Has eBay spoiled merchants with its renowned "Firehose of Traffic"

Ok… here is the deal



If you sell products on the Internet – It’s your job to make sure buyers find and buy those products.

Simple as that.

Seems obvious, right? –  Of course it is… when one thinks about it…

Yet if this is true, if it is your job and no one elses, why do we hear so much about the dissatisfaction from sellers on almost any of the online sales venues out there, (including eBay) based on the belief that they do not get enough traffic on these external sites?

Lets look at why the world clamored to join eBay back in the day.

  1. It was easy – no shopping cart – no website – no hassle, just sign up and sell.
  2. eBay provided buyers – again, easy – no Adwords, no traffic strategies, very little SEO work – easy.
  3. Community – it was easy to feel like you were part of something, learn from others, be part of a phenomenon – belonging to something bigger than your business – it was great.

Much has been observed, and written, which indicates these attributes may have faded or gone away completely at eBay.  Not for all, certainly… but for more merchants than eBay would like to admit.  It has been mentioned in many places that over 100 members of eBay’s oldest Powerselling association, PESA have left eBay completely.  100 members may not seem like much to a big conglomerate, but these were the most successful and most loyal, not to mention the most proficient merchants on the site.  When that many leave in one year, something has changed, and not in a feel good Obama way.

Now lets agree…

  1. eBay is still easy to list product on, but not nearly as easy to sell product consistently as it once was. The playing field has not just changed, it has been altered in such a drastic way that the goal posts are no longer within the field of play.  This does not mean that with the right kicker, you can’t convert, but your team has to be firing on all cylinders to compete in the big game.
  2. Buyers are not easy to find – anywhere. Commerce continues, but the days of a setting up shop in one strip mall on the main drag in town have pretty much ended.  To succeed, one must place themselves within many streams of traffic. One venue selling is akin to committing suicide before you open shop.
  3. Community – any community left at eBay is less than inspirational. Time to find your own select group of respected mentors and colleagues. Some call this a mastermind group, others call it the Rotary. Whatever you call it, the eBay discussion groups are not the place to look.  Join PESA /ECMTA or some other ecommerce group, find like minded individuals who can help you find the best way to your goal. Listening to people gripe and complain will only lead to much ado about nothing.

eBay has spoiled merchants with its renowned “Firehose of Traffic”

Now that the “fire hose” may be more like a garden hose for some merchants it seems everyone wants to point fingers and call foul.  OK – Reality check – here it is, you ready?

eBay does not owe you anything.

That’s right, eBay owes you nothing, NADA – zip.  If you’re not happy with the results on eBay or anywhere else, do not expect someone, or some company to change things to accomodate your business needs.

You can complain, or change the way your business operates. Another simple fact.

In my business as a ebay stores designer, website developer, and as a reasonably well respected blog publisher/author… I have seen and spoken with many sellers who are leaving eBay.  This migration is not a myth, it is survival. 

But are they leaving because they do not like change?  Or due to an over abundance of anger and confusion. 

Better yet, are they leaving because they have found better or more profitable selling grounds?

I think it is a bit of both.  I also know that eBay really is not concerned with the migration away from their site by sellers large and small. I realize it may hurt to hear eBay is not concerned, especially with the former community aspect eBay brought to the table, but it is the cold hard truth. 

eBay is not in business to worry about you, or your business.  

You should stop worrying about what eBay does or does not do, and start worrying about what you will do from this point forward. 

I am not advocating leaving eBay or any other selling venue be it Bonanzle, Etsy or Craigslist, if that venue works for your business.  But if it is not working, and you find youself voicing negative and non-productive laments about how things were, it is past the time to look outside of whatever box you may found yourself within and to start looking forward. 

Where will your online business be in five years?

Larger merchants have more resources and more options, many have built up stand alone websites with eCommerce shopping carts, inbound linking and established traffic. What of the smaller merchants?

Small merchants were/are the backbone of eBay.

Smaller merchants are most effected by this last year of rules changes at eBay.  Some of these same merchants are pondering, looking, hoping for some way forward. 

Others are taking steps forward, which will you be?

Establishing a new and profitable place on the Internet to offer goods or services no longer is dependent on some greater entity like eBay.  The cost of an eCommerce shopping cart website is much less in 2008 than it was back when eBay spread the online sales gospel. There are other exciting and creative ways to take advantage of the services and ease of use of the larger sites, without placing all of your business bets on that one outside site or venue.

Other avenues exist and easier, less expensive methods to market product are available now. 

Take advantage of the availability and ease of entry – just like many did when eBay began. 

In our next article, I will detail how two merchants, one who sold on eBay but does so no longer, and another who still sells on eBay… Are finding new avenues to present themselves and their businesses online.  Both of these merchants are clients of my company but neither came to the conclusion to move outside of eBay based upon our advise. Each knows that generating and funneling traffic to a spot in the cyber shopping world, that they own, is in in their own best interest.  Not only is it in their best interest, it is essential to be in business. 

As I said recently on a Talk Radio Show…

 “If you do not invest in your business – you have no business”…

“…what you have is a hobby”.

Will these two small merchants succeed?

Time will tell, but I can say that they each seem to be as enthusiastic about the future as they once were about the exciting times they each experienced on eBay in the past. 

Until next time…

Wednesday 1:14

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0 Responses to Has eBay spoiled merchants with its renowned "Firehose of Traffic"

  1. Marlene November 10, 2008 at 9:28 am #

    Excellent points!

    All businesses need to change and adapt to remain viable. It’s a fact of life.

    Many people who came to eBay did well from the start & were able to put their business on auto-pilot. They didn’t anticipate ever having to do things differently. But now that eBay has changed the rules, these individuals are finding they can no longer rely on ‘business as usual.’

    Those who are pro-active will take destiny into their own hands & adjust to the ‘new’ eBay &/or expand to other sales channels.

    Those who do not take responsibility for the future of their business will remain ‘stuck’ – reacting to eBay’s changes & spending unproductive time & energy complaining.

  2. Just A Thought November 10, 2008 at 11:40 pm #

    I have to agree with most of your points Scott, but I do take exception to the ‘eBay owes you nothing’ claim. Any merchant (and eBay is selling a service here) that takes your money (list fees) owes you the service they agreed to provide.

    You can argue that eBay’s only agreement is to provide a place to host your listngs… but that ignores the fact that eBay is no longer just a passive venue and is in fact becoming more and more ‘involved’ in it’s sellers businesses. When a ‘venue’ can dictate what you can or cannot list (when did the government pass that baton to eBay?), and then dictate what forms of payment you can accept (when did good old US dollars stop being “legal tender for all debts, public and private”?), and can, and DOES, dictate the amount of exposure to traffic that you receive (even tho you pay the same fees for this service as everyone else)… that’s no longer ‘just a venue’.

    And are they really providing the services paid for? Perhaps it is eBay who are not taking responsibility for the future of their business, chasing the almight quarterly earnings rather than building a sound foundation for generations of growth. Or did that change with the advent of the Internet as well? I must be missing a whole lotta memos!

    Overall – a great article, and much in line with my own thinking. I just think eBay needs to ‘fess up and admit that there’s too much ‘disruption’ and not enough ‘innovation’ going on these days.

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