues to payment processing, from fees to online marketplace policies, EcommerceBytes Soundoff gives you a chance to air your views.
On June 25 and June 26, 2013, SundryShop.com joined with 29 other members of the eMainStreet.org, flew into Washington, D.C., and lobbied against the Marketplace Fairness Act (MFA) that is currently before the House. The MFA would not only harm online businesses, but would adversely affect all smaller main street businesses & the tax payers!
The flyin was truly a "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" story!
We all traveled to D.C. on their own dime, not even tax deductible at this point, although we hope to be working on that soon. A number of us on FaceBook, including SundryShop.com that originally authored another group aimed at defeating the MFA, joined forces with others during the last six weeks to create and become members of the eMainStreet Alliance, a closed group, and eMainStreet.org, a rapidly growing organization that now represents all small business interests. It's been a whirlwind experience and many of us have worked 40 hours and more each week building our coalition and expanding our reach so that greater numbers can understand exactly how harmful the MFA is to all Americans!
Regrettably, most Americans still don't know about the act, and we very much need your help to change that!
When we met with members of the House, we personalized all our talking points by sharing how harmful the MFA would be for our own respective businesses, each very different from the other. However, here's a talking point that the reps/assistants with whom we met listened to very carefully and ALL consumers and taxpayers should also NOTE:
The bipartisan Association of American Attorneys and Certified Practicing Accountants (AAA-CPA) study showed that the cost of collecting the use tax would likely be as great or greater than the use tax collected. Therefore, the MFA would inflict harm through two taxes, that which the online buyer would have to pay when purchasing from remote sellers and that which the state tax payer would need to pay to cover the MFA implementation. Not only would online businesses be harmed, but the MFA represents a hit to the American tax payer, particularly the middle class, even though it would do a very poor job in raising money.
Given the widespread, adverse affects that the MFA would have, we eMainStreet.org affiliates greatly need the support of all Americans - online businesses, brick & mortar (many are both), and tax payers. Please visit and sign our petition at eMainStreet.org and LIKE & comment on Facebook.com/OpposeInternetSalesTaxes
Also, it's imperative for all small businesses to join our private community (sympathetic consumers & taxpayers are also welcome!) Facebook.com/groups/fairsalestax/.
Here's a new wrinkle, I think. Attached is a screenshot of an auction I was ready to bid on tonight. I don't remember that ad in the upper left corner (State Farm), just to the right of the Daily Deals link.
And, of course, it's not just an ad, but a link to take Buyers off of our auction page.
It seems to be everywhere I go - Auction Page, My eBay >Selling Manager Pro >Active and Sold pages, Purchase History, Watch List, etc, etc.
And look at all the blank real estate to the right of that little State Farm link/ad. Suppose they'll be filling that up next??
Note from the editor: See more about these types of ads in Julia Wilkinson's post on the AuctionBytes Blog, "Ginormous Gekko the Shape of eBay's Ad Future?"
Since somewhere beginning April eBay sellers worldwide have started reporting a sudden lack of sales and traffic. I'm one of these sellers that has been heavily affected. Currently my eBay sales are less than 30% of what they have been and profit even less. Several months ago I had a flourishing business. I just can't believe that from one day to another there isn't a single of my items that people are still interested in. Even more since the sales on my own website and other venues are hardly affected.
Since eBay sellers worldwide started to report the same problem at about the same time, I just knew it had something to do with eBay. And now I have found out what. It has everything to do with Best Match. Is it broken? Is eBay doing this deliberately (probably). I'm 100% sure Best Match is the problem. Without a doubt somewhere last April eBay made a change to the Best Match algorithm affecting the way items are sorted worldwide causing the same problem of a lack of sales worldwide.
The problem is that Best Match completely hides your items no matter it's an auction, a BIN, no matter you offer free shipping, are Top Rated,...
Normally Best Match will sort items based on certain factors: selling history for BIN's and time ending soonest for auctions. So when you browse the pages it will be a combination of auctions ending soon and BIN's with a selling history, free shipping,... And as far as I know this was the same sorting order for all pages you browsed. And this where everything has changed.
As an example I'm gonna use a category in which I list. There are about 4000 items in this category, 82 pages when showing 50 items per page.
- Page 1-20 show a combination of auctions and BIN's. It shows the items it used to show in Best Match a few months ago. In this category the BIN's that are shown in best match on all 20 pages are dominated by 1 seller. I'll tell you why a bit further.
- Page 21-46 only show auctions. Not a single BIN.
- Page 47-82 only show BIN's no auctions.
This used to be my best selling category. No matter how deep down the result, on as good as each page I would find one or more of my items according to selling history, free shipping, and other factors. Now I have to go through more than 50% of all other items before seeing one of my items. As a result no views and no sales.
And this is only part of it.
· This is account linked. Although this new sorting order is affecting all sellers, its seems to affect some sellers less than others. I told you about that seller that dominates the first 20 pages in best match. As a coincidence (does this exist with eBay?) it's the biggest seller in his category. Just to show how big the difference is how eBay deals with it. 2 days ago I sold an item and I relisted. Yesterday I sold the same items again and relisted. Yesterday this other seller sold the same item and also relisted. I sold 2 within 24h. This should really have given me a boost in the results. Reality is that I can hardly find my own item and the same item of the other seller is on page 1.
· Ok let's take it a step further. This 1 seller for one reason or another gets a better visibility. The difference between the visibility of his items and the items of other sellers is huge. We don't have to draw a picture. 2 sellers listing exactly the same items. One is ALWAYS above the other seller(s) in Best Match. So guess who will make the sale. Right!!! Take this situation and let it run for a couple of months. What will happen? Exactly Best Match will be completely dominated by the same seller. No matter doing a search, no matter browsing the pages,... Everywhere you look it's the same seller's items you see.
· And there are you. You list on eBay. Every single item you list is completely buried in the results. There may be 1000's of items above your item. And this is just a downward spiral. You have no views, hence no sales. Because you don't sell anything your items will go even further down in the results making it even more difficult to sell. Sound familiar: cut prices to the bottom and still no sales? Of course. If people can't find your item or have to go through a swamp to find it, you may give your item away for free, it still won't sell.
· And then there are the auctions. The way Best Match used to treat auctions was very simple: the auction ending soonest would be on top. Forget about that. It may still be the case for a lot of auctions but not for every. I've seen auctions ending within 20 minutes that were on page 40. As a buyer lately I've bought items at incredibly cheap prices, without a doubt because a lot of buyers didn't see the auctions end.
I'm absolutely baffled about this!!! How does eBay expect us to sell anything? Your BIN items is buried within the results the minute you list it. Run some auctions to try to attract some traffic and you have a good chance it will also be buried. No visibility, no traffic, no sales and the longer this continues, the worse it gets. I must congratulate eBay to come up with this. It must have taken them a lot of think work to come up with a system that constantly hides your items:
· Newly listed BIN's are buried
· These BIN's will get no views or sales and will be buried even more
· Auctions that are about to end that should be on top may only show dozens of pages later
You have good feedback, you offer free shipping, you're Top Rated? Well forget all about it. As mentioned before this is account linked. You account may be in the best standing order but won't have any effect on it. That's why you often see sellers on top of best match that are not top rated, that have bad feedback, low stars,...
The question of course is why is eBay doing this? Do they have a master plan? Is it something that run completely out of control? This must hurt eBay big times. My sales are down big times. Together with the sales my Ebay fees also went steep down. The sales of the seller I mentioned before may still be ok, but absolutely not to compensate for all my lost sales and the sales of other sellers. Selling prices have been going steep down the last months. So not only a lack of sales, but also less fees per sale for eBay.
Call me paranoid, but I think eBay has been planning this all of a long. Nothing with eBay is a coincidence. What other sellers have been experiencing since April, I've been experiencing for more than 6 months. What has happened with a lot of sellers last April, is exactly what has happened with me a couple of months before. At one time when I was having extremely bad sales my items were also at the bottom of the results. At that time I thought it was because for the first time ever I lost my top rated seller status. Now I know this has got nothing to do with it. Without a doubt my account and the account of other sellers were used to run a test what now is effectively live on the entire marketplace.
So a lack of traffic, a lack of sales? Just check where you items are in best match. I'm sure they are at the same place as mine. Buried completely at the bottom of the results in Best Match. If eBay ever wanted to shoot their selves in the food, this is the perfect way to do it. This is a bubble that's gonna burst with one of the next quarterly results.
A too angry for words eBay seller
Here's your intrepid eBay seller from Sydney back again. I received an email today from online seller about the new eBay Store fees. Well, as usual they relate to the US site so I thought I'd do a bit of searching to see what was happening to our fees.
eBay hasn't told us yet but as of September they are shooting up to $49.95 a month again after they reversed that last year.
If you follow the link on that page to current store fees schedule you'll see that at present a basic store is $19.95. That's a bit of a hike don't you think.
Like to keep you informed so you can keep us up to date too.
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About the author:
Ina Steiner is co-founder and Editor of EcommerceBytes and has been reporting on ecommerce since 1999. She's a widely cited authority on marketplace selling and is author of "Turn eBay Data Into Dollars" (McGraw-Hill 2006). Her blog was featured in the book, "Blogging Heroes" (Wiley 2008). Follow her on Twitter at @ecommercebytes and send news tips to email@example.com.
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