After posting my most recent article about eBay North American GM Stephanie Tilenius and her answers to my Digital Download questions at Catalyst 2008...
I wanted to be sure I was not too harsh and had presented the case from a sellers perspective fairly. I am not an eBay basher and would prefer to work towards positive change if change is needed. Change is not always needed, but change usually comes in any case. In an effort to confirm my thoughts as they were presented in my previous post, I went surfing the web looking for blog posts and news articles...
Of course one of my first stops was Ina Steiner's newsworthy Auctionbytes blog. Ina's most recent article details the efforts of eBay's newest form of communication - the eBay Ink blog. This new venture by eBay was actually launched during Catalyst 2008 and I had not yet found the time to take a look for myself. The blog is written by a new employee and staff writer of eBay Richard Brewer-Hay.
The eBay Ink Blog design is non-standard and artsy. I think the theme is very pretty and certainly cutting edge graphically, but for a blog design it is difficult to use as the reader can only see a portion of the last post and there does not seem to be an easy way to find the archives. That said, I believe this is a move in the right direction for eBay, as long as eBay will allow Mr. Brewer-Hay to write and provide pertinent information to the readers beyond the standard eBay press release style of blogging.
Richards first post on the eBay Ink, Welcome to yet another corporate blog... Seems to indicate that he has a bit of disdain for his current position. He states that this eBay Ink blog is nothing new at eBay and that eBay has had corporate blogs since 2004.
I think Richard should endeavor to make eBay Ink different from ebay's other attempts at blogging. We are all aware of the other eBay attempts at this form of communications and how they have failed to gain the trust of the readers. It does seem to me, at least in this first week of operations for eBay Ink, finding readers is not a problem for this particular blog. Retaining readers is always the goal, and to do that Mr. Brewer-Hay will need to find an independent voice, one not related to eBay's many other attempts at blogging.
The third official post on eBay Ink eBay at ChannelAdvisor Conference reads more like a corporate style public press release than a form of blogging or journalism. Richard Brewer-Hay simply read the pre-speech notes of Stephanie Tilenius and wrote up a mirror image of her thoughts. (So much for hoping to see a new voice at this new eBay blog).
I think eBay should invest in actually transporting Mr. Brewer-Hay to these types of events so that he can get a perspective of how his bosses' speeches are received by the community of eBay sellers and possibly write a pertinent perspective of the event rather than restate the "talking points." This particular eBay Ink post about Catalyst 2008 seems more like a political campaign writers work than a real bloggers perspective. Maybe the style will improve over time. We can only hope.
What I found quite interesting on eBay Ink was the large amount of very well written comments presented by the readers of the blog in regards to the post about Catalyst 2008. Some of these comments were written better and were more thought provoking than the original post.
I am also encouraged by Usher Lieberman's joining of the conversation. Usher is the official spokesperson at eBay and could be an effective voice and part of the solution to the past communications faux pax at eBay if he is given the tools and resources by eBay to do a more effective job than his predecessors.
I met Usher Lieberman at Catalyst. Usher sought me out at the lunch break after Stephanie Tilenius spoke and following my quite pointed questions regarding the digital delivery situation at eBay. I was a bit surprised... not only that eBay felt they should seek out my opinion, but that they did it is such a genuine way. Usher was quite frank in our discussion over lunch, he shared information and he listened to constructive ideas coming from myself and Dave White of eBay & Beyond.
Usher agreed that more should be done by eBay to promote a dialog with the sellers and he promised to work towards that end. I am all for improving the experience and I think Usher was encouraged to find that I was genuinely interested in the improvement of eBay and eBay communications, while also understanding there are many sides to every story. eBay can not expect anyone to understand their side of the story when they do not share information or when they change the information they do offer in mid stream.
I have included several of the comments from the Catalyst 2008 article on eBay Ink below in block quotes. I found many if not most of the comments to be well presented and honest. The perspective of real world sellers is on display for all to see.
eBay seems to realize they need to start to listen. This is a new management team and they are trying to understand the landscape. I personally had the impression, both from Stephanie Tilenius and Usher Lieberman, that eBay knows they have some real work to do along these lines. Let's hope they follow through in a meaningful way.
Obviously I could not include every comment posted on eBay Ink here. If you want to read more just follow the link at the end of these block quoted comments to the original eBay Ink article and fgo to the comments section. I encourage all to add their opinions both here and on eBay Ink. Communication is powerful, as long as both sides participate. eBay has opened the door; make sure you join the conversation!
The first comment is out of sequence because it is from Usher Lieberman of eBay and I appreciate his mention of myself and Dave White in his comment. Usher even attempted to link to Dave and my websites or blogs but apparently someone at eBay Ink retracted that thought and the links now go to a "404" redirect back to eBay Ink. This is an example of how not to blog, links are a good, editing them is bad... Unless they lead to really bad places or obvious spam sites. Thanks for trying Usher, maybe Mr. Brewer-Hay will follow your lead and go back in to fix those links...
Usher Lieberman On 04.04.2008 at 10:14 am Said:
I am an official spokesperson for eBay, but I am speaking for myself here.
Following Stephanie’s keynote I sought out Scott Pooler and he and David White invited me to join them for lunch at Catalyst. During the Q&A Scot was constructively sharp in criticizing our handling of digitally downloaded goods and I wanted to better understand his point of view.
Scott and David have been around eBay a long time and I was fortunate to speak at some length with them both and look forward to doing so again. One thing we talked about - constructively - was an erosion of trust between eBay and some of our most loyal customers. This is obvious in reading the comments on this post and across this blog to date (now coming up on 48 hours old!)...
(Comments Usher made to individual commenters are retracted here for brevity, read the entire comment from Usher on eBay Ink)
...Again, we’ve got some work to do and we will make mistakes. All I can do is promise that we will learn from them and work hard to earn your trust and respect.
Henrietta On 04.03.2008 at 10:01 pm Said:
Back in the day when I used to buy ’stuff’ there were two or three other people after the same ’stuff’. They used the system to see what I had bids on and I did it right back to them. Because we were after the same items bidding would run until one or the other quit. It was fun. That was then.
I haven’t paid higher than initial bid on the last three or four items I have bought. I can’t find my bidding opponents, they can’t find me, and we are certainly not finding the same items. From a buyers point of view it is probably a good thing, I pay $6 where I would previously have paid $25. It isn’t auction as I know it, its waiting a week for an item to close. No thrill factor at all. For sellers it must suck.
I hate to tell you how many times I haven’t found an item I would have much rather bid on, because it was on page 5 and I bid on something else on page 2 that was ending after the page 5 item. I truly believe who ever thought up the new sort order was less concerned with buyers finding what they want & when they want than with ‘demoting’ sellers. When search becomes difficult and unrewarding it is tiring and off-putting. Why bother?
I am glad you are here and would like to welcome you to our world, unless things turn around you will be chronicling the end of an era. Maybe you too will write a really good book!
PS. Spelling can make or break a listing, its a power cord, a chord is musical and when we take a quick look at the mountain it is a peek at the peak.
CrunchyPostingGoodness On 04.03.2008 at 10:02 pm Said:
What I do not understand is why eBay is suddenly wanting to force all of those who sell on its site to be professional sellers?
I read an interview that Business week did with Omidyar back in 2001 regarding the history behind the creation of eBay. I was quite impressed with most of his responses and I can understand why the average person was so attracted to selling on eBay. He seemed to encourage patience and understanding on the part of the buyer. Understanding that the person they were buying from was just an average person, with an average day job, family, etc, and was most likely not tied down to their computer 24/7. The recent changes seem to indicate that eBay wants to cater more to the professional seller, as opposed to the average person which eBay was created for.
I believe it was the small time, hobby sellers which built eBay into the big, profitable corporation it is now. I understand the need to compete and offer similar services to other online selling venues, but I do not understand the need to discard the small sellers in order to accomplish this.
Why doesn’t eBay consider making different levels of sellers? Not based on sales volume or dollar amount, but on their level of professional selling experience. For example, those who operate as a business should be held to a higher standard, than the average hobby sellers. There could be an indication next to their id which would identify them as a professional seller or a hobby seller. That way customers who want a quicker, professional selling experience can buy from those sellers who are identified as professional, and those who are willing to wait a little longer for their item, can buy from a hobby seller.
eBay should be giving more choices to its buyers and sellers - not limiting them.
Amber On 04.04.2008 at 10:56 am Said:
From tamebay: “the expectation is that insertion fees will drop further with emphasis on aligning eBay’s success will seller’s success.”
That quite clearly indicates that an insertion fee will likely be offset with an even higher increase in FVF.
I’m already paying 12% FVF for store inventory. I’m a media seller, so free gallery doesn’t mean much to me. Even category-specific pricing isn’t helping as the buyers have all moved elsewhere thanks to the horrible search known as Best Match. Everyone I know that buys books no longer buys them from ebay because the recent FVF increases have forced prices up (no more bargains) and they quite simply can’t find anything anymore.
Best Match is broken–it is way too difficult to set your preferences for any other sort. Listings from sellers with horrible feedback and DSRs are routinely shown above mine–and since they’re media items, the titles and item specifics are Identical, so “relevance” isn’t the problem.
As for ebay’s handling of the digitally delivered goods issue, it was nothing short of a disaster AND revealed exactly how little regard eBay actually has for its sellers. They ruined many terrific sellers’ businesses overnight without a hint of apology. Less than 7 days notice–in reality it was being enforced PRIOR to the announcement.
We’re not talking about just ebook sellers, but people who design websites, logos, templates, create and sell their own patterns and recipes, Digital scrapbookers…
And, to make matters worse, the community was given a “reason” that was less than truthful. No wonder the trust has eroded. We were told that the change was to combat feedback manipulation, when further investigation (and posts by the pinks in the UK) revealed that it was actually due to intellectual property rights issues. (Please see the intellectual property rights policies if you doubt this).
If eBay hopes to win back the trust of its customers, THE SELLERS, it needs to make things more stable–not more capricious. Above all, it needs to be honest. I’m more offended by the bogus reasoning behind the digital download policy than I am over the actual policy.
Patricia 1 On 04.04.2008 at 12:10 pm Said:
I’m the first Patricia who posted here so I put a “1″ to differentiate me. Mr. Lieberman thank you so much for posting here and for answering my prior post. To be honest, I was beginning to feel nobody at ebay is really listening to us sellers - and I’m still doubtful. There is one thing that is so imperative - you have no idea how urgent it is….ebay needs to make sellers feel welcome on their site! At present, most of us do not. I, myself, have closed my store and I’m down to less than 10 listings from my usual 50+ listings. Instead of selling exclusively on ebay and my website, I am now on 4 other venues and looking for more. I wouldn’t be doing that if ebay did not make me feel like a criminal to be watched carefully by buyers - some of whom may be having a bad day and take it out on me! I’ve been selling on ebay for 10 years (if you want my real ID I’ll email it to you) with a 100 percent feedback rating and stars of 5.0 and one 4.9 and yet I’ve been made to feel uncomfortable and unwelcome on that site. Every sale I make elsewhere is a sale that will never reach ebay’s pocket….and I’m far from being alone! Every other site I sell on is full of “ebay refugees”. Please pass this on because it may be the most important thing ebay does to insure a future for itself!
nancybusinraleigh On 04.04.2008 at 2:22 pm Said:
Perhaps someone can explain to me the benefit of ebay taking the OPINIONS of buyers in the feedback they leave and the DSR’s they give and using that to apply punitive measures on sellers?
Best Match is now tied to those OPINIONS, paypal forced use is tied to those OPINIONS, paypal holds are tied to those OPINIONS. And all the while, they are opinions, not founded in fact.
Dispute filings automatically are judged as the buyer is right and it’s used against the seller, even if the dispute is found eventually in the sellers favor.
I see an extremely abusive system being set up.
Feedback is voluntary, and is based on OPINION only. But ebay is going to use that against sellers.
I’m proud of my feedback and DSR history but to what end? It does nothing for me, I’m not a powerseller. I am near perfect on those stupid little DSR’s and what benefit is it to me? But now, I have to concern myself that if a buyer or competitor wants to jerk me around, all they need to do is rank me low, whether deserved or not, and watch me sink in Best Match and have other punitive measures work against my record of success here.
How is this good for ebay? Because if it’s not good for sellers and buyers, it’s certainly not good for ebay.
I now have a website and list on two other venues as well, ebay is merely a tool for harvesting customers now, nothing more. After 10 years, ebay has finally made policy changes that are beyond logical and in fact, harmful to their customers, the sellers.
Find the eBay Ink article about Catalyst Here: Catalyst 2008 eBay Ink