eBay has some new policies going into effect that will significantly and negatively impact sellers, particularly small time or casual sellers. These changes will cause a reduction in the number of sellers, and thus selection, in some key niches. Therefore, these changes may also impact those who’re using the eBay affiliate program to make money through BANS sites. Let’s take a look at these critical changes, starting with the big one.
Sellers Can No Longer Leave Negative or Neutral Feedback for Buyers
This effectively guts the mutual trust arrangement that has powered eBay for over a decade. This move will cause many to simply stop selling on eBay since each and every transaction puts the public image of their business at risk. It leaves malicious or incompetent buyers capable of screwing up Power Seller status, forcing a seller to take PayPal, lowering their position in search results and other such problems. In fact, it opens the door to all sorts of buyer scamming, particularly against newer and occasional sellers.
It is true that retaliatory feedback has been a problem on eBay for some time. Buyers have often complained about sellers holding feedback hostage. Some have complained about ’soup nazi’ like sellers who would give out negative feedback if you didn’t follow their rules to the letter. But the real problem has been that eBay has failed to manage the feedback program properly. They’ve done this primarily because they fear legal repercussions. So, now, instead of taking the bull by the horns and dealing with the problem, they’ve thrown the baby out with the bath water (how’s that for a mixed metaphor).
There were some better possible solutions to this situation but eBay’s incompetent management, in their typical fashion, chose the one of the worst possible options.
Cheap eBooks, Gone
If you were planning on selling your affiliate link stuffed eBook on eBay for a penny, that ship has sailed. Fixed price items can no longer be listed for under a dollar.
Sure, some people bought these to build up a good feedback score quickly, which points to another problem in the feedback system. However, they were used as an effective affiliate marketing conduit as well. If you still want to sell on eBay like this in spite of the other increased risks of doing so, you might want to look at bundling such offers or offering value-ads to make the boost in the selling price logical to buyers. Listing them as auctions might work but this could get expensive if the returns weren’t there.
3/25/2008 UPDATE: It seems that eBay is totally banning digital products. This will impact a lot of sellers of this kind of stuff as well as those who run BANS sites featuring this type of product.
While eBay has lowered insertion fees and are making gallery pictures free, they’re offsetting this by increasing fees in other areas. They’re also heavily emphasizing their relatively new Detailed Seller Ratings program not only in search results but in other areas as well. Most of these changes favor large PowerSeller and corporate sales outlet accounts over small time, occasional and seasonal sellers.
Other feedback changes, such as including repeat customers in the count and only show the past 12 months history in the displayed feedback percentage, I see as being bad for buyers and good for bad sellers.
Competition is Needed
What eBay really needs, and what both buyers and especially sellers need, is a strong, deep pocketed, competitor in the online sales arena. Google is, of course, the first company mentioned. I don’t know if they would do well in this marketplace. I think that Amazon, if they made a few changes to their system, could do it. There are also some retailers who might find developing this kind of marketplace valuable as well.
This is the End
Well, with these changes, I doubt that I will ever go back to selling on eBay although I may buy inexpensive items there from time to time. It has increasingly become unfriendly to sellers while offering scant protection for buyers. And one thing that eBay often forgets is that sellers are often buyers too. Thus many may try out alternative auction or product mall platforms for both buying and selling.
What are your thoughts on these changes? Do you see them as negative or positive? Do you buy or sell on eBay regularly? Are you an eBay affiliate or have a BANS store site? Will you be making some changes to how you use eBay?