eBay Buyers Continue to Leave despite Stifled Communication

Posted on June 19, 2008. Filed under: eBay | Tags: , , , , , |

At the eBay’s Developer Conference, Adam Trachtenberg spoke about some upcoming changes.  Adam mentionned there will be several changes to email communications coming soon.  eBay sellers will no longer be able to include an email address in their auction descriptions and the potential buyers’ email addresses will no longer be shown when they contact the seller with a question through the eBay messaging system.  It is clear that eBay is attempting to further tighten up and close their system to prevent remaining buyers from leaving.
Some other recent changes prior to DEVCON 2008:
1. Sellers can no longer change their email address to an email that is the same as their eBay name.  Previously, sellers attempting to do so received a security alert warning them that it was not safe.  Currently it is impossible.  eBay knows that many sellers have email addresses and websites that coincide with their eBay name and, of course, eBay wants to discourage any possibility of outside communication.
2. Any URL to an outside source, even from the About Me page, will be prohibited July 2008.
3. It is rumored that when the new Links policy (July 2008) goes into effect, Skype communications will be disabled because, according to one eBay Powerseller rep, “Skype can lead to off-eBay sales.” 
eBay is bent on stopping the communication between potential buyers and sellers in order to prevent off-eBay sales.  I have to wonder about all the time, effort, and resources eBay is devoting to creating and enforcing such stringent policies.  First of all, anyone who has a website presence outside of eBay is already going to be marketing to potential buyers outside of eBay and will more than likely be throwing a business card or flyer in each of their outgoing packages for items sold on eBay.  eBay cannot stop that. 
And, then, any eBay seller who does NOT have a web presence off-eBay but is willing to engage in direct communication with eBay members in order to make a sale is going to have to invest a lot of time in emails back and forth to complete the sale.  What seller of any size has time for that and can keep up with the correspondence?  I have to wonder just how much customer leakage is actually going to be prevented by stifling communication between potential buyers and eBay sellers.  Instead, a potential buyer who cannot get their questions answered from an eBay seller (because the seller is limited in the number of times they can communicate with a potential buyer) will likely not buy or will purchase the item but will grade the seller critically on communication DSR.
eBay is attempting to rule with an iron fist to prevent outside sales.  Rather than doing so, why doesn’t eBay sit back and take a minute to ask the right questions.  If eBay sellers felt they were getting value for their money from the eBay venue and if eBay sellers felt more protected on eBay than off-eBay, then what motivation would sellers have for encouraging and participating in off-eBay sales?   I mention the words “encouraging” and “participating in” because it is the potential buyers who most often initiate the talk of off-eBay sales by asking eBay sellers if they have a website with more variety or better prices than what the seller is currently offering on eBay.
Off-eBay sales are a problem for eBay because the fees to sell on eBay are very high, too high for the value received and because there is no protection from troublesome buyers.  It is not any more risky to sell to an unknown buyer off-eBay than it is to sell to an eBay buyer with 100% feedback (since all new buyers have 100% feedback and in a year EVERY buyer will have 100% feedback).  So, if the risk is to be taken by the eBay seller, why not get more rewards by paying no eBay fees to conduct an off-eBay transaction.
Medium and large-size eBay sellers likely already have a web presence outside of eBay and will market to eBay buyers by putting information in outgoing packages.  These sellers’ hope is that one eBay sale (which has a high cost) will lead to repeat sales off-eBay where the costs are lower.  Small sellers, who have no expanded PayPal protections for eBay sales and who are able to spend the time communicating back and forth with potential buyers, are more likely to drive their sales off-eBay one at a time without making the eBay sale at all.  eBay’s attempt to stifle communication will not change either of these events from occurring.  Medium and large-size eBay sellers will still do everything possible to steer current buyers away from eBay.  While it will make it a little more difficult for small sellers to conduct off-eBay transactions, they will still be motivated to do so because of the high costs to conduct business on eBay along with the virtually non-existent protections that exist for small sellers. 
Until eBay becomes “seller-friendly” and provides a real value for each and every transaction they will never stop medium and large sellers from using eBay as a customer farm to lead buyers to lower cost alternatives.  And without expanded Seller Protections, eBay will never prevent small sellers from willingly violating policy to conduct off-eBay sales.   Either eBay is listening to sellers but not responding to their needs or eBay is stomping around with their hands over their ears screaming “I can’t hear you!” while developing increasingly more policies and ruling with an even firmer iron fist.  Either way…the buyers are still leaving eBay …… and eBay does not have a real plan to stop them.

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7 Responses to “eBay Buyers Continue to Leave despite Stifled Communication”

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Exactly right, Brew. I, who never intended or wanted my own off-site store, just got a webstore. I used to be perfectly content with Ebay- fees were in line and virtually no interference with how I conducted my business. There are lots of ways to drive business off Ebay and sellers are sharing that info with each other. This new Ebay is not so smart.

Does anyone know if the off-site URL rule applies to images? I have my own web server and host my own auction photos there. If I can’t host images off-site, then that’s just the final straw. Who can afford to host 10 images per auction with eBay photo hosting service? Looks like I’ll be moving even more business to my own web site.

I think that as long as you use a seperate page that has no link into the rest of your website you will still be able to do it. At least I’m hoping so, or it will be the end for me as well.

I also think ebay may have problems removing email addresses in UK, because it is part of eCommerce law that businesses must provide full contact details,

Chris, I am getting ready to post the info soon about the new Links Policy.

I believe the email address for the seller will still be available; it is the email address for the potential BUYER that will no longer be available (the email address will show for the buyer once they have actually made the purchase on eBay).

nice article! If eBay would put it’s resources and energies into making eBay a safe and fair place to do business, the sellers wouldn’t be inclined to off-site selling. Instead, eBay drives more and more sellers (and buyers) away! eBay forgot that most, if not all sellers are buyers too, and if we stop selling, we can stop buying too! My guess would be that eBay will eventually try to implement off-site url rules for images too. eBay wants complete control of each sellers’ business!!

A very interesting article.

It points out exactly the Emporer’s New Clothes syndrome eBay suffers from. All the while it tells us sellers how great and good it is, it never stops to listen to genuine concerns of it’s customers….namely us sellers.

Instead it openly persues policies that alienate, patronise and generally condescend the very people upon whom it relies to make money.

What really makes my blood boil is that when you do approach ebay with a problem, or series of concerns, if they don’t like what you say they at best ignore you and at worst you suddenly find that your site views have plummeted. (Not that I’m suggesting for a moment Ebay “turn off” the tap” to your adverts.

I’d also like to know, but have never received an answer from Ebay, why it is that everyone except “the big boys” ie Dell, are forced to accept Paypal as a payment method and are forbidden from excluding it?

Dell on the other hand blatantly state NO PAYPAL as well as puuting direct links to their off site operations on ALL of their adverts.

Call me cynical but I truely belief that if your cheque book is big enough Ebay will turna blind eye to you breaching its policies.

May I, as a buyer, express a concern I have? I have recently been told by a seller I deal with that a recent addition to the buyer’s details when the sale if processsed. The buyer’s telephone number is included. I accept (with reservations) that one must give eBay a telephone number, but I do not accept that they are allowed to pass on such information without permission. I am ex directory and therefore do not give my telephone number to all and sundry, and certainly do not wish eBay to publish it to all the sellers I buy from. It should be withheld in all sales unless the buyers gives permission. I am awaiting eBay’s comments on the concerns I have raised with them.

I also find it grossly unfair that the present policy of sellers being unabble to give neurtral or negative feedback to buyers unacceptable. It leads unscrupulous buyers ‘blackmailing’ sellers with outlandish requests. The seller is unjustly rated in this particular area. There are both rogue sellers and buyers on eBay, you only have to read a few of the feedbacks to see this.

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