eBay 2009 : a few thoughts

2008 has been a year of huge change on eBay. The one thing we can say for certain about 2009 is that there’ll be more of the same: the only constant is change*. Randy‘s posted his predictions; so has Ina (the comments on both threads are particularly instructive). Here’re mine, and I should emphasise – this is what I expect, not necessarily what I’d like:

What eBay will not do

Despite rumour and some public wishful thinking:

  • John Donahoe will not quit, or be fired, or get sued by a rabid pack of sellers.
  • eBay will not get rid of classic feedback.
  • eBay will not sell off PayPal, Skype or the auctions business.
  • eBay will not get rid of auction listings.

eBay sellers may have a long list of what they think is wrong with eBay, but eBay themselves appear to think they are on the right track. Therefore we can expect most of the things that have begun in 2008 to be continued next year.

More big retailers will be enticed into listing on eBay.

With western economies in recession, and no listing fees to advertise on eBay, more big catalogue retailers will see an advantage in using eBay as an online channel alongside their existing websites. Household names will be uploading thousands of products to a category near you, with special deals on fees and also on DSRs and feedback: diamond PowerSellers will be given long “grace periods” to establish themselves on eBay where smaller sellers would have been suspended.

There will be some spectacular failures: more than one “diamond” will be unable to recover the shine from feedback that starts off in negative figures. Some retailers will withdraw from eBay as buyers are “too demanding” for them to deal with. But many will stay, so smaller sellers need to consider how they might play to their strengths: specialist knowledge of their niche, and the ability to offer a personalised and human service to buyers who will be increasingly frustrated that big eBay sellers ignore their communication.

Third-party software providers should be taking advantage of the complaints that will be generated from disadvantaged smaller sellers, and offering better products to tie in – for example – stock control between websites and eBay stores. Anything that can help small sellers operate like big sellers will be a hit in 2009.

Catalogue listings will be expanded

The “Amazonification” of eBay will continue as pre-filled item information expands to more categories. Media listings have long offered automatic inclusion of track and publication data, but we’ll see more of this in categories from electronics to branded clothing. It will become easier and easier for large retailers to integrate their product databases with eBay.

Smaller sellers need to consider how they can take advantage of this to save them time which could usefully be invested in other areas of their business, or whether they want to take steps to make themselves stand out on eBay.

More third-party advertising

Third-party ads on view item pages are here to stay. eBay will insist that these do not detract from sellers’ sales, but no one will believe them. More than one category will see a wholesaler advertising on a retailer’s listing. However, this scheme will not be an unmitgated success: some merchants will pull out of the advertising, as Shopping.com merchants did this year, complaining that the quality of traffic sent by eBay is low.

eBay will open up onsite advertising to sellers themselves (as Stephanie Tilenius suggested at Live). Canny sellers will use advertising + listings to ensure that they dominate their categories, rather than simply complaining that it’s a way for eBay to extract more fees from them.

More brand restrictions

More brands will follow L’Oreal’s example and sue eBay for allowing the sale of fakes and, increasingly, merchandise sold through unofficial channels. The presence of some official distributors on eBay will encourage all parties to restrict sales by smaller sellers. eBay, however, will continue to refuse to provide a public list of brands whose sale will be restricted, or whose rights’ owners they know are active in the misuse of the VeRO system to close down eBay listings.

Sellers, therefore, need to investigate the situation fully before commiting large amounts of capital to branded stock. At the very least, run a couple of dozen test listings and see if they survive.

So far, this has been a particular problem for cosmetics’ sellers, but expect to see it for clothing, electronics, toys and some branded craft items.

Changes to Checkout and payments policies

Checkout is changing: sellers will be able to integrate third-party merchant accounts through eBay’s checkout, so those who wish to take credit card payments on the site will be able to do so. So far, that’s not a prediction: eBay have said they’re going to do it.

My guess would be that at the same time, paper payments through the post (cheques/checks, money orders etc.) will be banned in every country where it is legal for eBay to do so. If eBay don’t go that far, there will at least be a carrot of a fee-incentive for PayPal only listings, which might, for example, nullify the PayPal per-transaction fixed fee.

This will all be presented as a security improvement measure. Few people will believe that.

It is – of course – the economy, stupid

Then there’s the bigger picture. There are undoubtedly those who do well in a recession. Online merchants may be some of them: there’s certainly a perception that online = cheaper, and we should all be looking to take advantage of that (actually *being* cheaper is a question for another day).

But the outlook that some eBay sellers are expressing at the moment – that hoardes of cash-strapped buyers are going to mean we’ve never had it so good – seems a little naive to me. The economy is about more than eBay + buyers. Recent weeks have already seen the DVD industry turned upside down by the failure of some huge wholesalers; all eBay sellers (and everyone else) needs to consider how they’d survive if a major supplier went under. Do you have alternative lines of supply? Moreover, without huge retailers buying, will the price of wholesale supply go up? Are you running a business based on catalogue returns or retail seconds? If your eBay business doesn’t have multiple sources of stock, frankly, you’re asking for trouble.

It’s not the death of the small seller…

though many people are saying it is. It might just be the death of the medium-sized eBay seller: eBay 2009 is going to be about being big enough that you can weather a recession, or small enough to sneak past it. If you’re a business with a set plan, fixed in what you do without built-in flexibility to adapt to constant change, then honestly you’re in for a hellish time. If you can stay lithe and nimble enough to deal with everything that’s going to be thrown at you, you might just end up on top.

So that’s what I’m expecting – over to you.

* Hat-tip to Heraclitus for that thought: rather a lot of his wisdom seems applicable to eBay somehow.

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Comments

Good post Sue. I especially agree with the small seller sneaking lithely past the recession. That's exactly what I'm hoping to do. No grand plans of world domination, just sitting back and picking off opportunities that will definitely come during the "crunch". Making sure my overheads and stock do not get out of control, in a way that a big or medium seller can only have a wet dreams about! Good luck to everyone this year (I think we will need it). But whats that coming over the hill? Is it a recovery? You KNOW it's only a matter of time before things start to pick up, so batten down the hatches, fight them on the beaches, keep an eye on the horizon, wait till you see the whites of their eyes, they don't like it up em....rah rah blah blah :-)

Store Your Stuff • 29th December 2008 •

It’s not the death of the small seller… problem is small sellers do their best to MASQURADE as big sellers flash templates, bespoke stores, videos etc etc

northumbrian • 29th December 2008 •

No glitches? What about project echo?

ebuyerfb • 29th December 2008 •

Nice post Sue. #1 I haven't even noticed a recession to be totally honest Jade, the only companies that seem to be suffering are the ones that relied to much on borrowed money, now the money has dried up they have had there weakness exposed by the media, shareholders loose confidence and it all goes wrong within a few days, Zavvi may be an exception but imho if you have all your eggs in one basket (EUK) then the company wasn't run properly anyway. It's a bit like us all relying on eBay for a living, you just can't do it these days, you have to spread it around a bit. I have to disagree with you on a couple of points though Sue:- Feedback, I reckon it's going next year. As eBay keep pointing out they want to attract the big players then surely feedback has to go? how can a big retailer cope with DSR's and Feedback? even if they could cope, is it worth the hassle for them? Paypal, If the big eBay shareholders don't demand a sell off I would be very surprised unless the stock rallies early next year, it should already be "eBay, a Paypal Company" will have to wait and see. Anyway, enough drivel from me, as Jade said, good luck to everyone for next year and a special thanks from me to Sue & Chris for all the great help and advice this year.

whirly • 29th December 2008 •

Feedback, I reckon it’s going next year. As eBay keep pointing out they want to attract the big players then surely feedback has to go? how can a big retailer cope with DSR’s and Feedback? even if they could cope, is it worth the hassle for them?
I'm not so sure. BUY is very effective at fixing their feedback. They even got 26 negatives removed even when they clearly over sold one of their products. https://www.diamondhaus.com/observations.php?index=2

ebuyerfb • 29th December 2008 •

#2 I reckon a bit of masquerading can help with sales.

Jimbo (CEO) • 29th December 2008 •

#5 :lol:

whirly • 29th December 2008 •

I'm a big small company and that's the way it's staying! No employee payroll, expensive offices or company cars for me! (Oh... errr.... hang on, I *do* have a company car, but it's more of a truck than a car! :D )

Chris Dawson • 29th December 2008 •

#5 Sorry, having a blonde moment. How do Buy fix there feedback? I just dont understand that website to be honest.

whirly • 29th December 2008 •

#4 how can a big retailer cope with DSR’s and Feedback? I think I covered that: Household names will be uploading thousands of products to a category near you, with special deals on fees and also on DSRs and feedback: diamond PowerSellers will be given long “grace periods” to establish themselves on eBay where smaller sellers would have been suspended. #3 no glitches? Do I need to bother to predict a certainty?

Sue Bailey • 29th December 2008 •

Well ebay did us a massive favour in a way when they kicked us off last march, it made me really look at the business and the fact that we had all our eggs in one basket, so we have kinda been ready for this anyway! This Christmas has been mega for us doing it without ebay, we did 5 times as much business this year than last just on ebay! We have managed to trim everything down as well and don't spend nearly as much time on email etc as we used to. We plan to expand over the next year, we have our eyes on some differenet markets we want to go in and are also looking at taking on a full time web designer. Its about being careful and reasearching what you are going to do. Its not going to be easy in 2009, but if you can get through something like this or even start a business in a time like this then you will appreciate the good times better! Thanks Chris and Sue for all you have shared over the last year that I have been enjoying Tamebay and I look forward to 2009! Stu

Stuart • 29th December 2008 •

Glitch or no Glitch - Project Echo could be a disaster for some, as eBay will be controlling the end user numbers and how any project can be monetized ! No matter how good a widget may be, if you don't get sufficient volume of paying users that widget cannot be supported long term.

Eddie • 29th December 2008 •

8 been there done that, fleet of vans, warehouse, wages to find etc etc, just a busy busy fool being wagged by the tail

northumbrian • 29th December 2008 •

Sorry my mistake #10, I thought when you said "Over to you" you were asking for opinions? I didn't realise I had to agree with you :lol:

whirly • 29th December 2008 •

I would never require or even expect agreement from you, Whirly - but I thought when you used that question mark, you were asking a question. ;-) On the serious point - we agree that big sellers can't keep up on the near-perfect levels of feedback that have become the norm on eBay, and that eBay will have to do something about that if they want big business on the site (as they undoubtedly do). I think they'll let them off the rules that the rest of us have to follow; you think they'll ditch feedback. Be interesting to see how that one pans out.

Sue Bailey • 29th December 2008 •

I dont care what ebay do, or how they do it, as long as I sell and make a profit,

northumbrian • 29th December 2008 •

I think ebay would be daft to remove feedback because as sellers we go just that little bit further to avoid a negative comment, than we would for DSRS that are average and Anonymous

northumbrian • 29th December 2008 •

#15 It was a typo Sue, I have big clumsy fingers :lol: *honest* Next years strategy will remain the same as the last 6months, List & Hope. I/We as a business simply do not have the time to keep entertaining eBay's barmy knee jerk policy changes, we do our best to keep up, if we happen to fail then so be it, eBay is really not the be all and end all of our company anymore even though personally speaking I would miss it, financially we make more profit per £100 spent with Google than eBay these days.

whirly • 29th December 2008 •

@ # 9

How do Buy fix there feedback? I just dont understand that website to be honest.
Except for those 26 negatives it looks like they are able to convince their buyers to revise their feedback or the buyer eventually goes NARU. The site itself just tracks every feedback left for the Diamond Powersellers and if a negative or neutral goes missing it tries to figure out why. There are stated rules for why feedback would be removed so it should just be a simple case of matching which rule applies based on the evidence.

ebuyerfb • 29th December 2008 •

@ # 10

#3 no glitches? Do I need to bother to predict a certainty?
Not really but I was thinking something along the lines of
The “Amazonification” of eBay will continue as pre-filled item information expands to more categories. But glitches set these plans back. sellers will be able to integrate third-party merchant accounts through eBay’s checkout, so those who wish to take credit card payments on the site will be able to do so. But glitches prevent many common merchant accounts from working until Fall 2009.
Basically do that for most of the predictions that involve them implementing something on the site.

ebuyerfb • 29th December 2008 •

Well, I've pretty much gotten over my shock and indignation at JD's bold changes in '08. Once I started accepting Ebay's newfound stupidity and began learning how to fit into it, I did and do okay. Just turn a blind eye to the nonsense and stick your nose to the grindstone. Works for me. I'm in a strong niche. The latter quarter of '08, I did excellent sales. In '09, I am going to diversify into other venues, probably not my own site. I still think small sellers want and need their own venue where they feel appreciated and empowered. JD, insensitive to this, will keep plundering and making mistakes. Sue, I'm not so sure JD will continue on in '09. I'm with Randy on whether the BOD lets him keep on keeping on with these ludicrous changes as the stock price plunges and the negative press gets even nastier. Happy New Year Everyone. Wishing you all joy, happiness, peace, love, good health, and PROSPERITY!

Lisa • 29th December 2008 •

Those aren't my predictions. I see more of the same failure until John Donahoe is politely asked to leave by way of his golden parachute with Norrington right behind him. I see diamond sellers failing...want to know why? Because Amazon with its great customer service and on the ball policing of its vendors will finally trounce Ebay even with its monster size! Backing up Amazon are all the major retailers who have made their wares available online. I've bought from some of them online and its been a pleasant experience - not a stressful one ala Ebay! Word of mouth by small sellers who have been kicked to the curb will continue to tarnish Ebay as buyers will more and more be informed of the mess Donahoe made in 2008! People root for the underdog and right now that's the small sellers. One thing small sellers have yet to learn...but they catching on ...is to contact each and every one of their past customers and let them know where they can continue to buy from their favorite sellers. If they still sell on Ebay then inform each customer where else they can be found - at cheaper prices! As for me...between Etsy, Bonanzle and my own website...I'm finally rid of the 8,000 lb greedy monster! So...since I guess almost all of you are large sellers who don't mind Ebay being turned over to retailers - go right ahead and throw stones. I can take it :wink:

Patricia • 29th December 2008 •

10 year eBay small seller here. I have spent about 1 year looking for a great alternative as I saw all the terrible changes coming with the new CEO. I ended up finding Bonanzle. More than what I had even hoped for. A great community of sellers..Buyers are there also. You can import listings and feedback..No fees to list. Small fee when items sells..I call it the breathe of fresh air place...Check it out... https://www.bonanzle.com/booths/tree411

tree411 • 29th December 2008 •

John Donahoe Must go... Feedback must be changed... Detailed Seller Ratings a total FAILURE! Seller loosing there right to leave deadbeat buyer feedback is a Failure! We Need more protesting! --More MAJOR NEWS Articles & Another World Wide EBAY STRIKE!!! I just can not believe the (CEI's) college educated idiots of this world...! Wall Street! Insurance Companies! Auto Manufacturers & this Dumass at the helm of EBAY! -- CEO John DonaHOE! Peace to all...Best of Luck! (we're gonna need it) God bless the World and all it's Precious life! jsh

Zeke • 29th December 2008 •

Thank you Sue, That is a great outlook summary for a marketplace that has gotten increasingly complex, and I think that much of it seems to be on the money for how I see things likely to happen over the coming period. In the "What Ebay will not do" list, I suspect that you could also add: * Ebay will not get rid of Best Match as the default search. Which even many of the Ebay.com cheerleaders are begging for. ==== You have also suggested that there are opportunities for small sellers to target "buyers who will be increasingly frustrated that big eBay sellers ignore their communication." To over-generalise, my experience seems to be that on the whole buyers no longer want communication as part of the transaction. I don't sell retail items, and I guess that this should apply even more to retail lines than vintage collectibles. It is also more noticeable on my Ebay.com sales than on my British or Australian listings, so this may not play out so much in your regional sales. There are now rarely communications with payments, feedback is the only "communication" that many buyers now make. I do communicate when I ship and indicate how long it will normally take to get to the buyer, so it may just be that most have no reason to communicate with me, as they have the information that they need - but overall there seems to be less inclination for buyers to engage with sellers in any way now. Kind Regards, Kevin

Kevin_T • 30th December 2008 •

Thanks for your comment Kevin - you're totally right about BM; we need to learn to work with it, because it's not going anywhere. Re. communication - I didn't really mean the eBay of the late 90s where you actually made friends with your trading partner, more whether you can get an answer to an ASQ or assistance with a not-received parcel. A lot of the negative feedback received by the big, big sellers is about non-response to email.

Sue Bailey • 30th December 2008 •

What a year it has been! Ebay have really created a lot of upset over the last few months and now the dust has settled the "big picture" is either coming into focus or has already hit right between the eyes. My view on the changes? Can't complain really. Something has emerged and became clear though. There isn't really all that much wrong with ebay now. Sure there is some clarification needed on the already anounced changes coming in 2009. The staff still need to be tought arse from elbow and VERO still needs sorting out. The thing that was made clear is, it's not ebay itself, it's the people that use it that cause the problems.

Bunchy • 30th December 2008 •

dont know this fella Donahoe, never met him, dont suppose I ever will but I bet dollers to Doughnuts he is no fool, he earns many times more than anyone that posts here,

northumbrian • 30th December 2008 •

Rumours that Ebay France to close, could there/should there be an Ebay Europe rather than individual countries, would help UK exports with £ so weak https://uk.techcrunch.com/2008/12/09/is-it-goodbye-ebay-france-or-just-au-revoir/

hitch • 30th December 2008 •

#28 Short term gain is not always the most profitable route Norf, you should bloody know that! I bet JD doesnt own a castle and a Merc SUV :lol:

whirly • 30th December 2008 •

EBAY doesnt ever stand still... the silly ideas department seem to work overtime at the beginning of each New Year and yet overall 2008 was an excellent year for medium sized sellers. In our case turnover doubled on the implementation of best match. The feedback changes made little or no difference and the introduction of fee discounts, removal of shop inventory etc has saved us £400+ a month. 2009 has got some real dumb ideas in progress. The new view item page is pathetic and whoever made the decision to remove left hand catagory navigation must have had a long lunch over too many bottles of whiskey... That said Adcommerce will be a boon for sellers like us who need to drive sales to pay the bills... I can see people trepidation about new large sellers BUT will sellers like EBUYER be any worse than EBAY's 2007 choice of rising star (see the backstage page!)... I have my doubts!!!!!

Paul Platten • 31st December 2008 •

the mercs only a shopping trolly for the wife and a taxi for the kids :lol:

northumbrian • 31st December 2008 •

You flash sod :lol:

whirly • 31st December 2008 •

I think you're all wrong. I think 2009 for Ebay will spell stagnation. Donohoe refusing to retreat on his changes, the board and primary stockholders refusing to go any further. The outcome: the carnival of the deadbeat buyers. And when they're only half way up they'll be neither up nor down.

Hanafi_H • 31st December 2008 •

To be honest I think Donohoe and his pals may just in the nick of time, saved ebay, from stagnation ,with their changes,

northumbrian • 1st January 2009 •

#35 That or they have caused irrepairable damage. Time will tell.

board_surfer • 1st January 2009 •

About the only thing one knows about Ebay 2009.is that One doesn't Know. A complete lack of communication on further changes to come,ishardly a sound basis to plan one's own future on Ebay. What one does know is the Real World. There,we face one of the most vicious recessions we have had in generations. Forecasts of falls of 3% in GDP,and 3 million+ unemployed in Britain alone in 2009. In the face of that,where does Ebay stand? How much buying on Ebay is essential and permanent,and how much is concessionary and Very impermanent? Is the New Ebay a site for a Recession? Or a home for all those extra,useless, things we buy in a boom ? Are Endless lists of Chinese Imports going to do better than Rock bottom second hand items?

pmul • 2nd January 2009 •

@Sue Bailey, How on Earth do YOU know ? What eBay will not do : Despite rumour and some public wishful thinking: * John Donahoe will not quit, or be fired, or get sued by a rabid pack of sellers. * eBay will not get rid of classic feedback. * eBay will not sell off PayPal, Skype or the auctions business. * eBay will not get rid of auction listings. eBay sellers may have a long list of what they think is wrong with eBay, but eBay themselves appear to think they are on the right track. Therefore we can expect most of the things that have begun in 2008 to be continued next year. Sue, NOTHING is Written in Stone my dear. Ebay can change back faster than a two-faced husband.

NYM Arts • 6th January 2009 •

Umm.... not to put too much of a dampener on things folks , but if you can't buy a pair of CATs on ebay but you can on amazon ( along with 1000s of other stuff ) , unless ebay force some retailers to sell on their site by taking hidden cam footage of executives doing naughty things , I fail to see how this vision will unfold. There is simply not enough stuff on ebay to buy anymore , buyers have gone elsewhere for many many things , I can not see very large retailers being stupid enough to waste a lot of time on a presence that may well be too diluted. and what would be the point !? no I see the site in terminal decline for most cats and as always with my sticky mcdoom stuff , i sincerely hope I am wrong , but with customer service on ebay being at such an unprofessional level and basically sticky taped together , i just can not see the underpinnings for successfully hosting big players without major problems and law suits etc etc. we will see. i said this time last year I would be not selling on ebay anymore and although only just , I am still here , so dont rush to the bookies on my account.... I know ONE big player though that would not touch ebay with a barge pole , i was chatting with their CIO last week , very interesting indeed and a curious backwards step for their e-commerce offering due to surprising Q4/Q3 results/estimates on footfall/e-sales/revenue/profit etc etc etc

stickymcglue • 7th January 2009 •