10p fines mean eBay don’t want your products?

eBay have for many years been telling sellers that they want them to list their entire inventory on eBay. Not just the fastest selling lines, not just their distressed or out of season stock, eBay want everything. So that’s just what sellers have done.

Now eBay are telling sellers that if something hasn’t sold for 18 months they’ll be fined 10p per month in addition to the normal listing fee (which for many with an eBay shop will be a rise from nothing to 10p!). So what’s happened?

Listings that eBay don’t want

Firstly eBay don’t do anything without a reason, let’s take a look at why they think listings that haven’t sold for 18 months are a bad thing to have cluttering up the site.

I used to sell laptop accessories on eBay, I sold thousands of docking stations over the years. The ones in the image are now obsolete, fitting laptops that went out of production years ago.

The odd one will still sell, but look at the price of the second one – no one is ever going to purchase from that listing. It dosen’t matter if it’s brand new shiny straight from the factory, the only person that will buy it will be buying it to go with a 10 year old laptop and they’ll pay a few quid, but won’t care if it’s new, old or refurbished so long as it works.

Having this is the type of listing on eBay is quite simply a waste of everyone’s time. It’s not that eBay don’t want the inventory, they just want it listed in such a manner that it has a decent chance of selling.

Listings that eBay really don’t want

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but some of the stuff listed for sale on eBay is worse than the £110 docking station. Not only is it over-priced but it’s simply so outdated that it’ll never sell.

Take for example the Xircom PCMICA card, who will ever want a 14.4 modem for a laptop in 2015? Not only is it a 14.4 baud modem which is desperately slow, but every laptop manufactured in the past 10 years has had a modem built in or more recently WiFi. Even if someone was trying to resurrect an ancient laptop (and you have to ask why), this particular modem is missing it’s dongle (the bit that plugs into the PCMCIA card with a cable to a socket to take the modem cable). I just can’t see why this hasn’t been consigned to the recycle bin years ago.

Listings that eBay should want

I can’t imagine that “Jude the Obscure” is one of the most popular DVD titles on eBay. I bet not too many people are looking for a Thomas Hardy production from 1971 on DVD, it might be years before someone decides that they want to buy it.

That’s the best part of the Internet and sites like eBay, the long tail got longer! Generally new releases sell fastest, there’s another tranche of top selling titles (like Disney) that will always be in demand.

Once you’ve listed a few thousand DVDs (or CDs), sales start to drop off rapidly. If you list 5,000 titles you’ll get a certain number of sales, but listing 10,000 DVDs certainly won’t double your sales or come anywhere close, now you’re into the long tail of specialist titles. You will get sales, but some titles won’t have a sale in a decade but by having the selection you’ll get enough sales to make it worth listing.

That’s where Jude the Obscure comes in, does eBay really want media sellers to cancel all the listings that haven’t had a sale for 18 months? All that will mean is that buyers will migrate to Amazon or Rakuten where the titles are listed and available to buy.

It’s the same for coins, stamps, postcards and many other collectables, they don’t take up a lot of room and whilst any particular item might not sell you need huge volumes of long tail product to generate the sales of those that do find a buyer.

An alternative to 10p fines

Fining sellers an additional 10p per month will do nothing for most sellers, although it’ll generate some cash for eBay.

The question has to be asked why don’t eBay simply terminate listings that haven’t had a sale for 18 months? They could simply end listings and dump them in your unsold items and leave you to decide whether it’s financially worth the effort of relisting or if it’s time to retire that product line.

eBid anyone?

One has to consider alternatives to paying 10p per month per listing, especially if currently you’re utilising the free listings that come with an eBay shop. Alternatives could be your own website or possibly you might consider eBid. Suddenly a £49.99 lifetime membership to list all of your long tail products online seems quite reasonable.

Of course the trouble with eBid is that there’s a severe lack of buyers and just because you list all of your products there doesn’t mean that they’ll generate a single sale. eBay still has by far the greatest amount of traffic which is just the reason you’re listing your long tail products on eBay and not eBid in the first place. However in the face of 10p per month fines it’s got to be something you consider even if it’s a long shot.

Cancel and relist

The only real alternative on eBay for listings that haven’t garnered a sale in 18 months is to cancel them, revise them (title, description, category, Item Specifics, images, consider amalgamating into multi-variation listing) and relist.

For those with large quantities of listings this is going to be a time consuming pain, and for products such as DVDs or CDs where you’re listing against eBay stock images and descriptions there’s often little you can do in the way of revision. However consider the fines – if you have 100 products it’ll cost you a tenner a month, 1000 products will cost you £100/month in fines and 10,000 aged products will hit you for £1000/month in additional fees.

It is simply unsustainable to spend that amount of money on products which aren’t generating sales.

Make a strategic plan

The 10p fines aren’t going to hit until sometime in the summer, that gives you a few months to plan your strategy.

What are you going to do? There’s no point burying your head in the sand and waiting until the fines start to hit, you need to get a strategy in place before the fines start rolling in.

Is it time to liquidate some of your stock, time to reduce the catalogue of products you sell (especially if you don’t own the stock and simply back order products if they sell), or will cancelling, revising and relisting be a better strategy for your business?

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