eBay: Can it become The Real Everything Store?

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David Brackin is the managing director of Stuff U Sell, the leading eBay trading assistant in the UK and a regular Tamebay contributor. Today David considers why retailers don’t list their entire inventory on the marketplace, what barriers hold them back and how eBay could become the Real Everything Store.

eBay: Can it become The Real Everything Store?

If you were to ask an Amazon employee what defines the company, they might well tell you that they start with the buyer and work backwards. It runs through their culture like the writing in a stick of rock. And while it isn’t always 100% true, you can see that any innovation is at least measured by the yardstick of whether buyers will love it, and products and offerings are refined through that lens.

eBay does not have that clarity of purpose, and I think it’s time it did. It cannot compete toe-to-toe with Amazon by appealing to the buyer-side of the marketplace. However, marketplaces have two sides that transact together: there are buyers and there are sellers. Amazon’s bet is that if it has all the buyers coming through the door, then the sellers will queue up to use their services. eBay can make the alternative bet: if it has all the sellers, and in particular, the best selection of goods and offerings, then the buyers will find their way to the store. “The Everything Store” was a phrase that Jeff Bezos used to describe his aspiration, and it’s that mantle that eBay can wear with pride.

What does it take to be the most seller-centric marketplace? Well it doesn’t mean screwing over buyers – for example doing away with trust and safety, allowing dangerous goods or banning returns. While we might mutter in moments of frustration that these things are a pain, sellers all recognise that we want safe and fair transactions with buyers – marketplaces are where we come together with buyers with a common goal of a fair exchange, not to oppose one another. And all the usual marketplace functions of search, reputation, checkout and transaction support are all still things that are absolutely essential. The real question is what benchmark does everyone measure those activities by. For example, when a product manager thinks about how returns work, say, how does she cut through the clamour of competing stakeholders and departments all wanting different things? When her boss says “do it this way”, on what grounds can she say “no this way is better”?

I think it is simple to articulate (although fiendishly hard to achieve): If you want to be the Real Everything Store, then you need to do nothing that prevents people from putting inventory in your store:

“Every seller on the planet should have no reason not to want to place their legitimate offering on eBay”

This raises lots of questions, but I think it’s the process of thinking about these questions that is every bit as productive as the process at Amazon when someone wonders what the buyer wants and starts with them.

Coming back to our hypothetical product manager thinking about returns. She’s been told by her boss to enforce 30-day returns because it’s what buyers want. However, she realises that might put off some sellers who are not obliged to accept returns and those who want to simply offer the legal minimum. So she can come up with some different solutions: maybe a search option for 30-day returns, and she works with her colleagues in shipping, reputation, etc to come up with an eBay “gold standard” service which appears on listings (or shows the reason they aren’t gold). Buyers are properly alerted to the terms of the offering and can make an informed choice: I might accept no returns from a private seller if it’s super cheap. She then provides information to sellers about how being “gold” affects sales and the sellers – who know their business better than she does – can decide whether to join in or not, knowing that the can always continue with the inventory live on the site as it is. If her product is good, then many sellers adopt it. If not, it dies on the vine.

Isn’t this just what is done at the moment? I think seller impact is taken very seriously but is an add-on, not at the very core of the culture. I wonder how the product managers thinking about off-ebay sales, https implementation, image standards, postage, free returns, product reviews, catalogue structure, structured data and payments intermediation – to name but a few –might have approached things differently if they had this one question in mind when they approached their tasks: How do I achieve my project while giving no seller a reason not to put all their stuff on eBay?

eBay already has the edge when it comes to selection and price. As one of its sellers, I really hope that it can drive this advantage home and become truly great.

34 Responses

  1. we would love to list everything we have and more on ebay
    though the listing process is so involved complicated and time consuming
    the time = profit equation stops us listing much more than we do
    item specifics paranoia is the main culprit

  2. David has got it spot on “eBay does not have that clarity of purpose”. Ebay have come up with very few good ideas since day 1 in 1995, they’ve just tinkered ebay to death. In the meantime amazon have walked all over them with a fantastic selling platform.

  3. The reason we have stopped at around 65% of our inventory being listed n eBay is tumbling sales but mainly being told how to sell such as discounts offered if we can jump through the same hoops as the multinationals on the site and the other big boys. Which they know most of us cannot. Then of course taking EU and UK law of 14 day returns and giving it the usual eBay disregard for Law of the land by now beginning to enforce 30 day returns. The next step will of course be 60 day.

    Do they not realise that under UK and EU law the sale of goods act means that any buyer can expect a reasonable lifetime from most items so they are covered for faulty goods for up to 6 years anyway (which makes a mockery of retailers on the high street trying to sell you an extended warranty) So will that be the next law trashed by ebay. Buy on eBay and get a lifetime warranty.

    They seem to want to be different to the Amazon platform. Well they are Amazon is a selling platform and eBay is fast becoming a lending platform or library.

  4. “Every seller on the planet should have no reason not to want to place their legitimate offering on eBay”
    Well they have a long way to go as the list is massive. As I read the article I once again saw this huge bias towards buyers getting everything and sellers having to do everything for less. There is no balance on Ebay. There is very little in it for alot of sellers now. Ebay creates hurdle after hurdle to jump through with every diminishing rewards. 99% of the time Ebay takes the buyers side regardless of facts. In fact ebay seem to be pulling out all the stops to drive away their core sellers and replace them with huge faceless multiples and tax avoiding Chinese sellers. The ebay systems are jumbled and don’t flow properly or even work … click on one heading and it takes you to another page with a completely different format to that which you would land on if you clicked on a different link to it!
    These giants drive down prices to the point that margins is a dirty word, and looking at their feedback it is full of examples of poor, indded very poor service. Yet ebay seems to love them. Proberly because they just conform to everything without question and never pursue a claim, regardless of how obviously fraudulant it is. It’s quids in for Ebay.
    I wonder how many hard working, decent, honest sellers are sitting here thinking how sick they are of hearing how sellers working harder, offering more, etc is the key to Ebays success? Well nothing makes the case for better service harder than the way ebay treats it’s sellers. I for one have actually had to start holding back on the extra 10% service above what people normally expect becuase we have so many hoops to jump through, so many time wasters and scammers to deal with, such dwindling margins as we compete against the tax avoiders – both China and UK based not registered business sellers, and so little incentive from ebay. So in the end the buyer loses out. As things get tougher so the levels of extra we are able to offer reduce….. Well done Ebay, a great business model.

  5. On Wednesday I’ve been banned from selling on ebay indefinitely !

    Member since 2003, top rated, premium service. No negatives in over 12 months.

    They’ve incorrectly linked my account with one run by my (dodgy) former business partner and reviewed the historic trademark warning messages over products I’ve not sold for years and restricted my top rated 3008 feedback account.

    Lost for words. Lost my livelihood and am applying for jobs
    “Thank you for contacting us again due to the selling restriction on your account “retro-watches-harrogate’. I know how difficult this situation for you as this is your source of income. Given the situation you are in, I would like to extend my assistance to you

    I have personally reviewed our records once again and I see that the Selling Restriction was placed on the 14th of this month, due to concerns we had for the safety of the eBay community. Unfortunately, I’m afraid we won’t be able to reinstate your account for you as this restriction is permanent and final and I hope your understand that our decision is based on evidence from our records.”

  6. On any seller platform the buyer is important, but of equal importance is the seller, after all without the sellers there would be no buyers. There should of course be seller guidelines, and the sellers should be honest, but it must be remembered it is the seller’s business and it is they that should decide how to sell their products, what discounts to offer, deal with returns, and cope with customised customer requirements. When the platform starts to dictate to the sellers how to sell their products the sellers will naturally begin to withdraw their inventory and sales on the platform will drop. Its a no brainer, and I cant see how eBay dont get this.

  7. We are lucky if we list 25% of our products on eBay these days, from just last year when it was about 90%.
    eBay do not seem to understand they actually have a fair bit of competition out there and not just from Amazon.
    We were till 2014 exclusive to eBay, we clearly started using FBA, but so many other marketplaces have opened and in our sector price rules, and they are expensive.
    We would not even sell a new release on eBay as it is totally pointless after fees.
    Still it is the most problematic site and most time consuming platform we are on. We feel from a sellers point of view they have never offered a secure environment to trade on.
    One of the main reasons many of us started using FBA is we got sick of the eBay issues.
    Plus we want to keep building our brand and ebay seems to want to take away all individuality just like Amazon it is becoming bland and dull.

    They talk a lot about engaging with sellers but let’s be honest most us are treated like cash-cows. They cannot take Amazon on that horse has bolted, they want to create a great buyer experience let the top sellers do what they do best and create the right environment (and safe) to trade on, try and think long term and not just the next quarter. We were sourcing stock today and it was not with eBay in mind anymore.

  8. No, ebay can’t. they just can’t.
    first and foremost, they’ve no interest in that apprach whatsoever.
    secondly they lack the competence to turn the site a full 180 to facilitate it.
    third, if they did do a complete U-turn, again, would anyone believe it? I wouldnt.

    the moment a new marketplace with such a philosophy opens up, accepts an ebay export feed (or just crawls ebay and imports your stock), making things easy for sellers….
    if it was cheaper and easier to sell on the platform, it would be cheaper to buy on that platform, and despite all the talk of service, i bet you less than 10% of customers look any further than the lowest price before pressing buy.

    if we didnt have to second guess every single INR or SNAD, just take them at face value, knowing, KNOWING, that the marketplace was actually monitoring and taking action against the wrong uns (not just giving mouth service), we would accept that happily, but thats the opposite of ebay.

    dont know how many times we’ve had cases decided against us, in the face of the evidence, contrary to the law of the UK, contradictory to any sense of rightness or fairness, by clear and blatant scam merchants, wholly and fully supported in their fraud by ebay.

    so no, ebay cant be the marketplace you describe here, but i hope whoever can be comes along soon.

  9. that rarest of events when ebay have actually agreed with us,[sort of] they have still refunded the buyer from their own pocket
    what message does that give ?

  10. With all the recent and upcoming changes at Ebay i cancelled my shop and deleted all of my listings, not before importing them over to Ecrater. Zero fee’s but there is an optional 2.9% marketplace fee. Also Ecrater listings show high up in Google Shopping so it makes sense to leave fraud-bay – i’m well rid of that money grabbing site.

  11. We ditched Ebay last year as we saw the way it was going and guess what, we haven’t looked back! Struggling to make any money and then half the sales we did make we had cases against us, we always lost of course.

    Never heard of Ecrater before but will check that out. We are on just OnBuy & Amazon now, things are looking good!

    RIP Ebay!

  12. @Alwills we have looked at it a few times. Lack of awareness in the UK put us off, often see the products on Google Shopping.
    It may be worth having a look again.

  13. How about the fact i can list all my inventory to Amazon at no extra cost. Having X amount of free listings and then a charging for more is not great when the competition lets you do it for no extra cost.

  14. Ebay needs to stop fleecing sellers before they can regain trust.

    The latest round of anchor fee hikes will see us paying 5k per annum more and I don’t give a sh*t about concierge.

    They’re testing sellers out to see how much they can take before people bale out.

    How can they be the sellers of EVERYTHING when they have marginalised and priced out those very areas of interest, such as collectables, art, antiques, customised items etc. If it doesn’t have a product identifier, Ebay is not interested. Remember the farce of watermarks? They backed down because sellers refused to have their material stolen online.

    They have basically ruined each one of those areas with a mix of greed and ridiculous policies.

    As for the intelligent searching and AI, perhaps Ebay can explain why every search on the site yesterday produced nothing but car parts and accessories ????

    Just walk away.

  15. @ Alan Paterson

    They’re forcing sellers of collectables off Ebay. Been to many fairs recently – spoke to several sellers with a combined total of more than 100 years experience of selling on Ebay. All of them have now closed their anchor accounts.

    We are now alone in our 2 areas and are the only anchor shops left on UK Ebay in those categories. Spoke to Ebay CS to complain about the fee rise and they admitted a lot of anchor shops have been shut.

    We can (and probably will) move all our remaining Ebay inventory onto our own websites. The cost of selling on Ebay for us will now exceed 20% taking the anchor fee rises into account. Large inventories (over 100,000 items in each shop) also get hit hard by system errors, such as garbled photos, relist failures etc etc.

    We are not commodity merchants. Any fool can go buy stuff that everyone else has got and that is what Ebay will become. The interesting items will be gone.

  16. @alan Paterson
    You suggest we should pay for concierge whilst other glitterati members receive it free? How a company can operate a two tier customer support service is beyond me. Surely my need for support should be equally as valid if I’m concierge or not. The need hasn’t changed, but the outcome often does.
    I wouldn’t dream of treating some of my eBay customers better than others,,,,, shame that eBay Doesn’t feel the same.

  17. we all look after our best and favorite customers better
    thats BUSINESS
    we do our best to ignore the , chiselers, and moaners, they cost time and money

  18. might be a good idea for ebay to keep the store door from being locked so as customers could get in
    site is down at the moment

  19. its obviously not based on the size of your invoice.
    we agree an extra charge for good customer service is not good business

  20. Alan Paterson is clearly a eBay employee who has used the same name as a seller who can be located on eBay, in order to appear legit.

    No real seller would be such an apologist for this site.

    NB: I’m a £1/2m a year turnover seller and can honestly say Concierge, which I’ve had since it started, is of very very slim benefit at all. In many ways support WITHOUT it is easier.

    (Waits for Paterson’s “I love eBay RA-RA-RA” dance).

  21. @Alan Paterson

    I have successfully developed two websites for our items and they are doing well, as well as selling on other sites, which also contribute.

    Until recent times, we have been able to sell successfully on Ebay, but the point I made about items like collectables is valid. Many anchor sellers are leaving Ebay.

    Should Ebay not be concerned about that? Collectables makes up a big chunk of their income and is particularly suited to the auction format. All this sets Ebay apart from Amazon. Why toss that all away after 20 years?

    I’m not going to change into other products. I did all that many years ago and moved into collectables as it is much more interesting. Besides, the business is successful and does not need Ebay. Sure, we’d see a dip in revenue, but our customers buy from us off Ebay and we made ourselves a lifeboat, in case Ebay sank, some time ago. My point is that we have always wanted to sell on Ebay, as it has been the platform that was easiest to use and in the past able to develop a good customer base under the Ebay banner.

    So if things are not turned around quickly with Ebay’s direction, it’s not the items I sell that will be changing, it’s the platforms I sell on that will change.

    For 15 years, we have given excellent service to customers who keep coming back. We sold our millionth item on Ebay in 2016. We have continued to provide that same good service and haven’t changed from that. It is Ebay that has changed and is now on the edge of losing the interesting items that used to make Ebay special.

    Ebay CS told me they would be extremely sorry if I closed my anchor shops and left Ebay. They said they understood my concerns, but the bottom line is they aren’t going to change direction.

  22. I have always thought the best approach to marketplace selling is let sellers run their businesses (within legal guidelines) and let the market (buyers) decide the best deal not the platform based on a stance ‘our buyers tell us they want free delivery’ approach (like eBay have asked EVERY buyer this question for EVERY product, not!)

    Let sellers set their stall out and monitor/reward them on doing what they say they are going to do. If free shipping is viable or 14 or 30 day returns free or not, dispatch and delivery times, tracked or not delivery plus many other metrics. One brush does not fit everyone if the platform aspires to sell everything.

    100% seller rating, this seller ALWAYS does what they say they are going to do!

    The market (buyers) will decide what they want on a product by product basis and if Seller B is not doing as well as Seller A then it is down to Seller B to make some commercial decisions on what needs to change versus the likely benefit.

    But it must be absolutely clear to buyers upfront what is on offer from the seller and they shouldn’t be allowed to leave negative feedback if the seller did everything they said they were going to do when they said they were going to do it. (Negative – Could have bought this product cheaper and faster from another seller…)

    If buyers could add a number of products to a compare feature then these variable metrics could be viewed easily and buyers could make an informed choice of Price Vs Speed of Delivery for example. 14 day or 30 day returns if this is important etc.

    Yet this this is just one of many examples on how eBay could make their platform more appealing to both buyers and sellers under the heading ‘we are listing to our sellers’ until the Autumn Seller Update comes out to kick sellers once again.

    Aspirations are one thing, reality is another.

  23. Cheers @Vinnie
    You did make me laugh (with you) with your ” ploughed my field and stole the tractor” comment.

    I’m now going back UP the comments page, and see what Alan (eBay) Paterson has to say. YOU may have made me laugh, but HE (sadly) is in a LEAGUE of his own.


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