PowerSeller's Impressions – Part 3 ECMTA PeSa – eCommerce Summit – John Lawson's Final Cut

John LawsonThis is the Grand Finale of John Lawson’s 3 Part series of commentary derived from his notes from New Orleans – eCommerce Summit 2008

Hey guys, here is Part III and this is the final in this series. So let’s get into it!

First I want to go over the little notes I listed in Part II of this series.

I’ll go through it and give you my personal feeling about what Lorrie Norrington said and how what she said in her speech might affect my business and as a PowerSeller on eBay.

I want to respectfully say that I am basically just a guy trying to feed my family with an eBay business. My business is a business that I started at the kitchen table, literally. It is a business that I actively run and the day to day operations of it are handled by myself, my partner and a small virtual staff. I think 3rd Power Outlet has come to the point now where we would be considered small to medium eBay Powersellers, experienced sellers, and primarily eBay-centric sellers.

When Lorrie started the speech and said primarily that eBay wanted seller’s business and considered us sellers as partners, my initial reaction was, “OK, this is different”. I was not really used to hearing keynote speeches from eBay Presidents speaking in these terms.

Much a part of my previous experience with eBay executive speeches always seemed to be a little demeaning toward the seller. This speech flipped things and made it seem like both buyer and seller were equally important to eBay leadership.

With this different perspective I had to stop and grab myself because I didn’t understand where I was! After hearing these repeated sentiments at both CA Catalyst and now at the eCommerce Summit, I have become convinced that eBay is serious about a committed partnership with its sellers, which feels real good folks.

Lorrie spoke about improving the SELLER experience and I was very, very excited to hear this as a topic point. This was something completely different, along with financial reward for good sellers (with a good customer experience). It all sounded extremely exciting to me.

I wholeheartedly applauded eBay’s efforts with the DSRs and cleaning up the platform. However, I do have some reservations possibly about eBay throwing the baby out with the bathwater when it comes to historical feedback.

What does concern me is that basically, eBay has taken all of your lifetime feedback and completely ignored it when it comes to your “value” as a seller. eBay does not give any weight to your historical feedback in it’s new DSR system. So even if you have a high 99% or above lifetime feedback rating it doesn’t help your DSR scores! I feel at some level that the combination of the two scores should also be included if not forever, at least for a time. Maybe you’ve got 99% or higher historical feedback with good DSRs of say 4.8, 4.7, 4.6, and a 4.4. Maybe your DSR plus feedback should still qualify you for PowerSeller status, for lets say…6 months while you get that last score in line?!?

I dunno, just sounds fair to me to allow for adjustment to business models.

Her statistics of 63% of power sellers getting a 5% discount while 30% received a 15% discount seem a little off? But I believe Scot Wingo got that one cleared up for us on this point (http://tinyurl.com/5po5mv)

Now onto the retaliatory feedback. Oh boy, you are not going to like this, but here it goes… Personally I’ve always thought the feedback system should be a one-way system with customer feedback only. This is a highly contested view and I simply cannot lay out my entire argument on this in this blog post; it really needs a post of its own. But I will say this: one-way feedback is the reality of nearly every other marketplace other than eBay.

As a service provider/seller I have always highly valued the feedback of our customers. You simply do not go into a restaurant and have the kitchen give you feedback on how fast you eat the food. Nor does your waiter come by after the meal to comment on how much food you left on your plate. That would be completely asinine! In the world of restaurants you get a comment card as the restaurant customer, you then provide comment on the food and the service of the restaurant. That’s the way it should be between a customer and provider. NO PRESSURE.

eBay in its inception was a unique “community” platform, but I believe that the nature of the eBay experience and platform has changed. And as such, the feedback system is antiquated and absolutely needs to be a redone. That is what eBay is doing with DSRs and with removing the seller’s ability for negative feedback. For me, this change is a no-brainer and way overdue. At the same time, she spoke about the new tools to block those poor buyers. Excellent choice and I am glad they’re putting in more tools to prevent problem buyers. Yes, there are defiantly bad buyers out there and we all get our share of those.

They are FINALLY acknowledging that not every buyer is necessarily a good buyer and that is great news.

Now for my last bullet point in my notes where she says free shipping is the standard of eCommerce. I am puzzled – where in the world did she get that from? While I am not an expert on eCommerce, I do shop online often. Free shipping is not a standard that I see. Even Amazon Prime has a member cost associated with it. I do recognize many specials from companies that advertise free shipping, but the “standard” I see is you get free shipping when you spend over a predetermined amount with that company.

If eBay desires the platform to be full of FREE Shipping, I think they would need to tie that to FREE Listings. If the listing fees were removed, I could very well see free shipping as a business model making more sense for a seller like myself.

All in all, I thought the speech was fantastic and I left the room feeling pretty good about the directions that eBay is taking.

I was also fortunate enough later that day to have lunch at the eBay table with Lorrie, Jonathan (PeSA Director), Matt (eBay) and Josh who created Best Match / finding 2.0 and Scott Pooler. This opportunity extended my conversation with the executives even further. One thing that I asked all the eBayers at the table: “I need a direct answer. Can any of you explain to me the difference between an “Accurate description” and a “Very accurate description”?

…Holy crap, you could hear a pin drop… and then all fingers pointed to Matt Halprin (eBay Trust and Safety) who was at a completely different table. LOL…

I dropped my fork and walked over to Matt and asked him the same direct question. He responded to me, in his unique no-nonsense delivery…”I am not even going to begin to try to explain that to you. What I will say is that I believe we should remove the language all together from the DSR ranking page.”

WOW, I was floored by that response! There may be some good things coming soon around that tricky wording with DSRs.

So that is my take on my trip – well, at least as it related to the eBay experience. The rest of the time was absolutely fabulous, informative and entertaining. The event was top notch and for a first-timer at the eCommerce Summit, I was very impressed. I would like to personally thank all the planners and organizers for an exemplary experience. I cannot wait to do it again and hope they will consider Atlanta once again in the near future…wink, wink.

Thank you also to Scott for allowing me the opportunity to guest on his blog. It was a blast!
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John Lawson
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0 Responses to PowerSeller's Impressions – Part 3 ECMTA PeSa – eCommerce Summit – John Lawson's Final Cut

  1. Henrietta May 5, 2008 at 5:46 pm #

    Thank you John for your amusing but extremely informative guest bloggings. Might ought to give thought to your own blog, you have a distinct talent for it. Please tell Moms she did a good job on you!

    How do you feel now in view of the recent ‘outing’ of the secret Buy.com deal?

    Thanks to Scott too for making it happen.

  2. John (3rdpo) May 6, 2008 at 5:09 pm #

    Thank you for the complement and comments. My own blog? I would need the editing skills of Scott to make me sound logical, LOL.

    The Buy.com deal, wow…I am unsettled by the secrecy more than the deal itself. eBay has made many partnership in the past (Yahoo comes to mind) that seemed like it would be bad for the sellers, but ended up not really making much noise.

    We will see how this may play out, but you must remember that many retail companies have tried eBay outlets before and failed miserably. eBay customers are very demanding and customer service is critical for success. This will be a fun one to watch. I know for us at 3rdPO.com, the more we grow, the more we have to increase customer service overhead.

  3. Michael Weinstein May 9, 2008 at 12:02 pm #

    John, Great post! Very informative and like Scott, very in tune with the seller sentiments on ebay and the direction they are looking to take. As usual, with big corporations promissing the world, we will just have to wait and see where it all leads.

    I am really not happy that they feel free shipping is an e-commerce norm. Especially with the cost of shipping rising daily. As a long time trading assistant with a REDOL it concerns me even more since I am in an industry that can not eat the shipping (Every item we ship an item it has a different weight and size logistic” nor can we “build costs into our selling price”. With the elimination of live auctions and the states around the country pressuring consignment services that offer ebay selling services to register as auctioneers, I see ebay looking to end my profession. I surely hope this is not the case.

    Thank you again for the report and I hope to read more from you in the future!

  4. John Blayz May 10, 2008 at 11:42 am #

    Hey Michael you keep your head up. This free shipping thing has got to pass. I noticed some new workings announced just yesterday by eBay that are addressing your very unique position (different size and weight) with shipping.

    eBay is on a learning curve here lately and it is going to get bumpy. My hope is that those who can endure the ride will find a yellow brick road at the end filled with good tidings. Eh, OK that was cheesy!

    But seriously, I think things are ultimately going to come out better for MOST and unfortunately there is going to be some road kill too. I just hope that you are I are not left on the roadside.

    Good Luck,

  5. nomadtrader July 10, 2008 at 3:05 am #

    We have been selling on ebay for 10 years, and like you we started from the kitchen table. We comfortably sell $20,000 per month of collectable postage stamps. We ship from Thailand. Our head office is now in BKK.

    Ok, I will start by saying I am surprised at how amazingly accepting you are of this new DSR policy. Now that you have had 2 months to review, what are your feelings? Your really could not see the potential problems with this one sided policy?

    Possibly your experience selling in the US is much different than ours abroad. To begin with, as a foreign Seller I am REQUIRED to offer paypal as a payment option on the sales page. REQUIRED. This leads us to the fact that most of the items we sell net 100.00 plus. Because I have been burned SO MANY times by buyers claiming goods never arrived I now MUST require that tracking is paid for on all purchases over $100. The minimum tracking available is $26.00 EMS in the US for international and the same in Thailand, THATS IT.

    So back to the DSR. I charge 3.00 flat rate for ALL items under 100.00 (I have only had 4 claims this month on paypal for items under 100.00 that have not arrived) domestic or international. As you know I have to pay people to package and ship items, materials are NOT free, so with 3.00 we probably break even on most items. My DSR for shipping costs is now 4.4, MY search ratings are now lowered and any discount on FVF is out the window. My shipping response is within 48 hours from payment clearing, but even with EMS (express mail) after the mail arrives at Canada or USA border and TSA inspects the items for up to 12 days. BECAUSE of THIS my shipping time is 4.3!!

    So now I am PAYING ebay FULL listing fees and coming up at the BOTTOM of the search. Its hurting my sales and FVF to them a lot more than the 15% extra they are collecting from me. The hits have dropped more than 30%!
    What they are doing is charging me (a seller of more than $20,000 per month) the full fee and delivering SUBSTANDARD service. Take a look at ebay earnings…up dramatically, because of buyers? Heck no! BUYERS pay nothing. They ONLY come to a site that has good material and not junk like the other failed corporate auctions.

    Another issue you seem to have overlooked (are you paid by ebay?) is that all neutrals now count as negatives!!! -retroactively!!! I really cant believe you accept this as a good policy. By the way befor adjustment my Fb % was 99.6 now its 98.5

    A final note we have a personal ebay sales rep (employee of ebay) that checks in with us regularly. Our problem according to him is not unique within the circle of asian sellers.

    I believe anyone who is professional dealer as similar feelings as those mentioned above. Armchair sellers rarely care if they turn a profit, its more for something to do and the “thrill” of selling something even at a loss.

    Good luck keep up the great reviews.

  6. John July 10, 2008 at 1:30 pm #

    Response to @nomadtrader

    Thanks for your in site and response. No I am not employed by eBay and my opinions are MINE! And as such I am entitle to have them even if they are not inline with yours. And you too are welcome to your opinion even if it does not line up with mines. That is the beauty of opinions…everybody has one.

    Crossboarder trading with eBay is an entirely different beast and really is not something I would be able to address in these comments. I guess that is a good topic to cover in a new writing.

    Now for some of you other criticisms of my views, I would invite you to read my other writings here on the Trading Assistants Journal, specifically this one at http://tinyurl.com/5r9762 and you will see everything is not the same as it was back in May of 2008 which is my original posting date for this story.

    I wish I could be specific about YOUR business personally, as everyones business and experience is unique. But what I write is NOT personal about you, but only to me and my opinion at any given. My opinion is subjective and can and will change daily at least till they put the period on my tombstone 🙂 so do not for one second think that what you see yesterday will be what I think forever.

    What you are experiencing with DSR and crossboarder trading, we are too! And we are adjusting to deal with it as I suggest you do too. I would also recommend you check out Scot Wingo’s thoughts on how to increase DSR’s here at http://tinyurl.com/6zrbyj. I found these and other strategies VERY helpful for us and could help for you too.

    So to wrap this response up, I want to leave you with a story that was told to me and made me really think about my approach to ALL eBay changes now and in the future…

    Ben went to visit his neighbor, who had a front porch that extended across the entire front of his house.

    “On the porch sat the neighbor’s dog, howling . . .whooo-whooo-whooo

    Ben asked his neighbor what the dog’s problem was . . .whooo-whooo-whooo

    The neighbor said, “he’s sitting on a nail.” . . .whooo-whooo-whooo

    Ben asked why the dog didn’t just stand up instead of howling . . .whooo-whooo-whooo

    The neighbor said . . . The nail don’t hurt bad enough yet!”

    My question becomes to myself or anyone that is howling about eBay changes…Does your nail hurt yet?

    Thank you for your comments!

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