EcommerceBytes-Update, Number 375 - February 08, 2015 - ISSN 1528-6703     6 of 14

Sellers Choice 2015 Marketplace Ratings: Ruby Lane

By Ina & David Steiner

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In January 2015, EcommerceBytes surveyed over 12,000 online sellers and asked them to rate the marketplaces on which they had experience selling. An introduction to the Sellers Choice survey along with a summary of the overall ratings can be found here, along with links to results for each of the 12 online marketplaces included in the survey.


Profitability:

Customer Service:

Communication:

Ease of Use:

Would you recommend:

Rubylane
Year Established: 1998
Description: Fixed price, shops; antiques, collectibles, fine art, arts and crafts
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Summary:
Ruby Lane came in fourth place in the 2015 Sellers Choice Awards for Online Marketplaces. The niche site for antiques, fine art and vintage collectibles has always placed highly in Sellers Choice. This year, sellers again wrote many glowing reports.

While some sellers said it's an expensive site on which to sell, most felt that was not a problem, since it could also be the most profitable due to the level of traffic and quality of buyers.

However, some respondents continue to find the site's 50%-off sales to be problematic, saying they make buyers hold off on purchasing in the period before the sale starts, and succeeding in only attracting bargain hunters to the site - though there are those who say they benefit from the Ruby Red Tag Sales.

While sellers raved about the caliber of buyers Ruby Lane attracts to their shops, some believed the Ruby Red Tag Sales attracted "eBay caliber" buyers (seen as a negative).

The biggest complaint was Ruby Lane's new photo processing requirement due to its fees and especially since it delays the time it takes listings to appear on the site.

Ruby Lane has an interesting program in which it favors shops that sell exclusively on Ruby Lane, giving them greater exposure to shoppers. Obviously seen as a positive by those who participate, but as a negative to those who sell on multiple channels. "If a Ruby Lane shop owner is not exclusive to the site, their listings are dropped in the search results," wrote one seller. "And not just dropped a page or 2 but seriously punished."

Some respondents said customer service had declined over the past year or so, and said Live Chat was less available, though many raved about Ruby Lane's customer service.

A number of sellers expressed concern about the change in direction at Ruby Lane from a high-end marketplace for antiques buyers to a site for interior designers. "Their new focus on "decorating" is too narrow a niche; I am concerned about my buyers leaving," said one seller. Others are unconcerned. "No complicated fees and commissions. Flat rates. No commission," wrote one seller. "Customer service always quick to respond. My history with Ruby Lane spans nearly 8 years. Wouldn't consider any other venue." Another wrote, "Seem to have lost their focus on what kind of site it wants to be - Vintage vs Decorator," and sellers had mixed feelings about the high-end magazine Ruby Lane began publishing, Ruby Read.

Respondents' wish lists included integrated shipping labels and - in one case - a feedback mechanism so shoppers could see they provided stellar service.

One seller expressed great satisfaction with the site's practices that kept it from being flooded with junk.

Ruby Lane received a 5.84 in Profitability; a 6.2 in Customer Service; a 6.23 in Communication; and a 6.63 in Ease of Use. It received a 6.22 from sellers when asked, "How likely are you to recommend Ruby Lane as a selling venue to a friend or colleague?"

Reader Comments:The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Ruby Lane is the most expensive site (fees) I sell, however, also produces the most profit! I have recently become an "exclusive seller" on the site, confident this past year that my "niche market" items have the ability to become "best sellers". The high quality of items listed "across the board" in every category ("called Lanes") brings high quality buyers with willingness to spend more, consistently buy more, and return as repeat buyers. Ruby Lane also has minimum pricing for different item categories and is NOT the "low price leader", which is a good thing! As a seller, I feel confident buyers and sellers on the site are "well protected". Customer service is very good, live chat is available most of the time and "detailed" help via emails are answered within 24 hours. I would highly recommend selling on this venue to a friend if they have high quality products that fit the somewhat limited categories (vintage collectibles and jewelry, fine art). I love the way the site "looks", I'm proud to be a part of this very profitable "selling community"!

The site is relatively easy to use and it has a strong emphasis on marketing which raises your products visibility on the Web and nice built in support and shop stat gadgets. There is a bit of a feminine bent with lots of jewelry and dolls, but enough buyers for other areas. European and American sell more easily while Asian, African, Indo Persian seem to sell more slowly and for lower prices. That said, there is large enough market to sell in these areas. Downside are the RubyRed sales, which are site wide and a mandatory 50% off, if you choose to participate. Sales plummet for those not participating, as the 50% off items draw off of potential buyers. People might buy something that isn't an exact match to their preferences if it's deeply discounted. In the period prior to the sale buyers wait to see if what they have their eye on will be listed. Participating requires one to overprice items in order to remain profitable at 50% off. As sellers have the ability to discount items at any time there is little value to the shops other than bringing new buyers to the site. Unfortunately, the new Ruby Lane buyers drawn by the sale are inherently more likely to be "bottom pickers" cheapen in the overall site and creating the perception that goods are overpriced the rest of the year.

Love our Ruby Lane Site. Great volume and great volume for the bucks!

Excellent site; I feel like a professional shop owner on this site and have good, personal customer interactions. Ruby Lane's strict high standards are very important to the overall experience.

I have had a website on Ruby Lane for several years. They have been very helpful and supportive with answering questions.

Too easy to flag anyone, your side is not heard much by Ruby Lane. I didn't have flags, but personally know of others who did. Customer service not very friendly to them, nor much interested in listening and resolving

First, Ruby Lane is expensive. They charge to list and they charge rent. My shop has around 800 items in inventory and I pay about $200 a month. And that does not include listing fees. Second, too many orders are NEVER PAID. The purchase orders come through to me but a good percentage never pay. What's up with that Ruby Lane? Just this month, January 2015, I have had over a thousand dollars in abandoned sales. Those items are removed from my inventory and made unavailable to any other potential buyers. I suggest that purchase orders do not go through to sellers unless they are paid. The time I spend revising paperwork, chasing down buyers, and practically begging for payment is better spent listing items. And listing is one of the BIG ways Ruby Lane makes money. One last note, since the giant increase in listing fees, I will not list anything under a certain price point since I am guaranteed to lose money.

Sales are down dramatically on Ruby Lane and costs are UP,... Another problem with the site is the slow load time. Click on a store and the screen turns white with small spinning wheels. The site loads and loads and loads. In this era of fast fast fast, Ruby Lane is losing. How many of my customers have been lost to this blank screen? How many Ruby Lane? They charge me 30% more and load 30% slower. I guess that's a win-win for Ruby Lane. And then there is the misery of viewing the site on my phone. Images too big and once again too slow to load. How many people need to adjust a price from there phone. Well, editing an item from my spankin' new phone is a lesson in hurry up and wait,... One last thing, if a Ruby Lane shop owner is not exclusive to the site, their listings are dropped in the search results. And not just dropped a page or 2 but seriously punished.

I've been with Ruby Lane for a number of years now. I just like being there. Customer service is very good. As a seller I highly recommend them.

Would be much more profitable if Ruby Lane charged less. Also sales down in Artisan jewelry since antique, vintage and Artisan jewelry all lumped together. Results in not enough exposure in the rolling featuring segment. Artisan jewelry very rarely featured in Ruby Lane newsletter.

Last year, before Ruby Lane made AIP Photo processing mandatory, I would have scored them a 10. This new photo processing system has been an absolute nightmare, not to mention very expensive! ALL communication is done thru email, which was extremely frustrating when Ruby Lane made a huge mistake on one of my pictures and I ended up getting "into trouble" because of their mistake! Ruby Lane is very "heavy handed" when it comes to shop owners complaining about the AIP process. I have not spoken to one shop owner that is in favor of this process, but a lot of owners won't say anything because I believe they are worried about the consequences. Ruby Lane used to be an incredible place to sell my items...not anymore.

The cost of doing business on Ruby Lane has increased, which is okay and understandable. Unfortunately, sales have plummeted and it has become unprofitable to sell there. I'm working so much harder and making less. I wonder if the Red Tag sales have had a negative impact. The customers I've gotten during these sales are more eBay caliber than Ruby Lane caliber.

I've been a dealer on Ruby Lane for 2 years, but have had experience there for over 10 years. It is managed well and done so with integrity. I have a level of trust in Ruby Lane's ownership/management that is lacking for the other venues I sell at. It is undoubtedly expensive to sell there but this ensures that only serious sellers and artists are able to persist. The category pricing rules help to keep the site from being flooded with low quality items and the flagging system allows users to help police the site. They have measures in place to keep both buyers and sellers honest but do not air the dirty laundry publicly. I appreciate the fact that their review system is off site and covers Ruby Lane as a whole. When a customer visits Ruby Lane for the first time, they won't run across shops or items with low ratings. It elevates the site and maintains the impression of class and elegance. Their customer service has always been timely and helpful when I've needed them. The one improvement I would like to see is some sort of integrated shipping label system, like those used by Etsy and Ebay.

Excellent site and great customer service. Fees are low and no commissions - you can see much of it go back into advertising and improvements (including new photo editing). Great deal, very happy seller!

Good place for sellers, really do not like having to wait for new listings as they used to be posted immediately. Now sellers have to wait over 24hours for buyers to see their new listings.

Ruby Lane has decided to push high end antiques. Sales are occasional and not costly, so I view it as a passive sales venue but not serious platform. They are snooty.

I have had incorrect info from customer service more than once. They strongly favor expensive items and certain shops. Mandatory "Advertising" fees do not benefit all shops.

by far the most professional site online. very easy to list. great sales. been on it profitably for over 13 years and best yet. used to like ebay but sales on there down to 1 out of a 100 items listed!!

Mandatory photo editing is unnecessary for small paper items (e.g., vintage postcards, trade cards, greeting cards) and these listings should not be subject to mandatory photo editing listing fees. Otherwise, profitability, ease of use, and customer service and communication are excellent.

I have been selling vintage clothing on Ruby Lane since 2006 and it used to be much better for me sales wise, it has come down for me in the last couple of years due to changes that they made to the site which have not helped me. It still remains viable to remain there but I hope I don't see more of a decrease in sales this year. I am closing my 2nd shop there in the next couple of days as that was not doing well, I was selling antique and collectible items in this 2nd shop.

Love Ruby Lane. I have been a seller on Ruby Lane since 2001 and I would not sell anywhere else. They add new tools regularly, keep us informed, listen to our feedback and suggestions, they promote, promote, especially on Social Media. What more could a seller ask for? They have their glitches occasionally but what site doesn't. And when I hear folks complain about not selling, I wonder if they don't need to rethink what they offer, presentation and their own customer service, it might be time for a change.

This is my 8th year with Ruby Lane. The first 7 years my business bottom line grew by nearly double each year. Even during the 2008 -09 world wide economic turndown my business grew. Last year it was like someone flipped a switch. I had a terrible first half of the year. Terrible times 2! I tried every trick I had learned, nothing. I wrote to customer service and received nothing in return save what I had already tried. It was unsatisfactory to say the very best. I wrote to Tom Johnson the President of Ruby Lane told him about my problem and expressed my complete frustration. I briefly explained what was happening with my business and told him that this is not extra money for my house hold this is very necessary money. He heard my plea and sensed my complete frustration. He turned my problem over to a gentleman named Mark. Mark wrote to me and asked me to #1 hang in there and #2 allow him a bit of time to look through my shop and numbers and see what he could "see" Several weeks passed. When I heard back from Mark it was like a veil had lifted. He saw things that I didn't and had answers to problems that he saw with my shop. I printed the letter out and worked on each and every point he made and there were many. I'm still reading and studying that letter. I am still using it as a template going forward with my business. It has helped immensely. I wrote to Mr. Johnson and expressed my complete and total gratitude. I love selling on Ruby Lane it has been a wonderful fit for my business. Mark at Ruby Lane helped to put my second half of 2014 back on track. Would I recommend Ruby Lane to dealers with quality merchandise who want and need to make a living. You bet I would!

I sell on Ruby Lane and happy with the quality of their buyers. I do have customers complain that it is confusing to complete a purchase on RL. Often I end up sending an invoice via PayPal and they pay using that.

The only issues I've had with R.L. is that I'd like to remove items with more ease and I truly don't like the enforced image alterations.

Only positive results from ease of selling to great customer service. Sellers are supported with special promotions that help with awareness and sales. Fees are reasonable.

Great site, helpful sellers, great customers. Nice programs to save sellers money and great promotions such as the Red Tag Sales periodically.

Ruby Lane is the "Best of the Best" for sellers who are committed to honesty, customer service and knowledge based selling. As a Ruby Lane seller we consider ourselves the experts. Other venues allow sellers to dumb down their lack of knowledge and say "you be the judge, I'm not an expert". What buyers would purchase with confidence from sellers who pass the burden to them. If you sell to others, learn more about the item you are selling and become more informed.

Ruby Lane has gone from a very profitable site to extremely low sales. I don't know what has caused this downslide in sales but can only assume it deals with RL advertising. The 50% red tag sales denote the site as a junk site, could be part of the problem.

Ruby Lane cares about its sellers. Improving the site appears to be a big priority for them. The image processing is a very nice recent addition, as well. The buyers I've had are top notch!

I joined Ruby Lane as a seller in 2012 and was up and running in less than 2 weeks. They have excellent quality control so I know that my reputation as a seller will remain strong and not be deteriorated by less than professional sellers. I also appreciate how they are continuously improving the features so we can add on extra offerings and present ourselves in a more professional way. Accounting is a breeze, reports on traffic are very helpful, and their resources and guides are free to us so we can research items and make sure we are being fair in our descriptions and pricing.

Ruby Lane has imposed a photo processing system that delays listings sometimes by days and makes featuring of items impossible to gauge. Management is largely unwilling to make any changes when suggested. Advertising dollars are not spent in targeted areas in which I sell and they have now combined advertising fees into shop fees making it less apparent and easier to hide. Customer service is a joke. Targeted responses are rare and it is clear they are scripted, seldom being helpful at all. Their online chat is 95% OFFLINE. Service has been doing downhill for several years. While they are spending sellers' advertising dollars on their high end Ruby Red magazine, they are taking the website in the opposite direction with their 50% off Red Tag Sales which has resulted in shoppers "waiting" for the tag sale instead of buying regularly as they used to. It is one extreme or the other with their marketing focus completely UNFOCUSED. It is too bad they have ruined what used to be a great site for sellers.

Too many site changes, wait times for AIP processing too long, not enough focus on advertising, hard to view site from mobile device, too many half price sales. Customer service reps talk down to sellers at times. Drastic graphic changes to site, have negatively affected my sales and prompted me to reduce my stock on RL and sell on other venues as well.

Selling on Ruby Lane has been a wonderful experience and they make site improvements each year, so it just keeps getting better!

They are the most professional and knowledgeable selling site on the internet today. Their fee structure is incredibly fair, their staff have great customer service and the clientele is superior to any other site.

Well run, well-thought out listing procedures. Treats sellers properly unlike eBay. Actually works to make selling easier, better- allows seller to sell, ship without interference and self-serving rules. Sales however could be better. They DO advertise at least.

I feel like I am a part of a chic and contemporary marketplace.

This site feels like a business partner. I have already recommended it to several people. One of them is starting a store.

Very easy to use the site. There does seem to be a lot of newer jewelry on the site as of late. Unless handmade jewelry should be 20-25 years old, and it is not upheld. The other issue I have is with the flagging of items. It does not seem to be an impartial. What is good for one is not good for another.

This is by far the best site for me. The seller service, support and resources are remarkable. They clearly understand that the more successful their sellers, the more successful they are and they provide every tool, report, and instant communication to help their sellers succeed. The only reason they did not get a 10 in ease is that I would like to see them offer a direct click to ship option, as opposed to having to go to PayPal...but it's really outweighed by all the positives.

I like the fact that Ruby Lane curates the items for sale there and their resulting quality, and I feel that somewhat justifies the higher fees.

RubyLane needs to integrate shipping like other sites. Also their ridiculous picture policy holds back listings from being available for an unknown period of time. Sometimes a seller might want a listing to display right away, but this is no longer possible. They sometimes process the wrong image as well.

Their new push for high end items, including the use of a stupid monthly online magazine that features items the normal family wouldn't buy, is pushing the low end seller out of the picture, which will eventually catch up with everyone by less buyers. I'm not very happy with the years decisions. Before 2014 I loved the site. Now not so much.

The seller's shop management interface is abysmal. It's clunky, old, and patched together with minimal understanding of a seller's needs. Tools to manage workflow are minimal, and tools to manage inventory (location codes, notes, etc.) are nonexistent. I am discouraged that RL management spends their time with initiatives such as Ruby Plaza, Amazon Pay and Google Analytics rather than on the basic needs of its customers (which, by the way, are the SELLERS,,,not the buyers). I truly believe RL would have a great site once again if they'd spend some time 1) improving the seller interface & tools, 2) re-implementing AIP in a way that won't put sellers in a disadvantage, 3) quit chasing the ultra-high-end market exclusively and promote affordable yet quality vintage that appeals to the younger buyer, and 4) relaxing the 20-year rule to include modern merchandise of high quality as well as repair supplies / reference material for vintage items (Ruby Plaza wasn't a totally bad idea, just poorly implemented from a seller perspective. As a separate "Lane" within RL, it would have worked, I think). Sadly, the only thing keeping me from switching to Etsy is the fact that RL does do a very good job of keeping out mass-market sellers and cheap imports. If Etsy manages to solve that problem, I'll be gone.

Customers sometimes find the purchase order - shopping cart - check out process cumbersome and confusing. Plain text communications have tons of unnecessary copy and are quite ugly and poorly designed - they are inconsistent with the caliber of the site and size of the transaction, and sorely need an aesthetic upgrade. All said, though, it's still the classiest site out there.

Ruby Lane is a class act. They are very user friendly both for the seller and the buyer. I wish they would advertise more and do more to develop return customers.

Communications have not been as helpful this year and the Live Chat is rarely if ever available.

Ruby Lane is an expensive site to sell on and there is very little free advertising available. Even the images are charged. I've worked hard to establish faithful and appreciative clients, but there is no mechanism for this to be rated or recorded. In other words new clients have no way of knowing how sellers rate or how other buyers have found the experience. For sellers like me who try so hard to achieve excellence a feedback mechanism would be of great benefit.

Ruby Lane relies on its original core shop to ask opinions or make changes. I have been on Ruby Lane since 2009 and have never gotten a survey or asked if the changes they are making were in my best interest. Ruby Lane is becoming a jewelry shop and I see more and more flee market items then true Antiques. Maybe it's just time to make a change

There no other or better venue than RUBY LANE. I am grateful, thankful and proud to be a part of the (R.L. Family) I rated them 10 all the way and unfortunately could not rate it higher or it would higher. Ruby Lane has the best sellers on any venue. The buyers are primarily higher class than any other site. Only the most elegant women and dapper men shop there. Most dealers have become great friends and it makes you feel like you know them as is the staff at Customer Service. They are prompt and professional and answer each and every question email. My greatest wish is that we can always be a part of the Ruby Lane Site. As always we wish them the very best 2015 can bring and in our opinion...RUBY LANE is Number One.

Ruby Lane is favorite selling venue to date. The flat monthly selling fee is amazing. I also appreciate the professional look of photos thanks to the AIP system. I have saved $100's in final value fees in only a few months selling here. Wish I had heard of this venue years ago...and herein is where the only down fall to this upscale venue falls short...very few online consumers have heard of Ruby Lane. However, the positive aspect, clients here are intelligent, informed, and have a healthy disposable income. I'm staying here and hope to be an exclusive Ruby Lane seller in the very near future.

Profits have gone down steadily for me on this site in the last three years. I think that their constant focus on things not necessarily related to the site - like high priced sales through unrecognizable German auction houses - has detracted from generating sales and traffic to the site. The frequent focus on super special 50% off Red Tag sales cheapens the site, and assumes that we as seller's can afford to deeply discount our goods. (I sure can't.) And when it comes to a Google search, I find myself on Etsy well before Ruby Lane. Considering how much more I pay for advertising fees on Ruby Lane, as well as how much longer I have been selling there, I am very disappointed by this.

Ruby Lane is a selling venue and keeps the feel of individuality in the various shops. It is a marketplace with vendors independently selling their wares. Here one can post and discuss payment options, feel free to chit-chat with customers, barter on price, and cancel orders if the item is no longer available without clearance from Ruby Lane or the buyer not letting one cancel or threatening negative feedback. Ruby Lane allows the freedoms found with a real brick and mortar store.

Really dislike the new photo processing for clear glass items. It makes them look horrible. The purchase order system is confusing and often buyers have issues trying to figure out how to use it. As a new seller, I found the tutorials lacking details and I had to figure things out myself. The fees are very reasonable and the site attracts a higher end buyer which I appreciate. The site allows you to build a relationship with your customers, also a plus.

They have live chat, but it's not 24/7; selling fees are a bit high if you carry inventory, the flagging system puts fellow sellers and amateurs in charge of vetting your items but at least there are few new imports on RL. They have a classier look than many other venues.

My one grouse about RL is the two tiered system whereby "exclusive" sellers get preference in searches. Exclusive sellers are those who agree not to sell product elsewhere. In today's environment having only one selling venue online is insane and no company has a right to ask this. My guess is that most of these "exclusive" sellers do sell elsewhere but probably different product or their shop is registered under another name! Non exclusive and exclusive shops pay the same fees so its time this unfair and anachronistic system was abolished. Other venues (eg Tias) have different tiers and privileges but they charge differing fees and on that basis it makes more sense to pay for the level of service you require.

The RED TAG sales that are voluntary are a great perk for me. I market them along with Ruby Lane, put the maximum number of items I can into the sale and use other social media to market items in the sale and the sale itself. While some feel that the RED TAG sales are demeaning, I find them a boon to sales and always sell items that are not included in the sale during the time of the sale, so it is a win-win situation for me.

Ruby Lane is a good site overall, although they need to weed out sellers with less-than-professional listings. But, buyers are great and it's a pleasure to sell there.

We have sold on Ruby Lane for the past 12 yrs. In the early years it was a great site but sales and profit margins have deteriorated dramatically the past few years due to external demographic and economic factors and to site specific initiatives like advanced image processing and the red tag sales.

The site still has many glitches particularly the picture loading portion of the list an item page. Tech support NO help. Seem to have lost their focus on what kind of site it wants to be - Vintage vs Decorator. Not happy with RL this year but have made some sales.

The site is down quite often since they switched to the cloud. Traffic isn't what it once was. They raised fees but really didn't give anything in return. They insist on using advanced image processing which isn't always flattering to certain items. Overall, I'm disappointed and could not recommend it to another seller.

Changes made by Ruby Lane in the past year have hurt my sales greatly. They seem to be trying to be a high end decorator site. White backgrounds...dull, dull, dull. Delay in posting items because of photo processing. Extra cost for this as well. Changes in categories and sub-categories, There are lot of good things so I continue to use this site almost exclusively.

Sellers Choice Awards:
We thank all readers who took the time to rate the marketplaces. If you have comments about the survey results or the survey itself, please feel free to post them in the EcommerceBytes Blog.


About the author:

Ina and David Steiner are publishers of EcommerceBytes.com and have been writing about ecommerce since 1999.


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