eBay Buyer Message Spam @ 99%

eBay UKeBay Buyers, they really are nut cases. Following on from my previous post eBay V’s Amazon – Its a ‘Trust’ thing, Trust is undoubtedly one of the core reasons behind this non-shocker I got in my mail:

Great customer communication is important for your success, especially when preparing for the Christmas period. We have worked with sellers to analyse the most effective way to reduce buyer questions.

Did you know that in the first half of 2010 you received an average of 99 questions per 100 transactions?

Find out how to reduce the number of questions you receive.

The eBay Team

Yes that’s 99 questions per 100 transactions, don’t believe me, check the screen shot below:

eBay Buyer Questions

eBay Buyer Questions

Yes, the product type sold heavily influences the number of questions received, however of the 14 other emails I have seen today alone, none of them were below 40%.

For those that know me personally, they’re aware that I have a strong dislike to eBay buyers. To be utterly fair, this isn’t really their fault. They are just programmed to ask questions for the most silliest of things, because at heart they are scared that ‘eBay’ (note the term ‘eBay, not the seller) is going to rip them off.

I’ve sworn blind for years that 90% of all questions pre-sale are checking the sellers authenticity because they’re plain paranoid on eBay.

Here are the four suggestions eBay have given:

  1. Customise Automated Answers
  2. Block buyers from countries you don’t dispatch to
  3. Clearly structure item description (e.g. in bullet points)
  4. Use high quality photos and multiple pictures with different angles and close-ups

[sarcastic tone] Wow thanks lads [/sarcastic tone]

eBay has definitely got its sense of humour hat on today, at one hand they’re saying block buyers, in the very same email ‘sell internationally’. Irony?

eBay has expanded its international markets to include Finland, Hungary and Portugal, increasing your potential number of buyers to up to 25 million.

In comparison, number of questions from Amazon buyers this morning: 2.

Oh how I <3 Amazon even at your 15% fees.

The Facts: ChannelAdvisor’s Featured Retailer – LeSports



One of the huge benefits of being a consultant, is that you can enter a business with a completely fresh look at it. Not influenced by any of the day-to-day operations, any historic issues or misconceptions created in the business by itself and can work from the cold numbers.

A few weeks back I was intrigued by the big Channel Advisor PR wheels moving and spotted one of their featured sellers ‘LeSports Ltd on YouTube.

The video is below features James, really nice chap, he explains what most e-commerce businesses  have issues with, management of inventory across many channels and order processing; And that he is using CA to promote his products across new sites and that it saves him time. Great.



With this increase of automation, I wonder if they’ve failed to notice the extra cost at which it has taken to do this. Please do not get me wrong, automation is fantastic if done well, there are many tools that can aid a business in its day-to-day operations that will save hours & hours a day. But… this is where it could go wrong and the numbers need to be kept an eye on. So lets look at the numbers:

All figures are based upon data from Terapeak for the date range 01 Sept – 30 Sept 2010, the direct link to this search is here. Noting, a Terapeak account is required to view this.



Total Sales £28,632
Total Listings 2,811
Successful Listings 1,105
Total Bids 1,920
Items Offered 7,097
Items Sold 1,692
Bids per Listing 0.68
Sell-Through 39.31%
Sellers per Day 1

So for this month of September we have a gross sales value of £28,632. Now lets split this between GTC (Good Till Cancelled/30 Days) listings and auction based listings (10 days or less).

Bid Auctions:

Total Sales £4,847
Total Listings 1,509
Successful Listings 348
Total Bids 576
Items Offered 1,509
Items Sold 348
Bids per Listing 0.38
Sell-Through 23.06%
Sellers per Day 1

So we can see here that for 1509 listings, £4847 was sold over 348 items. Lets crunch some numbers to see what this really means.

£4847 is 16.93% of their eBay sales (or 4/25ths), each sale has an average value of £4847/348 = £13.93, now here is the curious number, 23.06% of their listings sale. Now this is not distorted by multiple quantity listings because Terapeak says this ‘Total Listings = 1509, Items Offered = 1509’, so they’re all single item listings. This is an important factor as GTC listings normally have multiple quantities and skew this number heavily, to the point its almost worthless.

Now, this is where the numbers can lose their accuracy, so please allow some error of fees here as I am going to assume no discounts for seller fees and we are using averages.

There were 1509 listings at an average start price of £13.37, Terapeak also tell us clearly that there were no listing features used, so we can assume a straight auction fee. Now knowing this, lets crunch some more numbers:

1509 listings x 0.25 insertion fees* = £377.25
348 sales x (£1.22 Final Value Fee + £0.67 PayPal fee) = £657.72
Total = £1034.97

Some notes:
* I checked manually in eBay and also verified with http://ecal.altervista.org/en/fee_calculator/ebay.co.uk/index.php.

** This assumes no discounts and standard PayPal account and that all buyers paid via PayPal (probably true for 90% or more of sales) and that Channel Advisor fees of around 1-1.5% are not not included.

So for £4847 worth of sales, it cost around £1035 to actually sell the 348 items to customers, or 21.35%. This is of course excluding the item cost, packaging, staff time for the 222 questions (assuming 65% asked a question) they asked and the time taken to create the inventory record in the first place.

So… Using Using Auctions, is it Worth it?

Frankly, yes it is for them.

Why? 21% is far from the worst overhead I have seen, yes its pretty high, but there are a large number of sellers out there that are hitting 30-50%. I know for a fact at one time it was costing me 32% (the fee structure was different then). But its the ‘fact of knowing’ which is key here, if you know what your sale cost is, then you can work on it. Not knowing it is literally business suicide. I strongly suspect Jame’s know’s these numbers and is why he’s actually doing a great job.

If this dropped to say 15%-18% through optimising the time windows of sales and utilising the other four days of the week (the listings only end on a Sunday ,Monday & Tuesday) and testing outside of their normal ending windows of 7pm to 10pm, it would be tidy win for Jame’s.

Some Quick Numbers:

We’ve only focused on their auction style listings as these are the most expensive, here are some quick numbers on James’s ‘Fixed Price’ listings:

Total sales = £23.423 over 1223 listings of which 727 sold, for 1302 items, this is a positive percentage @ 106%, which means more items sold than that was listed as separate listings (I suspect due to multi level listings). With an ASP (Average Selling Price) of £17.99 the fees would come in 1302 * (0.20p insertion fee @ Basic level + 1.78 FVF + 0.81 PayPal) = £3632.58. Which is a very good 15.5% excluding any PayPal, Channel Advisor or eBay discounts.

Its a pity (or a positive) there is no ability to mine data on Amazon or the web to gain a true picture of LeSports. For anyone that is determined, using Terapeak to gain the last 365 days worth of data to get one set of data and a report for a tenner from companies house can easily do the maths…

eBay: http://stores.ebay.co.uk/LeSports
Amazon: http://www.amazon.co.uk/shops/A3DKHE7UJOAC3O
Web: http://www.lesports.co.uk/

Amazon Product Advertising API Oct 15th Deadline

Amazon Product Advertising APIFor anyone else who uses the Amazon Product Advertising API, there are some major changes coming that have an October 15th deadline.

The biggest alteration to the API is the removal of customer reviews from being sent, instead a link to the review on Amazon is returned. They are saying this is because of the high load of data being transferred and the keyword of the entire update is ‘Efficiency’, while I do not doubt this for one second, I do suspect that this is a change to give their own site a higher set of results in search engines, by keeping their unique content (reviews) to themselves.

This is no real bust up for Affiliates that actually use proper, unique content. Google has always said (and pretty much kept its word), if you give people a reason to come to the site, they will. You can never go wrong with unique, quality content, its is key to a successful Affiliate (and website) campaign; As I know all to well from the blisters on my fingers from typing so much.

There are some other response groups that have been removed, never used any of them and you can see the full details at https://affiliate-program.amazon.com/gp/advertising/api/detail/main.html

eBay V’s Amazon – Its a ‘Trust’ thing

Well after another quick read of the feed reader, there is an announcement that eBay is to spend a huge wedge of cash sending out some postcards, no not to promote products or sellers found on the site, but ‘Trust’.

eBay really cannot shrug that carboot sales & miss-trust thing they  have got in-ground. Its  major difference between them[eBay] and Amazon. Amazon is thier marketplace and ‘allow’ other sellers to sell on thier marketplace, not a marketplace where the party[eBay] are the facilitators of the marketplace.

So when you buy from Amazon, there is a single point of trust, the Amazon logo, but for eBay, it means nothing, the buyer has to check lots of things about the listing, who are they, where they from, how much, how much shipping, when really they should only be asking ‘is this the right item for me’.

When will eBay take a leaf out of Amazon’s book and start slapping the daylights of the under performers. Amazon really does not take any crap from their sellers, you piss off one of their buyers, wow do you pay, its one of their customers, not a ‘member’ or ‘community member’, one of their customers. You see the fundamental difference between the market places yet?

Here is the homepage for the .com site, nothing up on the UK site, hey we don’t have any ‘trust’ issues here, just a complete Island (Ireland) to deal with the UK & Europe.

eBay Buyer Protection on eBay.com

eBay Buyer Protection on eBay.com

AuctionBytes, such a fab source of the latest news, its unreal, if you’re not signed up for them, you really should be. The article I’m referencing can be found here.

The Worst Shopping Experience I ever had Joomla & VitueMart

I’ve got to share this with you, I have seen, used, owned, altered, tweaked, abused and been through enough shopping carts now to spot a bad one, but this took the biscuit and ran away and ate the shop, it was that bad.

Lets set the scenario, my dad, far from being anywhere near internet savvy can just about brose the net and check his email. Any shopping cart system should be able to deal with customers of ALL abilities, n00b to pro-n00b. Oh and carp really like to eat pond weed.

After the shock that he had managed to surf the net and actually find what he wanted in the UK (honestly this is a testament to dads brute force methodology with the Internet) he found http://www.silverthorpe.co.uk and wrote down which plants he wanted for the pond, added them to the cart and then proceeded to spend two whole hours trying to buy them.

I get a call from my mum saying “dad wants some plants but he cannot buy them, he’s tried for hours”, fair enough I though, its only a shopping cart, cannot be that hard, right?

How wrong was I? This turned into an epic journey of determination to actually buy some pond weed. Below is the email I sent to them:


I have just taken my father through the worst checkout system I have ever seen.

Can you please confirm that order number XYZ for [removed] has payment showing on it.

You may want to do the following:

1. get rid of vituemart drag drop/ that confused the heck out of him, I suspect your customer base is +40 they need simple function rather than feature.

2. remove the requirement of registration first and give a decent error message when they try and login without confirming the account

3. change the email address customers see from Silverthorpe1@btinternet.com to a @silverthorpe.co.uk as your btinternet email address is unprofessional and is instantly spammed by gmail (most likely due to domain miss matches)

4. And there is a issue with the logo you’re using in the paypal header, try going to through the shopping cart as a customer and go to paypal, every page there is a security warning because of it

5. Never known a single courier require someones middle name

6. The shipping options default to EU, although we set our country as United Kingdom

Thats the bulk of the issues, the major one is the registration and security warnings. Solve those and I suspect your site will convert from a sub 1% conversion ration, to a industry standard 2% (yes thats a 100% increase in conversion)

Sorry for rant, but it really was the worst I have ever seen.

Kind regards,

Matthew Ogborne

Fair do’s to them, the same day we receive a reply back; The email from ‘Mark Brereton’ or signed as Linda, read as follows:

Hi Matthew, yes order XYZ is confirmed and paid for. I take it you would like order YZX cancelled. Please accept my apologies for the difficulties you’ve experienced with our website. I am grateful for your comments and agree with what you’ve said. I hope to be able to solve these difficulties soon.
Kind regards

So you can tell we tried before and failed on a previous order and I suppose they agreed it was bad.

I did then start to feel sorry for them, it was ultra bad, so opened Chrome and started investigating. Afterall I was sure most of the stuff was only basic and would take no more than a few minutes searching & understanding. VirtueMart turned out not to be that bad, just poorly configured, the other items I replied with the following:

Hi Linda,

Many thanks for the confirmation.

I had a quick look through the VitueMart system, see here:

Under “User Registration Type” you have several options, you probably have yours set to Normal and I’d suggest you pick Optional or Silent, this does not force the account to be created and for the user to be logged **BEFORE** checking out.

Forcing registration is the #1 reason why shopping carts are abandoned, making it silent or optional is a strongly recommended.

The other issue at PayPal will be under Profile > Website Receiving Preferences > somewhere here or see http://help.yahoo.com/l/us/yahoo/smallbusiness/store/order/paypal/paypal-08.html

That’ll get rid of the security warning box, if they got through the registration, this would have put most people off.

Apologies if I was a little blunt yesterday, but it was the worst one I’ve been through ever. [removed] now get a 4% conversion ratio on checkouts, which is twice the standard and are always trying to make it as efficient as possible with what they have. If the sites front end was not so well designed (pretty, not functional) I’d have have continued with the order (showed money had been spent on its design).

Kind regards,

Matthew Ogborne

The pond weed turned up within a few days, dad was happy, the carp were happy, I did feel some warmth I had at least tried to help someone improve their site, even if it did come out of the worst checkout experience I had ever had.

I’d like to revisit their shopping cart at a later time to analyse in a more organised fashion, I checked a few minutes ago and its still just as bad, maybe I should email them this blog post… We’ll see. Either way, take a look for yourself, the site looks great, but some one got over zealous with design and forgot completely about form and function.

eBay Conspiracy Theory Overview : Part 1

Here are a few things for you to chew over, I’m not saying these are true, they’re probably utter rubbish, but… they do have enough in them to at least be partly true, right?

Here are my eBay conspiracy theories, don’t expect too much detail yet, I’ll beef these out in further posts over the next few days:

  1. eBay does whatever it can to keep the seller ‘entertained’ on the eBay marketplace, so that they are too busy to sell on other marketplaces.
  2. Using best match, eBay throttles a sellers performance, so that their number of sales stay with a 25% or so window of an on going average.
  3. eBay is turning into Amazon.
  4. The ‘Free Shipping’ promotions are nothing but a marketing ploy, to gain more fees for eBay.

I’m look forward to putting forward my flakey cases on each one of these in the next few days. I’d really value your comments and suggestions on these, the comment box is below awaiting your brain spam to join mine.

Oh dear, They Really Shouldn’t

eBay Selects Joomla to Launch Employee Collaboration Tool

eBay Selects Joomla to Launch Employee Collaboration Tool

Well been hovering thinking of all the cool topics I should blog about, then out of the blue from the AuctionBytes site and chestnut appears.

It reads ‘eBay Selects Joomla to Launch Employee Collaboration Tool‘. Oh dear god no!!! I’ve been through most open source CMS systems and Joomla is the most hacked to pieces one of them all. I’m not posting the site I use to check the latest  vulnerability list on, but I assure you, Joomla has the longest list of holes of them all.

Yea its easily worked with and I have seen some fab looking sites, although the shopping cart system you can add is the worst ever in the wrong hands (I’ll post my email to a site owner in a later post, honestly I have never been through such a worst cart system end to end). BUT they have to be safe and sorry to all the devs of Joomla, Joomla would just not been on any recontamination list of mine.

Here’s hoping they keep it in a VPN envrioment, if not lets keep an eye out for leaks!

Google TV, How Neat

Google Does TV

Google Does TV

Only nerdy me would think the idea of Google TV would be fab? Perhaps not, lets look at what they’re up to and possibly why.

Before we begin, lets look their flashy website, its here:

Lets get the the key features together and spot where they are could make money:

  1. Set top boxes or integrations
    Although I very much doubt they’ll make the kit themselves, just provide the ‘software’ for the hardware to run on. Kinda like Android; maybe Android 3 ?
  2. Advertising!
    Doh, web browsing, custom application platform, hmmm… this is just another platform to deliver adverts, great. I get enough of this from channel 5 in the mornings, I really want the dumpster truck, ignoring the amount of ads that still slip through adblock.
  3. Affiliatation.
    This one really gets my goat, Mr Google apparently does not like affiliates for their ‘flakey’ sites. I’d argue differently on these, content is always king and if you got a fab site with unique content, I don’t fancy being penalised for making money from it.
    Back to the point, if you watched the slides, you notice Amazon? I bet those links are laced with affiliate links or a contractual agreement is made somewhere on conversions, hell , I’d want that.
  4. Tidy Deals with Networks
    Think about it, if I was CNN or SKY, I’d want my company promoted and I’d probably pay a fair market price for getting my company promoted at the top of the list. I see some back handers being done here.
  5. ‘Apps’ Marketplace
    Wow, what a no brainer, make some apps for use on the TV. Hell the input device cannot be any worse, using an iPhone a remote, like the screen isn’t small enough and have you really tried using it for large data input?
    I’m whittering, apps make money (ignoring their cool)
  6. TV + Web = Final use for YouTube?
    I cried when I read how much YT costs Google everyday, thats some serious wonga. But it makes utter sense now, putting the ‘Web’ and the black box in every house x 3 is a monumental idea. Everything net based (including money making schemes) in your lounge for all the family to be converted.

In a nutshell, what a neat idea. Nerdy me can get my mail on the TV, while the kids are watching some freaky animals (thats kids TV to everyone else). Will it work? Even if it partly works, it’ll be huge and probably be in beta for 10 years :D

So what do you think? Comment below for your say.