So we made it to 25th September. For the second time in a year, sellers are making major changes to the way they do business on eBay, revising listings one by one, struggling to find information on how eBay’s latest round of changes will impact their particular business. And I don’t know about you, but I’ve had enough. I’d really like to just get on with selling now.
Too much change, too often
Major changes are made on eBay far too often. Hardly a week goes by without some policy or other being revised, meaning sellers have a constant stream of new requirements to incorporate into their businesses. The time we’re spending at the moment changing our listings and figuring out new strategies to work around new policies, could be better spent working on our own websites and figuring out Google Adwords: at least then we’d eventually be in control.
eBay need to make it easier to keep up with their changes. Bulk editing is hard work, and when you have a hundred or a thousand or ten thousand listings to change, it’s really hard to justify spending the time to do so, again. There needs to be an easy way to change your shipping fees, or your returns policy, or even your email address on all your listings.
Policies are made, and then retracted, or tweaked, causing yet more work for sellers. eBay need to find a way to consult with their members before they make many of these changes: often as sellers, we understand the implications of what eBay do better than they do themselves. Policy changes need to be communicated fully, in advance, not piecemeal after the event.
Most importantly, eBay need to stop changing things. Let’s have some time to just get on with selling, please.
Lack of transparency
If eBay are sometimes poor at communicating, other times they’re just downright secretive, and this is doing no good to their relationship with sellers. Getting information about how the new search results work is like pulling teeth. eBay staff contradict each other. They can’t answer basic questions. And all this leaves sellers – rightly or wrongly – feeling as though they’re being duped. Getting sales on eBay feels more like gambling than running a business: if we don’t understand how to get ourselves to the top of the search results, we’re not going to hang around trying to figure it out, we’ll just go somewhere else to sell.
And it’s the same with feedback and DSRs: sellers are judged by those five little stars, but eBay won’t give us the information we need to improve. We’re encouraged to keep our scores above 4.8, but if they fall to 4.79, we don’t know if that’s one disgruntled buyer, or a real drop in the service we’re offering. How would eBay staff feel if their bonus depended on a secret target their boss kept to herself?
We’ve been promised “granularity” in DSRs: let’s have it. Let’s at least see how many buyers have left us each score. eBay need to stop using the excuse that we might harass our buyers if we think they’ve left us a 1 or a 2. A few sellers will do that anyway, but why are they punishing the rest of us for it? They say they want to make the site better: give us the tools to make it so.
Dolphins: need I say more? If you’re trading on eBay, you need to have in the back of your mind that eBay can take it all away at any moment, for any reason, with no warning whatsoever. Though eBay UK made an announcement in the summer that “we will be introducing a 1-month warning period for sellers who breach the Seller Non-Performance policy for the first time“, they didn’t quite mean what we all thought they meant. As clarified on the PowerSeller Board, “30 day warnings are given where appropriate. We have not guaranteed that every seller will get a warning.” You can still be stopped from selling, temporarily or permanently, with no notice, and no appeal.
And it’s not just about feedback and DSRs. eBay’s policy changes too can wipe your business out in a matter of days. If you were selling downloadable listing templates this time last year, you’re not any more, thanks to the policy that banned the sale of digital goods. Sellers of designer and brand name clothing are finding themselves suddenly restricted from selling too. Restrictions on particular trademarks are not being communicated to sellers, and so the first they know about it is when they suddenly can’t list any more of the stock they’ve tied their cash up in. Is that a way to do business? It’s safer to go elsewhere, somewhere where you’re in control.
Of course, it’s eBay’s site and they can do what they want, and that includes alienating every seller they’ve got if they choose to do so. But they shouldn’t count on sellers just bending over and taking it much longer.
We have more options now. When I started selling on eBay, setting up a website was difficult and expensive: eBay offered many sellers an opportunity to sell online that they couldn’t find any other way. Now, websites are both easy and cheap: why would any seller not have one? Comparison search engines and search marketing tools like Adwords make it easy and cheap to reach buyers. That easy, cheap connection with people who wanted to buy used to be eBay’s unique selling point, but it’s not any more. eBay can’t sit on their laurels forever. Unless they find a new way to reach out to sellers, to convince us that it’s worth persisting with eBay selling, I fear by this time next year, there won’t be many of us left.
This post was inspired by The Brews News’ “eBay Needs to Find a New Set of Tools to Motivate Sellers in 2009”, which you should certainly also read.