Do you think there will ever be a realistic alternative to eBay?
—Searching in Seattle
Urbanowicz: Depending on how you define a "realistic alternative," I can answer at least two ways.
If you consider eBay as a popular and unique destination that draws a high volume of buyer traffic, supports a variety of international sellers and unique products, and supports third-party solutions like Auctiva, then my answer would be, "Not soon." While there are competitors to eBay, they aren't likely to rival eBay's strong foothold as an international marketplace destination and robust ecosystem.
If you consider eBay as one of many alternative sites on which you can sell merchandise, then my answer is, "Yes. Moreover, it is currently available." Independent sellers have been active on Amazon for years. More recently, other players entered the marketplace space—including Sears, Best Buy and, just a few days ago, Barnes & Noble.
While these marketplaces don't share all the same characteristics of eBay, and their business models may not fit your needs, you may discover existing opportunities that complement your business growth strategy on eBay.
E-commerce is like the Sahara Desert—strong winds shift the sand to create an ever-changing landscape
I consider the e-commerce industry to be a bit like the Sahara Desert—strong winds shift the sand to create an ever-changing landscape. Similarly, new technologies and buyer behaviors shift the e-commerce industry. Buyers' preferences are changing globally. Marketplaces and sellers are responding. Consider the recent dynamics with inventory exclusivity, shipping discounts, coupons, hand-selected inventory and so on. Hardware has also influenced consumer behavior with mobile apps (have you seen the eBay commercials yet?) and tablet devices (heard about Amazon's Kindle Fire?). With all the change going on, it's important for sellers to be alert and creative.
I would like to know what Auctiva has planned for the future. What features, changes or improvements can we hope to see?
—Planning Ahead in Plano
Urbanowicz: You can get some insight into upcoming features from the Auctiva Feature Center. Here, you can see some of the recent projects we've completed and some features users are suggesting. You can add your vote for those initiatives you think are the most valuable.
As just a few examples from the product roadmap, we're looking to improve our offering for discounted shipping labels. Also, if you haven't already seen, we made some usability and performance improvements to the Sales and Saved Listings pages. We'll continue carefully rolling out similar enhancements to some other related pages. Plus, with our newly revised iPhone app, we'll be incorporating feedback we receive from our mobile Auctiva users. (With the app, you can quickly and easily create and post eBay listings, and upload photos from your iPhone).
While those are some of the more visible projects, we've always got several initiatives going on "behind the scenes" that don't get quite the publicity. For example, we'll continue to keep in step with eBay's changes as they roll out. Also, we plan to expand our ability to offer you discounts throughout the year. And, of course, we're always upgrading or improving some part of the infrastructure that keeps things running smoothly.
I am just getting started with Auctiva, and I'm confused about Auctiva Commerce, in relation to eBay, Amazon and e-commerce, in general.
—Unclear in Upton
Urbanowicz: Auctiva.com is a time-saving and money-saving tool for you to efficiently and profitably sell on eBay. Auctiva Commerce is an independent online store software that is independent of eBay and Amazon. By running your own Auctiva Commerce Store, you get maximum control of your buyers' e-commerce experience.
With an Auctiva Commerce Store, you have a tremendous amount of resources to promote your business and your products—such as buyer coupons and gift certificates, automated search engines feeds, multiple billing solutions, custom inventory settings, e-mail campaigns and an Auctiva Commerce account manager. For all the details, review the Auctiva Commerce Features page.
To help you get started, you can import your existing inventory into Auctiva Commerce using the inventory import feature. Or you can jumpstart your store inventory from Auctiva.com into Auctiva Commerce by using the "Export to Commerce" button from the Auctiva Saved Listings page.
Since mid-September, my sales have gone right down. Is this due to the world economic distress or to the new eBay changes? Or am I doing something wrong? I have made no changes to my store or auction listings.
—Baffled in Barstow
Buyers' sophistication is vastly different than just a few years ago—especially in the United States
Urbanowicz: W. Edwards Deming, a U.S. consultant regarding industry and quality in the 1900s stated, "It is not necessary to change. Survival is not mandatory."
This tongue-in-cheek statement underscores sellers' need to continually evaluate, and adapt practices and inventory for the market. For example, buyers' sophistication is vastly different than just a few years ago—especially in the United States. Low-quality product photographs and poorly described listings may have been tolerable a few years ago. Now, for the discriminating buyer, they are unacceptable given the caliber of online shopping experiences.
Ensuring your listings leverage recent eBay changes, such as the length of your title and item specifics, is also important. As buyers become increasingly discriminating in their price comparisons using consumer shopping engines and mobile apps, it is important to stay competitive on product pricing and shipping.
For some valuable perspective on how global economics impact your business, consider reading these this holiday season: Competing in a Flat World: Building Enterprises for a Borderless World by Fung, Fung and Wind, and The World is Flat by Friedman.
I would love it if Auctiva would provide tool that automatically calculates eBay and PayPal fees associated with a sale, and provide a place where I can input inventory cost to then calculate a simple profit/loss figure. Just a simple little accounting function built into the site would be great.
—Calculating in Carson City
Urbanowicz: Auctiva works with other third-party inventory tracking solutions using Auctiva CSV Reports. For your needs, you can use the data on the Transactions tab. By using a spreadsheet application (like Microsoft Excel), you can compare the report's data in the "Item Price" and "Amount Paid" columns with cost of goods sold from your inventory data. Between the two, you can calculate your profit margin.
As a reminder, keep your calculations for eBay and PayPal flexible as eBay changes fees—not only based on factors like seller status but eBay promotions. For example, as I'm writing this, eBay is offering a 1-cent listing promotion day. Maximizing your listings during these types of promotions should certainly help your bottom line.
Adding this suggestion to the Auctiva Feature Center, and letting other Auctiva users comment on it, would be another great step.
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 individually.
Please do not submit inquiries requiring an immediate response. If you need a technical issue resolved right away, please use the online form to file a support request and your case will be addressed by our customer support team.