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Is It Time to Give up on eBay?

The eBay & Amazon Seller's News ~ June 19, 2018 ~ Volume 19, Issue No. 12

Tips, Tools, News and Wholesale Resources for eBay and Amazon Sellers
by: Skip McGrath

In This Issue:

Musings from and about eBay, Amazon and The World Wide Web

  1. Is It Time to Give up on eBay?
  2. Amazon Changes Keyword Indexing Again
  3. Not Managing Your Amazon Inventory Can Restrict Your Account
  4. Niche of The Month: Tiki Mugs
  5. New Wholesale Sources for eBay and Amazon Sellers

"I just sold all my john Lennon records on eBay - Imagine all the PayPal."


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In the last issue I told you about Kibly, the new vendor I am using to build feedback and increase product reviews.

As I said then, the early results were excellent. Well, Kibly is still doing well. I am getting more product reviews than I used to and my feedback grows every day.

If you follow my newsletter, then you know I have been with Vendio for years. Well I looked around and think its time for a change. I just signed up with InkFrog.

They are less expensive and more up to date than Vendio, and have really good support. Plus, they can also do what JoeLister does and that will save me quite a bit of money. InkFrog not only allows you to create eBay listings, they also have an automatic fulfillment program whereby you can fulfill your eBay sales from your Amazon FBA inventory. If you are currently with another service, talk to them and they can import your listings.

Are you selling Made in USA products? I have been researching the keyword Made in USA. My research shows that it works best in the following categories:

  • Toys
  • Home & Kitchen
  • Pet Supplies
  • Clothing
  • Grocery & gourmet food

It also works somewhat in other categories, but these tested the best.

eBay Sellers - Did you know that eBay is now posting your phone numbers to buyers? A lot of sellers don't mind, but others consider it an invasion of privacy. I don't remember eBay asking me about this -do you?

If you sell on Etsy, they have just announced a fee increase. Starting July 16, Etsy's transaction fee will rise from 3.5% to 5%. They also announced a 5% charge on the shipping cost. The 20¢ per item listing fee will remain unchanged. As part of the deal Etsy's CEO Josh Silverman said they will invest more heavily in marketing to attract more buyers and will add several new seller tools.

I am running this again because Stamps.com just renewed their offer.

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Click on the box on the page that says, Special Offer $100 Value to get a special deal for my readers.

Lets get started with this month's in-depth articles:


1. Is It Time to Give up on eBay?

Is It Time to Give up on eBay?

In my last issue I had an article titled: Has eBay finally jumped the shark? New eBay Policies May Eliminate Some eBay Sellers. That article generated more readers and email than anything I have written in the past few years.

When eBay first started, it was an individual seller-to-buyer auction. However, over the past 20 years, eBay has become a professional business-to-consumer marketplace. Although it still has millions of items for sale from individuals, by far, most of eBay's business now comes from large professional sellers.

Consequently, 90% of the items sold on eBay are now at a fixed price, similar to Amazon. By the end of 2016, over 80% of all products sold on eBay were brand new merchandise, with used, handmade and vintage goods now making up less than 20% of all sales. (Note some overseas sites like the UK still do better with used, vintage and handmade items).

So, is it time to give up on eBay? That depends. First of all, I should add that several of the emails I received were from folks who said they were doing very well on eBay and had no plans to move. So, perhaps I am just frustrated with eBay's constant changes, policies and poor management. Although my personal eBay sales are quite poor -there are plenty of sellers still doing well despite the policy changes, continual system glitches and search engine issues.

My basic philosophy is that eBay is still the best place to be if you sell anything used, handmade or vintage. Etsy has been giving eBay more competition, but is still small in market reach compared to eBay.

However, when it comes to new merchandise, Amazon is by far King of the Hill. I used to sell 80% of my goods on eBay and only 20% on Amazon. Today, that is flipped on its head. My total merchandise sales are now 85% Amazon and only 15% eBay (I sell almost all new merchandise and very few used items).

eBay has not only seen Amazon's rise to the number one eCommerce seller in the world (A position eBay used to own), but it has spent the last 15 years trying to copy them --but alas, without success.

The problem has been, and still is, poor management. eBay has never had a visionary leader. The previous CEO, John Donahoe, was in my opinion, one of the worst CEOs of any company I have ever followed. The current CEO, Devin Wenig is slightly better -but not much. One of Donohoe's biggest mistakes was getting rid of the eBay community. He set out to kill it and he did! eBay has never been the same.

The top traits of a successful CEO are many, but certainly include:

  • Vision, and the ability to communicate it
  • Building relationships with all members of the corporate community(stakeholders)
  • Strong listening and communication skills
  • Understanding and listening to their customers

Neither John Donohoe or Devin Wenig were very strong in any of these. The current CEO Devin Wenig has slightly better communication skills than John Donohoe, but he doesn't use them very effectively.

One trait that the CEO and top executives at eBay share is they do not understand who their customers are. Remember, eBay itself does not sell anything. Every single product sold on eBay is sold by an independent seller. It's you and me, the independent sellers who are eBay's true customers. Every single dollar of eBay's income, except for advertising (where they earn money competing with us), comes from fees paid by sellers. In return for those fees, eBay is supposed to attract buyers and provide a reliable, attractive and safe platform to conduct eCommerce. This is where eBay fails.

eBay has always thought of the end buyer as their customer - not us sellers, the folks who actually pay their bills. If they ever did consider us sellers as customers, their attitude would be: The customer is always wrong.

Another problem is technology - eBay just isn't very good at it. The eBay platform probably has more system glitches than any other major eCommerce site. In fact, just last week, buyers were running into circles, spinning beach balls and dead pages when looking for products. That went on for over two days. It seems like every time eBay introduces a system or platform change, they roll it out with glitches galore.

As for vision - I follow eBay more closely than anyone I know -and if asked, I could not tell you what eBay's vision is and what their plans for the future are. I suspect that inside eBay; the most common statement is "Let's be more like Amazon." Unfortunately, that is a desire --not a vision.

When it comes to listening, and building relationships, this has never been a priority for eBay. Even before the last two CEOs, eBay rarely sought counsel from, or listened to, sellers (their actual customers). I have been to dozens of eBay events, and although they almost always include a short Q&A session - mostly they consist of eBay speaking and presenting to sellers. The time they spend seeking opinions from, and listening to sellers is minimal.

At every eBay event I have attended, the eBay executives are surrounded by bodyguards and handlers whose job it is to keep you away. Compare this to Amazon. I have only been to a few Amazon events, but in every case, the Amazon execs were not only approachable, they usually sat down and had lunch with us.


2. Amazon Changes Keyword Indexing Again

If you follow this newsletter, you know I have written about best keyword practices several times. Well forget all that. What amazon is telling you about their keyword indexing has changed again.

Before I get started, let me review some basics. A keyword is a word or term a potential buyer types into the Amazon search bar when looking for a product. One of the products I sell is a set of collapsible silicon measuring cups and spoons. (see photo below)

Image of collapsible silicon measuring cups and spoons

A keyword would be something like cup, but that is way to broad. A term (or phrase) would be something such as measuring cup set. A customer would be far more likely to search for the term measuring cup set than the word cup.

Frankly, this product has not been doing well. Despite advertising and frequent rewriting, I was still barely in the top 50% of the Kitchen & dining category. But I recently changed how I used my keywords and saw immediate improvement.

Amazon's last announcement stressed using relevant words in the title and backend keyword fields. However, I have been testing that, and it's not working well. Here is what is working today:

  1. Your keyword (or phrase) must be relevant to the product

  2. The title is still the most import field for keywords

  3. Forget the backend keyword field. My testing showed it did not produce good results.

  4. Despite what Amazon says, they are still indexing keywords in the bullets (product features). They only index a few of the bullets, but get as many important keywords or terms in there as you can (within reason)

  5. The other place their new search algorithm looks is the Subject Matter Field. You get up to 5 lines with 50 characters per line. OK to put keywords in there. The set of silicon measuring cups and spoons was selling one per week. I put these words below in the subject matter field, and sales jumped to 1 per day within just 4 days.

    • collapsible measuring cups
    • Baking measuring cups
    • measure cup spoon set

    You can enter things such as Made in USA or stocking stuffer (if appropriate to your product) in the Subject Matter field, as those are searched terms.

  6. Amazon still looks for keywords in the product description, but the weight is minor. It can't hurt to use some keywords in the product description, but the bullets, title and subject matter fields will yield better performance.


3. Not Managing Your Amazon Inventory Can Restrict Your Account

If you have noticed something new on your Seller Central page that looks like this – pay attention. It’s important.

Image of Amazon Inventory Planning notice

Amazon has become very strict about sellers using their FBA warehouses as storage centers. They are trying to get to the point whereby they only store quickly-selling goods.

Since this tool rolled out, Amazon has changed their policy such that, if your Inventory Planning score falls below 350, they will dramatically restrict the amount of inventory you can send to FBA.

Let's look at the 4 items on the list. They are:

  • Days in Inventory
  • SKUs to Restock Today
  • Excess Units
  • SKUs with Stranded Inventory.

Note - each of those items are hyperlinks that will take you a page where you can take actions to improve them. Let's examine each one:

Before you dive into this -one word of caution. The numbers shown on these pages are typically several days old -so always check your actual quantity on you FBA inventory page.

Days in Inventory - When you click on the link you will go to a page that looks like this:

Amazon seller central report: Days in inventory

Click here for a larger image

Notice the column that says Available. It shows you the number available, the storage type (standard or oversize) and the cubic feet it takes up in storage. Next is the age in days: 0-90, 91-180, 271-365 and over 365 (1 year). As you can see, of my first three items, I have one that is over 365 days. (Yes, I did a removal order on that). The first item is quite profitable, so I lowered the price. Since this screenshot was taken, I have sold another four units.

When you spot an item with low conversion, the page gives you several choices. You can lower your price, create a removal order or advertise the listing. When an item goes over 90-days, the first thing I do is lower my price. If that doesn't work, I will usually just do a removal order, as I have found that advertising slow moving items is mostly a waste of money.

This is valuable information for two reasons; It will help lower your storage costs and removing the items will improve your Inventory Management score.

SKUs to restock today - This is nothing more than a low inventory report. I find this helpful because it alerts me to restock sellable items before I run out. Just click on the link and it will show low and out-of-stock inventory.

If you see an item on the list that you no longer plan to stock, just check the box next to it and select Hide Recommendation from the drop down menu.

Amazon seller central report: SKUs to restock today

Click here for a larger image

Excess Units - This is a very useful report because it identifies slow moving products and their storage cost. The page gives you several options. You can create a removal order, match the lowest price, or advertise the listing (Sorry I can't show those fields here due to room, but you will see them when you visit the page).

Notice that one of the items is the Silicon measure cup and spoon set. I am not removing those because they started selling better since this screenshot was taken.

Amazon seller central report: Excess Units

Click here for a larger image

SKUs with Stranded Inventory - This page shows you any listings whereby your inventory is stranded (i.e. un-sellable). This is almost always caused by a listing that is missing or incomplete. You can usually solve the problem by creating a new listing. When I try to do this I have run into problems reusing the same SKU and have had to ask support for help, but they always seem to fix the problem for me.

Once again, if you sell products using FBA, it is a good idea to use this tool. Doing so has several benefits: It will help you reduce storage costs, turn your inventory over faster and keep you in good graces with Amazon so your inventory levels are not restricted.


4. Niche of The Month: Tiki Mugs

This is a very interesting niche because it works on both eBay and Amazon and with new or used items.

Tiki mugs are ceramic drinking cups in the shape of a Tiki god. You find them most often at Tiki bars and restaurants. Most places allow you to take them with you as a souvenir. (They can do that because the drinks sold in them are usually vastly overpriced). This is why many of them eventually show up at thrift shops.

Before we get too deep into this, let's take a look at some recent listings on eBay and Amazon:

Tiki mug listings on Amazon
Tiki mug listings on eBay

Click here for a larger image

When I searched the term tiki mug on Amazon there were over 200 pages of results, and on eBay I found over 1000 separate listings. Best of all, on Amazon many of the Tiki mugs listed had a sales rank in the top 10% of the Kitchenware category, and on eBay, the sell through rate was over 25% which is excellent.

As you might expect many of the Tiki mugs sold on Amazon are new, whereas the bulk of the mugs sold on eBay are used. You might think it is hard to find wholesale suppliers of Tiki Mugs, but it's not. Here are a few suppliers you can try:

That last one, Tiki Farm has been making Tiki mugs for over 12 years. They are always coming out with new mugs and discontinuing older one which makes them highly collectible. (Note: All of their mugs say Tiki Farm on the bottom, along with the year they came out. The older the mug the more collectible it is, unless it was one produced in very high quantities).

As for used mugs, the easiest place to find them are thrift shops (Look everywhere -not just in the drink ware section. I have valuable mugs mixed in with vases and other pottery).

I have also bought box lots at small country auctions, and I once found a large box at a flea market (about 15 mugs for just $20).

There are four main components that factor into the price:

  • Condition - never-never-never buy a mug that is chipped, cracked or discolored. It will never sell if you disclose the flaws, and if you don't you don't, look for a negative feedback.

  • Rarity - I don't have the room here to go into what makes a mug rare -but if you look at sold listings on eBay, and sort by highest price first, those at the top will usually be the rarer mugs.

  • Design - Look for traditional designs (think Easter Island) as those tend to command higher prices even if they are newer

  • Material - Never buy plastic mugs, they are worthless. There are some glass mugs that are OK, but in general the ceramic and stoneware mugs sell the best.

This is an interesting niche that can be highly profitable. I have often found mugs at thrift shops selling for 50¢ that will bring over $25 on eBay.

On Amazon, the best way to sell is to put together sets of 4 or 6 identical mugs, or create a bundle of 4 to 6 different mugs.


5. New Wholesale Sources for eBay and Amazon Sellers

Remember many of these websites do not show wholesale pricing because they don't want the general public to see them. When you run into that, just use the Contact Us form to request wholesale information.

Hashtag Decor works with artists and photographers to portray their original designs as multi-dimensional and 3-D framed images.

JuJu Gear sells upcycled clothing all made in the USA (Montana). All the material used in their clothing is recycled from donated and/or remnant clothing.

SeeUBaby Store makes and sells a backseat baby car mirror and car organizer set. They also carry other car accessories for anyone who travels with a baby in the car.

Baja Stretch manufactures yoga gear, including yoga mats, yoga blocks, yoga straps, fitness bands, and lifestyle wear.

Grappleworks LTD sells unique gifts with meaning and purpose that support social causes.

Knit Denise sells a varied line of knitting and crochet needle sets and kits

Grant Howard sells a nice line of kitchen and tabletop products. Click on the link to Showrooms to find your nearest rep.

Sukhi's sells a line of Indian gourmet food products

Tickle Me Plants sells a line of grow-your-own sensitive plants with your own seeds. A great scientific and educational project.

Regal Art and Gifts wholesales gift and garden décor.

Aquascape, Inc. is an innovator in the water gardening industry. They sell a wide range of products for people who want to construct backyard fountains and waterfalls

Ceci Jewelry sells a full line of low to medium cost fashion jewelry.

J&S Wholesale is an authorized distributor of Flitz, As Seen on TV cleaning products

CC Wholesale Clothing Company is a clothing designer and manufacturer who also dropships. As with any dropshipper - proceed with caution.

Animal Stuff Inc. sells pet steps, including some environmentally friendly stairs. In addition, they offer a line of cat furniture. They will drop ship several of their products. Most of their products are made in USA.

Streetwise Security Products is a large manufacturer & wholesaler of stun guns, pepper spray, alarms and spy cameras. They will ship direct or dropship.

That's it for now. See you again in a couple of weeks.

Skip McGrath
The eBay & Amazon Seller's News

P.S. If you missed the last issue, click here to read it.

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