Monday, January 29, 2007

Internet Merchants Association Branding Presentation

The Internet Merchants Association has provided an excellent presentation "Branding" for online sellers on the IMA's blog.

Jody of Beachcombers provided an extensive overview of branding for eBay store owners including product packaging and Brand continuity across the web.

While the presentation was aimed at eBay sellers, it provides an excellent opportunity for online sellers of all types to learn "Branding" from a very experienced source.

This is just one of the first weekly presentations that IMA members will be providing to the eBay community of sellers. Be sure to visit the IMA website and Blog to keep up to date on all the latest news.

Overstock CEO Compares STR to eBay's CEO Patrick Byrne brags about the sites increased Sell Through Rates on a post titled Sell-Through-Rates, claiming an increase of 21% over the past few weeks.

Within the post Patrick states "I believe (but want to be corrected if I am wrong) that this is now slighly above eBay's".

The next paragraph continues Patrick's recent request for eBay site users to spread the "Word" among the eBay buying community.

Perhaps a little reminder about Overstock Auctions history is in order for Mr. Byrne.

Imagine the summer of 2004. The "Word" is project Ocean and it is a top secret venture by into the auction business "Taking on the Big Boys".

"Word" spread and sellers appeared with their customers, listing like mad on a fledgling site where the Customer service was superior to eBay's, fees were cheaper, and the CEO interacted with site users on the message boards.

Sound Familiar!

Fast forward to present day. Customer service is available only by email, subscription listing plans are a fairytale, and the CEO is on the site message boards.

While Sell Through Rates are increasing on the site, there has been no mention of GMV, or the high percentage of failed transactions caused by NPB's.

EBay UK Massive Changes

A string of announcements were made on the EBay UK site today concerning changes in user agreements, fee structures, and other site policies.

The most astounding of these changes is a complete overhaul of the fee structures for Technology Products and Media.

While the new fee structure looks complex it could lead to decreased costs for many merchants with higher STR's.

Is it possible something similar could be coming to the US site?

Tuesday, January 23, 2007 CEO Hopes eBay sellers will bring Customers CEO Patrick Byrne has made some interesting comments today under a message board post titled "Stormy, Meghan, and Auctions".

"Listings have dropped almost as far as we wanted them to; we see that the sell through rates are many, many times higher than they have ever been on our site". At last count Overstock's total listing volume was down 90% since the site changes began.

" i know that I made a few abrupt moves on the controls some weeks ago, because we wanted to start off the new year right. I am sorry about that, but we are very glad we did, because every auctions metric that we care about has turned around sharply."

It would appear that Merchants and Overstock itself may be concerned about different metrics. Sellers have been attempting to increase profits while managing costs associated with listing on Overstock. Overstock is attempting to decrease listing counts while increasing revenue (Fees) from individual merchants.

Perhaps the most unusual aspect of Patrick's post:

"Here is a question: it is our hope that by getting conversation rates up as they are now, sellers will gradually realize that they can list more items (I think the average seller now lists more than a dozen at a time). I expect they will experiment, increasing the numbers bit by bit, to see what our traffic supports. I also expect, or at least hope, that as word starts getting out into the eBay community, a few more sellers may come try things. And lastly, I get the impression that some eBay groups are sticky, that is, that some sellers will bring dedicated buyers when they come. How realistic does this sound? "

Considering that Overstock Auctions has failed to deliver the "O-Outlets" promised to sellers at eBay Live, and cancellation of the subscription pricing sold to merchants at eBay live it doesn't seem very realistic at all.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

EBay Stores undergoes Management changes

Chris Tsakalakis has posted on the eBay Stores Board that he will be moving on to a position with the newly acquired StubHub portion of eBay.

The new Senior Director of Stores will be Lori Goler who will be responsible for both eBay stores and ProStores eBay platform.

According to the post there are several new features for store sellers that will roll out prior to April including A Markdown Manager feature, and increased promotional and merchandising tools.

The Markdown Manager feature would allow store owners to revise pricing on subsets of merchandise that are available in fixed price or stores formats. It is unclear if sellers would be able to raise prices in a similar fashion.

Sellers already have the option of marketing to buyers in various ways through both the eBay platform and eBay certified programs. Easy to use services such as MyStoreRewards give sellers unique marketing opportunities that can be customized depending on the desired effect both on and off eBay.

Meghan Tuohig New Head of Overstock Auctions

Patrick Byrne AKA Hannibal has commented on the Overstock message Boards the Meghan Tuohig is the new Head of Auctions.

Only weeks ago Stormy Simon was announced as the Head of Overstock Auctions and began implementing changes and removing site features. According to Patrick "Stormy wrestled through some necessary changes before moving on to another project ( know some may disagree, I know, but this is already a far healthier ecosystem than it was a few months ago). "

The thread was started by Meghan Tuohig as a personal introduction to site users stating "A goal of mine for the New Year is to establish a closer relationship to the customers of Auctions."

In our opinion establishing a close relationship with sellers will be a tough job since many of the site features have been removed and other features such as BBL, and the ability to combine invoices has never been instituted.

According to Megahn's post several features will be rolled out on Monday January 22, 2007 including a shortened NPB process, Auction Counters, and the removal of the Ask User a Question Link on individual homepages.

The removal of ASQ links on user homepages is a significant change which will further reduce the ability of customers and prospective buyers to contact sellers on Overstock. As previously reported Overstock Auctions O-Mail has been faulty for months and many site users have been using the ASQ links to communicate payment and purchase information to customers who are not receiving Overstock generated invoices and purchase notices.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

eBay runs $0.20 Listing Day special

EBay has announced a one day $0.20 listing special for Thursday January 18, 2007 that applies to Core Auction and Fixed price listings only.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Internet Merchants Association IMA Conference

The IMA Internet Merchants Association will be hosting a 2 1/2 Day conference next month in Las Vegas. The Febuary 27th conference will include speakers and representatives from eBay, Channleadvisor, Amazon, Google, Small Business Administration, and ASD/AMD.

Registration for the event will begin later this week.

Auctionbytes has a detailed article on the IMA conference in today's issue.

Overstock Auctions loosing traction

Overstock Auctions appears to be loosing traction among the top ranked auction counts. According to the stats published by Overstock has slipped to spot number 15 ranking behind sites such as wagglepop and bluejay.

With decreased counts and alexa rankings many site users are left to wonder what future Overstock Auctions has in a very competitive industry.

Without an international customer base, or auction tab advertising, Overstock Auctions may find the buyers and sellers harder to acquire than they were in 2004. Can Overstock turn the situation around and make a success out of the ailing venue, or should they simply give up?

Friday, January 12, 2007

Overstock O-Gallery Cancellation Glitches

Overstock employees confirmed that the removal of Sellathon features from the site were Overstock's decision on the site message board earlier today.

The same message board thread discusses site issues caused by the ill planned removal of O-Gallery including non functioning links to 'View Seller's Other Items". According to thread there is a code fix in place, however it will not be implemented until next week.

Overstock auction sellers have suffered under the quick fire changes Overstock management has made to the site in recent months under the leadership of Stormy Simon. In just a matter of weeks Overstock Auction sellers have lost almost all site functions and improvements made under the two previous Vice Presidents of Overstock Auctions.

With three problematic Christmas Selling Seasons in a row at Overstock Auctions, many merchants wonder if Overstock will be around for a Fourth try!

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Overstock Auctions continues Downward Spiral

Overstock Auctions continues in a downward spiral today announcing the loss of O-Tracker, O-Gallery, and the Most Popular Gallery features on the site. In recent weeks the site has also canceled subscription plans, revised MIM Policies, removed live chat, and removed seller ratings and ID's from list views on the site.

The current Overstock Auction listing count hovers around the 40,000 mark and is currently in 14th place among auctions sites listed.

The O-Tracker, O-Gallery, and Most Popular Gallery features on Overstock Auctions were hosted by Sellathon. Sellathon was recently aquired by Auctiva which provides services to eBay users.

While the loss of these features may be outside of Overstock's control, it will severely impact an already ailing auction community.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

EBay to Aquire Stub Hub for estimated $310M

EBay announced plans to acquire for an estimated $310 Million Dollars according to the official press release today. Bill Cobb's announcement comes only 7 days after the Fee Increase Announcement.

Unlike prior acquisitions such as Skype, is actually a sound investment for eBay. With a large overlapping customer base and similar interests the acquisition should prove to be a money maker for stockholders.

eBay Standard Purchase Protection Policy Revised

Rob Chesnut SVP of eBay Trust and Safety has announced the revision of the eBay Standard Purchase Protection Policy effective next week.

The revision will remove protection for all non-paypal transactions, eliminate the $25.00 processing fee, and double the amount of coverage to $2000 USD.

While eBay states such changes are "in the best interests of the marketplace long-term", many believe the policy change has ulterior motives similar to the Accepted Payments Policy.

Both the Accepted Payments Policy, and the revised Standard Purchase Protection Policy, exclude Google Checkout. Google Checkout has gained favor with many merchants due to the "Free Payment Processing" through 2007.

Monday, January 8, 2007

Launch of Safeguarding Member's IDs On

Rob Chesnut, SVP eBay Trust and Safety, states that the "SMI" Program will launch this week on both and in Canada.

The "SMI" program is designed to cut down on Fraudulent second chance offers and other misuses of bidder histories on the site. According to the announcement the T&S department feels that there are safeguards in place to prevent and eliminate "Shill Bids". Many community members have expressed a concern that the "SMI" may increase fraudulent Shill activity on the site.

Friday, January 5, 2007 Stores? The New Look of Overstock

During the summer of 2006 Overstock Auctions attended the eBay Live event and gave the eBay elite a glimpse of exciting new programs such as "Overstock Outlets" and "Subscription Pricing". Overstock managed to launch the subscription pricing yet the Overstock Outlets failed to develope.

Recently Overstock announced the cancellation of a "Subscription Pricing" plans, however there have been no official updates regarding "Overstock Outlets".

Today readers have noticed the main shopping pages has taken on a new look. Key to this new look is the addition of the phrase "Shop our most popular stores:" followed by a list of buttons for various Overstock Retail Categories and the phrase "See all our stores on tabs at top".

Looking at the site from a customer's viewpoint it may be confusing, and possibly lead to a decrease in sales across multiple site categories.

It also appears that Overstock is using all available resources to change and market the retail side while letting the Auctions spiral into oblivion. According to Site Listing counts the spiral has been going on for some time and it is gaining momentum as the total volume shrinks.

Perhaps someone will through Overstock Auctions a Life Boat before it's too late, then again maybe they won't.

Are thrifty Habits costing you money?

Many small business owners plan to increase profits while reducing costs in 2007. Since inventory, advertising, listing and Final Value Fees, and shipping costs are directly tied to volume they will increase proportional with sales.

The factors that small business owners can control are shipping weights and sizes, listing features, advertising costs, and the starting and ending prices of listings.

Shipping weights and sizes can be controlled by eliminating extra space and excess packaging materials when shipping. Order a variety of shipping cartons in different sizes at one time to save on freight. Many companies such as U-Line, Office Depot, and Staples offer free shipping on orders over a certain value. While the initial cost of shipping cartons may seem high, the accrued savings in lower shipping costs is substantial.

Listing Feature costs along with starting and ending prices can be controlled and optimized through the use of market research tools such as Hammer Tap. Hammer Tap allows individual sellers to analyze actual market data on individual items, brands, even competitors and other sellers to see what works and how well it works. The monthly cost of research tools are well worth the increased sale prices, and the elimination of unnecessary features will more than cover the cost for most sellers.

While every business owner wants to save money, it is often more profitable to control costs and keep them proportional to sales. For additional tips on cutting costs while increasing profits be sure to visit the Auction Tempest site at

Wednesday, January 3, 2007

EBay Fee Increases Effective January 30 2007

As expected eBay has announced increases to the US site Fee Structure to take effect January 30, 2007.

EBay Canada is also impacted by today's announcement with a similar Fee Increase

While eBay feels the increase is slight, and sellers can handle the impact with minimal effort, the overall impact may be devastating to the small seller. EBay fee Increases, cancellation of subscription plans at Overstock Auctions, UPS, FEDEX, and USPS rate increase are creating a snowball effect on small business owners.

Newspaper Headlines across the country have been detailing an alarming rate of Drop Off store closures, small Mom and Pop eBay operations, and traditional consignment and antique shops closing. Will 2007 leave online and offline store fronts vacant?

Auctionbytes has made a list of "Things to Watch in 2007"

Are you advertising effectively? Tips for Online Sellers

During the past several months we placed orders from several online sellers through both traditional auction sites and individual merchant sites. The quality of advertising, and quantity of advertising included with our purchases was interesting to say the least.

The Most effective, and one of the least expensive forms of advertising, came from Pennyworth sales along with our order. Pennyworth sales had combined purchases from various sites and direct sales into one order and included a nice and simple thank you card advertising all of their sales channels with URLs. Pennyworth Sales carries a variety of closeout and wholesale merchandise across multiple venues under the ID Bluepennylady

The second most effective advertising was from an eBay transaction from the store PCGS_SLABS. This seller effectively advertised their own web site through the use of a custom invoice included with the shipment. Custom invoices offer a very effective advertising method to direct customers to a sellers own sites where costs are more controlled.

Least impressive out of all was the shipment from There were no promotional materials other than a standard white invoice.

Marketing to existing customers is a necessary part of business that can be conducted with minimal cost. Every shipment should include a minimum of one type of marketing, and it is often best if several types are used together.

Custom address labels on the outside of packages advertises to the customer as well as every individual that handles the package along the way. Catchy phrases or graphics will make your business memorable and lead to additional sales and customers.

Business cards and custom invoices inside shipments help the customer know which business to order from again. Browsing the Internet one can find low cost and often free marketing materials to help grow their business.

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