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Sat Dec 6 2008 22:14:43

Insight into eBay's Operation Catalog

By: Ina Steiner

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If you want to better understand eBay's current strategy, read our interview with Mercent CEO Eric Best in Sunday's (December 7, 2008) issue of AuctionBytes Update.

We wrote in September that eBay was bringing on large volume retailers to the platform under a special program. What I didn't know then was that a company called Mercent had been working with eBay since June on eBay's "Large Merchant Services" APIs  (LMS). LMS is the technology that allows high volume merchants to load large amounts of inventory and synchronize it with their own inventory systems.

Mercent brought its client SmartBargains.com onto the site 2 weeks ago. As is typical of Mercent clients, SmartBargains has its own website, a major presence on Amazon.com, and sends feeds to online comparison shopping sites - basically blanketing the Internet with its listings of retail items.

Mercent CEO Eric Best explains the thinking behind his clients' strategy in coming onto eBay and discusses the benefits - and challenges - he sees ahead.

And yes, we talked about SmartBargains.com's rocky start on eBay.




Comments (38) | Permalink

Readers Comments

Insight into eBay's Operation Catalog   Insight into eBay's Operation Catalog

by: Patricia

Sun Dec 7 00:06:53 2008

Frankly...I'm tired of baloney sandwiches.  That's all Ebay and its cohorts have been handing out lately...and its mighty tiresome!  I'd fall over dead if SmartBargains ever got suspended because of its low DSR ratings LOL

Insight into eBay's Operation Catalog   Insight into eBay's Operation Catalog

by: Harriet

Sun Dec 7 00:43:32 2008

This whole scenario seems far from a complete thing. It appears that eBay and the large merchants are both testing the waters and both seem to be having adjustment problems in the set up of the relationships.

It would be unrealistic to think that eBay would put tremendous pressure on large merchants to adhere to eBay's rules and regulations re: feedback, fees, DSRs etc.

I think it is much more realistic to think that the large merchants will be wagging this dog.

The enormous pitfall that I see is when the large merchants do not see things working in a positive direction for them. They will then pull their merchandise and leave a gaping hole.

I think eBay needs them more than they need eBay, and there is the Achilles heel.

If this is the direction that eBay truly wants to go in, I cannot see any future for any small or medium sellers.

And the sad thing is that if it fails, and eBay cannot satisfy the large merchants, eBay will fall like a house of cards.

It is dangerous territory for eBay.

I do not see a happy marriage of large merchants and small sellers. I really do not see how that can work.

Insight into eBay's Operation Catalog   Insight into eBay's Operation Catalog

by: joyful alternative

Sun Dec 7 00:53:53 2008

Wow! 91% is pretty crappy for an Amazon seller. I wouldn't buy anything from an Amazon seller with that rating, and I'd be embarrassed if my seller rating was that bad.

Insight into eBay's Operation Catalog   Insight into eBay's Operation Catalog

by: nadine

Sun Dec 7 03:02:27 2008

harriet, I think you're right. eBay does need the Diamond sellers more than they need eBay. Which means that once the Diamonds add up how quickly their eBay sales max out (Buy.com hit its ceiling in about 2 months) and how expensive it is to provide customer service to needy eBay customers, some of them will reevaluate the relationship. It would be ironic indeed if we saw them start to pull out or renegotiate after the holidays, but it seems likely.

Insight into eBay's Operation Catalog   Insight into eBay's Operation Catalog

by: Nonsense

Sun Dec 7 04:15:13 2008

"We asked eBay whether it was treating SmartBargains differently than other sellers who accumulated negative feedback. Spokesperson Usher Lieberman said, "Every seller id - which includes SmartBargains - is treated the same with regards to feedback and DSRs, period."

Quit lying Lieberman!

In Ina's -Letters from Readers- (this issue) someone wrote about ebay removing TWO neg's from Buy's profile.  I'm not surprised that ebay removed the discussion thread.

Insight into eBay's Operation Catalog   Insight into eBay's Operation Catalog

by: Nonsense

Sun Dec 7 04:21:47 2008

"Mercent serves a very large customer, and is not targeting the typical eBay PowerSeller, according to Best."

Maybe someone should let Mercent CEO Eric Best know that ebay's BM does the dirty work for him/them.  Diamond Sellers get the top spot in search while all other sellers get pushed pages and pages down in search.

Insight into eBay's Operation Catalog   Insight into eBay's Operation Catalog

by: Diamond Haus

Sun Dec 7 05:49:56 2008

@ Nonsense

There was a thread on eBay that has since been removed where someone claimed their wife left to negs for BUY that were removed.  However if you followed this thread before eBay deleted it, the OP never came back to explain further and never presented any evidence.

I'm not here to defend eBay or its diamond powersellers but I am constantly monitoring their feedback.  You can check out what we've witnessed so far @ http://www.diamondhaus.com

Insight into eBay's Operation Catalog   Insight into eBay's Operation Catalog

This user has validated their user name. by: Bob

Sun Dec 7 06:56:50 2008

You know, when I used to sell on eBay, I used to bitch to my PS rep that I was paying the same fees as some SAHM who was selling a dozen things a weeks.  It wasn't that it was fair or unfair, it just didn't make sense.  I was providing much more revenue to eBay and my ID's resulted in much more traffic than some hobby seller....yet I paid the same fees.

So now eBay actually makes a change that rewards success, and all you people whine about it!  Absurd!  Sure it sucks that there are competitors.  If you want to sell without competitors, open an ice cream stand in Antarctica selling penguin-poop flavored popsicles.  You'll corner the market in no time and you will reign as a powerful monopoly - I guarantee it.

Diamond PS's are NOT the reason your sales suck!  If you fail to see that, you need to find a new hobby/job.  eBay has a tiny tiny fraction of the products that appear on Google Shopping, yet where is the uproar from independent site owners that Google Shopping allows millions of eBay listings, all of Buy.com's inventory, etc.?

It seems like your anger is a bit misplaced.  Even if you are selling new products that are the same as Buy's inventory, can you really complain?  Do you employ thousands of people?  Do you have a marketing budget in the millions?  Do you spend billions on inventory?  No?  Then can you really expect that you'll receive the same perks, opportunities, incentives?

If you have dreams of getting rich simply by selling on eBay, you're delusional.  If you had those same dreams 7 years ago, it would have made some sense, but now, no way.  

Here's something to blow your mind and make you think about doubling up your dosage of Paxil today...   What are you sellers going to do when eBay continues down this road and continues to decline while other sites pick up, and eventually eBay offers Diamond PS status to other sites that actually sell the same type of things as you?  What happens when eBay lets Etsy, ecrater, blujay, Goantiques, Ruby Lane, Tias, Gemm, Musicstack, netsounds etc. upload their entire catalog full of hundreds of millions of items to the eBay site?  What happens when former eBay sellers who were smart enough to leave long ago, suddenly are once again back to compete with you, while they still have their own sites and listings on the aforementioned sites....and you have your couple-hundred item eBay Stores and that's all?

Heck, I could simply upload all our inventory right now to eBay and flood a half-dozen non-commodity categories and drown out many eBay sellers, and be at the top of a number of Pulse categories and the top five in the others...and we're a SMALL independent site.

Basically you need to accept that eBay isn't fun anymore, it's full of fraud, life isn't fair, you won't get rich selling on eBay and if you want to get rich and have a sustainable ecommerce business you need to either leave eBay entirely or expand to other markets as well.

Please!

Ina and David's time could be much better spent on their Ecommerce Bytes site, providing news, info, tips etc. to the small businesses that refer to their line of work as Ecommerce, rather than providing another place for eBay sellers to whine.

Insight into eBay's Operation Catalog   Insight into eBay's Operation Catalog

by: Pat

Sun Dec 7 07:44:43 2008

Bob,

That is one of most seriously uninformed posts I've ever seen anywhere.

eBay is not going to allow other venues to upload their catalogues to their site. Those catalogues belong to thousands of sellers, not one Diamond PS. You got a little homework to do on the differences.

And again, since you don't seem to have been paying attention, it's not just little mom & pop sellers who are complaining about the disparity (and again, it's not as much about fees, it's about search engine placement on eBay - read up!) you have large seller organizations like PESA that are complaining.

You may not be an eBay troll, but you're really as ill-informed as one. Come back when you have a cogent argument.

Insight into eBay's Operation Catalog   Insight into eBay's Operation Catalog

This user has validated their user name. by: Bob

Sun Dec 7 08:53:43 2008

@Pat-

I'm not "ill-informed," I just have some foresight.  People like you look at that computer screen in front of your face until your face turns red and the veins in your forehead bulge, but you never look down the road.

I'm completely aware of what type of sellers, sites, etc. that I mentioned.  8 years ago, did you think that eBay would disallow sales of firearm related items?  Yet it happened.  8 years ago, did you think eBay would ban the use of cash as a payment method?  Yet it did.  3 years ago, did you think that eBay would ban the use of checks and money orders?  Yet again, they have.  2 years ago, did you think that a non-paying bidder could affect your search placement of your items?  Yet, once again, that is exactly what is happening now.  1 year ago, did you think that large companies with millions in revenue would be allowed to seemingly list millions of items for free?  I'm guessing not.

eBay already has Shopping.com, and now they are turning eBay into a shopping comparison engine, whether you like it or not.  Complaining will do nothing.  Do you honestly think eBay really cares what PESA thinks?  Hundreds of PESA sellers can be replaced with in an instant with the addition of a database like Gemm with 20+ million listings.  Google already accepts feeds from everywhere, what makes you think eBay is going to sit idly by while the auction industry dies and competitors are accepting feeds from everywhere?  In fact, eBay is one of the holdout shopping engines that will not accept feeds from multi-seller sites.  Not accepting them is costing them big big big bucks.

eBay wouldn't care if 10,000 small sellers left if they knew they had a hundred million listings from those types of sites ready to take their place.  eBay shoppers are eBay shoppers.  Sure, some shop elsewhere, but for the most part they only shop on eBay, and would continue to do so - and most would not even realize that feeds were coming in from Ruby Lane, Tias etc.

The fact is that most small sellers are nothing more than a hassle for eBay.  eBay laying off thousands of CS workers is not a good sign.  It's easier if eBay continues down the road its on...it would increase revenue for the company and cut expenses with customer service.  Right now eBay feedback is a joke.  Check reviews for the big stores on Google Shopping - you won't see any 99.9% feedback ratings, yet somehow people keep shopping there and they keep making millions.  

I've been right about most things that I've posted about eBay.  If you want to have a good idea of what eBay Inc. will do in the coming years, look beyond eBay.com and see what is happening elsewhere on the web...then put yourself in eBay's shoes and ask yourself, what is more profitable a site with 30 million tiny high-maintenance sellers with five times that many high-maintenance buyers....or....a site with a small number of good sellers and a bunch of high volume sellers who will ultimately bring buyers to the site that are currently repulsed by the "eBay experience?"

Insight into eBay's Operation Catalog   Insight into eBay's Operation Catalog

This user has validated their user name. by: Al G

Sun Dec 7 08:57:16 2008

I just thought of something.

eBay is going to be just like the Post Office. The higher volume "customers" that use the bulk mailing facility, i.e. junk mail, are being subsidized by the 1st class customer, which, is a profitable service for the USPS.

So it will be, or now is, with eBay. The small merchant pricing structure will subsidize the "bulk" merchants.

The unfortunate thing is that the USPS does provide great service and better pricing than their competition whilst eBay is trying to do the opposite.

Insight into eBay's Operation Catalog   Insight into eBay's Operation Catalog

by: ceezee

Sun Dec 7 09:22:21 2008

sound like Bob might be an eBay plant. You obviously dont see the big picture and are terribly misinformed

Insight into eBay's Operation Catalog   Insight into eBay's Operation Catalog

This user has validated their user name. by: Bob

Sun Dec 7 09:28:40 2008

@ceezee-

No, if you knew me, you'd know that I have no love for eBay.  It's just that I have moved on and am quite successful outside of eBay.  That, and I have foresight that all of you lack.

Insight into eBay's Operation Catalog   Insight into eBay's Operation Catalog

by: formal ebay buyer

Sun Dec 7 09:52:02 2008

Smartbargains 30 day negs is at 12%.Way more than enough to get then restricted from listing for 30 days.

Lets see if ebay restricts them and if not than we all will(even the naysayers)know without a doubt that ebay does treat their diamondsellers different and favors thems(like we didn't already know that!)and they are not held to the same standards as the noise(as ebay calls them).

I bet they don't get restricted.Their feedback is at 88%.I would never buy from a seller with bad feedback like that!

Insight into eBay's Operation Catalog   Insight into eBay's Operation Catalog

by: former ebay buyer

Sun Dec 7 09:54:14 2008

opps my name should be former ebay buyer not formal lol

Insight into eBay's Operation Catalog   Insight into eBay's Operation Catalog

by: Pat

Sun Dec 7 09:58:29 2008

Bobbo,

One thing I'll say for you - you're good for a laugh with my coffee! These other sites like TIAS, RubyLane, GoAntiques, ad nauseum, have already WORKED with eBay - and gotten BURNED! Like I said in my previous post - you don't seem to have a grasp of context. Why would a venue, stocked with sellers who are trying to GET AWAY from eBay, feed eBay their inventory. They may as well show their own merchants the door.

BTW - eBay gave up selling firearms because the regulatory BS would have been a nightmare. It was easier for them to walk away. So experts like GunBroker and AuctionArms stepped into the void because they knew how to manage the sale of firearms. eBay's loss.

eBay banned paper money because they OWN PAYPAL - Hello?!? Of course they're going to try to leverage that $1.5 bil investment. It didn't take Karnak to figure that out when they bought it.

And again, if you do your homework, you'll see that these Diamond PS are having problems managing the customer service required on eBay Sales. eBay is 5x the work that is required from selling on Amazon or a seller's own retail site. eBay purposely makes it complicated because of their paranoia that a seller is going to start making off-site transactions.

You'd better get your foresight checked - it needs glasses.

Insight into eBay's Operation Catalog   Insight into eBay's Operation Catalog

This user has validated their user name. by: Bob

Sun Dec 7 10:07:13 2008

You're missing it still.  No matter what points you make or how much you whine, eBay management won't just do what you want.

Look at the following ratings (or equivalent out of 100) for merchants on Google Shopping.  Do you think customers are avoiding these businesses?

Buy.com          84%
Amazon.com       74%
Circuitcity.com  78%
Sony Style       46%
Kmart            48%
Sears.com        60%
walmart.com      76%
radioshack.com   80%

Insight into eBay's Operation Catalog   Insight into eBay's Operation Catalog

This user has validated their user name. by: Bob

Sun Dec 7 10:11:10 2008

Pat-

So, you've given reasons why eBay did something, reasons that are logical from their standpoint.  Of course you didn't predict them before they happened...

Insight into eBay's Operation Catalog   Insight into eBay's Operation Catalog

by: Daisy

Sun Dec 7 10:33:24 2008

Ebay sellers need to give up their anger at Ebay. Ebay has proven they don't like nor want the smaller sellers; from their behavior we've learned they are not trustworthy or even ethical.

A lot has happened in one year. Ebay is going in the direction they think is right for them. But don't underestimate the Ebay buyer. They shop at Ebay for their unique items. That's not going to change.

So now you have Bill Harding over at Bonanzle working hard to bring back the early magic Ebay had. And there's many other venues that are looking good as Ebay replacements.

My strategy as a basically successful flea market seller is to use Ebay as long as the traffic is still there but diversify, diversify, diversify.

One year or less from today might be looking a lot better for the smaller seller. And might just be looking not so great for the Ebay organization. Each one of us has to make the decision to give up the Ebay ''crack'' as Randy Smythe calls it and go towards the path that feels the best for you.

I wish Ebay well (not really), but hopefully we'll all find a new home and eventually won't even care what Ebay is doing.

Insight into eBay's Operation Catalog   Insight into eBay's Operation Catalog

by: Randy Smythe

Sun Dec 7 11:07:50 2008

Pat you and Bob are really not that far apart. I think you are just looking at the problem from two different angles.

Bob is reading the tea leaves and talking about what eBay will become (and he could have been a little less forceful in his wording :)and Pat, I think you are talking about what eBay should be.

I think Bob wants sellers to make choices based on what eBay will become not hold onto the ideal of what eBay should be(for small sellers)

eBay wants to become the Product Search engine of the web and they want PayPal to be involved in every transaction. This is what they are working towards.

eBay 3.0 is going to be a weird conglomeration of comparison shopping, catalog product, banner, text and classified ads, etc. And existing eBay sellers need to look at how their business will fair in that environment.

I have no problem with their desire to do this, but would suggest as Pat and others have, that they create a niche business for the Classic eBay and add that as a feed to the new eBay.

The problem is this management team does not want to run that type of business (Classic eBay)

I think eBay's poor execution is the problem. This company should be blowing away ecommerce, yet they stumble all over themselves.

I talk about what eBay should become all the time, but they don't listen to me. I think their approach is going to fail, mostly because they have the Keystone Cops running the show.

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