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Do you sell stuff on-line? Interested in it? Well, this blog might be for you. Don't expect lots of news stories or other stuff you can easily get. I want to give you the ugly side...the practical, the-stuff-they-don't-warn-you-about side of on-line retailing for the small seller.

I've been selling on-line for about 9 years. And I'm happy to share some of my experience and knowledge with anyone who has the patience to trudge their way through my random ramblings!

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Thursday, July 9, 2009

Onlineauction.com: sales growing - NOT a good sign

Usually, when you hear that a company's sales are growing, you think "Aw, nice. They are obviously doing well."

Then...there is the "other case".

The "other case" may also be known as the "Aw, man. They must be getting desperate."

Case in point: onlineauction.com.

This other ebay-wannabe has been around for a couple of years and perhaps had shown the greatest promise when it first materialized. But you can probably already figure out what happened and where it's headed. Poor customer support, no buzz, weird fee structure...it all added up quickly and now they are battling for the #7 spot with buyitsellit and UsiFF (two more not-big-names).

I figured they are at least holding on so they might be around for a bit. But I recently got an email from them that makes me think they might be in some serious trouble.

The email was sent to the email account I used to set up my account there...which I haven't used since probably mid-2008. I logged in and checked the message.

It was a wonderful letter stating how their sales have increased dramatically since 2008. In fact, their sales for 2009 alone have exceeded their TOTAL sales for 2008 (or something like that). And they showed an impressive pie chart to prove it. (side note: pie charts are horrible vehicles to show growth...ratios, yes...distributions, yes...not growth).

And then it hit me: this is what desperation looks like. I set up an account there and never listed an item, never bought an item, never even looked at many items. So it seems that they are digging away at the vast dead pool of former buyers and sellers and saying, "Hey, look at us. We're still around. And we're growing."

And that scares me. They obviously have done some right things to get their sales increase (or they have former Enron accountants "working" their sales figures) so perhaps the increase is legitimate. But blowing your own horn, saying in essence that you have gotten all the way to the upper middle isn't all that impressive. It's actually rather pitiful. In this case, "we're growing" to me at least equals "we haven't gone under yet."

What would make me sell on their site? How about hearing about the site from a friend, neighbor, the woman in front of you at the grocery store, hell...anyone other than them.

Sadly, I think they have further alienated themselves from some potential sellers. A recent thread on ebay has many people talking about receiving the same email I got (some called it outright spam) and saying how they were screwed over by support, never sold anything, had to jump through hoops to get their account cancelled, got their credit cards charged too much...blah, blah, blah. So this brainstorm of sending this email out pretty much did nothing more than bring back bad memories and more bitterness towards the site.

"OK....mister smarty pants, what would YOU have done?"

Well, yes, old former users are a potential gold mine. So of course I would have used this list. But I probably would have gone with a softer, more welcoming approach. More like a...

Dear _________

We miss you!

We notice you haven't looked at onlineauction.com since July, 2008.

Well, we want you back!

Wonder what we've been up to since you've gone? Well,

(list of functions, features added over the past year).

And...our sales have INCREASED xxx% since the last time you looked at us!

We want you to become part of the exciting growth our site has experienced.
Sell your items on onlineauction.com and pay ZERO monthly fees through
2009. So no fees to list, no fees to sell, no fees at all!

So please, take a few minutes, visit our site and blah blah blah.

The sales team at onlineauction

At least something like that.

In other words, don't tell me how successful YOU are, tell me how you're going to help make ME successful.

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