If you are an Auctiva basher - you also may not like this article....
Read on, if you dare - or care either way!
Ok, the drama started June 1st when Auctiva sent out an email to anyone and everyone who had ever done business with them. I know this because I received one of those emails and I have not done business with them in like - oh I dunno - 4 years maybe? In any case, it was a sweet hello and by the way, we now have to charge for the services that we have been providing for "free" all these years.
Why? you ask? Well, simply because the eBay Partner Network is so screwed up that we no longer generate enough revenue from our affiliate plan to support giving away the software for free. Oh, and we have been cut off, because - well we don't really understand why, with 20% of the eBay sellers using our tools, but our revenue stream just dried all the way up with 30 days notice! (I am paraphrasing).
OK - from my point of view - no surprises here... I had always known that Auctiva was simply a huge eBay affiliate and I also knew that the eBay Partner Network has been cutting affiliates to the bone since it was created. This is, in my opinion, one of the many reasons why eBay has less traffic now than they did when Commission Junction was running the affiliate program, a point I have made in the past.
So whats the big surprise? Auctiva must make money, they are a business and can not be expected to give away services without compensation, if that compensation does not come from affiliate revenue, it can only come from the user. - No story here - right?
Not So Fast...
It seems that while I did not immediately follow the reaction which developed from this revelation from Auctiva's announcement it seems that the world went mad... The eBay world that is...
Big News - Auctiva - No Longer Free - Aren't all good things in life - FREE?
In a Word - NO!
That's it in a nutshell, all good things in life are not free and to expect them to be free, especially in regards to a tool or service used for the advancement and management of an online business... is a myopic and naive point of view. I am so sorry eBay sellers, but to gain access to the very complicated software required to transmit secure information back and forth between your computer and the eBay API you can not expect to not pay one red cent. I know, I had my own eBay management software brand, this is not childsplay - it is labor intensive hard work to keep up with the eBay API.
eBay charges you for almost everything that they can get away with and you gladly come back to the trough time and again to contribute, but when a third party software company expects to be paid for making your life easier - Wo Nellie! We are off the Tracks!
What is that?
I understand all of you Auctiva users became spoiled by the free bandwagon all of these years and in exchange for the free nature of the product you put up with some of the major drawbacks of using the Auctiva tools, it was a tradeoff... Free listing tools and management for almost no support and a very clunky program, but hey - you loved the free part.
Now you find out that - oh my gawd - Auctiva was making money after all... and even worse than that, they made this money through what? oh please don't tell me, AFFILIATE commissions off of the sale of my products listed on eBay? Oh the horror - How dare they?
Get a Grip People! - There is nothing wrong with being an affiliate - without the affiliate program developed under Commission Junction for eBay, the place would never have had as much traffic as all of you so love to quote that it has (or had before CJ got the boot).
Auctiva - Free - on the surface - in the past
My experience with using Auctiva has been limited, I checked out the listing tool in the past, did not like it, and moved on.
I knew enough back then to realize my business needed a paid solution which had reliable support and which worked more smoothly.
(I went with AuctionSound by the way, a software I highly recommend but no longer use).
The time saved by using a reliable and well thought out program to automate my selling on eBay, more than paid for the software expense. I will never agree that a free offering could be as efficient as a paid solution. Especially when dealing with eBay listing software.
Of course Auctiva has updated the program since my early trial so I can not say how it works now but for my MONEY, trusting my business operations to a FREE software package did not make sense.
Thousands of eBay sellers disagreed with my assessment however and happily dipped in the trough at the Auctiva soup kitchen to operate small eBay businesses or hobby selling activities for free (plus eBay fees - always remember the eBay fees).
Great, no argument from me, but for those same people to now act as though this "Free" status was somehow an entitlement that would last forever just tends to offend the business person inside of me.
I have no trouble with paying money to help me make money - this is hurdle many eBay sellers need to overcome!
The Dogs of War...
This last week has been a maelstrom of attacks upon the management team and CEO of Auctiva. From bloggers and journalists to customers and competitors - it seems everyone felt that Auctiva had somehow ripped them off or personally attacked the eBay world by actually proposing to charge for services.
Sure - the fee structure could end up costing a pretty penny but it was not unlike several other paid software plans.
Many good quality eBay listing platforms such as InkFrog, Vendio, and MerchantRun-Globallink charge for their services and does anyone in the room think that Channel Advisor or Infopia will offer a free software or eBay listing services any time soon?
It is up to the merchant to evaluate the features, service, and workflow of each software package or vendor program, then select the one that fits within their business plan, their user/operator needs and capabilities and the businesses budget. Free should not be the deciding factor!
The attacks have been merciless and after a week of soundly being beaten up from all corners of the eBay universe, Auctiva has cried UNCLE!
Today, I received, along with millions of other former Auctiva users, another nice little note from Auctiva and it's CEO Jeff Schlicht.... It said... Basically...
Pardon the Paraphrase here Jeff....
UNCLE - WE REPENT!
Auctiva will NOT charge high fees for the software used by thousands to list stuff on eBay, we will however charge $9.99 a month just as InkFrog does! We are sooo sorry, we dared to try and remove your eBay entitlement to free software, but seriously - this whole eBay Partner Network thing is not working out for us... We gotta charge something... like please let us charge something, won't you?....
Quoting from the email:
Since we first announced our new pricing structure, I've been listening to the community's concerns. Considering the frank feedback you've provided, through email, surveys, customer support cases, our community messages boards and other forums, a few facts are abundantly clear:
- You'd prefer a simple, no-surprises flat-rate pricing structure.
- You don't want to pay any additional FVFs.
- You want image hosting included.
- Your margins are tight.
If you are asking yourself, "Why didn't they just use this pricing in the beginning?" the answer is that I thought our customers would like to have the choice of picking a tailored plan based on usage. Clearly, I was wrong.
I don't know if it was actually wrong Jeff, but it did create quite a hubbub!
At least you got Auctiva's name mentioned on the Internet about a bajillion more times than this time last year with your "free" program. (Always looking for the silver lining). More people know about Auctiva today than when the product was free, so seriously ... was this some sort of master PR stunt or marketing plan? I mean, eBay has not upset the masses lately and they have stayed out of the daily news cycle for several months, pretty much licking old wounds, could it be that you learned from the eBay induced turmoil of last year and decided to get a little negative attention flowing your way? Just for Grins and Giggles? Maybe?
Naw, I doubt that....
I think Auctiva sincerely is trying to survive in an ever tightening eBay solutions marketplace and I think the eBay community should cut them some slack. They may have not been one of my favorite software packages in the past, but there is no reason to beat them into submission when times are tough. (Hmmm, I guess this article to too little too late - job done).
A lot of people are familiar with the Auctiva system and is it really too much to ask to give them a break?
I mean $9.99 a month is a small price to pay, unless you can get it for free.
Hmmm Vendio, did you say something? (Vendio is offering a free solution throughout 2009)