While everyone else in much of the country was shivering and shoveling this February, other eBay sellers were aboard a five-night Caribbean cruise. Not only that, they were learning from some top eBay experts about "Taking the Mystery Out of Online Selling," according to the Facebook page set up for the event. Maybe because we were among those shivering and shoveling, we had to learn more.
The cruise aboard the Carnival Elation embarked from New Orleans on Feb. 8 and returned on Feb. 13. The ports were the Caribbean island of Cozumel and Progreso, located on the Gulf of Mexico. While the trip was not in any way sponsored by eBay, it was certainly eBay-centric. The cruise organizers were Stephanie Inge, founder of the seller's group The Dallas eBaybes & eMales), and eBay educator and speaker Kathy "Kat" Simpson. Sixty sellers, educators, and speakers attended, which Inge says was a "good number" for the maiden voyage.
The organizers found that cruising while learning had its advantages. A lot of the work they would normally have at a conference was taken care of for them by Carnival's cruise director. They didn't have to fuss with providing food or securing sufficient blocks of hotel rooms.
It is the best of all worlds, great networking opportunities, great locations and great service
Sellers chime in
"Going on the cruise was the complete package from sun-up to sundown," says eBay seller Paula Barnes. "Meals were great—we were not on a tight schedule, we had time to enjoy ourselves and relax around the ship after our scheduled events and two days of excursions on land. We rode ATVs in the jungle on Cozumel and took a tour of the Pyramids at Chichen Itza."
Sounds good, but you may be wondering about the education part. Well aside from the obvious, there were other advantages to being out to sea, at least from the organizer's perspective. Inge said that without free Internet access, "attendees couldn't be glued to their cell phones—they had to talk to other people." And unlike conferences held in Las Vegas, for example, on a ship there were relatively few other distractions. Assigned seating also meant that everyone sat together every night for dinner. So there were plenty of opportunities to talk shop.
eBay seller and educator John Lawson, who Inge called "sharp as a tack and a true rock star in social media" was the keynote speaker. Lawson focused on social media marketing for eBay sellers, and spoke for about two hours. He must have been entertaining, because even the non-sellers who accompanied their seller-spouses learned something. Inge's husband, who "has never been all that interested in eBay," (golf is more his thing), was among them.
For Lawson's part, this was his second cruise conference. "I love them," he says. "Both times the conference event was on the day that we were traveling for the whole day on the ship. Then you dock in port for the fun. So it is the best of all worlds, great networking opportunities, great locations and great service."
Lawson was also available after scheduled events to hang out with everyone.
The workshops (held on just two of the five days, by the way) lasted for about four hours per day, and were split between morning and afternoon sessions. Even on those days the cruisers had plenty of free time " so they could relax and look forward to the workshops," Inge says.
Cassini (eBay's new search engine) and eBay Mobile "are driving how listings should be created now," Inge says, and they were hot topics. According to eBay, 60 percent of all sales during the holidays were made from a mobile device. "The cool thing about mobile is that you could be at a store buying items for resale and, by the time you check out, you could have listed and sold the item," the eBay educator notes. (She uses voice commands to create listings, although she says that with her Texas accent the typos are funny until fixed.)
The organizers plan to make this an annual event, and perhaps broaden the scope to include more than eBay
In mobile listings, an item's description does not appear on the first screen, and because people are less inclined to read as much these days (one reason for Pinterest's success, Inge feels), you have to be creative in finding a place to describe your item. Inge recommends the condition box because this does appear on the first item listing page a buyer will see.
At another workshop, Jean-Charles Compagnon, who has created apps for eBay mobile (such as KiOui) discussed how Cassini affects your listings.
"It's very cryptic," Inge says. "It's a whole new ballgame. eBay no longer wants you to use all 80 characters in the title. They want listings to look great for tablets and cell phones, in addition to desktops, so it means sellers are having to learn a whole new way of doing things. eBay wants plain black text, doesn't want people to dress up their listings by using a lot of colors or themes like special colors for Christmas, for example."
Kim Everitt, head of the Denver-area eBay Meetup group, was the third speaker. Everitt, who also owns an eBay consignment shop in Lakewood, CO, spoke about eBay Mobile.
"Those who could not make it missed a great time," Paula Barnes says. "But we will all be happy to share!" She recommends that sellers check out the SeaBay 2014 Facebook page. Barnes, who says photographing the happenings around eBay events is a favorite thing of hers to do, posted many photos from the cruise on Pinterest.
The organizers plan to make this an annual event, and perhaps broaden the scope to include more than eBay. With the focus on e-commerce, in general, Inge says the next cruise may be called "SeaComm." In any event, they're leaning toward winter cruises because there are not many competing events (e.g., eBay Radio Party & Conference) during those months. "And with everyone sick of winter by then tropical destinations are pretty appealing," Inge says.
No matter how long you have been selling on eBay there is always something new to learn, so why not learn while you're on vacation? You may find it's not only a tax write-off, it's a break from old man winter. And right about now that sounds pretty good.