The reality of the loss of visibility

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Nick Talley is the managing director of Limited, which has been trading as iposters on eBay since 2003 selling posters, prints and other pop-culture items.

Nick has been affected by the unanounced changes to visibility of UK listings on and today shares how it has affected his business and the steps he’s taken to minimise the impact.

US Visibility, two words that now send a shiver down my spine and bring me out in a cold sweat.

Let me take you back a couple of months to February. Our eBay sales were growing by 20% on the previous year and we had just had our best Christmas sales period since I started the business in 2003. Plans were in place to increase the product range on offer to our customers and maybe employ some staff to cope with the expected growth to come. In short everything was going as well as we had hoped and planned for.

Then, overnight our US sales stopped! This was a serious blow as 30% of our sales went to our US customers.

Faced with the real possibility that my business would not survive a 30% drop in sales I contacted our auction management provider Marketworks for a solution. I was informed that it was not possible to list items to both & with the same eBay user name with one Marketworks account.

I then contacted Channel Advisor (CA) as I had already made contingency plans to change our auction management provider from Marketworks to Channel Advisor due to support and reliability issues.

CA confirmed that it was possible to list to both sites with the same eBay user name with one CA account. So I decided to jump ship and move the business to CA. This was not an easy decision to make bearing in mind the huge amount of extra work this would entail.

I am happy to report that we now have our US customers back. Sales are back on track but there are still issues.

As we are listing items in both Pounds Sterling and US Dollars, customers that buy multiple items in both currencies find that they can’t checkout. This means a lot of extra work contacting customers and manually adjusting orders.

Our UK sales have also dropped. I am not sure why this as happened but I suspect that some UK customers now think that we are based in the US as many of our items show a Dollar price.

The financial cost to my business has been very high. Lost sales for two months, set up fees for Channel Advisor and our merchant account. We are also duplicating listings as our most popular items are being listed on both sites, which of course means, an increase in our eBay fees.

We have been trading on eBay long enough to know that eBay policies and the market changes frequently but we usually get some period of notice. On this occasion eBay did not inform its sellers or buyers until after it had taken place! Which quite frankly is unacceptable.

I watched the interview with an eBay representative on the BBC Programme working lunch but I am afraid that the reasons behind the decision and worse, the lack of notice just did not stack up for me.

Fairness. UK sellers were getting two bites of the cherry.

First of all, this has been the case for years so why dump it on the community without any notice?

Secondly has far more registered users than so many of us could not survive by selling on alone. Sellers based in the US have a much larger customer base so being able to sell to the UK is not an issue.

Looking after US Buyers. The .com site is being flooded with unwanted UK goods.

Again, no real reason to bring this change without notice.

If the .com site is being flooded with unwanted items eBay could simply make a small charge for opting into US visibility. This would cut out most of the unwanted items, as no seller would willingly pay extra to have items listed if they were unwanted and were not going to sell.

I do hope that eBay changes its policy. To allow UK sellers, which have a demand for its products in the US, to sell to that market.

Finally, if I could, I would give eBay a negative and zero stars out of five for its lack of communication and forethought.

8 Responses

  1. eBay management have a long history of introducing substancial changes without prior widespread consultation with buyers or sellers. They introduce new features that slow the site or cripple existing features that buyers and sellers have come to rely on. Our only option is to vote with our feet (or set up a website and use eBay to ‘buy’ customers and eyeballs.

  2. Hi James, point taken but it is not easy to vote with your feet if you have no legs 😉

    Sorry for the metaphor but there is not really any viable competition to eBay at the moment. We are having some success with Amazon but it dos not compare with our past eBay sales.

  3. The loss of US Visibility has affected our sales considerable. We were still adjusting to the changes in shop fees and visibility when bam ebay hit us with another set of problems. I really don’t understand why ebay seems determined to eliminate UK shop sellers. We are actively looking at other selling options, and will switch if we find one. We can only hope that a viable alternative in on a drawing board somewhere and that a serious contender can challenge ebays stranglehold. I’m not really someone that goes in for protesting, but I can’t help but think that as a significant part of the overall ebay selling strategy we could apply some pressure. Any thoughts?

  4. Hi Andy
    Sadly I am of the opinion that there will never be another eBay. Whilst specialist sites may (and do) prosper a general auction site is unlikely to appear that gains enough momentum, and of course would buyers be willing to log on to two generalised auctions sites to search for goods?

    I believe once sellers get to a certain size and need to expand they should look to their own website and consider driving their own traffic using eBay as a smaller percentage of their overall gross sales and profit. It’s a great way to start a business, but in all honesty probably not a great way to build a large online sales operation in the longer term.

    I wouldn’t suggest abandoning eBay altogether, I don’t envisage a viable alternative, but instead of being your main source of revenue it should be a decreasing share of your business. Consider using eBay to shift end of line, last seasons stock and to liquidate returned, surplus and damaged stock, with your own website for the majority of sales. That’s not possible until you’re large enough to be able to invest in driving your own traffic, but if you want to grow it should be your ultimate goal.

  5. Shifting sands !

    At one time, sellers owned the customers, now the move is towards the originating website to own the customer, look at Google Products, Amazon etc, who will offer other items, which in most cases will not be from the same vendor.

    So the moral is start to keep own your customers – any way you can, use eBay as a source to find your customers, then do all you can to keep them, because one day they may not be your customers but eBays!

  6. I agree with Mountie’s post. Sellers need to look to other marketplaces and their own websites for growth. Use eBay to list product that moves well like surplus, end of life, out of season product that even if you sell at a large discount there is sufficient margin to make a profit.

  7. I have almost ceased all my ebay dealing and moved to a website with ad words and shopping comparison. eBay is not a place for real sellers anymore. Its someone to get rid of your junk.

  8. I had a call today from someone I met at eBay University in Coventry. They’re in the process of setting up a new business to retail across multiple venues and signed up with Marketworks on the basis that they need listing management services. Having paid Marketworks initial fees they have now discovered that they can’t list on multiple sites across Europe and are meeting with ChannelAdvisor tomorrow.

    Marketworks really need to get their act together on this issue if they want to be seen as a serious player in the auction management arena. To limit your clients to selling on one eBay site only is insane!



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