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Wed June 10 2009 13:55:20

eBay's Vendor Pricing Wars - Really a Good Thing?

By: David Steiner

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Everybody loves a bargain - no arguing that. But the pricing changes, lock-ins, bonuses, etc. that some of eBay's Certified Third-Party developers have been throwing around lately make me wonder if there is a price to be paid somewhere down the line for trying to attract sellers who may be in flux.

I remember using several excellent free tools such as AuctionSubmit and Invenna Software, which sadly, are no longer around. While sending out update reminders to services on the AuctionBytes Auction Management Services chart the other day, I noticed that nearly 20% of the listing services on the chart that weren't directly owned by eBay were either no longer in business or had merged with other companies. That percentage would be even higher had I not removed some of the "dead" sites a few years ago.

The point is, right now, it's a bit of a "land-grab" for sellers who may be in transition. The fact that vendors are competing is great for sellers because it keeps fees competitive, but the vendors themselves are vulnerable to one company, eBay, since they serve eBay sellers.

Offers are being made that may come back and bite companies squarely in the profit margin down the road, limiting their ability to adjust to economic conditions and industry changes. By attempting to attract new customers, could some be overreaching? Services have real overhead and costs, such as development, hosting, public relations, advertising and technical support - just to name a few. The main players in this pricing war are also eBay Certified Providers, a moniker that they pay for ($3000/year plus training costs plus $150/individual for consultant or engineer certification with an another annual $75/individual annual re-certification fee; all payment paid to eBay prior to gaining actual certified status). Another factor to consider is the cost vendors incur in keeping up with eBay changes, which according to those we've spoken with over the years, is formidable.

It's definitely a "buyers" (i.e., sellers) market right now in the 3P Service space, so I'm sure that sellers are weighing their options carefully, but a few questions come to mind:

  • What is it that you expect from your service provider?
  • How do you view free services? If the service is free or very inexpensive, are you assuming that it comes with little or no support?
  • What is the balance between price and features/support that you look for before signing up with a service?
  • When you change services, how big an impact does it have on your business?
I expect that there will be supporters and detractors of all of the services commenting here, but I'd like to take a bigger picture view of this issue, so setting aside the pom-poms and slingshots for a moment, give us your perspective on what factors will determine your choice in a service. And third-party service providers - you're welcome to comment as well, but please identify yourselves as such.




Comments (31) | Permalink

Readers Comments

eBay's Vendor Pricing Wars - Really a Good Thing?   eBay's Vendor Pricing Wars - Really a Good Thing?

by: Just A Thought

Wed Jun 10 15:09:46 2009

''give us your perspective on what factors will determine your choice in a service''

10 years ago, when I started doing more than just casual selling, I looked around for two things -- an image host who I felt would be around regardless of how this ''eBay thing'' turned out, and a listing management solution that provided the services I needed and had a one-time or flat monthly fee.  I found both based on the comments of users within both the eBay community at large and the specific user communities for my image host and solution provider.

Neither was free.  And I've kept both for over 10 years - expanding my image host to also include all my website and commerce hosting services.  My management solution was purchased by eBay and recently taken ''in house'', but the group that designed it is back in the game with a new plan and new ideas, so it looks like I'll be changing management software soon.

Price was a consideration - but not the primary one.  I wanted solutions I could live with, long term, and grow with.  Both decisions lived up to my expectations, and more.

Consider your needs, your plans, your growth.  Then consider pricing, both at your current volume and at future volume points.

eBay's Vendor Pricing Wars - Really a Good Thing?   eBay's Vendor Pricing Wars - Really a Good Thing?

by: Paul

Wed Jun 10 15:23:19 2009

Those of us who sell 100 or so items a month (or less) have little need for 3P vendors, other than for photo hosting, for which I have found Photobucket is very easy to use, especially since you can upload 50 photos at a time.

eBay's Vendor Pricing Wars - Really a Good Thing?   eBay's Vendor Pricing Wars - Really a Good Thing?

by: just me

Wed Jun 10 15:32:22 2009

Guess it really doesn't matter which one you use. If it gets to big then Ebay will just suck em up.

eBay's Vendor Pricing Wars - Really a Good Thing?   eBay's Vendor Pricing Wars - Really a Good Thing?

by: eBuyer Feedback

Wed Jun 10 16:31:36 2009

One of the problems with free services is that they are often viewed with suspicion.  I can't count how many times one of my free services was labelled as a scam or passed over by bloggers.  I was even kicked off the eBay forums for simply mentioning (no links, names, or anything) that I had created a free service a few days earlier.  The charge was that I was phishing for passwords and LiveWorld agreed (eBay didn't, but they don't run their own forums).

Fortunately that will change next Wednesday.

eBay's Vendor Pricing Wars - Really a Good Thing?   eBay's Vendor Pricing Wars - Really a Good Thing?

by: ZEAK

Wed Jun 10 17:33:38 2009

most of us have small margins (if you believe the boards on auctiva very small margins)third party sites need to be inexpensive or they just will not work. ebay is squeesing us tighter and tighter and when a freindly easy to use third party like auctiva dumps ebay like fees on these sellers there will be a revolt. i had no problem with paying them but going from nothing to 50-100 dollars a month with no warning was insane. he can apologise all he wants most of us have moved and apologies will not get us back. this move cost alot of sellers time and money and it should be a lesson to all others that this is not how it should be done. im afraid with the malware and the price fiasco auctiva is in a downward spiral soon to join the other companies you mentioned. we are bullied by ebay on a daily basis we do not need helpful but not needful 3rd parties to do the same. i think what your seeing is a frustration with ebay people who just couldnt take it anymore took it out on auctiva the boards were vicious and an apology wont bring those people back. i think it should be a wake up call for ebay people are walking a tightrope out here and if they do the wrong thing at the wrong time like auctiva there will be upheavel. it was easier for people to leave auctiva because there are alternatives. ebay has to see that 2 years ago they were the game the only game but other sites are improving and soon just like auctiva people will say enough im done and just move off. google has changed alot of things for auction sites but i dont think ebay has seen this.

eBay's Vendor Pricing Wars - Really a Good Thing?   eBay's Vendor Pricing Wars - Really a Good Thing?

by: kent

Wed Jun 10 18:54:19 2009

ive re read this twice now
what are you saying ina competition is bad? free markets are bad? companies go in and out of buisness all the time thats the market place. would you greive if ebay went out of buisness? i bet most of your readers are trying their best to put them out of buisness. auctiva is just another company, with their latest actions they will probably disapear. but you know what someone else will learn from it and make a better company....thats the market place. theres no time to look back just foward. i want a company that doesnt blind side me. i thought auctiva was great then the malware nightmare now this hit in the head. its too much no apology needed ive moved on just like alot of others. auctiva is behind me lets see what inkforg and the others do. in this buisness changes happen quickly companys come and go how many new auction sites have come and gone since yu started reporting? ive personaly listed on 2 that most people have never even heard of there gone i moved on to better sites that learned from the old ones mistakes. report on the new ones and dont greive for the old. let the markets work obama doesnt need to bail everyone out.

eBay's Vendor Pricing Wars - Really a Good Thing?   eBay's Vendor Pricing Wars - Really a Good Thing?

by: Henrietta - RedInkDiary

Wed Jun 10 19:08:24 2009

I have no axe to grind with Auctiva, when I was on eBay they were a great help.

I think my respect for Jeff Schlicht just went up a lot, making an apology is not easy for most men and rare indeed among CEOs.

I have no problem paying for something if value is received. I pay for Photobucket, I have a lot of pictures.

Unfortunately for all of these providers who have all their eggs in one rather expensive basket, I have moved on.

I now sell on my own website and on Bonanzle, the simple site. I do not need templates or scheduling or a webstore.  I sink or swim by my own actions, I have no need to worry about continual changes at eBay, nobody is micro-managing my business. There is very little stress and last month was my best month since July 06. 2007 was my last full year on eBay and the bottom line was red ink, nothing to do with the economy more about search, unfinding and fees.

Last year Ina wrote something which resonated with me, she said eBay were acting like they didn't need sellers.

Quite a few of us can no longer afford eBay, eBay has priced themselves out of the market for us, not only in terms of dollar cost, life is too short for that level of stress.

My crystal ball shows declining demand for those 'eBay only' services as the smaller sellers are forced off. The big boys either use big boy services or have their own custom software. I think Vendio is looking in the same crystal ball, they became multi-channel this year.

Time will tell.

eBay's Vendor Pricing Wars - Really a Good Thing?   eBay's Vendor Pricing Wars - Really a Good Thing?

This user has validated their user name. by: Ming the Merciless

Wed Jun 10 21:31:05 2009

The evil empire of San Hosed struck back today by announcing they're postponing Picture Service retirement until the end of January, 2010 (presuming they're still in business).

What an amazing coincidence that this falls just hours after Auctiva announced a fixed rate of $9.95 a month for a superior level of services that includes photo hosting.

For those who've spent or are spending hours first selecting a new service and then the laborious task on slower systems and lesser bandwidths of migrating photos I say finish as quickly as possible and CANCEL your Picture Service subscription.

Ebafia Picture Services offers a 1 gb for a whopping $25.00 a month. Auctiva now offers 1 gb photo hosting storage per month, free scheduling, and more for $9.95.

Duh, even the LiveWorld Liars and Toolbox Trolls should be able to do this math.

It should be obvious and probably is that ebafia will use ANY MEANS NECESSARY to eliminate competition -- their favorite, the PacMan strategy, force competitors into bankruptcy, pirate from competitors that won't sell, file frivolous lawsuits, and so on.

I encourage every seller using Picture Services to punish ebay by migrating photos off as quickly as possible and cancelling your subscription. You'll save a minimum of $15.00 a month, receive far better services from other providers, and send ebay another loud message.

Ebafia is America's most despicable corporation run by America's most despicable and sociopathic management.

DEATH to ebay corp. 2009.

eBay's Vendor Pricing Wars - Really a Good Thing?   eBay's Vendor Pricing Wars - Really a Good Thing?

by: just me

Wed Jun 10 21:48:29 2009

Sorry Ming.

I will stay with picture service till the end. It is fast and I have everything I need in one place. I'm not moving stuff around. I have learn to adjust to the  morons at ebay and find going with the flow to be much easier on the rolaids.

eBay's Vendor Pricing Wars - Really a Good Thing?   eBay's Vendor Pricing Wars - Really a Good Thing?

This user has validated their user name. by: Ming the Merciless

Thu Jun 11 00:21:41 2009

@ Just Me

Of course, it's your choice. I think, however, the competition offers more bang for buck including superior customer service.

Most competitive photo services usually load reasonably quickly, and you can still load the first photo for free through ebay which does load a little faster even after a subscription to Picture Services is cancelled.

I'm seeing a gradually increasing number of listings without gallery photos. This occurs when the first photo is NOT uploaded to ebay. Since gallery is free, those using a third party service can upload the first photo to both hosting services which ensures gallery exposure as well as free supersized photos inserted anywhere in the html version of the item description page.

I'm simply advocating minimal use of any and all fee based ebafia bells and whistles in order to minimize their revenues.

eBay's Vendor Pricing Wars - Really a Good Thing?   eBay's Vendor Pricing Wars - Really a Good Thing?

by: Another powerseller

Thu Jun 11 03:01:46 2009

Good points Ina!

We had big problems with Auctiva at times, for example last year the scrolling store window started to hang all of our ebay listings, making them unviewable for a coupel of minutes or so, and there was no easy way to get rid of it (on 1000+ listings). Each listing had to have its code  modified manually.

More recently, we found that Auctivas defaulkts had changed to include the scrolling store window by default on all listings when you first create a token. So before you had a chance to make it look pretty and fit in with your ebay templates, each listing had default code inserted into it. Again, we had to change thousands of listings by hand.

I felt that since it was free, I shouldn't expect much or complain. But I find myself feeling that I wouldn't pay for the service, since it has caused too many problems that have cost me a lot of time & money. And those problems were never resolved.

Even though I realise that I wasn't paying for the  service, I did wind up with a certain lack of confidence in the company. I think their templates look nice though, and the Auctiva store templates are very nicely designed. I'm sure about the technology side of things though, or their responsiveness to sorting out issues.







eBay's Vendor Pricing Wars - Really a Good Thing?   eBay's Vendor Pricing Wars - Really a Good Thing?

by: Ebay's Slow Death

Thu Jun 11 03:20:20 2009

I've been with Auctiva for several years, and really like their service. However, with their new pricing, I had decided that I couldn't afford to stay with them.  I was going to just use the Ebay selling page.

So, today I go to Ebay to list my first item. I write my description and then I need to upload my two photos. First, I couldn't figure out how to flip a photo up vertical, and when I tried to load the photos, it took forever.

Finally, I got fed up, and thought that since Auctiva is offering a flat $9.95 a month plan, that it was really a good deal. Back I went to them to sign-up.  Ebay made me appreciate how fast and easy Auctiva is to use. The flat fee is affordable.  I appreciate Jeff Schlicht for listening to his customers and changing his strategy. Finally, a CEO who actually listens and responds.

Ebay is simply squeezing everybody associated with them, trying to get that last nickle out each person, so that Donahoe can get his bonus.

Thank you Auctiva for making it possible to stay with you!

eBay's Vendor Pricing Wars - Really a Good Thing?   eBay's Vendor Pricing Wars - Really a Good Thing?

This user has validated their user name. by: Ming the Merciless

Thu Jun 11 03:30:58 2009

I loved the way ebafia announced the extension of Picture Services:

"...to give you more time to transition to another photo hosting option..."

Translation from CorporateNewSpeak:

Yes, noisy rabble, once again we're jacking you around with another flip flop because we just realized how much revenue we're going to lose when everyone migrates over to one of those $9.95 a month services that offers a lot more than photo hosting when compared to our best plan.

Shhhhh...don't tell anyone but now everyone can see just how we've been grossly overcharging sellers for slipshod photo presentation that distorted, dropped, or pixelated so many photos."

eBay's Vendor Pricing Wars - Really a Good Thing?   eBay's Vendor Pricing Wars - Really a Good Thing?

by: GazlanNaThai

Thu Jun 11 07:49:58 2009

Ina

I'm actually dumbfounded why so many people want to pay even $10 a month to a 3P vendor if all they're after is photo hosting.

Why not simply go with one of the many web hosting companies that offer unlimited disk space AND unlimited bandwidth for around $3 - $6 a month?  North America is the cheapest country worldwide for webhosting, and has a choice of hosts equal in quantity to the rest of the world added together.

OK, I know such a solution might be  seen as needing web management technical expertise, but in reality they don't need much more than to create an eBay listing - simply use the cPanel management software that most of them provide, and go to the Fantastico Open Source web software installer, then install your own FREE photo gallery website with a few clicks of a mouse button.

All-in-all, from sign-up to set-up to up-and-running, on a well managed hosting service, you can have your own photo gallery website operating in under an hour - most of which is taken up by the hosts setting up their name servers for your site name, and by FTP-ing your photos (fastest method for large numbers of images) into folders on your new hosting space.

Once they're there, you can also draw on them for your own ecommerce site (a free version such as osCommerce or Zen is also provided with the Fantastico site software installer).

To me, it just defies logic why people are paying $10 a month, which compared to the fast and easy tools for building your own portfolio of websites (for half that price per month), is still incredibly expensive.  There are plenty of hosts that also allow you an unlimited number of websites and domain names in your webhosting space.

The cheapest "everything unlimited" service that I've seen is actually a Canadian outfit (which places your websites outside of US Tax jurisdiction ... wave bye bye to the Internet Sales Tax problem), and costs just $2.99 per month in US or CA dollars.

Gaz

p.s. BuildaSkill is now solely under my management (Ed's been retired to the hammock permanently) and full normal critical analysis of eBay & Co will be resumed shortly ... snigger.  

eBay's Vendor Pricing Wars - Really a Good Thing?   eBay's Vendor Pricing Wars - Really a Good Thing?

This user has validated their user name. by: Bob

Thu Jun 11 08:05:44 2009

Most of these services that are used by many small sellers are pointless.  Sellers get sucked in by marketing ploys and promises of speed, efficiency and pizazz.  When in actuality, most sellers who use these tools are doing themselves and injustice because these tools do not force them to learn anything about the internet whatsoever.

With a little research, most sellers could be using their own (or leased) or shared server, basic WYSIWYG editor and CSV or TL and speed up their listings many times over.  And for most sellers, eBay's management tools are fine.

Basically, if you knew what you were doing, had some creativity and were willing to learn, you could put dozens of large high resolutions photos, videos, and sound clips in each eBay listing and have a nice looking template....all for less than $5 per month, plus have virtually instantaneous bulk upload listings that were accomplished on on page.

How?  I'm not going to tell you.  You people would rather bitch and moan about your pathetic margins, then use these stupid unnecessary tools which cost more money, further lowering your already meager profits.  Then at the same time lower your prices.  All in an attempt to try to get some advantage over other sellers on a site that is slowly dwindling away and shedding "businesses" and shoppers alike.

If eBay management had any sense, they would shut down all third party providers, disallow templates, disallow insertion of any type of code, and make the site uniform.  Seems to be working just fine for Google and Craigslist.  The annoyance level for shoppers who have to scroll down through a different template for each listing and look at ads for third party providers on these templates is quite high.  So you've got a template with pretty colors and theme for each product and a slide show that shows your other products, big deal.  You're still under eBay's thumb and even if you have a 99.9% FB rating, you're still suspect in many buyer's eyes.

eBay's Vendor Pricing Wars - Really a Good Thing?   eBay's Vendor Pricing Wars - Really a Good Thing?

by: Just-an-Observation

Thu Jun 11 10:09:29 2009


''...The main players in this pricing war are also eBay Certified Providers, a moniker that they pay for ($3000/year plus training costs plus $150/individual for consultant or engineer certification with an another annual $75/individual annual re-certification fee; all payment paid to eBay prior to gaining actual certified status)...''

It's amazing that even when eBay benefits from third party listing services, the greedy slobs still insist on sucking them dry as well as the sellers - as if they're doing them a favor!

eBay's Vendor Pricing Wars - Really a Good Thing?   eBay's Vendor Pricing Wars - Really a Good Thing?

by: Gypsy

Thu Jun 11 10:25:06 2009

Now that Auctiva & Vendio will be charging eBayers for everything, I will not be using any of their codes, templates, etc. eBay Sellers are already paying skyrocketing prices. We can't afford to keep handing over our money & not making much profit in return.

eBay's Vendor Pricing Wars - Really a Good Thing?   eBay's Vendor Pricing Wars - Really a Good Thing?

by: Ebay bites it

Thu Jun 11 10:41:33 2009

3rd party services are a pain. Nothing turns me off more than a listing filled with junk, like thermometers telling me the temperature where the seller is, flashing html widgets & other junk that slows garbagebay's load time even more. KISS, I click off immediately when the listing is starting to load with funny backgrounds. And I pay $12 for my website, which has lots of pics, and host all my Ebay stuff there, with the added bonus my pics show a link to my site when scrolled over!

eBay's Vendor Pricing Wars - Really a Good Thing?   eBay's Vendor Pricing Wars - Really a Good Thing?

by: Just-an-Observation

Thu Jun 11 11:05:26 2009


Jeff (Auctiva) apologized for the lame flat rate plans for it's members and has adjusted the fees as follows (from Ina's report located here): http://www.auctionbytes.com/cab/abn/y09/m06/i10/s01

''...The special Starter flat rate plan for ultra-casual sellers costs $2.95/month for up to 15 listings and includes 500MB image hosting...''

Wow! Great idea! Increase the image hosting to 500MB from 1MB (approx 5000 images) but only allow 15 listings???

It would appear that eBay has been hard at work training it's 3rd party listing providers...

~jmo

eBay's Vendor Pricing Wars - Really a Good Thing?   eBay's Vendor Pricing Wars - Really a Good Thing?

by: olderthandirt

Thu Jun 11 11:11:58 2009

For the last 7 years, I have used Auctionwizard2000 for templates and auction management; It is great in that it has imaging software to fix pictures built right into the program, It can be used both on and offline and the support is top notch... you never are left hanging. The templates are great and the photos are big and beautiful... great for sales.  All for $50 a year... It does require your own photo hosting, but after the auctiva nightmare... I am happy not to have all services in 1 place... I host with siteground for a mere $5 a month, and its all the space I could ever need for photos in this life! And siteground includes an ecommerce website as well! I have complete control over my photos... So its the best of both worlds for a little over $100 a year! And, best of all its been 7 years for me with no surprises.  

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