A great deal of turmoil has been raised recently in the eBay Trading Assistant community.
Reader Please Note: This post is over 1900 words in length. I feel it is worth the time to read the entire article. If you think this post is just too long after reading the entire article please leave a comment and tell me what you think - Thanks - Scott
eBay has decided to change the existing system in regards to Trading Assistants and Trading Posts. In doing so eBay completely revised the way they qualify participants for the program(s). This change has been presented as a way to clean up the "old" directory and provide more relevant results for people looking for help in selling merchandise on eBay. Some think the real reason for the change is to allow eBay to extend the legal distance between itself and anyone listed as a eBay Trading Assistant because of certain active cases against Trading Assistants and Drop off Store owners in States like Pennsylvania.
The terms and conditions eBay requires to be placed in the eBay "official" Trading Assistant directory are extensive. To be included in the directory as what is now termed REDOL (Registered eBay Drop Off Location) or Drop Store, the extensive terms of the TA agreement become even more so. Choosing to be included in either directory at this time is a more important issue than many may be aware. Diligent business owners will read all of the terms of the agreement(s) before making a quick choice to join the directory.
There were many promises made to the existing members of eBay's TA & Drop Store or Trading Post (Now REDOL) community when this massive change was announced. Essentially eBay promised a massive advertising campaign to 50,000 businesses in the USA promoting TA's and REDOLS, they also promised a new, easy to find, and less spam filled directory. eBay said that with the "reduction in competition" after the directory was switched over to the new version and every TA & Drop store re-registered, each registered member would receive more business from the directory.
The results so far have been less than promised.
Consider the first promise: "Massive" direct mail advertising campaign to 50,000 businesses. This boils down to a single letter sent to 1000 businesses in each State. My County in Florida has more than 50,000 registered businesses alone. For any company to send out a direct mailing piece to just 1000 businesses in my State would be considered as a joke by any reputable direct mail advertising agency. Not surprisingly, the direct mail piece eBay sent out has not returned much business for TA's or REDOLS - if the responses in the Trading Assistant Discussion board on eBay is any measure.
Reduction of Competition: Thus far this promise has been met - there are fewer listings in the TA directory, whether the listings in the directory are more relevant is up to debate. From our inspection of the directory it seems more like a great deal of new and inexperienced Trading Assistants joined the program to fill the void left when the old directory was closed by eBay. This void may have been created when the veteran TA's and Drop store owners either chose to not join the new directory because of the terms of the extensive new agreement required for listing in the directory, or they just did not get the email notifications from eBay which indicated they would not be included in the new directory without accepting the new terms in the TA & REDOL agreement.
To be fair, eBay did make several attempts by email and by phone to notify all previous members. In any case, the directory does not seem to contain nearly as many experienced TA's or Drop Store Locations. Many franchises have opted out because they have the word "Auction" in their name which is no longer allowed by eBay if a business wants to be included in the directory. Some businesses find that the requirement to change signage and the business name to be too much of a burden when comparing the costs against the benefits of the "new and unproven directory."
When one takes a step back and looks at the benefits of using the resource eBay has provided with the TA & REDOL program versus the costs or commitments, a conclusion could be drawn. What was your conclusion?
Did you decide to join the new directory? Possibly changing your business name and all advertising materials (removing Auction or eBay from your message), agreeing to the extensive rules and legal protections the agreement provides eBay and which subsequently places all of the burden for any future legal exposure upon yourself? If you chose to join the new directory have you found the effort worth the costs (if any) of making these changes, i.e. have you received any real business from the eBay Trading Assistant Directory?
Did you Opt Out of the New eBay Trading Assistant or REDOL Program? Choosing instead to continue to advertise locally and possibly start your own (off eBay) Internet website to advertise your business?
Personally I chose the latter. I did this for many reasons all of which I feel are valid.
Can't change my business name: All Business Auctions - Too much invested in my name and I like it, so do my clients.
My attorney: Advised against my volunteering to accept all legal burdens in regards to any actions brought against myself or eBay by any party (This includes States Attorney Generals). My attorney felt this was an onerous burden for my company in exchange for a simple directory listing and the right to use a logo.
Not enough return: My business has been listed in the old Trading Assistant Directory under several different names since the inception of the TA program, both as a TA and as a Trading Post with almost zero verifiable results in the form of actual leads to clients.
In my opinion it is just too difficult for a client to find the TA directory in the first place. When a person wants to find someone to sell merchandise for them, what search words do you suppose they would use?
Trading Assistant? No, I don't think so...
People generally think of a Consignment Store or service or they immediately think - Auctioneer.
See the list below from Google - Trading Assistant is not one of the most common searches and REDOL will not even be considered.
Why be listed in a directory no one is searching for?
Searches related to: Sell on eBay
|sell for me on ebay||ebay drop off||make money on ebay||things to sell on ebay|
|best time to sell on ebay||products to sell on ebay||items to sell on ebay||best day to sell on ebay|
If one chooses they can continue to search for relevant keywords which should lead to the eBay Trading Assistant Directory but they are hard to find. Lets say you use the keyword "Consignment Directory" which I would assume most average customers of a Trading Assistant business would search for in Google. This search would result in not one mention of the eBay Trading Assistant Directory.
Let's check a few more (just follow the links to see results)
I could go on but I think the point is clear. The only way anyone will find the eBay Trading Assistant Directory is by using that exact search term. When eBay has not used common SEO practices to funnel traffic to the directory and they have not educated the public in any other way which would present term "Trading Assistant" as being anything to do with eBay or eBay consignment sales. How does eBay or anyone utilizing the directory expect to derive any benefit from inclusion in same?
Today's world is driven by relevant keyword search criteria.
People are less likely to look in the yellow pages for business services. If they need to find a business or service or product the first stop is the Internet and the Google search bar. eBay knows this more than anyone and eBay has been incredibly successful at driving traffic to their site. The eBay name is synonymous with SEO optimization and without knowing how to utilize search effectively eBay would never have grown to be the dominant Internet sales property in the World. So one has to ask, why would they just forget to optimize the Trading Assistant Directory for relevant keyword search?
Could it be because eBay would prefer the general public sit down and learn how to sell for themselves? eBay has made the sell your item form much easier to navigate. Every task involved from uploading photos to writing descriptions have become a simple task for one time sales with the SYI form. eBay is a fee based service, the more people registered to sell, list and re-list on eBay the better for eBay. eBay would rather have 40 sellers a week register to sell one item each than have one registered seller with experience (a TA) sell 40 items for those same 40 people. 40 new seller accounts equal 40 new Paypal accounts, one Trading Assistant account is just one PayPal account. Think about what benefits eBay the most.
As a business person many choices must be made to improve your business on a daily basis. As a Trading Assistant or Drop Store owner your business only survives if you bring in new customers with the right kind of goods to sell. It seems clear to us that some methods of advertising and promotion are more beneficial than others. And we think every consignment based business should look for more efficient ways to promote their business and not simply rely upon one directory provided by eBay which has no real funnel sending traffic to your business.
11 Alternate Methods to Promote and Advertise your Trading Assistant Business:
Set up your own professional website - With SEO in mind.
Attach a blog to your website and make regular article entries in that blog.
Get listed in other directories outside of eBay and funnel traffic to your blog and/or website.
Create online press releases about your business and insert them in your website prior to release.
Participate in the conversation - Add comments to other blogs and forums with your industry focus.
Create a local Joint Trading Assistant or Consignment community on Yahoo Groups or Meetup.com - Get involved with your local competition, share ideas, and specialties.
Exchange ad space on your blog or website with local businesses
Create a digital download product which describes your business and gives tips to your clients about eBay. This will build confidence in your business and your personal integrity.
Contact the local direct consignment shops and thrift stores in your area - negotiate a deal to handle items which are better sold on eBay than in a B&M store - then offer to advertise the B&M consignment store on your Internet Properties. Some items are better left in a traditional consignment shop and some are better sold on eBay, there is no reason why the two businesses can not work together.
Set up an external mailing list with a company like Constant Contact. Make sure you communicate with your clients and your buyers on a regular basis.
Open your mind to the possibilities - There is more to the Internet than eBay - Many opportunities and many methods to make your business known. As eBay people we all become a bit myopic when it comes to exploring the rest of the Internet for our own business purposes. Time to look outside the box!
Scott Pooler is the Owner of All Business Auctions and a Web Development Company iBusinessLogic. He writes for the Trading Assistant Journal, All Business Auctions Blog and several other publications such as the Auction Software Review. Scott Pooler will be happy to discuss your business and how you can funnel traffic to it by using proper web development design and web 2.0 techniques at any time. Simply click the links to find contact information.