Thanks to everybody who showed up last Friday to participate in our chat with Jeff! He’s told me that it was a really enjoyable experience for him —though his wrists and fingers disagree— to get to hear all your concerns, suggestions, and questions directly and to share a little about what’s in store for QuiBids in the future.
As promised, here’s the condensed version of the live chat, which I’ve rearranged and edited a bit just to make it easier to read. Everything that was posted in the original chat is still there at the Live Q&A blog post (save for a comment I deleted because of its use of profanity, which is a violation of our social media/blog rules), so if you really want to read every little bitty thing we covered, head over there. I should also briefly apologize to you guys for not getting this up on the blog yesterday like I’d originally promised, so I appreciate your patience with me. Sometimes we bloggers —like mere mortals— fall ill and have to call in sick to work, it turns out.
However, if you’re looking for an easier-to-digest recap, I’ve broken up customer comments and Jeff’s responses into seven alphabetically organized categories below. Not every comment or question was included, but I saw fit to copy in and link off to what I thought were the most pertinent ones. I also saw fit to include some hyperlinks to other resources and to make edits to conform to QuiBids’ house style throughout. Enjoy!
Catherine Albergo: The YCI auction format has made it much more difficult for the average bidder to compete, mostly because a high interest item is always included which attracts more aggressive bidders. Could these be at least limited to a specific category of products, e.g., Electronics or Housewares, in order to level the bidding field and allow many of us to come back to bidding?
Jeff: Although it may seem that YCI are more competitive than other auctions, the numbers we are seeing in general do not really show that, other than the limit problem mentioned earlier. We will definitely address the limit issue. Regarding the category specific auctions, we have talked about that internally a lot and have more talking to do. Our system is not initially setup for it based on how it pulls the items for the auctions, but it could very well be a worthwhile project and is a great idea.
Lucretia Stallworth Thomas: We as bidders are not allowed to overbid when using real bids and I’m thankful for that. But, I would like to know if you will eventually implement rules to allow bidders using only Voucher Bids in an auction to be limited to the amount of Voucher Bids they can use? Maybe by only allowing them to over bid by a certain percentage of the value of the auction. Again, thanks in advance for your response!
Jeff: Right now we obviously do not have a limit on that, and honestly, I think the answer to this is more on limits on Voucher Bid auction wins vs the bids placed in the auctions. That could kind of kill two birds with one stone. As noted above, limits are definitely a high priority for us and something we expect to revamp with a comprehensive plan this year. Thank you so much for the question. What do you think the optimal limits should be?
Diana Moore Booth: It seems we are bidding with other countries on the US site. If so, why, as we are having a very difficult time winning as it is.
Jeff: Is the US with other markets? No, the US is all by itself. Recently all of the international markets, which I can count on one hand, were combined so that we could even offer the optimal number of auctions for the customers in those markets. It’s a supply and demand thing – if a country only has a very small number of customers looking at the site every day, there really will not be any good auctions for them unless we combine the markets.
When we first launched combined auctions last summer, we combined Canada and the US. Although Canada’s population is about 10% of that of the US, it really did not sit right with our US customers, who preferred slightly fewer auctions and more certainty about the competition. Canada at the time loved the combination because it meant a lot more auctions. We made the decision to suspend the combined markets program at that time, but lately have found that it makes a lot of sense in the non-US markets so that we can offer the optimal number of auctions to prevent having a boring website.
Brian Walsh: Lots of us love the site, but the power bidders are running rampant and driving people away, which is not good for us or you. What is Q doing to address the problem and make this site a place where everyone can benefit, so that we all are winners and enjoy the experience.
Jeff: Brian, let’s start with your question about “power bidders”, and I think the answer relates to a few other questions below about limits and how our scheduling works.
This question is a common great question that we are asked by our customers, and we ask ourselves the same question frequently. Our philosophy is to have a site in which everyone can come and have a consistently great experience. It’s a challenging philosophy to uphold sometimes because of the nature of a competitive shopping site experience in which an auction will only have one winner.
If we offer too many auctions a day, we lose our shirts and QuiBids goes away for everyone. If we offer too few auctions, the site is boring and no one would want to participate, so QuiBids goes away for everyone.
Then, even if we offer an optimal number of auctions for a generally great experience, that is just step one because there is the risk that a few “power bidders” will win them all, creating a bad experience for the majority, which would also make QuiBids go away for everyone.
First, our scheduling system is the most sophisticated of its kind. We have a model set up to predict how many people will likely come to the site the next day, and we push several auction schedules daily to meet that demand. We can also adjust on the fly in case there is a rush of additional customers that we didn’t expect. The scheduler balances out expensive items with less expensive items. The team that runs the scheduling system is nothing short of top notch. This helps solve the initial problem of having the optimal number of auctions every day.
Then, to help mitigate the power bidder problem, we have a system setup to push additional auctions to those having more trouble on our site. Generally, we have a base set of auctions for everyone, but if an individual is new or not having as much success as others, he or she will get some additional opportunities.
We also have limits. They aren’t perfect (or optimal rather), but we are working on that. This is one of the hardest things to address because inevitably changes to things like limits make some people happy and others angry. We are working hard to find the right balance and have decided not to make any big changes in this area until we believe we have found that balance. I’m hopeful we will solve the puzzle at the very least by mid-year.
Last, a little known fact is that auctions are essentially hidden from new bidders after they have received a certain number of bids. We know that sometimes, when you are at the tail of an auction and a newbie jumps in at the last second that that can be frustrating. We have been doing this for a long time, but we will be revamping this process to be much more transparent in 2013.
I will be the first to say we are not there yet, but we have made a lot of progress over the years, and I am hopeful that by the end of this year everyone will think things are much improved.
Catherine Albergo: Many of us have been bullied off of the site by those we call “power bidders”. By their growing number, and the unlimited number of Limit Busters they can utilize, they have become impossible to avoid. Can limit busters either be eliminated or have a monthly limit placed on them?
Jeff: Limit busters are a part of the overall limits strategy, and need to be handled with care just like the limits. Every tweak we do on things like this will inevitably make some customers happy and others not so happy, but I am sure that some changes will be made in this area as well when we make changes to our overall limits.
Miscellaneous suggestions and comments
Rick McKenzie: I would love to see the YCI (“You Choose It”) auctions become more refined: i.e. electronics not combined with household items. This would result in fewer items to choose from, and perhaps fewer auctions. The balance is very difficult to obtain, no doubt, especially maintaining a ratio between the number of active bidders vs. number of auctions.
Nancy Kraft: The search function still needs fixing. Still hard to find items.
Denise Artley: My vote would be for leveling the playing field for bidders that are using Real Bids versus bidders that are using vouchers in an auction. Real bidders are limited to the value of the product (thank goodness), but voucher bidders can go on forever and ever…sometimes making a win nearly impossible.
Cricket Yaya: Jeff–It has been recommended on the Facebook page that Voucher Bid limits should be implemented not based upon the number of auctions won, but rather, upon the number of actual Voucher Bids won. For instance, possibly no more than 500 Voucher Bids per day.
Rita Lattimore: It is hard to continue wanting to bid on Quibids when you know you are bidding against a power bidder. My suggestion is more auctions that start at 10 seconds and you can’t set your bids automatically. This way those that are bidding on 4 or 5 auctions at a time would not be able to bid fast enough to control the bidding. This would give more people a chance to win items. You will notice that those that are power bidders have set their bids on automatic thus giving them the ability to be in 4 or 5 auctions at a time. Just saying 10 second start and no way to set your bids automatically would give more people a chance to win.
Wendi Milinkov: I would like to see larger Gameplay multipliers. You make good $$ on anything with a Gameplay, so let’s add to the fun and add multipliers X2, X3, X5!
Diana Moore Booth: Can you make the Gameplays produce a “minimum” amount of bids? The ones who win Gameplays for the Top QuiBidders Contest have worked hard all month giving advice, encouraging new bidders, helping calm down many upset new bidders and many other things. We work hard and I won 22 bids with my Gameplay on Deal Wheel. I’ve heard that some has won as low as 3 bids! Can we get a minimum please?
Joan Susski: Is QuiBids considering adding more milestone badges such as 1,500, 2,000, 2,500 etc so that those who have been faithful QuiBidders are able to continue earning badges? It would be nice to reward the faithful QuiBidders with longevity type badges.
Jeff: This is a fantastic idea. I talked to our CEO about this the other day, and we should be able to make this happen. Stay tuned. It takes some design and development resources, but we’ll get them in the queue. That being said, we have tons of other great badges in the queue too to be released later in the year!
Donna Gibson: Is there any way you can make it so we can just play the games (not for bids)? I would just like to play each one, just one time to see what each one is like.
Jeff: That is something that we are strongly considering and are talking about. It is a great suggestion!
Rick McKenzie: Previously when you commented on the QuiBids Facebook several months ago, you stated that we could look forward to further optimizations of the auction site. Now that those have been implemented, specifically, will you please share any future optimizations of the QuBids site?
Jeff: This is a fantastic question, and I am so excited about all of the things we are working on. It is, however, very difficult for me to tell you about a lot of the front facing things because we, for obvious reasons, do not want to telegraph our strategic plans to any competitors if possible. That being said, what I can say is that we are greatly optimizing our back end processes, as discussed before. Our new order management system will be finalized over the summer, which should mean an even better experience every time you get a product from us. We also had some audits done on our site functionality and found several important tweaks to make the site more user friendly. We have plans to integrate more with social media, and just a ton of stuff that I cannot talk about. Most of our plans are a direct result of feedback from customers like you.
Terms & Conditions
Cricket Yaya: QuiBids’ Terms and Conditions specifically state that “QuiBids products and services are offered exclusively to private users and not to commercial or semi-commercial retailers.” Could you please explain 1) what is meant by the term “semi-commercial retailers,” and 2) what proactive steps QuiBids takes to identify resellers?
Jeff: I think of a semi-commercial retailer as someone that would buy a lot of stuff off of QuiBids and then turn around and sell it on eBay. This is against our terms and conditions because these folks typically hurt the experience of our other customers. We have a pretty sophisticated compliance department and compliance system that is always looking for activities that may indicate this type of activity, along with other activities like linked account collusion. We get more sophisticated on this every day too, so by the end of this year I am hopeful we will even be far past where we are now on the matter.
The compliance department also fights hard against stolen credit card fraud. Late last year we invested in the industry leading system that attacks this kind of activity, and we are already seeing great results. Every day a little better….
More in-depth resources about QuiBids:
An interview with an auction expert: Nicholas Boccio
7 ways QuiBids is different from eBay
How QuiBids Store and auctions complement each other
Getting the most out of My QuiBids