Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Reverse Image Search

I've been busy working on my thesis and came across a few interesting tools related to what I'm researching. Here's one: tineye.com bills itself as a "Reverse Image Search Engine." You upload a picture from your computer, and it points you to different places hosting the picture or some variation of it. I immediately thought it would be useful for finding online meme origins, so I input this image:

And ended up finding this:

Along with a hundred other variations. Okay, it's not the most brilliant bit of investigation, but it was fun.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Is international shipping really a hassle?

I recently came across a blog post where some poor overseas buyer was lamenting the fact that few sellers seemed to be shipping internationally. 90% of the comments were sellers backing up their choice to exclude international buyers, mostly citing the same reasoning: "It's too much of a hassle."

Maybe I've been shipping internationally for too long - at least 20% of all my online sales are shipped overseas, and I love my international customers - but I have no idea what these people are talking about. Instead, like with many things, I think it's more like the perception of shipping internationally is a hassle - but that's not truly the reality of it.

-Fill out forms before you go to the post office. Most post offices will happily give you a stack of customs forms to help ease up lines. Even if you spend just as much time at the window as you would at your desk, it will at least make it seems like less of a hassle.
-Tracking and insurance are a must! It is true that some countries have poor postal systems, and that's a legitimate reason for not wanting to take a risk by shipping there. Of course, you should use tracking even if you're shipping domestically - if a buyer files a dispute and you have no tracking information, Paypal will favor the buyer in almost every case.
-Beware of Italy. I don't know why, but the only things I have ever lost in the mail have come from or went to Italy, and I've heard a lot of the same from other frequent sellers.
-Keep in mind that international buyers can raise your profits even if they don't win. I've often sold items for 20-50% more than what I would have - and what the average price was - simply because international buyers were bidding. They didn't even have to actually win; thus, no "hassle," just extra money - an extra $50-$200, in many cases.
-Language can be a barrier, but it's usually not that bad. I get a lot of customers that are obviously using online translation services, but in several years, I've only seen one or two messages where I honestly had no idea what the person was trying to say. Translation services won't make you look fluent, but they generally get the point across.

Hopefully, these tips will make international shipping seem easier. Trust me, the profits are worth it!

Psychology & eBay

I found an interesting study recently. Here's a quote:

One such study, published last year in the journal Advances in Economic Analysis & Policy, indicates that within reasonable parameters, eBay bidders are more willing to pay $11.00 total for a CD when the price is broken out by product cost ($7.00) plus shipping and handling ($4.00) than $10.00 for a CD where the shipping and handling are free.

In my experience, I've noticed this to be absolutely true. Many times, I've come across a disgruntled buyer ranting about "$50 shipping fees for a 99 cent item!" Yet if the same buyer purchased the same item for $50 with $0.99 shipping, they'd likely be telling everyone what a great deal they found. Why? One $51 item isn't more expensive than another $51 item.

Smart buyers know to only look at the total cost. I'm not surprised at all that this article found people were more likely to pay $1 extra if the shipping charges and item cost were balanced out. I can't say I'm not disappointed when I see what looks like a great deal, only to click on the auction and find out shipping is really $35 - but if that was the cheapest on the market, I would still buy it.

There's even an argument - albeit not a morally sound one - that you can save more money by buying auctions with high shipping costs. Since eBay doesn't take final value fees - usually around 10% - out of shipping, that's a few extra dollars in the seller's pocket. Greedy, right? But in a competitive market, that can translate to a seller taking the price down a few bucks since eBay's fees are eating less of their profits.