Ina Steiner EcommerceBytes Blog
News and insight focusing on ecommerce.
by Ina Steiner, Editor of EcommerceBytes.com
Thu Dec 29 2016 20:12:40

eBay Advice: Ditch the Unique, List Commodities

By: Ina Steiner

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eBay offered some advice to sellers for goosing sales in the New Year. Among the 5 tips it provided was to consider carrying new, multi-quantity items. 

It's no secret eBay focuses on commodities - in part because it believes those types of items are important to its SEO initiatives. However, it appeared eBay was also dissuading sellers from listing unique items.

"If you only sell one-of-a-kind merchandise, you might be spending too much time sourcing and listing. Try taking the plunge into the wholesale world. When you buy multi-quantity items from a wholesaler, you only have to list items once. Plus, you're investing in a much more sustainable sales model."

It may sound appealing to small sellers looking for growth, but there are some things sellers should consider before uprooting their business and plunging into wholesale buying. Lots of competition means it's tougher to get exposure for your listings and pricing pressure can mean razor thin margins. Dealing with wholesalers takes capital and experience - mistakes can be costly.

Another point to consider - ultimately if fewer people are selling unique items, that could make eBay less of attractive to shoppers.

It's conceivable some readers who may not heed the advice may welcome it if they believe it could result in less competition for them and their unique items. What do you think of eBay's advice to sellers of one-of-a-kind merchandise?




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Readers Comments

Perminate Link for eBay Advice: Ditch the Unique, List Commodities   eBay Advice: Ditch the Unique, List Commodities

by: alaska This user has validated their user name.

Thu Dec 29 23:07:05 2016

From my point of view, as a buyer and seller on eBay since 1997, eBay gets worse every year. I'm not buying much any more because there isn't the quality of items that there were before John Donahoe killed eBay. EBay made a huge mistake when they decided to be more like Amazon. They should have focused on the used merchandise and antiques and vintage collectibles markets. They are oblivious to the fact that the quantity of used merchandise and vintage collectibles dwarfs the new merchandise market. Think of all of the stores and warehouses in your town or city with new merchandise. Then think of all of the houses and garages and buildings in your town or city that are full of used things. The ultra-competitive new merchandise markets have very small profit margins. EBay raised their fees again and again and made it more complicated to sell on eBay. They favored buyers over sellers in disputes. Huge numbers of sellers left eBay in disgust. Buyers of antiques and vintage collectibles are quitting eBay because the policy of nearly unlimited free relists has swamped eBay with so much stale, overpriced, or just plain boring items, that it's not worth the effort to find a desirable item among the hundreds of items that are relisted every week and never sell. The free listings enable the sellers to stick to their unrealistic pricing while cluttering the search results of the buyers and making the buyers’ searching experience miserable. We buyers have repeatedly begged eBay for an optional filter to keep the relists out of our search results. EBay is not interested in fixing this problem and they see new merchandise as their future. I see eBay going into the dustbin of ecommerce in not too many years from now.

Perminate Link for eBay Advice: Ditch the Unique, List Commodities   eBay Advice: Ditch the Unique, List Commodities

by: 27tcle This user has validated their user name.

Thu Dec 29 23:55:20 2016

The likely reason ebay wants people to go new by wholesale is that most disputes originate from used stuff. I'm an industrial and scientific surplus dealer. My stuff, by it's very nature is, one off, one of a kind items. Once i run out, that's it- gone for good for the most part. In my experience this helps prevent stagnation of sales by keeping your customers coming back. This is in direct contrast to what ebay is saying. Anyway, I've been selling this sort of stuff for about 16 years now, but over the last three years, the market has dropped off a cliff. The biggest problem seems to be the best buyers were also sellers who just gave up and quit, while the experimenters and hobbiests are just plain broke. At this point all I have currently listed are items that really are hard to sell without the broad market exposure. IMO the whole thing is swirling down the drain.

Perminate Link for eBay Advice: Ditch the Unique, List Commodities   eBay Advice: Ditch the Unique, List Commodities

by: gizmo This user has validated their user name.

Fri Dec 30 00:14:49 2016

Ebay lost who they were. They will never be significant in ecommerce again , ever. Its gone , as all do eventually. Even Amazon, will someday , commit business suicide.
Or , someone always comes along , and screws things up for everyone.

Perminate Link for eBay Advice: Ditch the Unique, List Commodities   eBay Advice: Ditch the Unique, List Commodities

This user has validated their user name. by: Rexford

Fri Dec 30 07:09:53 2016

Or just ditch eBay. They just don't have a clue as to what made them a huge success in the early days.

RIP eBay.

Perminate Link for eBay Advice: Ditch the Unique, List Commodities   eBay Advice: Ditch the Unique, List Commodities

by: FeelingFroggy This user has validated their user name.

Fri Dec 30 09:55:49 2016

We are doing just fine with our unique items, Thanks Ebay

BUT KEEP YOUR NOSE OUT OF MY BUSINESS.

Perminate Link for eBay Advice: Ditch the Unique, List Commodities   eBay Advice: Ditch the Unique, List Commodities

This user has validated their user name. by: RKTOYS

Fri Dec 30 10:41:46 2016

Good Lord.  Winding down a business where I did exactly what eBay is suggesting here, I can't help but echo Ina's words of caution.

Unless you're ordering directly from the manufacturer, the margins barely support venue fees on the best of days.  Toys were CHEAP CHEAP CHEAP at WalMart and Amazon this year.  I never thought I'd see them sell at retail for half of what I was expected to pay a distributor.  Talk about unsustainable.

How many $500-$1000 hits does eBay think small sellers can take?  I would be beside myself if this was my only income.

Perminate Link for eBay Advice: Ditch the Unique, List Commodities   eBay Advice: Ditch the Unique, List Commodities

This user has validated their user name. by: iheartjacksparrow

Fri Dec 30 11:31:40 2016

Wenig (or whoever crafted the statement) obviously doesn't know the history of eBay (which was built on the sales of unique and hard-to-find items).

Perminate Link for eBay Advice: Ditch the Unique, List Commodities   eBay Advice: Ditch the Unique, List Commodities

This user has validated their user name. by: toolguy

Fri Dec 30 12:19:06 2016

"Plus, you're investing in a much more sustainable sales model"

Now that's funny!

How can eBay think anyone can compete with chinese sellers, they buy cheaper, list on ebay cheaper and ship cheaper then I can.

My only chance of surviving is to sell used AMERICAN made products, something the chinese DON'T have. . .

Hope this Helps

Perminate Link for eBay Advice: Ditch the Unique, List Commodities   eBay Advice: Ditch the Unique, List Commodities

by: ignatz This user has validated their user name.

Fri Dec 30 12:46:45 2016

Instead of encouraging sellers who are selling OOAK to compete with China, they should spinoff the used marketplace into its own website (while retaining the ebay brand) already. Put someone in charge who's actually interested in and capable of growing that business.  

Perminate Link for eBay Advice: Ditch the Unique, List Commodities   eBay Advice: Ditch the Unique, List Commodities

This user has validated their user name. by: bitbybit

Fri Dec 30 13:46:46 2016

"I'd rather have a billion unique items that arrive in three days than a billion commodity items that arrive in an hour, Deven Wenig said. That's our business and that's why we’re unique.EBay isn't just where you order a used cellphone anymore, at least according to company CEO Devin Wenig. In fact, used item sales are making up a small and declining part of the eBay business. It's all about perception, Wenig said onstage at the Code Conference 2016, and eBay isn't just an auction site anymore. But it's also not trying to be Amazon."

Talk about speaking from both sides of his mouth. Wenig just tells people what they want to hear at any given moment. Not the type of person you want to head a major corporation.  

Perminate Link for eBay Advice: Ditch the Unique, List Commodities   eBay Advice: Ditch the Unique, List Commodities

This user has validated their user name. by: bitbybit

Fri Dec 30 22:34:59 2016

The Code Conference was in June, 2016 and Wenig 6 months later does a complete reversal. So what is it Wenig? Looks like another grasping of straws to see what floats. Of course the livelihoods of those affected mean nothing to these talking heads.  

Perminate Link for eBay Advice: Ditch the Unique, List Commodities   eBay Advice: Ditch the Unique, List Commodities

by: Frank Abagnale This user has validated their user name.

Sat Dec 31 00:32:56 2016

I think I'll pass on the advice from a marketplace that is only growing 6% while others are growing 20%-30%.

Perminate Link for eBay Advice: Ditch the Unique, List Commodities   eBay Advice: Ditch the Unique, List Commodities

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

Sat Dec 31 07:08:19 2016

Listing items on ebay,where ebay will then do its best to divert to another similar item and prospective buyer who looks at your does seem a bit counterproductive. I just list on my own site,ebay really is a sick joke now.

Perminate Link for eBay Advice: Ditch the Unique, List Commodities   eBay Advice: Ditch the Unique, List Commodities

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

Sat Dec 31 07:10:17 2016

Sorry for the errors in my post,it seems impossible to edit it.Happy New Year to everyone,by the way.

Perminate Link for eBay Advice: Ditch the Unique, List Commodities   eBay Advice: Ditch the Unique, List Commodities

by: Troy Stiffler This user has validated their user name.

Sat Dec 31 13:24:09 2016

I've been in ecommerce since I was 16. That's 17 years now. "Wholesale merch" is self defeating to get into on a 'mom and pop' level. The outlook right now, is that you enter with optimism, spend any savings and credit you have, and then your business model collapses.

It's a race to the bottom of margins. Once the margins get too small, competitors move onto sabotaging each other's accounts (this is AWFUL on Amazon ... like really really bad).

Ebay is really out of touch with all of this stuff. Or maybe they understand, but are trying to stay optimistic and see what sticks (and I can't blame them).

Perminate Link for eBay Advice: Ditch the Unique, List Commodities   eBay Advice: Ditch the Unique, List Commodities

This user has validated their user name. by: eXtinctBay

Sat Dec 31 14:06:43 2016

I understand why eBay wants this- a seller can list one item, and have a quantity on the one listing.

This frees up their servers, and theoretically someone can sell hundreds of items in the same space it takes to list one unique or collectable item.

Question is: Does that seller have the item in stock, or do they and many others have the same thing, all drop shipped from one warehouse (or even Amazon Prime)??

The many dropshippers with duplicate commodity listings have put more of a strain on their server bank than those who sell the unique and collectible items which made eBay the go-to site for those seeking the unusual.

Folks can buy ordinary consumable items anywhere. If one lives in a small town, miles away from the nearest store, then buying online and having things delivered to your doorstep works. But most people just go to their local Wal-Mart to pick them up.

But to an online seller, working on razor thin profit margins and constantly making trips to the Post Office for very little money for a lot of work makes no sense.

Perminate Link for eBay Advice: Ditch the Unique, List Commodities   eBay Advice: Ditch the Unique, List Commodities

by: Michael in BC This user has validated their user name.

Sat Dec 31 17:05:22 2016

I agree with the comment made by ignatz..........there should be an "eBay Classic", as a marketplace for OOAK and other interesting old items, as a spinoff from the structure (?) they have now.

If a "classic" sub-site were in place, there would be a torrent of collector/buyers/dealers making time once again to take a look, and to buy.

I spend a lot of time with these folks, and every week I ask what they've found on eBay.......and the usual answer is "I don't bother looking because what's listed is modern box-store/dollar-store off-shore junk that I can buy anywhere".

Sadly, what eBay itself has is a large inventory of box-store clones, now serving as CEOs in waiting.

Wouldn't it be marvellous if someone at eBay listened ?

Now I must take time to reflect on how best to celebrate my 20th anniversary on eBay, and get back to brushing out the wings on my pig.

Perminate Link for eBay Advice: Ditch the Unique, List Commodities   eBay Advice: Ditch the Unique, List Commodities

This user has validated their user name. by: RKTOYS

Sat Dec 31 17:58:39 2016

You know what happens when you list commodities?  Somewhere between 2 and 12 views per item in December.  That is just shameful.

Perminate Link for eBay Advice: Ditch the Unique, List Commodities   eBay Advice: Ditch the Unique, List Commodities

This user has validated their user name. by: bitbybit

Sat Dec 31 18:06:51 2016

It is ALL and ALWAYS about the money. Meaning it is all about the flavor of the week, month, season and quarter to keep eBay relevant in the eyes of Wall st, the BoD etc. It doesn't matter to them if sellers, families, businesses go broke on their suggested schemes and manipulations. These greedy corporations do not think long term anymore. Sellers have absolutely no way of making any type of business plan on eBay except to devise an exit strategy away from eBay or at the very least prepare for one.

With the New Year, sellers should think about what is in YOUR best interests?

Perminate Link for eBay Advice: Ditch the Unique, List Commodities   eBay Advice: Ditch the Unique, List Commodities

by: I Must be Crazy This user has validated their user name.

Sat Dec 31 20:16:07 2016

I think this really underscores how much Ebay really has lost it's way. It doesn't seem that management knows what to do. Just 6 months ago, Wenig talked about not competing on commodity items. Rather he talked about focusing on unique, hard to find items. Unfortunately I think Ebay has bigger issues than what items are being offered for sale on the site. The truth is nothing they are trying seems to be working.

Many years ago, while John Donahoe was trying to silence the ''noise'', Amazon was planning,creating their strategy, and fulfilling their mission. They were innovating. Ebay didn't innovate and in fact managed to go backward. Their groundbreaking search system has yielded zero in growth. Turns out it isn't much of a search system at all, but rather a seller enforcement tool. Well enforcing limits on sellers only limited the entire organization resulting in little or no growth.

If I were to invest in new, commodity items I wouldn't be selling them on Ebay. I would be on Amazon where those items sell 10 to 1 or better as compared to Ebay. I happen to sell used auto parts and have no desire to sell new reproduction auto parts. They are substandard in quality, dependability and finish. That's true of most things coming over from China.

Ebay needs to appreciate what they ARE. While they won't have meteoric growth, they will do well nonetheless. I think Wenig had it right six months ago. To suggest that sellers should focus on commodity items is great for Ebay, not so good for the sellers. Ebay will make money whether the seller makes a profit or takes a loss. The reality is I don't think they could handle the volume were it to occur. The infrastructure has problems keeping up. Many times I can't respond to a seller question without seeing an error screen. I have to think a seller of commodity items on ebay has lost the sale as soon as a buyer performs a search. Ebay isn't the first place people go to find their goods. That would be Amazon. Sellers on Ebay already have higher shipping costs and longer ship times right out of the gate. How does Ebay plan to overshadow that? They can't and have stated very publicly that they won't. Game over.

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