EcommerceBytes-Update, Number 229 - December 21, 2008 - ISSN 1528-6703     1 of 6

From the Editor

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Online selling got a lot more complicated in 2008 for small online sellers, with upheaval at eBay and the expansion of multi-channel selling. Next year will bring more change at a time when retail faces economic conditions rougher than we've seen in decades.

Sellers who remain focused and pay attention to their customers and their businesses will survive. Investing in education and website improvements could be wise moves if they can help sellers maintain or increase sales. It may also a good year for small marketplaces that manage to provide value while generating enough resources to keep up with the technology and regulatory challenges of a growing site.

Here are some things we see happening in 2009.

Increased taxes and regulation, with states continuing to look to ecommerce for tax revenue. Large retailers have introduced anti-fencing bills in Congress that would open eBay sellers' records to retailers, and the credit card industry is continuing its PCI DSS compliance efforts that may ultimately increase costs for small retailers.

If you sell children's items, you don't want to miss this news about the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA), which imposes third-party testing requirements for all consumer products primarily intended for children twelve years of age or younger.

eBay will run more third-party advertising on its site in 2009. Combined with "Diamond PowerSeller" listings from large-volume retailers, the site will look more like an ad platform and comparison shopping site, and less like a C2C marketplace.

We expect eBay to continue its trend toward category-based pricing. Zero listing fees are already available to certain Diamond sellers, and that privilege could be expanded to certain categories (5-cent listing fees have been extended in the media category through March), and could possibly be tied to seller performance.

It's no secret that eBay is working on a new checkout system in an attempt to provide a more consistent experience and faster payment, and it is working to eliminate third-party checkout. Shoppers will be able to enter their credit card number on eBay's new checkout, and the payment will be routed to the seller's merchant account. The key question is when eBay's technology will be ready to support its ideal checkout system?

Users have speculated for a long time that eBay would get rid its legacy feedback system (negative, positive and neutral ratings) and rely completely on Detailed Seller Ratings (DSRs). eBay might also change the way it deals with deadbeat buyers (sellers currently file Unpaid Item/UPI reports against buyers).

Google will continue its push to be the Internet's ultimate comparison shopping site, and will capitalize on its ability to support small sellers without having to take on risks associated with small sellers. In contrast, Amazon will face more issues in dealing with small sellers, and there could be growing disenchantment on the part of both parties.

eBay alternatives will continue on the growth path they saw in 2008. We may see more consolidation among large marketplaces and also among third-party vendors.

Visit the AuctionBytes blog to voice your thoughts on what's ahead for eBay and ecommerce in 2009.

Meanwhile, eBay sellers should make sure their listings are in compliance with all the changes rolled out in 2008. eBay changed its payments policy in October 2008, and will begin enforcement in mid January.

We're conducting a survey of multi-channel selling behavior, and if you sell on more than one website or marketplace, please take a few moments to help us gather data - we'll report the results in a future issue. You can find the survey here.

Winter weather has taken hold, and it's affecting online commerce as shipping carriers experience delays (and some sellers have been without electricity for over a week). I received a letter from one seller who said her shipping time DSRs took a hit as the weather turned bad. "How does one compete with the weather?" she asked. Skip McGrath recently blogged about this problem and wrote, "about the only thing you can do about this is to proactively communicate with your buyers."

Someone sent me a particularly nice email note with a picture of her brick-and-mortar store, and it made my day. Don't forget to spread some cheer, you may not realize how small gestures can make a big difference. Enjoy the peace and love of the holiday season, thanks for reading.

About the author:

Ina Steiner is co-founder and Editor of EcommerceBytes and has been reporting on ecommerce since 1999. She's a widely cited authority on marketplace selling and is author of "Turn eBay Data Into Dollars" (McGraw-Hill 2006). Her blog was featured in the book, "Blogging Heroes" (Wiley 2008). Follow her on Twitter at @ecommercebytes and send news tips to

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