Posts from November 12th, 2008.

Bonanzle Goes Global!

Bonanzle Community Demands International Shipping, Gets It

One of Bonanzle’s most hotly anticipated features has finally been unveiled to its vivacious seller community: support for international shipping.

Buyers and sellers around the globe are now in a better position than ever to join in Bonanzle’s rapidly growing buyer base. Currently over 50% of all new visitors at Bonanzle are from areas outside of the US.

How does it work? Bonanzle sellers can now pick the countries they want to ship to and associate a flat-rate international shipping cost with those items. Bonanzle’s simplicity-first policy has given birth to an interface where the seller can set international shipping policies for one or many items in a single action. Sellers currently have the option to ship to Australia, Japan, Europe, United Kingdom, Canada, North America, South America, Germany, Mexico, and Asia. When a buyer from one of these countries finds an item they want to buy, they can purchase the item immediately and have it en route that day.

International shipping is the most recent feature called for by the Bonanzle community via the “Next-Up Improvements” page, which allows basic democratic principles to drive feature development. Once a feature has been requested several times, it is added to the Next-Up Improvements page, where it is voted on, alongside other possible improvements for the site. Since the inception of the page in September, more than 10 user-requested features have been added to Bonanzle, proof of the Bonanzle team’s single-minded focus on listening to the community and producing results.

Other recently added buyer-centric features include item wish lists, improved search relevancy, and item archiving. User-focused item recommendations are slated to be launched in mid-November.

eBay and the Manx Cat

On eBay I was a micro seller, sub $1K a month. This was primarily because of geographic limitations. I have to pay to ship stock to the island in the middle of the Pacific on which I live. My choices of items to sell are limited by shipping cost which raises overhead and correspondingly lowers profit.

My ASP (average sale price) was $2.47 in 2006 which was the last year I sold in volume on eBay. Profitability is only achieved at my price point by meticulous attention to cost, for example, templates to enable exact measurement of the length of tape used to put labels on packages saved 30% in tape cost per month.

Do the math, it takes a lot of $1.25 note cards to gross $1000. By today’s rules I would have been a PowerSeller by volume, back then you had to sell $1000 a month for three months to become a PowerSeller, no matter how much volume you did. Bill Cobb’s implementation of Search in Stores pushed my volume up enough that my goal was in sight. Then stores were taken out of search and sales dropped by a stunning 80%. It was like crashing into a brick wall at 60 mph. I survived but it was a fairly bloody experience.

What does this have to do with a Manx Cat?

A Manx cat has no tail, they are born that way. They are a relatively rare breed, most cats have long tails. Once upon a time eBay had a long tail too.

The marketing consultants have a great liking for acronyms, collections of initials that are essentially meaningless unless you are one of the ‘in’ crowd. They use them to dazzle prospective pigeons ripe for plucking, erm, clients. I have noticed how hard it can be to get an explanation, the attitude is that potential clients should not bother their dear little brains about all this, leave it to an expert. An excellent example is the BaySpeak term “simplification” which means workers got fired and executives will get nice bonuses. Auntie May would say “Look before you leap” and probably something about fools rushing in, but what does she know?

The clearest explanation of “long tail” I have found to date is in The Niche Book the concept is stunningly simple, at first glance. If you sell books the long tail might include bookmarks, bookshelves, computer programs to inventory your library, and so on. Think Harry Potter, wands, spell books, costumes, movies, tee shirts…

To be a true long tail a large part of the value of the total sales volume is in the tail - as opposed to sales volume of the original item. How large a part?

That is a “How long is a piece of string question”. I have seen estimates as high as 89.4%, it all depends on what number of top terms you are setting as the ‘head’ or ‘body’ of the cat in the first place. The percentage of sales volume in the tail has a direct ratio to the number of search terms used at the beginning. Here is a good article by Bill Tancer with some (to me) stunning figures.

So what does this have to do with eBay?

The key words are in the paragraph above; search terms used. When a venue is focused on cheap, (note I do not say good value) brand new and fad items; when search, or to use BaySpeak ‘finding’ is manipulated towards sellers who have ‘depth’ (translation high volume listings, not necessarily sales) the effect is to warp or distort search.

When search takes buyers away from what they are looking for to what eBay wants them to see or thinks they should be looking for, and actively prevents or distracts those same buyers from seeing what is listed; sales drop. Some buyers will persist and learn how to work the system, most get frustrated and go do something else. The tail is going, going, gone. eBay is turning into a Manx cat.

What do you think?

Y’all come back!


Another article you may find of interest Ms Dow Antiques