Many eBay sellers will have noticed the frustrating side-effects of the latest changes implemented by eBay over the past few months.
The gradual rolling out of eBay’s new Cassini search engine has seen sale drops of 50% or more for some sellers, causing much annoyance and frustration. According to Hugh Williams (eBay Vice-President of Experience, Search and Platforms) eBay’s search engine now automatically changes and rewrites the search queries of users. What’s more, eBay also “uses big data to make predictions on whether a listed item will sell and how much it will sell for, which affects how high an item ranks on the auction site’s search engine.” eBay has also expressed intentions to “mine” the text included in feedback comments, buyer-seller communications and even communications with eBay customer service – all with the goal of gauging sellers’ performance and respectability.
Many eBay sellers pay hundreds or thousands of pounds every month for exposure in search results, so these alterations may be particularly unwelcome. eBay’s PR team has stated “when Cassini implements any business-impacting updates, we will give sellers appropriate notice, as it our practice.” However, many sellers whose businesses have been impacted by these changes feel ignored and in the dark.
This is just one example of various incidents in which eBay has displayed what could be seen as a somewhat indifferent attitude towards the experience of its sellers. The situation got us thinking about the major flaws of eBay and similar ecommerce portals.
The lack of control sellers have over all but the most basic aspects of their auctions can be a major problem, as seen above. Retailers must go along with whatever changes the auction site sees fit, often with little warning as to how it might affect their business. Another issue is eBay’s susceptibility to fraud, scams, rogue bidders, non-paying buyers, customers taking advantage of returns policy and other annoyances. When these issues occur, the auction portal can be frustratingly slow to respond and sometimes fails to deal with problems at all. One notable example of this is the case in the summer of an Olympic torch heavily targeted by rogue bidders.
Whilst eBay does have the advantage of being high profile and attracts huge amounts of traffic, this is often offset by the competition sellers must deal with. Potential buyers are easily distracted by the sheer number of products for sale, and this can cause sellers to lose business or force them to lower prices to an extent they can ill afford. The high selling fees charged by eBay and other auction/ecommerce portals (generally demanding at least 10% of the final price of an item) can also seriously reduce profits.
Sellers seeking to escape the limits of eBay try various alternatives, often using other auction/ecommerce sites, with varying degrees of success and satisfaction. Another option available is setting up their own auction or ecommerce website.
The main downside of this path is the absence of pre-existing traffic, such as eBay and the like can offer. Many businesses are understandably discouraged by this. However, this can be fully remedied if the site is marketed and promoted effectively to an appropriate audience. If a business is confident it can attract a sufficient amount of interest and site traffic, this is a very advantageous option that is well worth considering.
For prolific sellers, setting up an auction site can be considerably more cost-effective than using a portal. There are no listing and selling fees – only whatever costs required to keep the site running.
Perhaps one of the greatest benefits of setting up an independent auction/ecommerce site is the autonomy it gives. Businesses can set their own customised terms and conditions – thus eradicating any need to deal with unsuitable returns policies and the like. Businesses can also deal with any troublesome issues personally, rather than having to refer them to a third party. This means problems can be resolved much more quickly and easily.
eBay is often perceived as having a cheap and cheerful “jumble sale” type image, which is not necessarily suitable for all businesses. A customised website has the important advantage of being aesthetically appealing and professional, fully reflecting a business’s branding and character. Customisation allows businesses to better engage users and promote the company and its image. Having their own website also gives businesses the opportunity to use different bidding/selling formats that may well be more effective.
With many eBay sellers feeling the auction site is no longer right for them, increasing numbers are searching for alternatives. We look forward with interest at may