Leaving the eBay Marketplace: My Story

Leaving the eBay Marketplace: My Story

Once the Best place to buy your cool reading glasses and frames. Until eBay changed.

Life does have a way of throwing you curve balls. The biggest decision I've made to date was to move 95% of my products off the eBay marketplace onto my own website. A leap of faith you can call it. Well it was, considering I've been selling eyewear there since 2001. Then why did I leave, you ask? Their presence on the web is powerful. Powerful enough that they can put anyone on the vast map of global consumer shopping. And yet at the same time bury you with your inventory.

Once upon a time, my eBay store hovered between first and second place as being the number 1 seller of reading glasses, selling anywhere between 400-600 pairs of reading glasses per month. I knew who my competition was and always made sure my items were unique and different than theirs. I never carried the same thing they did. Competition was manageable. I was proud of what I had accomplished. Half of my sales were from satisfied buyers who kept coming back for more.. The other half were virgins who'd land in my store after doing a search for unique cheaters. 2009 was our best year ever taking in a record quarter of a million dollars in sales. My husband was a stay-at-home Dad and raised our daughter who at the time was 5, while I ran my blooming mail-order business from our home.

Then eBay changed.

In trying to compete with their internet rival Amazon, eBay requested all sellers to offer 'Free Shipping' stating that if we did, our products would stand a better chance at showing up on the top search pages within its category. I'm sure my thoughts about this were shared by many other sellers: "but this will cut into my profit margin". Ebay's response to this was, "raise your prices to make up for the loss'. Oh sure. All those potential buyers who had 'saved' my product in their watch list in the decision of possibly purchasing one day would see the price increase and think, "WTF?! The price went up?" I kept my pricing the same in order not to loose sales. Then eBay asked their sellers to extend their return policy to either 7, 14, or 30 days. If we did that, our store exposure would stand a better chance at showing up in their product searches.

The best one is if we state on each product that we ship within 24 hours of getting a cleared payment, we would receive a 20% discount off our eBay sellers fees every month. A tracking number scanned by the carrier must appear on every paid order within 24 hours of receiving it. BUT, if your post office was too busy to scan your drop offs that day, or if you took a day off from shipping, or wanted to take a week's vacation, you couldn't do so unless you shut your store down in order not to ruin your 24 hour ship track record. So that meant the freedom of being your own boss and taking a personal day off or even a vacation would hurt the seller's internal ratings with eBay. And if your post office didn't scan your parcels, then the tracking numbers wouldn't be uploaded into the eBay site. Their way of punishing us was lowering our product exposure and taking away the discount.

I'm starting to read between the lines. I complied. Cause if I didn't, I could possibly face suspension.. Meanwhile eBay changed the way their default search worked.

There was a time when all sellers had an equal opportunity to sell their wares. There was a time when a buyer would come to the eBay market place and do a search for whatever, and the search page results defaulted to either 'Newly Listed', or 'Ending First'.. i don't quite remember.... With eBay's new change, the products that got the most 'hits' or 'views' showed up on the first search page. Also makes sense that the items within that search which were priced the lowest would be on the first few pages because buyers looked for the cheapest price. They called this their 'Best Match' search which became the standard default in the marketplace. Also the more SKU's a seller had in their store, the further up in eBay's search engine they'd appear. In comparison with overseas sellers, they dwarfed my inventory. Thus my sales began their ever ending slide.

Year after year I watched my sales drop. My products weren't showing up on pages 1, 2, or even 3 in a search. What I saw when I did a search were a ton of low priced reading glasses sold by overseas manufacturers who in reality were wholesale suppliers to retailers like myself. They'd establish their business on the US eBay marketplace with a pseudo US location, and ship from abroad. Their product inventory dwarfed mine. I had 1800 SKUs in reading glasses alone. I thought that was a lot. Apparently at one time it was, until manufacturers and wholesalers caught on and started selling here too. The more inventory you put up, the higher in their search engine you appeared.

But my products were superior to theirs. This fact didn't matter to most of the consumers who shopped there. They were looking for a bargain. Isn't that what eBay made their name in? In the years following these changes on more than one occasion I would get an email from a repeat buyer in despair who would write and ask me if I was still selling readers. Well why of course I was. Why were they asking? Because they weren't finding me in their search for reading glasses. They couldn't find my eBay store, and my listings weren't showing up. Then it dawned on me. All the claims eBay made to the sellers that if we complied with their new rules our products would stand a better chance of being found were bullshit. They opened their marketplace to wholesalers who drowned the small business owner with quantity (not quality) and low prices. Hellooooo Walmart.

I reduced all my store inventory in the hopes of getting my numbers back up. I did this, year after year to the point where it literally hurt to see the quality I offered sell for so little. Then there were countless increases in postage fees made by the US Post Office at least once a year. Packing supplies increased. My profit margins decreased. Our sales hovered between 100-200 pairs of eyeglasses a month for the last few years, each year grossing less and netting less after the ever rising costs of running a business. I did my best to re-create myself by trying new sales tactics. Nothing helped. I launched my own website 3 years ago which didn't work properly and only frustrated new and repeat buyers who never returned. I had to do something. Wiping my hands in defeat was not an option. I love what I do.

This past June I hired a great web design company who remade my website which launched this past January and it's working without a glitch. But now I'm faced with no capital and my only option to get my product out there is turning to social media. I spend all my waking hours composing interesting content to post on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest. I create my own graphics, shoot my own photography and write my own copy. I'm one person running the show. It's a lot of work.

Ebay and its customer base is all about price and not necessarily quality. Ebay=Cheap. I have a lot of respect for my products and what I offer as a retailer. If you feel the same way about your business, the eBay marketplace is not the right venue for you.

When I tout that 'At Retro Focus Eyewear, It's Personal', it's true. My business and your customer satisfaction has been my priority for 15 years. Nothing makes me happier when my buyers come back for another pair.

#ebaysellersdemise #settingupshoponebay #thewalmarteffect