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Mon Mar 26 2012 16:33:10

Should eBay Give Sellers a Way to Contact Watchers?

By: Julia Wilkinson

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The topic of eBayers "watching" an item came up recently on one of the forums where I hang out. Why do people watch an item, and is there some way the "watch" feature could be better used to facilitate sales?

My thought, as both someone who watches items as a buyer, and a seller who has seen anonymous eBayers as numbers floating next to her items for months and months, is it would be nice if eBay gave sellers a way to contact (anonymously for the prospective buyer, of course) our watchers, to reach out to them with a better price, or just as a nudge to remind them that the item is still there.

There are probably a lot of initial concerns about this, such as privacy issues or worry that it would be abused by sellers flooding watchers with offers...kind of like when you have an annoying salesperson hovering around you at a store when you just want to browse.

However, if implemented correctly, this could be a great way to encourage sales between sellers and buyers. eBay could, for example, allow a seller to contact a watcher once, after X number of weeks, to communicate to them they have some wiggle room in the price, or even just to remind them the item is still there. As a buyer, I have put some items on my "watch" list and then completely forgotten them, so I don't think this would bother me in the role of a buyer.

There's also an argument to be made that such a feature would help eBay in its capacity as -- as originally intended by founder Pierre Omidyar -- an effective (if not perfect) "market maker." What if a seller has an item listed at too high a price (sometimes stubbornly), and just doesn't realize if he tweaked it, one of his watchers would jump at the bait?

Some of the eBayers on the forum where this was being discussed theorized that some watchers were actually competitors checking out items similar to what they are selling. But even if that's true, that would not present a big issue. And sure, there is the "make offer" feature, but having that is not the same thing as potential access to someone who you know may be interested in your item, especially if it does not have a "make offer" on it.

What do you think...would it be helpful to you as a seller to be able to contact your watchers, even if it's only once and/or after a set amount of time? Do you watch items frequently, and what are your reasons for doing so?

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Comments (19) | Permalink

Readers Comments

Should eBay Give Sellers a Way to Contact Watchers?   Should eBay Give Sellers a Way to Contact Watchers?

by: EssexEstateServices This user has validated their user name.

Mon Mar 26 18:28:05 2012

We watch items when there is someething that we are considering purchasing or bidding on but haven't fully committed to the purchase or bid yet. Often it is an item we need to augment someething we want to sell but are missing a piece, for example, we watched a Waterford Decanter that we needed to complete a Tantalus set. Wound up not buying it because we bid (sniped) another auction and paid 1/2 what the first buyer was asking.  

Should eBay Give Sellers a Way to Contact Watchers?   Should eBay Give Sellers a Way to Contact Watchers?

by: Susan Averello This user has validated their user name.

Mon Mar 26 18:38:11 2012

As a buyer not a seller, I'd say no way. I often watch a number of similar items, other times just to see. I don't need sellers contacting me to let me know of a "deal"

I do more buy-it-nows but it feels like spam when contacted by a seller on Etsy when you heart an item there, this would be no better

Should eBay Give Sellers a Way to Contact Watchers?   Should eBay Give Sellers a Way to Contact Watchers?

by: LadyElizabeth This user has validated their user name.

Mon Mar 26 18:39:17 2012

I can't imagine the benefits of a seller knowing who are the watchers.

As a seller, I watch many items, specifically to find out if they sell and for how much, because I might have a similar item to list.  

From a buyer's point of view, and I do also buy on eBay, if a seller contacted me, because I was watching an item, I'd stop watching it.

It's kind of like getting unsolicited junk mail or spam, neither of which I'm interested in receiving.

Should eBay Give Sellers a Way to Contact Watchers?   Should eBay Give Sellers a Way to Contact Watchers?

by: Harriet This user has validated their user name.

Mon Mar 26 19:58:47 2012

Most of the watching I do is research watching to see what it sells for. I would bet that at least half of all watchers are competitors seeing what things sell for. And I think that is why having a lot of watchers doesn't necessarily translate into valid bids.

It is that way on other sites too. I often have a lot of lookers on things, but not necessarily sales of that item.

I think it would annoy a watcher to be contacted.

Should eBay Give Sellers a Way to Contact Watchers?   Should eBay Give Sellers a Way to Contact Watchers?

by: mickeyfinn This user has validated their user name.

Tue Mar 27 02:18:26 2012

The presumption that a watcher is actually interested in buying the item is a rather dangerous one.  Some alternative reasons have already been given - and I have a list of a dozen more.  In such cases, ANY approach to the buyer would be counter-productive.

In the case of the buyer having an interest to actually buy the product - whether THAT specific item, one from another seller or even from a B&M - the idea of an approach to help 'convert' the interest into a purchase is understandable - BUT .......

Irrespective of the intent, ANY communication with the buyer risks either getting lumbered in with all the other advertising spruiking or seen as an encroachment.  Either way, the impact is negative.  Not what you really want, is it?

If you want to lose a sale, just pressure the buyer .... but you might lose more than that.  You could lose the buyer. One seller's actions could turn the buyer off eBay, which means ALL eBay sellers would lose a buyer.

Whatever else you might think about them, eBay is rather well aware of the issue - and is encouraging sellers to avoid unnecessary communication, as the new automatic 5-star DSR rule demonstrates.

Such a facility SHOULD NOT happen.  Such a facility WILL NOT happen.  The ''Watched item reminder'' that currently exists is, in my opinion, is just within buyer tolerance since it is a time driven thing.


The truth is this ... the Seller has the best opportunity to maximize their chances of completing a sale by operating as effectively as possible within each given sales channel.  Within the eBay channel, this means working very hard at getting your listings to do the work.

Don't expect to get ahead by doing half-baked listings and then try to 'patch up' things by chasing window shoppers.

Should eBay Give Sellers a Way to Contact Watchers?   Should eBay Give Sellers a Way to Contact Watchers?

This user has validated their user name. by: Stockmiser

Tue Mar 27 07:55:07 2012

Ebay DOES contact watchers already.

When a watched item is nearing expiration (even if it's GTC nearing relist time), they send out a "Get your watched items before they're gone" message.  I know cause I get them all the time.

That is probably the best way to promo the watchers - let them know the item is still available and remind them of their interest.

Anything else is spammy, IMHO...

Should eBay Give Sellers a Way to Contact Watchers?   Should eBay Give Sellers a Way to Contact Watchers?

This user has validated their user name. by: juliawww
Web Site

Tue Mar 27 10:27:06 2012

Interesting thoughts, all! Well there seems to be a clear consensus on this! ;)

Stockmiser I didn't realize that about eBay sending the Watched Items nudge..Or maybe I just haven't watched anything in a while. Thanks for your thoughts, everyone.  

Should eBay Give Sellers a Way to Contact Watchers?   Should eBay Give Sellers a Way to Contact Watchers?

This user has validated their user name. by: basset

Tue Mar 27 10:53:21 2012

As a buyer: NO I would not want to be contacted if I am watching something.

Possibility: eBay used to run a script on watched items that are on sale: "sale ends in XXX days or hours" If a sale is scheduled, perhaps they could give a heads-up in this space, but then the problem would be emails from some buyers wanting to buy the item early before the sale but for the sale price. So, I think even this would cause more trouble than it is worth.  

Should eBay Give Sellers a Way to Contact Watchers?   Should eBay Give Sellers a Way to Contact Watchers?

by: SandyK This user has validated their user name.

Tue Mar 27 11:08:04 2012

I don't necessarily want to contact watchers directly but I do think eBay should send emails to watchers when an item they're watching has been put on sale. The best way would be to offer sellers a ''check this box'' option if they want notices sent to watchers on items included in our sales when we do the initial setup for the sale. That would be a great promotional tool for all of us - buyers, sellers & eBay!  

Should eBay Give Sellers a Way to Contact Watchers?   Should eBay Give Sellers a Way to Contact Watchers?

This user has validated their user name. by: Philip Cohen

Tue Mar 27 17:54:24 2012

I do my rare watching via a sniping program, so the seller does not even know that I am watching. And, no, I certainly would not want sellers chasing me on that basis, anyway.

eBay / PayPal / Donahoe: Dead Men Walking

Should eBay Give Sellers a Way to Contact Watchers?   Should eBay Give Sellers a Way to Contact Watchers?

by: Sunny This user has validated their user name.

Tue Mar 27 21:47:40 2012

On a similar topic - I think it is not prudent for eBay to allow buyers to see the history of best offer sales. Savvy buyers can review this and exert influence over getting a lower price having known how low the seller was willing to go down to with other customers.  

Should eBay Give Sellers a Way to Contact Watchers?   Should eBay Give Sellers a Way to Contact Watchers?

This user has validated their user name. by: Philip Cohen

Tue Mar 27 22:11:11 2012

But Sunny, in eBay's eyes, we buyers are all powerful; for without us you, and more importantly eBay, are dead in the water. Actually, eBay has been dead in the water since 2007, or has no one noticed?

eBay / PayPal / Donahoe: Dead Men Walking

Should eBay Give Sellers a Way to Contact Watchers?   Should eBay Give Sellers a Way to Contact Watchers?

by: JLS This user has validated their user name.

Tue Mar 27 23:39:59 2012

As a Seller, I'm too busy either re-listing items that don't sell or answering often foolish questions from buyers who neither READ the listing description and title, nor do they even bother to look at the photos., so no, I do not wish to contact watchers, who most likely are my competitors!  However, I would like eBay to ''shoot some of the sitting crows off the watching fence'', so to speak!  I would like for some mechanism to be put into place where a watcher has only a given amount of time to watch a particular item....then maybe receive an email from eBay saying something to the effect of:  You have been watching this item for the past (give the amount) so many days.  This notice is to inform you that your watched item will disappear off your watch list unless you either buy the item or physically renew your watching status.  You will be allowed to renew this watch status only once.''

Should eBay Give Sellers a Way to Contact Watchers?   Should eBay Give Sellers a Way to Contact Watchers?

by: Paul This user has validated their user name.

Tue Mar 27 23:57:02 2012

As a seller I ignore watchers.  As a buyer I do NOT want sellers contacting me about watched items.

Should eBay Give Sellers a Way to Contact Watchers?   Should eBay Give Sellers a Way to Contact Watchers?

by: comet This user has validated their user name.

Wed Mar 28 01:22:04 2012

Seriously---are we STILL in the dark about the "Communication DSR's" or do you just like to rant?

The Auto DSR rating is NOT a way to CANCEL comm between the seller and buyer.  It IS a way to REMOVE the need for a buyer to ponder what if any thoughts he or she might possibly have about the sellers "communications" with them.

Now since we KNOW that many buyers cannot even READ the listings we work hard to dream up and fail to pay ANY attention at ALL to what we write or what pics we post---well I for one am HAPPY if this is removed from SOME buyers arsenal of pain for me.

The buyers who DO contact me for whatever reason THEN retain the RIGHT to leave comm DSR's BECAUSE they did in fact after the sale HAVE communications with me.  

One thing I have NOT seen tho is how LONG they have to  contact us before that DSR becomes an auto star.  I am presuming that it will become that when and IF the buyer decided to leave FB.  And ya know---

Just tonight I saw a seller who mentioned that they NEED a FULL FIVE STAR comment in their feedback to remain competitive and if you are NOT going to leave them 5--then just DON'T LEAVE ANY AT ALL.  

Sounds good to ME.  

As to contact with watchers---Hows about--

Ok you have lurked here for 5 WEEKS poop or get off the pot?????

Should eBay Give Sellers a Way to Contact Watchers?   Should eBay Give Sellers a Way to Contact Watchers?

by: jdbok This user has validated their user name.

Wed Mar 28 10:47:04 2012

the problem is that I don't always get watched item ending soon notifications and I'm sure many of my customers don't.
for me getting those email on items I'm watching is totally random. not good.
there's a big difference between watchers on auctions and watchers on FP
there is a good chance that an auction watcher may want your item  or want to get a last minute bid in and don't use sniping services or were thinking about it and 7 days later could use a reminder
- having control of the watched auction ending soon email would be great in my book. no offers of a deal or marketing just your watched item is ending in 5 hours or today-- something simple-- a reminder with no access to identity or personalized messages. it could be done through sales manager pro-- so ebay could get fees off it or exclusivity for TRS or? but what ebay used to automate as a service to us, like everything else, is either broken or glitchy.
I would rather do it myself manually.
thanks for bringing this issue up!

Should eBay Give Sellers a Way to Contact Watchers?   Should eBay Give Sellers a Way to Contact Watchers?

by: dmg61 This user has validated their user name.

Wed Mar 28 21:09:36 2012

Naughty! I got my "hands slapped" by the eBay gods when I indicated to only leave 5 star ratings in my ads. They said I couldn't do that, coerce buyers and all, to remove it from my ads "or else". What was pathetic is when I got the notice and my eBay listing was for a record on the five star label!

Back on topic:

No, I do not want sellers contacting me on an item I'm watching. I like being unknown to them. Most of the time I'm a casual watcher.

Little wonder I'm phasing eBay OUT before June.......

Should eBay Give Sellers a Way to Contact Watchers?   Should eBay Give Sellers a Way to Contact Watchers?

by: andanotherthing This user has validated their user name.

Thu Mar 29 02:56:56 2012

As far as I am concerned, as a seller, the number of watchers is just a weak indication of the interest there may be in my item.  I am sure that many times, a watcher is a competitor who has a similar item (it won't be the same as I sell antiques and collectables) and who wishes to see if my own item sells and at what price.  Often they might like my own item description and wish to make use of the information in it in some way - I use eBay for research as well, so I have no problem with this (I might object if they just copied my description for their own item, though, word for word!)

As a buyer, I would absolutely hate it if sellers were able to contact me to try and "push" me to buy.  I find this approach in bricks and mortar stores very offputting and have been known just to walk out on being approached.  I would feel similarly if "chased" by an eBay seller.
JC

Should eBay Give Sellers a Way to Contact Watchers?   Should eBay Give Sellers a Way to Contact Watchers?

This user has validated their user name. by: permacrisis

Thu Mar 29 16:43:55 2012

Back when userid's were visible throughout all phases of a transaction, I would watch auctions similar to mine in order to identify the folks who lost out on something I was about to sell.

When my auction went live, I'd shoot one or two of them a quick note that mine was cheaper, newer or whatever and give them the auction number.

I wound up with some really happy buyers! But I do not think this would work as well with watchers, and watching would likelygrind to a halt if this started. Besides, saved searches are supposed to perform this function. (Of course, they're as busted as an overturned truckload of lightbulbs.)



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