eBay's latest President of Global Marketplaces, Devin Wenig, is about six months into his job, and he gave his thoughts on the eBay marketplaces and various seller-related issues to Ina Steiner in this EcommerceBytes piece today.
I have some thoughts about some key points he made: the availability of data to sellers, and buyers' expectations of free shipping and other services. I'd like to get your opinion as well, and what you would tell Mr. Wenig if you could bend his ear.
One of my big takeaways from the piece is, his ultimate concern is the buyers' experience, though he acknowledges "buyers and sellers need each other"; it's a "fly wheel." Among the things he said that I like to hear as a seller is that eBay's "ability to use data and target it better and to get that information more holistically to our sellers will make them better, make them more profitable and ultimately make our marketplace healthier."
My first reaction to "availability of data" was to say, "I've got your idea for data availability, right here!" How about giving us more historical pricing information? Currently, eBayers can look up to 60 days of data in certain categories, and from 45 to 90 days in Collectibles categories. But you have to pay to go back a year with a service like Terapeak, and even then you can only look up chunks of 90 continuous days at a time, not one whole year in one fell swoop.
Another concept that kept coming up was buyers' expectations. To paraphrase, online buyers have certain high expectations, and eBay needs to meet those expectations or they'll lose buyers to other sites. (That last part about losing buyers is my inference). For example, Wenig said there's an expectation of free shipping today in the ecommerce world: "If people believe that eBay is as good as the standard on ecommerce exceptions, and you know things like free shipping are absolutely a buyer standard - they believe that is their right and entitlement - whoever created that standard, I won't comment on it, but we know that's the case."
I don't know that I'd agree that free shipping is a "buyer standard." As a buyer myself, I think it's a great incentive, and it's a nice perk, but unless I'm buying from certain companies known for it (such as L.L. Bean or Zappo's), I don't expect it. And frankly, Zappo's, for example, is not known as being low-cost; they're a service-focused company. However, I certainly don't expect free shipping at the majority of sites where I shop. I don't expect it on Amazon.com, and I wouldn't unless I have an Amazon.com Prime account, which does not come free: it's $79 per year for free two-day shipping on "millions of items."
Of course, sellers on eBay can choose whether or not to offer free shipping; but Wenig's overall point is unless you subscribe to eBay's requirements to be a Top-Rated Seller, you won't get the eBay badge. But, he says, "out of our 25 million sellers, the overwhelming majority of them won't have the eBay badge and they'll happily sell in the eBay marketplace and they'll profitably make money." So nobody is forcing anyone into free shipping or some of the other TRS requirements. But how important will the eBay badge become to get sales?
When asked if eBay would consider different approaches for incentivizing free shipping, such as sellers asking buyers to order more items in order to qualify for free shipping (e.g., if they buy up to $25, the buyer pays for the shipping; if they spend over $25, they get free shipping), Wenig said, "I'm happy to look into that. I don't know what the issues are that are specifically around that. That's a very specific case you're raising and to be honest I'm not cited on it, but I'm happy to look at it."
I do see why eBay is instituting rules and incentives for requiring tracking; I agree buyers like tracking and shipping. However, this one-size-fits all approach does not work with a good deal of the types of items I ship overseas: I like to use first class international, and so usually do my buyers. Domestically, the requirement that sellers now must have tracking information to maintain TRS status even for such lightweight items that they'd ship fine in a first-class envelope with one stamp, means some sellers simply won't be able to keep that TRS badge if they want to keep their profit margins.
And again, the seller will have a choice. The question is, how much will it hurt a former TRS to lose that badge?
Do you agree that the ecommerce standard buyer expectation is now free shipping? How much do you think it will hurt the average eBay seller to lose a TRS badge? If you could tell Devin Wenig about what policies or practices you'd like to see added or changed as a seller, what would they be? Post a comment here!