The eBay ‘Word of Mouth Factor’ Revisited – Bench See a 1100% Increase!

Last year I created a measurement process for us to work out the true implications of trading on eBay. It’s aptly named it the “Word of Mouth Factor“.

After a comment left on this site yesterday by a disgruntled customer called “Douglas”, who was upset with Argos on eBay and spotting that Argos may have got worse over the last 12 months and not better, in this article I’m revisiting the original 16 businesses, to see how they have got on over the past twelve months and what their WOM factor is doing now, compared to last year.

If you missed the earlier article, you can read it here as it includes an introduction to the WOM Factor, the 16 businesses that we’ll be revisiting, the formula and a more detailed look at Argos.

Included in this article is a breakdown of how on earth Bench went from mediocre to outstanding in less than 12 months and bluntly put, a “slating” of Argos for their continued poor performance.


The Comment that Provoked the Revisit

Douglas left the comment below on the 31st, I was in two minds to publish it or not, but felt compelled to reply.

Take a read of the message left and consider what has happened and why a customer such as Douglas would be provoked to leave such a comment in a public forum.

I must disagree. I have found the Argos Outlet on Ebay to be appalling. They have sent me 2 Binatone F430 SatNavs, neither of which have worked. These were supposed to be refurbished items but clearly were not. What was galling was that they had not even checked the second replacement satnav following the broken first one. In addition their manager has refused to return all of my calls and emails. The assistant who did speak t me claimed that they were just a clearing house for Argos products and could not check them. She was not interested in the fact that they were selling shoddy goods. Finally, 16 days after returning the goods they have not issued me with any refund.
For your own good, avoid this shop at all costs.
Please avoid this shop at all costs and find a reliable supplier.

If this was another eBay account, then yes it would be very easy to brush this off as a one off, however as the “Word of Mouth Factor” (aka ‘WOM’)  identified last year Argos’s customer service on eBay is poor.

Over the past 6 months it’s gone downhill rapidly and Argos have scored the worst Word of Mouth score I have seen of 12.37

Compared to last year, where on eBay Argos were rated as the lowest performer in the WOM rating system at 11.92. Since then things haven’t really got better. In the comment reply to Douglas (for which I felt compared to apologise, after all this is a eBay customer and he may be buying from you tomorrow), over the past 6 months it’s gone downhill rapidly and Argos have scored the worst Word of Mouth score of 12.37, the highest of any account I have ever run this over.

Do you really think that a normal customer, which had a “OK” to “Good” experience with Argos would have hunted out a semi-unrelated site and left such a comment?

What is the Word of Mouth Factor?

“both neutral and negative comments are the same, they are not positive experiences”

The Word of Mouth factor takes into account that both neutral and negative comments are the same, they are not positive experiences with the eBay business and carry a much heavier weighting that a positive experience.

We are programmed to have a perversion to loss, if we loose something we miss it greatly, but if we gain something instead, for me it feel that I need around 5-10 times more positive events to outweigh the negative, loss experience (I explained this a little better in the previous article with kittens).

Because we’re dealing with eBay, the eBay platform makes it very transparent through feedback how to calculate what a business’ Word of Mouth factor is.  From the previous article, the average Word of Mouth factor was 5.81, I’m curious to see how this changes with the updated data.

How to Calculate Your Word of Mouth Factor

Before we dive in and look at how the businesses are now doing, we need to quickly revisit the formula being used. It’s dead easy to use and we can see the negative and neutral comments are combined and as they have a much higher loss associated to them, they are multiplied by 10.

I’ve put this below and takes a few seconds in a calculator. Luckily me, for the 16 below I used excel :)


How to Calculate “The WOM Factor”

Note: Try this out on your eBay account and let me know what your WOM Factor is in the comments box below.

The Updated Data Table

This table includes last years data for the WOM Factors and the differences between them (we’ll be analysing these next).

eBay WOM Factor 2012 Table

eBay WOM Factor 2012 Table

Analysing the New Data for the WOM Factors

analysis_of_dataBefore we dig in and make comparisons to last year, it should be noted that it is no surprised that a few of these accounts are now in a dormant state.

Glamorousoutlet is the biggest one to do so and have gone from in excess of 25,000 transactions in a 12 month period to pretty much nothing, aqua spot has almost gone too from 1000 transactions to 30. So these are going to be ignored.

Also “tennis-deals-2008”, after a little investigation is now called intheframetrading.

What to look for
What we’re looking for in the above data table is a positive value for the percentages on the right column, this shows that there has been a decrease in the WOM Factor of that business from last year. The lower the WOM factor the better, this means that the number of positive experiences far outweigh the number of negative experiences.

The biggest difference by a zillion miles is Bench.

The biggest difference by a zillion miles is Bench. Bench have gone from a below average WOM rating of 6.58 to an unbelievable 0.55, which is an 1103.5% increase in performance in the space of a year. Something drastic has happened with that businesses and I’ll be looking at this in a separate section.

Let’s now look at the rest of the eBay accounts in terms of their performance.

The Performers

We can see when we detail them below, we have had some excellent efforts over the past twelve months:

  • Argos down 7.8% to 11.06, but still very high and almost double the average WOM score.
  • online4babyltd down 39.6% from average to a well below average 3.93 WOM score.
  • babzeeonline down 27.5% to below average 5.55
  • intheframetrading scoring the second lowest WOM factor of 1.88 and down 51.1%
  • little-devils-direct also just below average, now down 29.1% to 5.01
  • flyingplaneman storming down 71.1% to 4.17

The Losers

On the flip side, we have had some gains, which is not good as this means that buyers are experiencing a poorer performance from the businesses in question, when compared to last year.

  • jpe_enterprises had a huge jump of 54.8%, but for 4 negatives that’s a little harsh as they’re only turning over ~200 transactions in a year
  • loco_gadgets has had a rough ride and has now exceed Argos’s poor level last year at a WOM factor of 12.47, double the average.
  • benthamltd has seen an increase from a slightly above WOM score last year of 6.24 to 9.73, that’s a 35.28% decrease in performance.

The Non Movers

bessy0302 has stayed pretty much the same last year with an superb score of 2.22, only slightly up on last years 2.03, as the total transactions for the year are around 6500, only the removal of 1 feedback would bring this back to where they were previously, the same goes for poshtotz-store from 3.19 to 3.22

That Special Note on Bench_Outlet

What the hell caused Bench, worthy of no notes at all last year to drop from what was a below average rating of 6.58 to an almost floored rating of 0.55 in the space of twelve months?

bench_outlet Redesigned By Pentagon Interactive

Updated eBay Shop Design

At some point in the past 12 months, Bench took on a complete redesign from Pentagon-Interactive as I’m pretty sure that they had a different design the last time I checked.

If you look closely at the Bench_Outlet eBay account, you’ll see that their eBay shop has received a complete redesign by pentagon and incorporates a search widget by Sovoia.

bench_outlet Sovoia search widget

The Sovoia search widget while custom designed for user and comes with it’s unique back-end system to control what is shown. While it does command a premium price, it really is a premium feature and you’ll find similar widgets on many of the brand name eBay shops such as Littlewoods, SuperDry and the original store we put it on a couple of years ago, Office shoes.

bench_outlet - eBay Listing Template Layout

Bench_Outlet – eBay Listing Template Layout

Their listing template has also received the same experience.

Consistent branding from the eBay shop redesign, the Sovoia search widget and a very clean structure for the product data layout, which makles the product details very clear and easy to read.

The image gallery is taking up a good 70% of the page width.

I’d personally have made the main image a little bit bigger, currently it’s 480 pixels wide, 550-600pixels would have been better and the thumbnails (the smaller images on the right) about half their size.

On the topic of images if we stop and consider their impact for a few moments, buyers cannot pick up and try the product on, so having superb images and an array of images allows the customer to almost touch the item and understand how it looks from all angles.

Clothing is a nightmare when it comes to sizes and that’s why we’re seeing a good third of the page dedicated to size tables which are clear to read.

Even a performing eBay account always has room for improvement

A comment here shows that even a performing eBay account always has room for improvement, it would have been very easy to show or hide the other genders size table, after all this is a Men’s hoody, the Women’s sizing is irrelevant. This is possible in ChannelAdvisor through different templates or even Javascript to hide the section based upon category or a custom attribute or just maybe they have not considered this.

there is a “boat load” of opportunity being left on the table

If you start to dig around the listed items, you’ll see that for the vast majority of the items listed, item specifics are nothing more than just Brand, Condition and Style.

eBay Outlet Company logo in Search eBay Results

While the brand “Bench” gives the account a huge boost, along with the Bench Logo that eBay outlet Stores have shown next to their items in the search results,  considering that I can name at least 10 other important item specifics for the fashion category off the top of my head (Main Colour, Exact Colour, Length, Sleeve Type, Pattern, Fit, Multipack, Garment Care, Neck Line, Material, Exact Material, that’s 10 I’ll stop now) there is a “boat load” of opportunity being left on the table.

Their sales data from Terapeak indicates that in the last two months that the bench_outlet account has cleared ~£210,000 of kit and almost 11,000 transactions, up on a similar date range a year before  of £175,000 of kit and just over 9,000 transactions.

To cover +5,000 transactions per month, for which Bench_outlet are doing on average 5,800 transactions each month now, generally needs either massive external exposure, which Bench as a brand has or sustained internal exposure by eBay through daily or weekly deals.

Bench has obviously had the support of both and frankly would not be manageable without a back-end system that is up for the job for processing soo many orders and product data into the eBay.

In this case it’s ChannelAdvisor and while I did hope to begin with that this another Pentagon-Interactive success story through managed services, the redesign that was done for them has obviously played a key role in the success of Bench, combined with the back-end processing from ChannelAdvisor.

Bench actually value their brand and are leveraging eBay to almost it’s full potential.

At the time of publishing this article, it’s not known if Bench_Outlet were using ChannelAdvisor 12-18 months ago, the oldest record I have is 8 months ago and they were using them.

You have to agree that is a whopping improvement in customer services management and when compared to Argos (who get a complete slating in a few moments) Bench actually value their brand and are leveraging eBay to almost it’s full potential. Something dramatically changed at Bench about a year ago and who ever started it, needs a beer (and of course the team that made it happen).


In the comment that provoked the revisit to the WOM factor a year later from it being first published, Douglas detailed a very poor experience with Argos and confirms my original point of the WOM factor, that the “word of mouth” experience passed is most likely to be passed when the experience is bad, not good.

As pointed out in the reply, if the service had been “OK” or even “excellent”, do you think that Douglas would have taken the time to post that comment here? Nope, I don’t think so either and that is exactly why the Word of Mouth factor is soo important.

Argos, while clearing a lot of kit on eBay, some £5.2 million over the past 90 days, may be doing their business more harm than good when we take into account their continued poor performance in relation to customer services.

With a consistent “double the average” WOM score for both years at 11.92 and 11.06 in this sample group, the likelihood of negative comments and reviews such as Douglas’s is at least twice as much as every other business in the original sample group.

Devaluing a brand name, does that have to be the cost of trading on eBay?

That’s a very serious question, one I hope, for all our sakes Argos might consider and from the other examples, especially that of Bench’s, thankfully the answer is no, this does not need to be the cost of trading on eBay.

Your Feedback

All eBay accounts are your potential customers, the likelihood that a customer that sees an Argos item is going to see one of your items is very high considering the exposure they receive on eBay and for exactly that reason…

I personally dislike the idea that of a company such as Argos pissing off thousands upon thousands of eBay buyers each year.

And yes it is thousands with over 5,400 in the past 12 months that have left neutral or negative feedbacks on the account and the worst performing outlet feedback score that I know off, when clearly shown by Bench, that it does not have to be this way.

What do you think? Let me know in the comments box below.

The WOM Factor – Why ALL eBay Sellers are Not Equal


The Word of Mouth Factor

I’ve answered too many eBay’er questions over the years, its probably why I have such a tainted view on specifically eBay buyers, my personal ‘resounding’ conclusion is that they’re scared and really scared at that, almost to the point of paranoia.

In the next few minutes, we’ll be looking at the different types of buyers and a new system of gauging sellers, not feedback, but a derivative of feedback, which gives a clearer overall picture of the seller in proportion to their customers views and perception of the business. I’m calling this the WOM factor.


For multi-channel businesses, they’ll know that there are three different breads of customer and they vary enormously. These are:

#1 The Website Buyer

Website customers are the most relaxed of them all, you’ve woo’ed them with your marketing and reassured them with your subliminal security and reassurance factors. They’ll be happy with a couple of days shipping time and normal have already answered their questions before even buying from you.

#2 The Amazon Buyer

Its extremely rare to receive a question from a Amazon buyer and if you do its 99.9999999999999999999999999% of the time related to shipping or a broken item. Besides that, they’re quiet as a mouse.

#3 The Psycho eBay Buyer

I feel sorry most of all not for the sellers on eBay, but for the buyers. Mentally unhinged, these buyers are the stuff of customer services nightmares, they’re scatty and nuts, they’re lunatics and time wasters. But most of all they’re just scared.

They’re scared of being ripped off, they’re scared you’re going to steal their money and emigrate to Nigeria and then sell all their personal details to a chap in a mud hut who will spawn 10 versions of themselves as the victim.

Harsh, but that’s the kind of metal thought patterns that go through these paranoid buyers heads

Word of Mouth

This isn’t a new concept, infact its a very well documented concept, in short it simply says, that for a good experience a customer will tell two people and for a negative experience, they’ll tell 10 people.

Loss & Reward

This also sits well with the experiences of reward and loss. If I take your pet cat called “puddles” away from you right now, never to be given back, the sense of loss you will feel will be immense; However if I give you back a kitten called “Spot”, you’ll learn to love the little ball of fluff, but it will never replace puddles, who’s loss carries a far far greater sense of loss, than any gain can give.

Also word of mouth is extremely strong, companies are scared of the extremes that can occur with terms being coined such as ‘Brand Terrorists’, those customers that have been so pissed off by a business or brand, there is no stopping them ram-raiding the company or brand at any opportunity.

Inversely, when tribes are formed (Seth Godin’s input here)  “Brand Sponsors” are created, those people that are just nuts for a product or service, the most immediate example I can think of are Apple fans. I’m an Apple product fan, but I’m to the level of what I would call excessive, that some of these Apple nut-mini-Steve-Jobs are.

Using “Word of Mouth” to Measure eBay Seller’s

Its not hard to see why either, if we use the rule of that one positive comment will create 2 positive word of mouth reviews and a negative or neutral comment -10 word of mouth reviews, then its not hard to do the maths on a random selection of sellers and understand that eBay’s growth is actually tainted by its underlying feedback system and also that all sellers are not actually equal.

The DATA – Random Sellers Feedback

These were taken completely at random, I picked four categories and picked a couple of sellers for each category from the top of the list (yes I’m aware this is weighted by the best match algorithm) and included their feedback for the past 12 months and neutrals are counted as negatives.

I have not included revised feedback, I could not decide whether these were positive or negative events, so have elected to ignore them completely. If I was forced to add them, I would class them as a negative event, as it was not a “perfect” transaction, perhaps I should look at this again in a few weeks and maybe I’ll attribute a +3 or +4 to these, but for now, I’m not sure.

PS: What do you think? Post in the comments below!

Random eBay Sellers Feedback Scores

ID Positive Negative +Points -Points WOM Factor
jpe_enterprises 189 2 378 20 5.29
loco_gadgets 378 1 756 10 1.32
benthamltd 80791 1008 161582 10080 6.24
argos 259217 6181 518434 61810 11.92
xia090729 561 7 1122 70 6.24
glamorousoutlet 22585 530 45170 5300 11.73
bench_outlet 40274 530 80548 5300 6.58
bessy0302 2960 12 5920 120 2.03
online4babyltd 55870 614 111740 6140 5.49
babzeeonline 19549 217 39098 2170 5.55
tennis-deals-2008 4221 24 8442 240 2.84
poshtotz-store 5337 34 10674 340 3.19
little-devils-direct 773 10 1546 100 6.47
flyingplaneman 4765 68 9530 680 7.14
kmsdirectshops 14069 198 28138 1980 7.04
aqua_spot 894 7 1788 70 3.91
Totals 512433 9443 1024866 94430

Understanding the Data

I’m quickly adding that several of these sellers actually had either 100% or 99.9% feedback scores, this is only one factor that I am indicating in this article. While the vast majority of these sellers are above 99.0% feedback, Argos stands out for two reasons:

  1. They have a feedback score of 98.7, the lowest of the group
  2. They have the worst ratio 11.92% of WOMF

The second, is on face value an OK seller, they have a score of 99.1% currently, which is good enough and almost all retail stores in the physical world, would probably never be able to achieve this.

Glamorousoutlet are turning over a decent amount of items, with 22,585 feedback in the last year, this is probably around +32,000 orders, however they have incurred 530 negatives, or using the WOM Factor a negative score of 5300, giving them a WOM of 11.73 which when you look at Argos with their 98.4% feedback, is actually worse in proportion!

How to Calculate the WOM Factor

Calculating this is easy, you take your positive feedback for a set period of time and times it by 2, then you take the negative and neutral comments and times them by 10. Then divide the negatives by the positives and times by 100 to gain a more friendly number. In short the lower the better.


How to Calculate "The WOM Factor"


What Customers Really Think

Being able to gauge what your customers truly think of your business is stuff of marketeers wet-dreams. This new factor, I’m coining as the “WOM Factor” can be one tool in your arsenal to accurately gauge what your customers actually think of you.

To give you a measurable and a new dimension on what is just raw numbers. The WOM Factor gives you an indication of what is the actual effects and general response of your business on the outside world.

I wonder what the WOM Factor for Microsoft is?
I wonder what the WOM Factor of Apple is?
I wonder what the WOM Factor for the entire eco-system of eBay is?

Whats Your WOM Factor?

This leads to the pivotal question, whats your WOM Factor?