We’ve received quite a number of emails from despairing sellers over the past few weeks. At what should be a bumper time of year for most ecommerce SMEs, these emails start along similar lines: “Help. My sales are down dramatically. What has eBay changed?”*
The answer is, to be honest, that eBay haven’t changed anything. There were some changes to Search a little while back, which will be changed back, but that won’t have had a widespread effect.
We’ve taken a deepdive with several of the sellers who have written in and I thought it might be useful to share some reflections. The sands are constantly shifting and an eBay seller must always be tweaking and optimising. Very often, in our experience, when the sales are down (or seem to be down) there is a rational reason staring you in the face.
Are your numbers sound?
Firstly, make sure you’re keeping track. And then be sober and analytical when you make judgments. Comparing week on week isn’t necessarily that useful. Fluctuations in the short term are inevitable and a longer term view is vital. One seller who contacted us in a panic at a sudden dip in sales had been spooked by a rogue bad week in what was an otherwise healthy trend. Another, suddenly concerned about a sudden drop, had actually been presiding over decline unawares since the beginning of the year.
There are lots of ways to approach measuring the health of your business, and many books and blogs aout there with advice on best practice. The key point is to do it and be meticulous.
Check out the competition
Keeping an eye on your competitors serves lots of purposes. Two leap to mind for the purposes of this post: 1) Benchmark against your competitors so you can judge whether a downtick is also affecting them. 2) If a competitor selling similar stock is doing better than you on conversion or sell through, you know you have improvements to make.
Terapeak is enormously valuable here. It’s vital, in fact. And if you’re making a living on eBay and not plugged in to Terapeak then I think you’re bonkers.
Oh, and always keep an eye out for new competitors. The new kid on the block with great stock and low prices could be the cause of a dip. They may crash and burn before long but even a Mayfly competitor can cause havoc with your business.
Events, dear boy, events.
Outside factors will impact eBay and net usage in general. For instance, Tamebay traffic was significantly down in June. The combination of bank holidays, the Jubilee, atrocious weather and the like all combined to bring the numbers down. Funnily, the Olympics didn’t have a similar impact. When look at the numbers, remember that half term affects sales, so does the weather, big national events and the like all matter. You may be affected by events further afield too: Thanksgiving, stateside, for example. There isn’t much to be done about these things. But it can help understand if a dip is just a blip or part of a downward trend.
And don’t forget the effects of seasonality. Swim suits sell better in June and there isn’t much demand for Christmas cards in February. And things do just go out of fashion. Pity the poor wig powder merchant.
How good is your stock?
I recently dealt with a seller who was convinced his business was on the slide. Looking back over the past three months, we saw that the first few weeks were stellar but from that peak, each week had been worse than the one before. He was at his wit’s end. We sussed it in the end. The peak weeks coincided with a stock delivery. This had sold well and then sold out. For the remainder of the quarter he had been flogging the less attractive stock. Thus the dip.
And, here’s another obvious point to make, make sure you’ve got everything you want to sell listed on eBay or Amazon. I have been often astonished to learn sellers hold masses of stock but haven’t got it listed for sale. One thing we can all agree on: if it ain’t available for sale, it won’t shift.
Are you being honest with yourself?
Are your DSRs up to snuff? Are you sending out items ASAP? Are your listings long overdue an overhaul? Are your listings looking fab on mobile devices? Would some spiffier snaps show off your wares better? You probably know exactly what you need to do to make sure your sales improve. But it can be easier to blame eBay.
* In all my years as an eBay watcher I’ve never heard a seller say “Hurrah, my sales are up. What have eBay changed?” Increases are thanks to a seller’s hard work. Decreases must be someone else’s fault. 😉