It's fair to say that last week's announcement about making electronic payments mandatory on eBay has been met with mixed reaction among the selling community. Some are unhappy, that's true; others, however, understand why we're doing this, and agree that it's something whose time has come. Here's a typical "pro" post from the Community forums:
"When PayPal started, 70 to 80 percent of business was in checks and money orders... It was, and still is a nightmare...[Buyer] wins, gets to PO or elsewhere to purchase a MO, couple days go by... Mail 3-5 more... If it's a check add 10 more to clear. Often, no shipping address for MOs, no item number, no hint as to what ID is paying...2 to 3 weeks from item end.
Send an e-check, sir! Over the last few years sales paid by check and money order has dwindled to less than a percent. Pay Pal account required this year.... PayPal only,.CC only will be a good thing!"
Buyer expectations about online payment methods have changed As this particular seller noted, times have changed. Online shoppers today expect a secure, fast and convenient online checkout and payment experience on any major e-commerce website, not just on eBay. Electronic payment methods are ubiquitous on the internet today -- unlike 10 years ago. Yet as this seller also points out, checks/money orders add time and expense for sellers, and hassle and delays for buyers.
So -- to retain buyers and turn them into repeat shoppers on eBay, eBay needs to match changing buyer expectations. With our new policy, eBay will be driven by almost 100% electronic payments, which is another important step in increasing buyer confidence in shopping on eBay.
With all that said, I'd like to share our answers to several of the most common seller questions and suggestions that my team and I have heard over the last week.
Question #1: Why not just require sellers to offer at least one electronic payment option, while still allowing checks and money orders? Buyers would have a choice of safer payment options.
Currently, in approximately 1 out of 5 transactions on eBay.com, the buyer must go off eBay to pay. Their experience varies widely by seller and payment type. Buyers frequently complain about this experience. And the lack of a consistent experience leaves many buyers vulnerable to off-eBay payment scams. Electronic payment methods integrated into eBay Checkout, help us provide a consistent, more secure checkout experience every time a buyer purchases on eBay.
So why not allow sellers to offer check and money order payments in addition to electronic options? Because buyers would continue to pay off-eBay and have an inconsistent checkout experience.
Question #2: eBay stated last week that if a buyer wants to pay with check or money order, a seller can accommodate the request and complete the transaction. However, eBay will monitor for abuse. What is considered "abuse" and how will you monitor for abuse?
When the payment changes go into effect in late October, a seller cannot in any way solicit check or money order payment from a buyer. This is considered "abuse of the payments policy." eBay will take action against such abuse.
One way we'll detect abuse is by looking at reports from buyers. We'll also monitor checkout completion rates for sellers. This, too, has generated a lot of questions from sellers. Here are some clarifications that will hopefully reassure our sellers:
eBay will not automatically take action against a seller with a low checkout completion rate. We realize that there are many valid reasons for low completion rates.
We won't investigate all sellers with low checkout completion rates, but only on a case by case basis. Specifically, we will check to see if the seller is soliciting checks or money orders from their buyers. If we don't find any evidence of this occurring, we won't take any action against the seller.
Question #3: What does eBay plan to do to retain check or money order buyers? What do you plan to do to prevent sellers from bearing the brunt of communicating this change to buyers?
Let's be clear. We don't want to lose a single buyer any more than sellers do. We've started an aggressive campaign last week to reach out to heavy check and money order buyers and encourage them with more education, coupons, etc. to move to safe electronic payment methods. We've already reached thousands of buyers by phone and on-site messaging.
These efforts will be ongoing –- we know we need to change perception among these buyers. We'll have more online workshops (such as our workshop on preparing for paperless payments), more phone outreach, email, on-site messaging and media interviews. We're not just changing our policy and thinking that we're done here! We'll be working hard on an ongoing basis to raise buyer awareness about the benefits of the new integrated checkout and the security of electronic payment methods.
Question #4: With integrated electronic payments, eBay will know when a buyer pays. You could use this information to improve the Unpaid Item (UPI) process. Do you have any plans to change UPI?
This has been an excellent suggestion from several sellers. Strange as it may sound, for a significant number of transactions, currently eBay doesn't know if the buyer paid or not! That's because when a buyer pays "off-eBay" we can't track that information. Eliminating paper payments and integrating electronic payment methods into eBay Checkout will definitely give us more data about almost all transactions, and we'll be evaluating ways we can improve the Unpaid Item and Item Not Received processes for buyers and sellers, so stay tuned.
Last week Lorrie Norrington announced that, among other things, we're introducing a paperless payments policy in late October. Essentially, sellers will need to offer an electronic payment method to their buyers - credit cards through their own merchant account, PayPal, or ProPay, which will all also eventually be integrated into eBay's Checkout. Checks and money orders will no longer be permitted. To learn more about this, and how you can adapt your business, join our experts as they host a Paperless Payments workshop today from 1-2pm PT.
Last week, Seller Development's Todd Lutwak hosted a number of webinars to help sellers understand all the new changes announced by Lorrie Norrington on Wednesday. (Watch the archive, or attend our final Webinar tomorrow at 1pm Pacific.) I was "backstage" during these events with a (very) small army of helpers. We huddled over our laptops during the 1-1/2 hour sessions, and answered all the questions that attendees could chat in to us while Todd and other SMEs ("subject matter experts") were presenting. Talk about an adrenaline rush! The rapid-fire question/answer session was better than a triple Grande to get the blood flowing....
Slide #21 was a particular favorite for attendees, and, after several requests, I promised we'd share it here on the Chatter blog. Todd was covering a variety of proven Best Practices for sellers who are looking for ways to improve their DSR scores. He shared this example of a very effective letter that some sellers are using as package inserts:
Thank you for your prompt payment. I appreciate great buyers like you.
Your item has been shipped via USPS priority mail and you should receive it within 3 days. The tracking number is xxxxxxxx
I have posted positive feedback for you. I hope you will do the same for us. In addition to your positive feedback, we hope you will give us FIVE STARS on all of the Detailed Seller Ratings. If you feel like we fell short of FIVE STARS, please email me first at email@example.com and I will make sure you are happy.
We appreciate your business and hope to do business with you again soon.
It's a great letter, because it is packed with meaning that sends a strong, positive message to the buyer -- 1) YOU care deeply about customer service. 2) YOU really want them to be extremely satisfied. 3) Assuming they feel YOU lived up to your aspirations, you are asking them for 5-stars as a measurement. 4) And if not, you are inviting them to write you and let you know how YOU can improve. I exaggerated the YOU parts, because this is more than a letter about Detailed Seller Ratings; it's about branding yourself as a customer-centric business. The customer-focused, personal touch can give eBay sellers a big advantage in a competitive market.
And while we're on the subject of DSRs....
Last week, in Lorrie's message, she announced a new selling standard that requires sellers maintain a minimum of 4.3 across all 4 DSRs in order to continue to list. It helps to know that 85% of all DSRs left in the marketplace are 5's. Only a very small number of under-performing sellers have less than 4.3 on any of their DSRs. What's more important -- this same group of sellers is also responsible for a large number of BBEs (bad buying experiences).
But out on the forums and in the webinars, some sellers pointed out that, since "4" is labeled the equivalent of "satisfied" for each category, a seller who delivered satisfactory service and who received all 4's from all buyers could be blocked from listing.
It's understandable that the question has come up, but how real is this concern? Are good sellers going to get "caught in the tuna net?" How many have received all 4's from all their buyers so far? The answer is ... zero. This has never happened, and there are NO sellers on eBay who've received all 4's. As Griff and the rest of the "PINKS" posted again and again last week on the 8/20 Announcement Forum, it's not the 4's that hurt a seller's DSR scores, it's the 1's and 2's, and the vast majority of sellers have no worries in this regard.
(Note: We will be archiving the best Q&A from the 8/20 Forum by topic announced....stay tuned.)
Here's another opportunity to have your questions about the changes announced by Lorrie Norrington on 8/20 answered. Lorrie and some of our execs will be available to take your questions in today's Town Hall today from 1:30 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. Pacific time.
To air your concerns or ask your questions, call our toll-free number – 1-877-474-3302 - between 1:30 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. Pacific time and talk to us live on the air. If you'd prefer, you can drop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. For information on how to listen live on WSRadio or access the archives after the event, visit the Town Hall page.
(Updated at 1:55 PT). Folks, the Town Hall has begun -- here are a few pictures. Here's Lorrie Norrington, President, eBay Marketplaces (on the right) and Stephanie Tilenius, General Manager, eBay North America:
And here are a few of the Town Hall panelists. Griff, the emcee is being his usual boisterous self at far right:
The rest of the panel, with a few members of the "studio audience":
If you haven't attended one of our webinars to learn more about the changes announced by Lorrie Norrington yesterday, you've got one more coming up today in about an hour (3pm PT), and another next Tuesday at 1pm PT. We'll walk you through a presentation covering many of the changes, and you'll be able to send in questions that we'll answer during the session. Visit www.ebay.com/webinar to register and attend.
But even if you can't attend in person, you won't miss out completely. We're archiving the sessions so that you can view them at your leisure - check out that same URL, www.ebay.com/webinar, to do so.
If you still have a question, drop by our forum, which will be open until Friday afternoon. Many staff from many teams have volunteered their time to be here at different times for the next three days to answer questions. On Friday, we'll make the board read-only and highlight the best Questions/Answers by topic.
Here's a picture of our bunch from a few hours ago....before the pizza arrived.....
Hats -- or hard hats -- off to the members of United Auto Workers locals 659 (Flint, Michigan) and 594 (Pontiac East, Michigan). They built a truck that has truly withstood the test of time. On February 8th this year, the 1991 Chevy Silverado they built rolled past the million mile mark. Of course, a lot of TLC (Truck Loving Care?) from Frank Oresnik, the truck's proud owner since 1996, also helped.
Along the long and winding cruise to mile million, Frank lavished a lot of care on his "old girl," showing that the secret of a long life -- for trucks as for people -- seems to be a moderate lifestyle coupled with regular habits and plenty of healthy seafood. Oil changes every 3000 miles (Shell Pennzoil 10W-30 must be the red wine of the automotive world), regularly analyzing the oil to check for engine wear, and Frank's "easy" driving style also contributed to the making of this spry Silverado. Where does the seafood come in? Well, Frank's business is delivering seafood -- perhaps some of its health benefits worked on his old workhorse. (For more details of the day-to-day care of the truck, read the listing description.)
There's still a lot of life left in this truck, but Frank wants it to have a nice retirement, perhaps end its days as part of a discerning collector's array of American workmanship. As reported by the Associated Press, Frank says, "It deserves a retirement with a place of stature and display." No wonder Frank turned to eBay Motors to find a buyer who can drive it away gracefully into its sunset.
One of my eBay co-workers sent this in to The Chatter last week. Amy is a huge fan of Coldplay and had the opportunity of meeting the drummer when the band performed recently in San Jose. Her excitement doubled when she learned about Coldplay's eBay connection! Here's what Amy (looking suitably thrilled next to Will Champion) wrote:
Coldplay is one of my favorite bands and is currently touring to promote their new album Viva la Vida. I had the chance to interview drummer Will Champion when they came to San Jose to play at the HP Pavilion. I asked him a series of questions ranging from what food he would eat if he could only eat one thing for the rest of his life (answer: lasagna) to the significance of a smallish tattoo of a hand on his forearm (his baby daughter's). I also asked about their pre-gig routine which he jokingly said was pretty tame ("We don't sit around and do shots of Jagermeister or anything"). Actually before every show the band sits together quietly for a while and then spends a few minutes singing to get warmed up and ready to perform.
But the BEST part of my visit with him came when I asked him if he had ever bought or sold anything on eBay. Here is what he said: "Well, for our new single, Viva La Vida, we needed to find a big bell for me to ring. So we looked on eBay and found an old school bell that we bought. We used it in the studio and we use it during the concerts too. You will see it later on during the show on stage." I was absolutely thrilled that not only had they bought something but that they actually had the item with them. My only regret is that I didn't ask what their User ID was, so I could go check out their Feedback!
This week we say "Lumos!" and shine the spotlight on Harry Potter and His Army of Collectors, wands down probably the most dedicated Harry Potter fans on eBay. We found a pensieve and were able to extract the thoughts of Group leader -- sorry, Head Boy -- q-collection and get him to tell us what makes the Group so magical. His thoughts are below. (Also shown is a beautiful painting of my favorite Potter character -- Severus Snape -- painted by Group member artofadornment.)
I've been involved with a number of eBay groups, but none have been as successful as the group Harry Potter and His Army of Collectors. In one year membership increased from one to more than 1,200 -- and it's still going strong. What has made this group more successful than others? Let us lift the Cloak of Invisibility to see:
THE 10 SECRETS OF MY HARRY POTTER GROUP'S SUCCESS
Encourage participation from new members. I invite new members to join us regularly. We request new members to introduce themselves or just say hello in a Member Introduction discussion thread that I have tacked as the first discussion. My second tacked discussion thread is for Replies To New Members. This prevents the introduction thread from becoming cluttered.
Have fun online. We have had several on-line parties. These include parties for Halloween, Christmas, combined birthdays and the first day of the new Harry Potter books and movies.
Share relevant content. We have a ton of Harry Potter-related YouTube videos in our links and discussion sections. You can find interviews, movie trailers, scenes from the movies and fan-made holiday-related music.
Share profiles of actors/characters. Among our discussions I've provided copies of on-line encyclopedia profiles of the actors and characters they play in the movies. I always provide hot-link credits so members can easily review the source if they’d like.
Use language from the books. Instead of calling our administrative staff Group co-leaders and Group moderators, we elected to identify ourselves as Head Boys and Prefects. This is in keeping with the theme of the group.
Keep up interest with regular e-mails with lists of new discussions. I send out regular e-mails to our members to announce our online parties and the addition of new group moderators (Prefects). Those e-mails always include a hot link to our group’s Welcome Page, the current membership number and a list of the ten newest discussions going on.
Rely on Co-leader and moderators. Having dependable co-leaders (after all, Harry had Ron and Hermione, didn't he?) is essential to the success of the group. Mine help out when I'm on vacation and we exchange barbs within the discussions to keep things active. I am constantly on the lookout for new moderators.
Change the visual look every now and then. Every week I change the background colors and decorations of the group. And every two or three weeks I change the photos on the Welcome and Home pages. Rotating scans/photos and background colors always draws a lot of comments from our members.
Always do follow-ups to postings. I try to visit the group every day or two and always add fun comments to our discussions. That keeps the group active and usually results in additional comments by our prefects and members.
Treat everyone with respect. We treat everyone with respect in here. We're a bunch of people who love the world of Harry Potter, and this is our sanctuary away from the real world. Because we want to keep the discussions focused on our Harry Potter interests, we try to stay away from discussions about selling.
I've spent lot of time on eBay, and have bought thousands of items throughout the years. Recently I revisited some tips for buying that I'd put together a while ago. I thought our Chatter Blog readers might be interested in them:
Research! You can find virtually any information you need online. Start by researching product information, reading reviews and checking the value of what you're buying. The more you know, the more successful you'll be.
Never assume. Missing information in the item description? Don't fill in the blanks yourself; directly contact the seller before you commit to buying anything. Click on the "Ask seller a question" link from any listing to email questions and get more detailed information.
Follow through. When you buy it, pay for it quickly to complete the transaction.
Use PayPal.PayPal is the safer, easier way to pay online. Beginning this holiday season, PayPal will provide you with unlimited coverage on your purchases.
Are you smiling? If you're happy with the transaction – it was timely, a good deal, reasonable shipping costs, etc. – leave positive Feedback for the seller. And if the transaction was flawless – the seller communicated in a timely manner, the item was as described, the seller shipped the item quickly and for actual shipping costs or for free - give them "high 5's" on all their Detailed Seller Ratings and make that seller's day.
Hidden Gems. Find a great deal by using search terms with spelling mistakes (sometimes sellers forget to spell check their listings) or search for an item with the terms "outlet," "liquidation" or "refurbished" to find a bargain.
Communicate. If something needs to be addressed during the transaction, contact the seller directly. The best way is to reach the seller is via email or, if a number is available, give them a call.
Analyze Feedback. After you've narrowed down your search, check seller feedback and ratings for each item. Remember, give preference to the seller with the highest feedback score – it means they have the best reputation as a seller.
Don't be afraid. eBay is set up to hold people accountable. If a problem cannot be resolved by contacting the seller directly, rely on eBay. To get more information, click on the Security and Resolution Center link located at the top of any eBay.com page and report your problem.
Be adventurous. If you're comfortable and frequently use eBay to buy from one or two categories, consider exploring other categories to find new, unearthed items. For example, an antiques dealer can find great vintage items in the Clothing, Shoes and Accessories category beyond just shopping in Collectibles.
Consider pre-owned. To save some cash, consider searching and purchasing used items. Review your search results to select the item that best suits your needs – chances are you'll come across the perfect find at a great price.
Trade up. If you’re looking for a little extra cash to purchase the next must-have item on your list, all you have to do is sell an item on eBay. Voila! You've now recycled, cleaned house and earned money to purchase another great product.
Luxuriate! On eBay, you can find a range of high-end items, from consumer electronics to clothing and accessories. Be as specific as possible when searching for an item – include both the brand name and model number. You can also add in helpful search terms like "authentic," "collectors," "rare" or an era to help narrow your search.