Monday, October 29, 2007

Opening My New Chumby: Some Chumpix

I received my cushy new chumby in the mail the other day.

What is a chumby? It's the most fun new gadget out there in the world of's a little device with a screen that plays endless widgets -- such as YouTube, eBay, facebook, and other Internet-related smidgens. Some things are still in the works, it looks like -- but it's looking pretty cool.

Anyway, right now, I mainly just wanted to share my chumby photos with you. This is how the chumby looked in its packaging, and with its accessories, etc., when I took it out of the box.

Chumby_n_signe_wedding1007_001  Chumby in its cute burlap sack. (Who said you can't look hot in a burlap sack?)

I love their cute octopus logo. Steve Adler of chumby Industries fame (who I met at the eBay Devcon, where he gave a chumbydemo) told me it was done by the same lady who did the apple logo. If I'm not mistaken.

Here is the chumby itself (it's the thing in the middle row on the bottom, with the tan/beige colored trim, and a little screen) surrounded by its accessories, cute lil' bags and adorable little manual.

Chumby with its ac adaptor plugged in, and the manual open.


Chumby in all its glory on my desk, playing the YouTube widget.

More pix coming as I play with the chumby some more.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Note to amazon: Can I Has buyer address in the "sold" email, pleez?

Hey,, a note from your sellers everywhere...well, at least from me: Can you please go back to emailing us the durn buyer's name and address in the email message we get when we sell something?

Now you've gone to this irritating new system where we have to:

- 1. Go to your Seller Account by clicking "Your Account" at the top of any page, then clicking "Your Seller Account" on the right side of the
page, under Marketplace.

- 2. Find Order ID "blah blah blah" in Manage
Orders. You can search by Order ID if necessary.

- 3. Click the Order ID
link to display the Order Details page. You will see the full order details
including shipping address and shipping speed.

Fun! Yeesh. I imagine there was some security reason for this or something, but PayPal sends buyer mailing addresses in their payment confirmation emails, so why can't you?

And by the way, I fronted you like three bucks on the shipping.

There, I got that off my chest. Thanks.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Facebook Flyers: Let Us Target Groups in Ads

I've been experimenting with Facebook flyers. Did I mention I love facebook? I'll go with the lower case. I'm not surprised it's growing rapidly and is being courted by Microsoft, Yahoo, and who knows what other Internet big boys.

When I heard about their "flyers" advertising program, I was excited. It sounded like a simple, low-cost way to get an ad out on the Internet to targeted groups of people. The only problem is, although facebook has these natural ready-made groups of people on the site, called, guess what -- groups -- you can't target them with flyers!

No, you can only target a college/university or a "network."  This doesn't work well for a lot of people selling products that would tie in really well with all the myriad facebook groups out there. For example, I sell ebooks about eBay. I don't want to buy a flyer for Washington, DC, or the University of Minnesota...I want to buy a flyer for the "Addicted to eBay" group, and maybe some other facebook eBay groups as well.

This seems like a no brainer to me. C'mon facebook folks, pleez give us groups in ads. Or as the cat on another certain site would say, I Can Has Group Targeting? OK, that didn't work out.

I did write the facebook people to verify that you could not in fact target groups. They thanked me for the idea, but verified that you cannot do it. So maybe they're considering it. Let's hope. Meantime I'll keep you posted as to how my flyers are doing. Not well, at the moment. At this rate, I doubt I'll keep using them, as the keyword/network system just doesn't seem to work well for me and I bet the groups idea would.

In sum: Groups. groups. groups. facebook. please. give. us. groups. in. flyers. mark. zuckerberg. just. for. good. measure.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

PayPal donates dough to Ballou High School

I was sitting here watching Ellen, and gearing up to list some Russian art books on eBay, and they had the director of Washington DC's own Ballou High school on the show. He's apparently turned the band into a haven for the kids in the school, which is in a crime-ridden part of the city. All the seniors in the band last year went on to college.

Well in these situations Ellen usually presents the person on the show with money or gifts for their cause, underwritten by a company, and I thought it was interesting this time that the sponsor was PayPal.

They donated $25,000 to the band and $75K to the high school. Plus, Ballou-ies will be walking around with backpacks with PayPal logos on them stuffed with school supplies courtesy of the co.

You go, P-Pal. Now you just need a campaign to reduce all the PayPal-related email spam out there.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Choosing your market niche by Mikal Belicove

Today I am pleased to offer a guest blog entry by my friend, a great writer and very funny person to boot, Mikal Belicove.  You can read his regular Beliblog and get other info at

Choosing your market niche

By Mikal E. Belicove

If you and I were to decide to go into business together, and we chose to
open up a brick and mortar store on Main Street, there's no way we'd sign an
18-month lease, order display furnishings, install carpet, hook up a phone line,
and hire employees without first knowing what we're going to sell. Yet, online
retailers--or, more accurately, casual sellers who want to become successful
online retailers--do it every day.

Without giving much thought to a company name, product line, or business or
marketing plan, new online sellers sign up for product sourcing services, work
with a third-party vendor to build a webstore, and only then get around to
asking, "Hey, what should I sell?" They head to eBay, see what�s selling, and
then decide to sell the same products--usually consumer electronics--for
slightly less than the competition. They end up being disappointed, mainly
because their profit margins are so low.

The problem is that these misguided novices have nothing unique to offer,
so they try to compete on price alone--an almost surefire way to go bust. One of
the keys to online retail success is your ability to establish yourself as the
person or the company from which to purchase a particular selection of related
products. Tiger Woods, for example, would be better off selling golfing gear
than home d�r� something that Martha Stewart is more qualified to sell. (For
additional details on how to compete on something other than price, please see
my two-part series, "Giving away the store," which will appear in this column
later this year.)

Selling what you know

What�s interesting is that first-time online retailers often overlook their
own areas of expertise and passion. A guy who�s spent his entire life fiddling
around with car engines in his garage suddenly decides to start selling video
games, because they�re so popular with the kids in the neighborhood. Or a gal
who�s had a lifelong passion for photography decides to open her own major
department store online, selling anything and everything.

In my line of work, I have the unique opportunity to meet many talented
individuals who simply started out by choosing the wrong products to sell. One
of these gifted people, whom I fondly refer to as �The Dart Lady,� was
interested in selling consumer electronics, despite the fact that she really
enjoyed schooling men in the art of throwing darts at her local pub. She knew a
ton about darts, was very passionate about playing, and kept up on the local,
regional, and world dart scene. As soon as I pointed out to her that she could
sell darts and dart-related equipment online, her eyes lit up with a ton of
possibilities. In her case, a female focusing on darts made her unique, as did
her product knowledge and sheer passion for the game.

I also recently met a gifted musician who never considered using his
musical talents to his advantage. He was at a complete loss as to what to sell,
so he dabbled here and there as most online retailers do, simply experimenting
with different products in the hopes that he would hit it big. When I pointed
out to him that he could use his knowledge and talents to market himself and a
line of musical instruments and accessories, he too say an infinite amount of
possibilities for his online business. Now he�s selling what he knows, and for
his local clientele, he offers lessons to accompany specific purchases.

I even met a fellow who managed to transform his work experience at a major
amusement park into a successful business. I didn�t teach him much, because he
understood the importance of picking a niche right from the start. He had worked
for a number of years in catering at a theme park and noticed how much kids and
grow-ups alike liked carnival foods. He took his product knowledge from that
space and applied it online by selling cotton candy machines, popcorn makers,
snow cone machines, and so on�an excellent example of someone who is using his
product knowledge to price, market, stand out, and sell products online.

Identifying your areas of expertise

Follow in the footsteps of these and other successful online retailers�sell
what you know. If you have trouble identifying areas of expertise, answer these
six questions:

- What do you know a lot about?

- What are you most passionate about?

- What are my hobbies and pastimes? Are you a weekend mechanic? A
seamstress? A sports fanatic? A movie buff?

- How do you spend your free time?

- What kind of professional training and experience do you have?

- Find something that makes your eyes light up, and you�ve probably hit on
the right line of products.

Researching your niche market

Once you�ve identified your niche market, you can begin researching the
market to learn more about your customers� wants and needs. The good news is
that since you will be working in areas that interest you, the research won�t
feel much like work.

As you begin researching your niche market, keep the following in

- Knowing your product is not equivalent to knowing your customer. You need
to know your customers� wants and needs. Using the products you sell and being
involved with other�s who use those products can give you a clearer sense of
what people need.

- Base your decisions on research. Use a free market data research too like
Terapeak�s database of completed eBay listings. And, if you sell golf gear, for
example, you may be able to do a little research by going golfing on

- Stay on the leading edge. Don�t follow the crowd by selling what they�re
selling and how they�re selling it. Develop your own unique vision based on your
research and your experience. Attempting to sell what�s hot usually turns into
trying to sell what used to be hot and then being disappointed.

- Get involved in your industry. Read trade publications related to your
market, attend industry conferences and trade shows when you are able, and
mingle with the people who manufacture, market, and use the products you want to

Remember: Pick your niche, research your market, and then pursue it.
Follow your heart, and sell what you know.

About the author: Mikal Belicove is an Orem, Utah-based freelance
writer, ghost blogger, and business communications consultant. Most recently, he
was the Director of Community & Education at Doba--an online product
sourcing marketplace that connects retailer merchants with the inventories of
hundreds of drop ship suppliers. When he is not penning assignments for clients,
he can be found musing about the world around him on his own personal blog at


Tuesday, October 2, 2007

eBay's Snapshot View Makes Shopping Snappy

eBay sure has been making a lot of changes lately, and I've been itching to review them all.

Let's start with one of my favorite changes, today: the Snapshot view.  This lets you select an option to view eBay's search results as many rows and columns of images across your screen, so your eyes can take in a lot more items in one look than you could previously.

Well, heck, the whole point is a visual, right? So check out one of my searches:


The effect is similar of what you could previously (and still can) get by using the timeBLASTER tool, which lets you save searches, run them at set times and then view them as "photo albums" offline later. As AuctionBytes reports in its article on Snapshot view, the tool is still available for an annual subscription of $39.95 at

But Snapshot view integrates the view into the eBay site itself, of course. With Snapshot view, you can still sort the search results by highest or lowest prices first, for example, but you need to hover your mouse over the photo to get the item's details -- item title, current bid price, etc.

I really think this Snapshot view is going to be  a great boon to shoppers, especially as the holiday season approaches (and doesn't it always seem like some sort of holiday is approaching, even if it's National Meerkat Appreciation Day?).

I tried two searches with Snapshot view, which you can eyeball yourself by going to the eBay Playground  (, doing a search, then clicking Snapshot View left of the Sort by drop-down menu.

One was for a Nintendo Wii, which of course my 8-year old son wants for his 9th birthday. The other was for a Pucci top. I found the Snapshot View more useful for the Pucci search, as the variations of colors, shapes and sizes of these wildly patterned tops is much greater than the rather Vanilla looking Wii, and having all that variety nicely laid out on one page was very nice to have.  Still. the view was also good for Wii-shopping.

So, amid all the changes some of us may not like, and the constructive criticism eBay receives, I think this is one most shoppers are going to like. But of course, the proof is in the shopping.

The AuctionBytes article about Snapshot View is at

Have an opinion on Snapshot View? Leave a comment here.