At one of the workshops held during the recent SeaBay cruise, Jean-Charles Compagnon, who has created apps for eBay through his company KiOui discussed how eBay's Cassini search engine affects your listings.
Although Cassini was first introduced last June, many sellers still are not fully accounting for it when creating their listings. Since Compagnon is "something of a Cassini expert," according to SeaBay cruise director and well-known eBay seller Stephanie Inge, we decided to interview him.
In this first article of our two-part series, Compagnon discusses how his background as an eBay seller helped him develop his company's apps. He also discusses how Cassini changes things for eBay sellers. Along the way, Compagnon unabashedly offers some advice to eBay officials about things they could do better from a seller's viewpoint.
Creating Cassini was a much-needed move by eBay for buyers and sellers. This new search engine totally changed the game for sellers
In Part 2, he has some further advice for sellers regarding Cassini, and understanding your buyer's mindset. He also describes his company's many apps.
Selling experience leads to apps
Schepp: You're an eBay seller. Where can we find you on eBay and how does your experience as a seller help you as a product developer?
Compagnon: You can find all my products in my eBay Store.
Before I started as a developer, I was a seller. All the applications I develop come from my needs (and obviously others' needs) as a seller. Because I use my own applications on a daily basis, I know what works and what does not, what is needed or not, and why.
As a seller, I am my own first user as an application developer. Developers tend to not be sellers or users of their own applications. By using my own applications on a daily basis our applications are very focused on the users' needs.
Because I am a seller, I see a lot of issues with the eBay website. I first got frustrated when leaving feedback for buyers was taking a lot of my time, so I created a program that takes care of this task automatically. You can't leave a buyer negative reviews, so the application automatically leaves the buyer feedback, and if they don't leave feedback, you can send reminders via email. Feedback is obsolete now, and I don't even worry about it. Before, it was taking up to three hours a week of my time.
Cassini 'much needed'
Schepp: In June, eBay rolled out Cassini, which Wired magazine called "a new engine for a new identity." How does Cassini change things for eBay sellers?
eBay knows what buyers want. Why not tell sellers? Telling sellers, 'Provide a great customer experience' is way too vague
Compagnon: Creating Cassini was a much-needed move by eBay for buyers and sellers. Voyager, the previous search engine, was just inefficient. This new search engine totally changed the game for sellers. With Voyager, it was a game of keyword stuffing and misleading buyers, which was not good for anyone, and it didn't help retain buyers.
Cassini is a "buyer retention engine" more than a "search engine" and has leveled the playing field. It is now very hard to trick it because it is constantly adapting to buyers' needs. Sellers have been used to having to "trick" the system for years, and now they have to focus on providing what buyers want without knowing what they want.
This is very challenging for long-time sellers, as they have to forget everything they learned for years and start fresh. Usually sellers who do very well with Cassini are "new sellers," who never had to deal with Voyager, and thus don't have the challenge of changing all they learned.
In my opinion, eBay's biggest mistake with Cassini is not offering more insight as to what buyers want from their sellers. For example, one of our main products is Halloween wigs. I am a fervent believer of offering free shipping and was an early adopter. After my sales tanked, like everyone else, I tried everything I could: templates in the description or no template, use HTML or keep it simple, raised and lowered pricing. I redid all my titles. In fact, we tried it all, and nothing did it. It was a nightmare.
Data important to sellers, merchant says
So I started to build myself a "personal app" that pulled statistics from eBay's sold items. I came to find out that fixed-price and Good 'Til Cancelled for my price range of wigs were selling 250 percent more with $4.99 shipping on them and a lower price. Auctions, however, were selling better with free shipping.
From a buyer's point of view, the data about what's selling would be beneficial for everyone. Keeping sellers in the dark is not a solution
"What?" This is what I said to myself. I was being a good little bee and offering free shipping as eBay was saying this is what everyone wanted (which is 90 percent true), except for fixed-price wigs selling for less than $100. So we started to change all our wigs pricing for fixed-price items and added shipping costs. Sure enough, sales went up.
We still offer some wigs with free shipping to cater to all types of buyers, but most of our wig sales now have $4.99 shipping. If I had known, I would have simply done it a long time ago.
eBay's mistake is not to have given me the data. Of course, I got to it because I am a developer, but for regular sellers it is very hard to get such data. eBay could have very simply analyzed that my sales in this case were going down and could have come to the same conclusion as I did and hinted it to me: "Try to add a shipping price to these 20 items."
eBay knows what buyers want. Why not tell sellers? Telling sellers, "Provide a great customer experience" is way too vague. In fact, in the above example, not following eBay's guidelines of offering "free shipping" raised our sales. (Note that we still do offer free shipping on everything else but wigs.)
What is the point of letting a seller struggle when you have the data? From a buyer's point of view, the data about what's selling would be beneficial for everyone. Keeping sellers in the dark is not a solution.
Schepp: Thanks, Jean-Charles!
Stay tuned. We'll hear more from Compagnon about Cassini in Part 2.