Ask Auctiva: Will Buyers Come to eBay?

Director of Engineering Tom Urbanowicz answers this and other questions from Auctiva users.

by staff writer
- Nov 16, 2010

Do you think the new features eBay has added to the site will really help attract and retain buyers?

—Hopeful in Halifax

Urbanowicz: In the short-term, yes. For example, if enforced properly, eliminating duplicate listings promotes a more clutter-free inventory for buyers. Similarly, the shift to catalog-style listings provides a more consistent and efficient shopping experience for some products. Reviewing snapshots of's home page from just a few years ago provides a startling contrast to today's site. Significant improvements have been introduced in the site's appearance—especially in terms of engaging and retaining buyers.

Long-tem, however, eBay's short-term gains may have a significant negative impact. Many sellers are already disillusioned. Some third-party developers have been crowded out. Buyers are being dulled into viewing eBay as just another e-commerce site. If the first two groups, sellers and third-party developers, like Auctiva, look elsewhere for opportunities, then the third group, buyers, will invariably dwindle.

I left Auctiva for another listing service that promised me the moon, but—surprise—it has yet to deliver on many of its promises. I'm fed up, and want to come back to Auctiva. The problem is, I have so many listings that it would take months to re-enter them all. Is there a way to automate this?

—Hoppin' Mad in Macon

You can easily upload saved listings from another service, such as Turbo Lister, into your Auctiva account

Urbanowicz: If you're coming back to Auctiva, we've saved all your listing data. So, if you're still selling the same type of products, there's little you need to do to start selling again. If you're selling inventory that you didn't previously list with Auctiva, you can use Auctiva's Upload Listing feature. With just a few steps, you can easily upload saved listings from another service, such as Turbo Lister, into your Auctiva account. If you have data in another format, say in Excel, you can also import those items. Once in Auctiva, you can quickly update the listings in bulk. This short video demonstrates the feature. You can get started here:

Do you have any predictions for what will be the hot holiday items this year?

—Santa's Helper in South Bend

Urbanowicz: Well, this year is the 50th anniversary of the "His and Hers Fantasy Gifts" from Neiman Marcus. Some folks will be considering the 48-foot luxury houseboat, retailing at $250,000. This could nicely complement last year's stocking stuffer: the sport aircraft, trailer and pilot license training for two. (Isn't that just darling?)

However, for those whose firsthand knowledge of Neiman Marcus products extends only to their fabled cookie recipe, consumer electronics will be popular. For adults, expect a surge in sales of iPads, e-readers, Blu-ray players, 3-D TVs and netbooks. For children (and the young at heart), Microsoft's Kinect game system will likely be a top-seller. Similarly, remote-control toys will remain attractive at their price point, advanced sophistication and diversity of vehicle types.

If you're purchasing an electronic item as a gift, consider adding a BuyShield extended warranty for increased and economical peace of mind.

eBay's actions of late clearly favor fixed-price listings, so why do they keep offering free auction listing sales?

—Puzzled in Peoria

Urbanowicz: While eBay might be favoring fixed-price listings, auctions remain a core distinctive of eBay. As the forerunner and leader in defining online auction experiences internationally, eBay isn't looking to forsake these fundamental roots. eBay is attempting to harmonize experiences for two groups: those selling and buying fixed-price items, and those selling and buying auction-style items. Unfortunately, when eBay makes changes that homogenize buyer/seller experiences there is friction for one or more parties.

Sales on my Auctiva Commerce Store are growing steadily, but I'm still getting a lot of abandoned shopping carts. Is this normal? Can you suggest any tactics to improve conversions?

—Need to Know in Nelson

Remember that some online sales occur over multiple visits to your store

Urbanowicz: Shopping cart abandonment is a common concern of all online store owners. Because of the anonymity of online shopping, visitors can easily exit the sales process without risk of awkwardness or guilt. Frequently, potential buyers abandon a cart because the total order price with shipping is more than expected. Sometimes the visitor is just "browsing" but not yet committed to making a purchase.

Remember that some online sales occur over multiple visits to your store. An abandoned cart doesn't necessarily mean it's an abandoned sale, ultimately. You may be realizing "micro" conversions along the way—buyers printing a product description page, subscribing to your blog or e-mailing you with a product inquiry.

Details about abandoned carts can be found in your store's Abandoned Basket report. By defining "funnels" and "goals" in Google Analytics, you can get additional insight about buyer traffic and abandoned carts. Based on your findings, you may consider different tactics, such as adjusting your product prices, offering discounted shipping, adding coupons or following up with potential buyers.

If you could step into the role of eBay's CEO, what would be your first order of business?

—I'm Just Sayin' in Jacksonville

Urbanowicz: My approach would be four-fold. First, I would comprehensively and efficiently observe what's going on in the eBay ecosystem: sellers, third-party developers, buyers and so on. This would be an in-the-trenches personal investigation with a deluge of firsthand information.

Second, I would interpret the comprehensive observations, framing them with correlating industry, technology and business information. Each evaluation would be readjusted to the larger context of the observations. I would also seek input from proven and trusted experts.

The third step would be application, beginning with a detailed written report. In the early 1600s Sir Francis Bacon wrote: "Reading maketh a full man, conference [conversation] a ready man, and writing an exact man." Based on the two previous steps of observation and interpretation, I could create sound, well-defined action items.

Finally, with a clear understanding and vision of next steps, I could then execute whatever is the true "first order of business"—whether it's collaborating with board members, sellers, buyers, third-party developers, or staff. Heh… This sounds so simple and sterile. Best wishes to the next CEO who actually has to lead the charge!

You can ask Auctiva management your own questions by e-mailing "AskAuctiva" at the Auctiva dot com domain. Not all questions will be answered, but those selected will be published with responses from Auctiva's top managers in future Ask Auctiva articles. Due to the volume of mail we receive, it will not be possible to reply to you personally.

Please do not submit inquiries requiring an immediate response. Instead, please file a support request for technical or account-related issues.

About the Author

Auctiva staff writers constantly monitor trends and best practices of those selling on eBay and elsewhere online. They attend relevant training seminars and trade shows and regularly discuss the market with PowerSellers and other market experts.

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