Are off-site ads really worth their price?

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Picture the Scene:

I arrive at my local market on a crisp Monday morning to purchase my fruit and veg and as I slowly wander around I start to notice something strange. Above each stall is a large BIG BOLD advert, which I have to read twice as its import catches my attention:

“Have you tried the new OUT OF TOWN shopping centre? Morriscos sells these oranges MUCH cheaper than this stall!”

As I wander around, I notice more and more of these strange adverts:

“Buy this item at our new shiny OUT OF TOWN shopping centre… Morriscos!”

“Do not buy this kettle here; Morriscos will sell it to you at cost!”

As I am a long-standing regular customer of the market, when I spot the owner walking around, I go to find out what he’s playing at.

“Why do you tell your customers to go elsewhere?” I inquire with much curiosity and incredulity.

“Well,” he replies, “after much in-depth calculation, we have realised that we get £100 a week from our stall holders. The advertising will generate an additional £10 a week, so our revenue will increase to £110. We have a hundred stalls, so now we are making £11,000 a week instead of £10,000 a week.” Looking at me smugly, he goes on to say, “Don’t you think that’s a stroke of GENIUS?”

I decide not to discuss an obvious flaw in the plan and continue to listen to his rationale. After a little while, I find out that his big brother owns an advertising firm, “”, which also gives another insight into the decision that has been made.

As I wander out of the market, many dark looks and unhappy faces meet my inquiring gaze.

So not thinking much of it, I come back a couple of months later (The new Morriscos really is superb you know, it sells all of the same stuff, maybe at different prices, but they just LOOK so much more professional) and I see my friend the advertising guru looking not quite so smug.

“What’s wrong” I ask, “you don’t seem as happy as last time I saw you…”

To which he responds with a pained expression, “Well I have to be honest, you know that advertising trick I tried?” He continues after a nod of ascent from myself, “Well those traitorous stallholders of mine took advantage!”

“What do you mean?” I ask.

“Twenty of my stall holders went over to Morriscos and opened small shop units over there! So now we have £8,800 as revenue, and more of them are threatening to move as they say there are fewer established customers here now, and people like the air conditioning and gentle music over THERE!”

The conversation carried on for a while, but the owner finished on this interesting observation:

“Why oh why did I let Morriscos have a foothold in our marketplace, we had a captive loyal customer base of shoppers, but now they have all deserted us and saying we are old hat, not only that we are bleeding sellers faster than we can replace them as they are moving over to Morriscos where all the customers are…”

This would be the obvious flaw in the plan that I did not mention earlier. So I wander away and consider the moral of the story…

Don’t tell the cows the grass is greener on the other side, as they tend to jump the fence when they find that out!

17 Responses

  1. this stall holder is delighted that 20 of their rivals diddled off to Morriscos

    and is telling all the other bovines grass is not only greener across the fence its positively eco friendly so they leg it over the fence,

    and give us more room to graze in a rich and nutritional field

  2. This stall holder isn’t delighted that loads of rivals are leaving for the simple reason he’s been around a while and has seen it happen before. There’s going to be less choice for buyers and in turn less reason for buyers to visit the market. Sure there’s a short term gain for those still around, but long term it’s not so rosy.

    Also as the market is now struggling the owner will let any old Tom, Dick, Harry or Del Boy set up in the market, heck if they pay the rent who gives a stuff, the punters are leaving for Morricos in huge numbers anyway.

    You see where this is going… 🙂

  3. Problem is North those sellers were also buyers…

    Whenever Ebay lose a seller, we lose a potential buyer.

    The craft person that Ebays to make some pin money, now has no pin money as it is not viable.

    So that Doulton figurine she was going to buy here mum at christmas gets replaced by a fancy note pad from Morriscos…

    Loss of users from the site is a bad situation all round, Ebay deliberately directing them elsewhere is long term commercial suicide in my opinion…


  4. I have been hearing doom and gloom concerning ebay for 10years now, and ebay goes from strength to strength despite them,
    how long is long term financial suicide? if ebay can cling on another 10 years before they jump that will do me

  5. North, at the current rate of change I’d give it nearer 10 months than 10 years before the rot starts really setting in, the signs are already there. Don’t be fooled into thinking ebay is so huge and can’t be that stupid, they wouldn’t be the first huge mega-corp to come crashing to the ground in a short space of time.

    Presently ebay works well enough for me and i’m still making good money. However, it scares me silly knowing that the next major change too far could potentially kill me stone dead overnight, for some that’s already happened.

    Change is good, but only if done well and only if that’s keeping up with shopping patterns and trends, as I see things right now the changes eBay are rolling out are niether of those and that’s what worries me more than anything. Too many ill thought out changes for changes sake, of which there’s been more this last 12 months than I’ve seen in 7 years.

    I can say with a large degree of certainty that next year my spending on fees with eBay will halve, as I keep saying, eBay is getting poor value for money. Maybe I should have made changes earlier, but I kept hoping just a little too long that ebay would really get it’s act together this year, sadly it hasn’t.

  6. Perhaps its time that Ebay took a look at Amazon’s strategy. I’ve been selling on Amazon for as long as I’ve been on Ebay, and in that time Amazon has had 2 major change (and one of them was the introduction of off-site adverts), with ebay its a change a week. Buyers like amazon because it has a reliable brand AND the layout of the site from a buyers point of view remains similar and easy to use.
    I’m all in favour of changes that generate sales, but change for the sake of a few advertising dollars seems like commercial suicide.

  7. Speaking to a few friends this last week, who are always good to talk to as they are mainly buyers on ebay, the worring point they made was that they asked my why ebay has so few listings these days?
    Unsure what they meant, when searching they claimed only one page of items came up, I checked and the problem is that the offsite links come before the page numbers and people are not scrolling down far enough so guess only 1 page off stuff is available.
    All of them bought from outside of ebay this last week as they could not find what they wanted, even though it was available but as per usual with ebay hidden.
    I am starting to call ebay the “sales prevention unit” as they seam to be hell bent on making nigh on impossible to sell on ebay.

  8. I have more sales than I can cope with from all points of the compass , I must use another ebay than everyone here

  9. The reason you are succesful North is because you know how to find niche items that there is always a ready market for.

    Ebay also needs to serve those that are delivering not so niche goods.

    At this rate Ebay will be a niche item marketplace, but many want it to be more than that. But not a shopping comparison site.

    Mark 🙂

  10. totally agree with you mark

    I would hate to earn my living from ebay selling mainstream
    in fact I cant think I would be ablev to

  11. The new ads certainly don’t do sellers any good (especially when they appear above SIF listings) but imho the Apocalypse is still a long was off.

    I strongly doubt that a significant % of eBay buyers would buy from an off-site link unless they couldn’t find what they are looking for – and they would look off-site anyway. People use eBay & Amazon because they trust the brand, so until they produce stats to the contrary or my sales drop, I’m not going to panic.

    eBay UK has a massive number of users, so there’s plenty to go round.

  12. As I’m on a French IP address, I’m not getting any of these ads, so this is just judging by other people’s screenshots…

    but the problem seems to me to be that eBay buyers like buying off eBay. They don’t *want* links to off-eBay sites: if they wanted those, they’d’ve gone to a search engine in the first place. The ads disguised as eBay listings are particularly worrying because they are tricking buyers into going elsewhere.

    Because of the ad positioning (above “next page” links, shop links etc.), I’m hearing of a lot of buyers thinking that the number of eBay listings has suddenly dropped: i.e. there’s only one page of search results now! I seriously hope they rethink at least the positioning of the ads, if not having them altogether.

  13. I would agree Sue, the positioning is very damaging.

    At least take the signs off of the front of the stalls.

  14. Just did a search on my product titles and low and behold, up pop my competition, and placement above all my shop Inventory. I second you there Sue, at least make it less in your face 🙁

    Nice work ebay. Not.

    Hmmmm perhaps ill run some adwords to get exposure there instead and list less items.

    Wonder which will make ebay more money? My sold listing or a pay per click?

    I certainly know which way I will make more money…..I’ll take the 5p PPC referral, not lose 10% in fees and not have to list……


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