We have been selling on eBay for more than ten years. For many of those years, we have held the Power Seller status, and have been a Top Rated Seller since the program’s implementation. For the majority of that time, all of our thoughts and efforts have been focused on providing desirable products and exceptional customer service. Rarely did we think about the politics or what was going on behind the scenes at eBay. This all changed in the fall of 2014.
Each Monday, we complete a report of sales for the previous week using three measuring sticks: total sales, number of items sold and average price per item. Throughout the year, we noticed that the number of items sold per week was less than the number of items sold that same week the previous year. This was surprising, due to the fact that we had more than doubled our inventory and improved the quality of the items we were selling. We were not overly concerned, knowing that we usually bounce right back from a low sales week. Then one October morning, we decided that we needed to monitor our sales more closely. We soon became aware of a developing trend.
The first thing we noticed was that, since the beginning of April, the number of items sold per week had declined for 22 out of 30 weeks. In most cases, the number of items sold had fallen significantly. We next compared the average number of items sold per week for an 80-week period between October of 2012 and March of 2014 to the average number sold between April of 2014 and October of 2014. The number of items had dropped 16%. We were experiencing a level sales that we had surpassed by leaps and bounds so long before. As we continued to study the numbers, we realized that the change was sudden and dramatic. It could be pinpointed to a very specific period of time, which, in that moment, didn’t make a lot of sense.
We spent a lot of time wondering if there was anything we had done that would have had this kind of impact. All that we had accomplished over the past two years should have had exactly the opposite effect. We had doubled our inventory and improved the quality of items. Our employees were more experienced, each performing their jobs with excellence. We were moving in the right direction, but sales were not. It was when we began to look for outside forces that the view began to clear.
One of our younger employees decided to Google “why have my eBay sales dropped?”. We were greeted with an overwhelming explosion of information. Our experience was not unique. Other top sellers were reporting the same drop in sales, some even more dramatic than ours. The most significant discussion on the topic was right there, in the eBay community pages. It was there that we found a thread devoted completely to this topic. It was 35 pages long. One after another, we read of sellers who had experienced a sudden and dramatic drop in sales. Some saw sales slow to a trickle, or even stop completely. We read of sellers who had to call it quits because of the change. Most of the individuals conversing in this thread had their own ideas and theories to explain the rising difficulties. As we read through all 35 pages of the community thread, we began to group the theories into themes. There were a few conspiracy theorists, along with the typical eBay haters, but many sellers raised legitimate concerns. We filtered all of the ideas down to several that were potentially legitimate contributors to our sales experience. Most of them were related to specific events that occurred in 2014.
We were quickly becoming aware just how shallow our knowledge was in the eBay world. It felt as though our heads were spinning as we spent our days uncovering 10 years of behind-the-scenes events. We mapped these events next to our sales experience, and an eerie picture emerged. Pieces of the puzzle had begun to fall into place.
Over the next couple of weeks, we will be sharing what we have learned as a result of our research. We believe we have some answers to the questions that we, and many others, have been asking for the past year. We will also be sharing how we have responded to these findings, and how we plan to not only survive, but to thrive in this environment. Most of the lessons we have learned did not come easily. There was no one-stop information source that provided us with the answers we were looking for. What we did find was just how resourceful we can be when pushed into a tight place. Our small business has journeyed to places that we never imagined, and the prospect for the future is exciting.
See the rest of our eBay series here:
Part II - eBay Takes a Hit
Part III - Google Takes Aim
Part IV - eBay Alternatives?
Part V - Fixing the Defects in eBay's Defect System
Part VI - Breaking Up is Hard to Do: eBay's Split from PayPal
Part VII - Is eBay's Cassini Really the "Best Match"?
Part VIII - Is eBay's Cassini Stuck in Orbit?
The Plan, Part I - Positioning for More than Survival
The Plan, Part II - Expanding Our Reach Beyond eBay
Frankly, I am not fond of monkeys. They affect me the way spiders and snakes affect other people. The flying monkeys in “The Wizard of Oz” and the rogue monkeys in Robin Williams’s “Jumanji” were menacing to me, and I closed my eyes so I wouldn’t have to see them.