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EcommerceBytes-NewsFlash, Number 2818 - June 04, 2012 - ISSN 1539-5065    2 of 5

Possible Fee Changes at eBay Could Include Free-Listings

By Ina Steiner
June 04, 2012

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eBay conducted a survey to gauge sellers' reaction to various proposed fee structures and asked respondents if they would prefer a free-listing model in which they would pay higher commission fees when their items sold. eBay often conducts surveys when they are close to launching new features or policies, though surveys aren't 100% predictive.

eBay displayed various scenarios and asked survey respondents how likely they would be to list multiple-quantity items on eBay and other competing marketplaces.

Julia Wilkinson first posted about the survey on the AuctionBytes Blog last week, though screen shots were not available at that time. After the blog post was published, an EcommerceBytes reader sent us screenshots to a survey he took, which are helpful in understanding the context of the questions.

The survey first asked a series of questions about respondents' selling behavior, including what percent of their listings were in auction versus fixed-price format. It also asked recipients to indicate the approximate total dollar value of their sales from various channels, including eBay, Amazon.com, Brick and Mortar Retail Store ("whether owned by you, consignment, or other resale"), BidStart, Craigslist, Etsy.com, and "Your own website".

eBay then asked sellers to indicate how important various attributes were on their choice of an online listing site, including:

Quantity of traffic;
Assistance in filling orders and shipping;
Stability of policies and prices;
Conversion rate (% of listings that sell);
Reputation with buyers;
Access to listing and inventory management tools;
Realizing higher selling prices than other channels;
Flexibility of payment methods;
Quality of traffic;
Guidance in setting listing prices;
Seller Protection;
Ability to sell a wide variety of products;
Customer service;
Ability to sell large quantities of products;
Ease of listing items;

eBay also asked respondents to participate in a set of "selling experiments." For each selling scenario, eBay asked respondents to imagine they had a number of items to sell within a particular category with an approximate dollar value worth. "Each selling situation will include key fees to sell the item via an eBay auction format, and eBay fixed price format, and on other listing sites" - including Craigslist, Amazon and Etsy.

eBay asked sellers to carefully review the information presented within each selling scenario and then indicate the sites on which they would wish to list their times. "You may choose one or multiple sites, and you always have the option of listing on your own website (if you have one) or not listing at all."

The survey instructed respondents, "For eBay listings, we want to remind you that you will be paid through PayPal, and you are responsible for shipping the item to the buyer."

One of the scenarios asked respondents to think about the last item they sold in a particular subcategory within the Collectibles category. It asked how much the item sold for, and then asked sellers to indicate where they would be likely to sell additional items if they had them available for sale:

"Now, imagine you have 10 of these same items in the "Collectibles: (subcategory)" category that you want to sell. Please carefully review the eBay selling fees shown below. NOTE: If you are a Top Rated Seller, your discount will still be applied in addition to the fees list below."

One scenario showed an Insertion Fee of zero for eBay fixed-price listings and auction listings along with three tranches of final value fees (12% for up to $50 for fixed-price listings, and 9% for up to $50 for auction listings).

While many sellers favor a free-listing format, those in categories with higher sell-through rates prefer to pay insertion fees if it means paying lower commission fees.

Said one seller commenting on the AuctionBytes Blog, "For those of us who use multiple-quantity listings with good sell-through, it's definetly (sic) worth paying the insertion fee up front. However, if you're just "parking" random junk on eBay in speculation, then free insertion fee makes sense."

Another seller was not in favor of free listings because it would make it even more difficult for sellers to have their listings seen in search results. "Having no insertion fee just encourages people to list whatever useless piece of "merchandise" that they may have, which in turn causes overcrowding."

Over the weekend, a seller reported seeing what sounds like a live test of a new fee structure. She said she saw a message stating there were no listing charges for the items she was listing. "It said listings were free but that if the item sells a final value fee would be charged," she wrote "I looked at the final value fee chart and sure enough it mentioned the changes. Then a half hour later 4 of my listings began being charged the .20 fee."

She went on to say, "I read on your site through a recent newsletter that eBay is planning to possibly change things to what I was first experiencing with free listings and only a FVF charge. Can someone tell me what's going on? First I'm not charged now I am??? I'm told by eBay nothing has changed and yet I know what I saw."

Signs indicate eBay is preparing to announce changes to its fee structure for sellers - let us know what you think on the EcommerceBytes Blog.

Comment on the EcommerceBytes Blog.

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 ina@ecommercebytes.com.

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