The holiday decorations are down. Much of the country is caught in a deep freeze that even has Florida residents turning on their furnaces. What better time to take a moment and look back at the holiday selling season for eBay merchants?
Put a fire in the fireplace or break out that new Snuggie you don't want to admit you love, and let's take a look at the numbers and the anecdotes shared by some of eBay's long-time sellers.
First, let's look at the numbers. According to comScore, a tracker of all things digital, the holiday season—measured from Nov. 1 through Christmas Eve—saw e-commerce holding its own, and more. The research firm reports consumers spent approximately $27 billion online, representing 5-percent year-over-year growth. Not surprisingly, sales of consumer electronics were especially strong.
Boosting these numbers were the enormous snow storms that closed many people out of traditional shopping the last weekend before the holiday. comScore also cites online merchants' willingness to offer free shipping, and increased consumer confidence in expedited shipping options that would ensure their gifts arrived on time. Understandably, luxury and nonessential items did not fare as well as consumer electronics but still outperformed their 2008 numbers. The one wrinkle in this good news is that spending per buyer was down slightly, as consumers watched their dollars carefully.
Jody Rogers of beachcombers! also observed budget-conscious customers.
"I noticed a theme of people sticking to a budget for the holidays," she reports.
Rogers and her partner, Asad Bangash, went from eBay PowerSellers to Amazon top sellers to owners of their own brick-and-mortar store. The couple also has their own Web site. They sell khussa shoes and ethnic clothing and jewelry.
"People came in with lists. Some went home to get lists before buying," Rogers says.
Stephanie Inge, eBay PowerSeller, instructor and founder of the world's largest eBay sellers meet-up group, The Dallas eBaybes & eMales, reports a great selling season—although she has yet to achieve Top-rated Seller status.
"I have to say, I sold every Fossil handbag and wallet that I listed up until Christmas, and it doesn't get much better than that," Inge tells us. "My strategy was the 99-cent starting bid and offering Priority Mail and expedited shipping."
Inge's plans for 2010 include diversifying her product offerings.
"I'm not sure which of my product lines will end up being my core product, but as long as I'm selling, it doesn't really matter," she notes. "One brand new addition to my eBay inventory will be my online classes and private consultations, offered through the Virtual Training Camp." Inge's heart has long been drawn to teaching.
"As long as I have information to share with others and someone who has the desire to learn, I'll continue to follow my heart," she says.
Not surprisingly, the collectibles market held up fairly well through the holiday season. It seems eBay is still the place to go to find one-of-a-kind items that are not readily available offline. Herb and Martha Oberman of Herwoldallas report good holiday sales on eBay. These sellers of ephemera and collectibles have achieved Top-rated Seller status.
"Most of the people we speak with are doing well in the collectibles area," Herb Oberman says, noting that he spent a lot of time fine-tuning their listings. "We are tweakers, and constantly make little changes to our listings, even during the holiday season—although we said we wouldn't."
Not everyone is looking toward a bright future and planning their next careful steps on eBay. Cynthia Lizana, president of the Internet Merchants Association (IMA) and owner of texcyngoods on eBay, said her Amazon sales have surpassed her eBay sales.
This has caused her to rethink her strategy for eBay in 2010.
"What we have decided is to continue listing on eBay, because we do get a large percentage of eBay buyers that sign up for our newsletter and then convert to Web site buyers. We have actually found eBay to be a cheaper advertising tool than Google Adwords."
So, was the 2009 holiday season naughty or nice for eBay sellers? The single salient fact that came out of our conversations and exchanges with this experienced group is that eBay requires more effort and attention than it used to and the rewards of listing on the site are not quite as tangible as they once were.
If you're looking strictly for revenue, eBay seems to have both encouraged and disappointed sellers this past holiday season. But if you've found a way to fold your eBay business into your whole e-commerce marketing scheme, eBay clearly still has a prominent place in your e-commerce tool box.
Finally, we can’t wait to report on the 2010 holiday selling season, now that eBay has announced it’s giving sellers what they’ve long wanted: greatly reduced listing fees, and search results that include fixed-price listings from eBay Stores. The changes take place March 30, and promise to make eBay much more competitive with other sites that have been gaining ground. Here's wishing you all a fabulous 2010.