2/5 – Design Goals for COMC.com

Note – This week we are writing a series of blog posts covering several topics.  When assessing the large volume of information that we want to communicate, it made sense not to simply pour it into one extremely large post, but to separate it out into bite-size chunks.  Please consider each section in light of the others, and not as an independent post.  The subjects we’ll be covering are:

1/5 – The Big Picture
2/5 – Design Goals for COMC.com
3/5 – Beta Testing New Markets
4/5 – How to Flip on COMC.com
5/5 – 5th Anniversary Special + Ad Campaign

2/5 – Design Goals for COMC.com

Here are some principles that we are using to guide the design of COMC.

Diversification
CheckOutMyCards.com is very specialized, and that is great. We love that and don’t want to lose its appeal. However, we need to make sure that we have a solid foundation that will not be susceptible to things like lockouts. Last year we got very lucky. If both the NBA and NFL had been locked out, that would have significantly impacted our business. When the MLB and NHL went through their lockouts many card shops went out of business. Since you are counting on us to be here in the future, we need to protect your investment with a stable foundation. To do this, we will be gradually and carefully expanding into new markets so that a shift in any one market will not rock our foundation.

Network Effect
We have seen that our service has a “network effect.” Similar to facebook, twitter, youtube, and other websites that have gone viral, the more people that use our service, the better it is for everyone. The more sellers & the more content for sale, the more buyers will find the site, the more sales will be made… Also the more inventory for sale means that there are more things the sellers will want to buy so that they won’t have to worry about the 20% cash-out fee.

To attract more sellers and more content, we are going to expand our service to new markets. We will start with closely related collectibles, but you can speculate about directions we might head in the future. For example, imagine a day when you can use the store credit earned from selling trading cards to buy… clothes for your newborn. (Very long term example, but there is currently a very successful company doing consignment of baby clothes.)

Psychology of Free
This is often not intuitive, but most people are actually willing to pay significantly more for an item if they get “free shipping.” Evidence for this can be seen by Amazon’s efforts to offer free shipping. You can see this in nearly every successful shopping website today. This is the trend of the future. Amazon’s Prime service appears free (after paying the $80/year membership fee), but Amazon’s fulfillment service actually charges the seller $1 per order plus $1 per item to pick & pack, plus they charge the seller a shipping fee per pound, and a storage fee. Those fees are then reflected in the seller’s markup, but they appear to the buyer as “Free Shipping.” With this strategy, Amazon is by far the most successful shopping website on the planet.

We are going to experiment with our own way of achieving “Free Shipping.” Buyers want to know how much it will cost to get the product in hand. They don’t want to be surprised by extra shipping fees or confused by how to keep those fees to a minimum. We believe that giving buyers “Free Shipping” will generate both increased sales and increased profit margins for our sellers. As such, sellers want this too. Now the challenge is figuring out a way to do this without making it a burden on the sellers. Don’t worry, I won’t forget about flippers. You are near and dear to my heart. That was one of the main reasons why I built this site. We have a plan for people that are only intending to relist items to get them without fronting the shipping costs.

Research on the market reaction to free shipping has been consistent. UPS commissioned a study on buy decisions.  When asked the question, “Thinking of the last time you put items into your shopping cart but did not finish the online purchase, which of the following best describes why you did not complete the transaction?” the most common response was “Shipping and handling costs were too high.”  There’s a lot of other relevant comments in the UPS study on strategies for free shipping.

The Motley Fool studied the psychological impact of “Free” outlined in Duke professor Dan Ariely ‘s book Predictably Irrational, where in experiments people reliably chose “free” options that were demonstrably not as good a deal.

There’s a mountain of research that concludes that buyers respond to the idea of “free.”  On Comc.com we will have a “Free Local-Pickup” option that will be available for people in the Seattle area, and we will be gradually adding more “Free Pickup Locations” throughout the US and Canada. More details about this program will be released over the coming months. For the people that want the items delivered to their home, they will have an option to pay a flat $2.99, and eventually we might add an Amazon Prime style membership where for something like $80/year we give unlimited free shipping.

Still not convinced?

We invite everyone to see this in action before settling your opinion.  You will get a chance to try it before you make any decision.  Checkoutmycards.com and COMC.com will be running in parallel, so everyone will be able to see both side by side.  The storage fee threshold is about to become a lot more generous, allowing your card prices and profit margins to increase.  Give it a try before you decide.

We will continue listening to feedback and adapting as we go. We have already rolled up a bunch of feedback into design changes this week. For example a lot of the frustration appears to be around how flipping might work. Well, have a really cool way to address that. We will talk more about that in post 4, and you will be able to play with it in about a week.

63 thoughts on “2/5 – Design Goals for COMC.com

  1. Tim,

    Can you expand on your statement: “The storage fee threshold is about to become a lot more generous, allowing your card prices and profit margins to increase.”

    Seems to be real important to me, but undefined.

    Thanks!
    J

    • The storage fee is currently $0.01 per month for cards with an asking price of $0.25 or more. Starting September 1st, we are increasing the free storage threshold to $0.75, and for the people that want to pay $50/month they will get free storage up to $2.50. August 1st will be the last month with the more expensive storage fees.

      Instead of there only being $0.05 between the old processing fee ($0.20) and the old free storage threshold ($0.25), there will be $0.50 between the two starting August 1st. This will help people significantly increase their profit margins.

      • I wish there were an easy way to increase a lot of my cheaper cards without using the broad brush of the bulk editor. Oh well. It will provide good flipping opportunities for those with the time to look for bargains.

        So basically, starting August 1st sellers can price with the new storage fee threshold in mind? What is the “25 cent rule” for some sellers will become the “75 cent rule” in eight days. Can’t wait.

      • So in the future does COMC want to go to free shipping? If so what will this future change cost us?

  2. Good late evening Tim…
    As mentioned before… we aren’t yet “buying” what you are selling but we continue to listen with interest.
    Question… We thought that although too high…your shipping charges already were explained clearly. We never saw postings here or anywhere else where buyers were confused by how much it would cost to get cards in hand.
    Were you guys getting flooded with emails privately about this or do you think there were people simply avoided the site due to confusion?

    My suggestions to you…. simply put the shipping charge below each card as you did with oversize cards….
    Also…consider finding a way to lower processing fees for cards booking $2 and under if you are going to go forward with the incorperation of the shipping fee….

    Thank you for taking the time to post these blogs. Your class and patience in the face of the storm of criticism both constructive and otherwise is again a shining example of why people should indeed give you and this site every chance possible.

      • I will be sending cards as well. If nothing else to show my support of the new idea. Theres a saying in the group I attend. “If you continue to do the samething you will get the same results”. I do have some concerns but hope these are answered in futher posts. Thank You Tim for breaking this down for us in a way that a thick skulled guy like me can understand.

    • For years our most consistent customer service questions have been about shipping.

      People really struggle with paying $0.25 for shipping on an item that only costs $0.25, but they are elated to get an item for $0.50 with free shipping.

      Research says that the most common reason why people abandon shopping carts is because of shipping costs. We anticipate that we will have much higher conversion rates by making these changes.

      • What does reasearch say about listing cards like this; John smith rc Book $2.00 ask .25 + .25 handling charge

      • There is another matter (akin to the cosmic constant if you will). A little negativity gives your enemies who compete with you muckraking fodder. They can spin their propaganda machines in to high gear. what e**y did makes it so people are ready to believe anything they hear. How is is it like the cosmic constant? :) It is there, it matters, but not many people think about it. lol

      • Also congratulations to checkoutmycards for being the first company to synthesis the “many worlds theory” in cyberspace. Max Planck would have been so proud. :)

      • “People really struggle with paying $0.25 for shipping on an item that only costs $0.25, but they are elated to get an item for $0.50 with free shipping.”

        As simple as this statement is, it is probably the best explanation yet for the shipping changes.
        I love the idea of drawing in more buyers with flat rate shipping. And the shipping included in the price for cards over about $2.00 is not of consequence. I think buyers will be willing to pay slightly higher prices for the low end cards, if they know their shipping is a flat 2.99 for as many cards as they want. I got to say, I’m starting to buy in to the idea. Plus I was starting to go away from sending cards in that were going to sell for less than a dollar anyways. I guess if your bread and butter is .25 to .75 cent cards, I could see having a hard time swallowing the automatic .25 increase on all your cards.
        But if this all works and we start getting way bigger crowds of buyers, it’s not gonna matter, the demand will start to balance better with the supplies on the website and you will start getting more money for your cards anyways.
        I think I have read it many times on this website, it was never originally intended to be great for cards worth less than a dollar. (If I am misquoting I apologize)

      • Tim, We can buy into that research based on our own experiences on the BMP.
        John…you are right about negativity and competitors as I know these threads are being watched and scrutinized by certain dealers elsewhere who would greatly rejoice if this site fails. That is why I have encouraged civil and well thought out postings.
        Darrin.. as you say ” if this all works”…. let’s all hope!

  3. This is just a way to pass the shipping cost to the seller instead of the buyer. Once cards have been sold once and they are still in the COMC market, any new cards will have to be priced 25 cents lower than those cards in order to compete which is basically a cost to sellers.

    Plus as explained before some cards will have 50% offers that are actually 50% and others will not be since some cards will have been sold once and others haven’t. Good luck with port sales too.

    I just hate this.

      • Maybe they were zombies and didn’t have any life to begin with.

        Jeff, you’re making a lot of assumptions based on speculation. None of us are sure how this will be addressed, but it sounds like we’ll know in a few days.

    • This is not at all the case. It is unfortunate that so many people are getting confused about this. Maybe we should have waited until after the site was ready to launch to explain it to people. In any case, you will start seeing how it really works next week. Also the post on Thursday regarding Flipping will also help clarify this more.

      Offers should actually be much better in the new system. We will also explain this more on Thursday, but here is a sneak preview. When a typical buyer that wants to have the card in hand makes an offer they will effectively be asking “Will you take $5 delivered for these 4 cards?”, but the seller won’t have to jump through hoops to figure out what there net would be after factoring in shipping. The site will do this automatically and the seller would see something like “Will you accept $4 for these 4 cards?”. Neither buyer nor seller needs to think about the shipping or call us up and complain that they forgot to factor in the cost of shipping when they made their offer.

    • Tim did say he had a plan for flippers. Fingers crossed we will be ok. Have a little faith in me, o have a little faith in me. Tims theme song lol.

  4. I think I get it. People are shortsighted. They’ll buy up cards on COMC and just put it out of their mind that they’ll one day have to pay for shipping. These are the same people that buy stuff they can’t afford on credit. So when the time comes for them to ship their stuff, they are “surprised,” mad, and want to blame someone other than themselves. In this case, they want to blame COMC despite shipping (and more important handling) being more than fair. Despite them being in the wrong, it can still be bad for business for them to have a negative experience. And judging by COMC’s research, not only will the new system placate these myopic morons, but it could increase business going forward across the board.

    My condolences to the sellers of commons, but I don’t think that was in COMC’s future anyway. With a service that includes card look-up, full-size scans of front and back, having someone manually file and pull each card, etc. I just don’t think commons were going to be profitable on COMC in the long-term anyway.

    • It’s not just commons your going to lose. Player collectors will be hurt the most. If a card is 1.00 or less they won’t show up now. So that hurts alot of sales yes maybe small sales but sales. Now I think if comc has 50 plus of one card then they should not post them to a port. I will see how it goes but I think they have better options than this.

  5. Thanks for explaining this. Explaning this in this way really helps. I might have lead with something like this from the start of all this crazyness. You found a way to get me excited. Sounds Good Tim

    • I don’t no how many times I have abandon a shopping cart. I no its over 25 times, this makes alot of sense now. So please accept my apoligies for hating on these blogs.

  6. I do have one question that you may not be able to answer at this time but if you havent thought about this I would like to make you guys aware of it. When we get to the coins idea I would suggest haveing not only graded coins but also: Bags of silver coins, may be copper coins. So people are able to sell there coins just for medal value and not just for coin value. Personally I have alot of what you could call junk silver and copper coins to send in if this is a option. Thanks for your consideration.

  7. Great post Tim. Hopefully this will get some posters to lower their pitchforks. The “flipping” post is the one I’m most interested in. Keep up the great work.

  8. I think we all now understand the benefit and need for cheap flat rate shipping for the buyers. Another idea though, and I’m guessing this has been looked into, but if there was a way of incorporating the .25 per item fees elsewhere it may make everyone happy. It’s not like the .25 actually covers the the labor for pulling a card it just helps. Let’s just say for example sake that someone makes $12 an hour as a puller and packager, they make $.20 a minute, I bet it takes longer on average to pull and package a card per minute. So this cost has to come from somewhere. It’s not a profitable fee. My idea, which I’m sure has been said and thought of, is spreading the cost out over all the other fees to do business on the site, say for instance, adding a small percentage to numerous other fees. I’m sure that would be controversial also, but it would certainly simplify having to keep track of which cards have the fees paid, and which ones don’t and dealing with flips and port sales. If we made the cash out fee 21% instead of 20%, would that cover it?
    Just some stuff to think about, even though I think we’re far enough into it, we’ll just have to give the hidden .25 a card a try and see how it works out. But if it is not working, I have faith they will change it down the line.
    Bring on the buyers! I bet their advertising campaign will feature the cheap flat rate shipping.

  9. So basically what all this is about is the higher ups at COMC believe that the buyers are stupid. There is really no other way to put it. They cannot even get “free shipping” right as they are still charging $2.99. They are in a win-win situation since the fees are increasing for BOTH the buyers and the sellers.

    • Do you use the same site I do? Everyone I’ve ever spoken with from COMC has gone above and beyond for any request I’ve had. They know they need sellers to keep the site liquid and successful. There not out to get us.

      • I use the same site in a much different way than you do. I can assure you my customer service results have not been as good as you claim yours has been, especially since the GM left the company.

    • isn’t this the same site that gave you a fat check for like 250k?
      2.99 flat shipping is a pretty good deal as a buyer. Its like overstock.com (o.co) they do what 2.50 flat? Once you break that initial threashold then it really is free shipping for whatever else you have. how often will you have to pay $3.00 plus 0.25 or 0.50 per item on ebay, heck thats how it is with the shipping now on comc. the overall picture is what you need to see.
      personally I’m still a little lost on the cards I have marked not for sale that I want to ship eventually. are they going to fall under the 2.99 flat or will I have to pay the old way, and then add another 0.25 each or will it all be grandfathered in and 2.99 is all I’ll need to pay for them (some might be “oversized” too, I just don’t remember right now)

      • “isn’t this the same site that gave you a fat check for like 250k?”

        I must have missed that one, any chance it can be reissued?

        This is not overstock.com, it is not amazon, it is not wal mart, it is checkoutmycards. There are no new products listed on this site, there will be no national TV ads coming up so lets stop with the irrational comparisons.

  10. As someone who sells a lot of cards on another site I can assure you that the fees that COMC are charging to do ALL of our work are more than fair. Being as EBAY has a minimum of $1.00 per card and Amazon will be going to a fee scale that will make it impossible to sell a card for less than $1.50 per card in the very near future, I’m not sure what all the uproar is about. If you site has the selection and is somewhat competitive on price, you’ll do plenty of biz here.

    Besides, the more folks who kick and scream and take their toys and leave, the better for everyone else.

  11. One very significant issue on this site is the over abundance of many cards. There are 50, 100 or even more copies of many many cards. As each new seller adds cards the potential price goes down. I assume that sellers send these cards in despite so many already on the site because they believe they will all sell. My experience on the site tells me that for at least some of these cards there may be only a couple that sell in the course of a year. If you are successful in adding more sellers and adding even more millions of cards, this issue will only get worse. I feel that you need some way to draw cards to your site that are either not already there or are in low supply. If you created a search that allowed sellers and potential sellers to see how many of a particular card has actually sold previously, that should help them decide if it is worth sending them in.

    I am all for growing your business and the numbers of sellers and buyers. However, if the potential selling price of most cards gets driven down lower and lower, there will eventually be a major problem.

    • Every now and then someone will come along and buy all of a card. (That’s why they added the “add all cards to cart” link.) But it’s a red herring that sends the message that it happens all the time.

      I’m as guilty of this as anyone. The submission fee is low enough that I don’t vet most of the stuff I send in because it’s not worth the time it takes. Alternatively, a solution could be to create the ability for buyers to identify cards that aren’t on the site that they would be interested in buying. The Wanted classified ad isn’t used very much, which kind of makes sense because why spend money on an ad just to have to wait a month to see whether anyone sees the ad and sends it in?

      If the functionality to mark cards as “wanted” doesn’t work, it wouldn’t be the worst thing to discount the price of Wanted ads or allow a buyer to have, say, one free Wanted ad per month. (Another way would be to give them one Wanted ad per $100 spent on the site. There’s no form of loyalty program yet but this could be a start.)

    • The question will be will the increased submission fee and shipping fee up front for to the growth of cards that are not on the site. There are thousands of numbered inserts and refractors that only book a couple of dollars yet are limited to 250 or less so there is little danger of them be coming over exposed on the site. However with these new fees people will be reluctant to send them in

      • Wow…trying to post via smartphone…
        excuse the lack of coherence. But I think my point was made
        Higher fees make listing 4 dollar xfractors less of a priority. And those type of cards are what are not as readily available as many others here

  12. Anything in the works for higher end cards? I honestly don’t have a suggestion ,but these are the only cards I’m hesitant to send in because I take such a hit on them. I believe there is a buyers market for it (even for sellers that have stagnent money in their ports). I do think decreasing the Next Day charge was a great idea and will push some people over the edge that may be sitting on mid-highend items they wanted to send in ,but not wait a month to be listed. This will also help sellers when someone gets hot (mike trout) and you want it listed asap. Keep up the good work.

  13. One more question. When the option to list coins is available… what do you guys plan on doing to deter people from using gold to “cash out”. Will there be a fee to have gold/silver shipped from a port?

    • I wouldnt think so but who knows. Gold is not cash in the same way cards are not cash till you sell them. Just my thought. Plus I would hope not I wanted to buy some silver.

      • Yea, I’m not saying they need to ,but Ijust see gold/silver flying off the site as a cashout method. Maybe I shouldn’t have said anyting :P

    • I don’t see why they would care if someone wants to “cash out” with 2000 in cards or 2000 in coins. Of course we know that they aren’t afraid to push the envelope with fees

  14. do it, most definitely in, shipping is always the problem this blows it away. this will probably double sales.

  15. A little late to all the conversations and I’m a smaller player here but I fail to see the uproar over the “fees” given the service that is provided. I’ve met Tim a number of times and find him to be one of the VERY brightest minds in our field. To be honest, I wish I had a guy like him running the site where most of my cards are listed, but I digress.

    IMO, COMC was never meant to be a site that wanted to be known as the place where you could buy and sell sub 50 cent cards efficiently. I hear lots of moaning about not being able to sell cards at a quarter on here, but who would want that when your paying 20-25 cents each to get them listed? And why would COMC encourage these types of cards when all they do is take up valuable scanning time (here’s the 87th different 1987 Topps Ken Magadan rookie that we have to stock in the 87th different place) when they could set an artificial barrier that makes these cards less attractive to submit. There are far better sites out there for these types of cards and COMC knows that. Tim’s business model makes a lot of sense to me for cards over $2.00 and I’m honestly not sure why anyone would send in cards that are less than a buck to begin with as your throwing away perfectly good money to submit a card that’s probably already got at least 10 copies already here.

    To those that don’t get it, take the time and put yourself in Tim’s shoes with a 27,000 square foot building, 39 employees, a very expensive tech/shelving infrastructure and the responsibility of securing, processing, scanning, listing, marketing, pulling, shipping, supplies and customer follow up and tell me your not getting a bargain. As someone who does this full time and understands the costs of this business better than most, your complaints are completely unjustified and you simply need to add a slightly higher price barrier to the cards you submit.

    There are plenty of other online options out there for selling your cards and they all involve an extraordinary amount of effort, upfront fees or other barriers that make selling cards very unattractive to most. Tim’s visionary concept here should be applauded as well as his decisions to make these changes knowing that he’s gonna tick off some folks. Things change, companies change, buyers habits change, technologies change, competition changes and costs of doing business change, his decision I guarantee to make these changes wasn’t an easy one for him and his team, but I guarantee it’s the right one if he wants his company to continue to thrive in this hyper competitive and difficult industry of ours.

    • I couldn’t say this any better.

      To answer your question, I can provide a little insight: My COMC account is self-propelled, so I don’t worry about cash flow. That’s why I send lower-end cards in on occasion. It may take a year to sell, but that’s not really getting in my way. Why other sellers send these cards in is beyond me. Anything that’s 90% off of book can be donated for the writeoff, and you’ll net more money that way if you’re in the 25% tax bracket.

      • Hey Joelshitshow
        I need some of your 1991 stadium club football so make sure you leave them up. Thanks

    • I like your post but would like to disagree on one fact although I do not know Tim, I do bleive one of his goals with this site was for the set builder, correct me if i’m wrong but sometimes to build a set you need that 1987 Topps Ken Magadan. I think that the .25 common card market will dry up on here and that in turn would push away the set collector. I do collect sets here and there and to see that happen is to bad, but its what needs to be done for the good of the bussiness and I understand that. That being said I no there are a lot of card shops where these cards can be picked up pretty cheap. I hope that if these cards do dry up on here Tim will find a way to advertise those cards for the card shops. Maybe in a classified area.

      • We do have a plan to address the common card market. I don’t want to commit to a time frame because we have so many things going at this time, but I am sure we will have a future blog post that focuses just on this scenario.

    • I’d like to hear it from Tim that he isn’t interested in low end cards on this site before I agree with much of the rest that you wrote. I should state we don’t sell low end on here (though we were thinking of sending some in as part of the $55, not commons but refractors etc). But I do get the impact that these fees will have maybe not so much on the cards already listed but will impact the flow of more low end coming on to this site (I consider $5 and under BV low end)
      As someone who has been doing this full time for over 20 years I DO have a perfect grasp of what costs are from workers comp insurance right on through the cost of the receipt rolls for the credit card machine.
      Tim has a challenge in trying to balance how much he needs to charge to keep the doors open with how much his customer base is willing to pay for the service.
      I am open to the thought that it might not be possible to pull this off long term because at some point the costs to consign may be more than many are willing to pay..even if the reality is that those costs are needed to keep the doors open.
      I have said…and this touches to your point about work…that as long as there are people willing to pay others to do the work then COMC has a chance. To average joe collector COMC takes the place of Tim and Curt…my two graders/pricers. I pay them a good wage…folks basically employ COMC in the same way. If those two become too costly…I would look for other options. That is why we won’t be sending in more cards (other than during specials) if the costs go to 25 cents.
      Like most folks I have concerns, some critical comments about the fees and changes. But I am glad to see most of the “threats” of pulling out and running have vanished from these postings.
      BTW…DAVE Magadan…the evil twin of Mackey Sasser!

  16. I will repeat what I suggested in an earlier post. What is wrong with a “transaction charge” to the seller being used to “subsidize” shipping and handling? If you modeled this correctly all “change of hands” transactions would generate revenue that would then absorb shipping. As a seller I would much rather deal with a 1% charfa at the time of sale rather than having to trying to factor in “shipping cost” when deciding what to sell and how to price it.

  17. Does anyone no if there is a fee that comc pays to the evil paypal when we put money in are accounts. Also I am sure comc doesnt get by with the standard membership fee to beckett. My point being they have some cost that we (and yes me) havent really looked at.

    • We also should watch are tongues when talking about beckett’s marketplace, because without becketts price guide this site don’t work. Just Saying

      • cards you are probably on to something
        we deal mainly in the vintage locally. But we do have dollar boxes of numbered and unumbered inserts organized by player and team
        And even obscure inserts sell well because you can’t find them on ebay or many other sites. The people who buy those cards don’t seem to care if the cards book a dollar or 5 dollars

  18. We have all heard about the tragedy in Colorado. I often feel that I should do something. There has been charity accounts set up across the country, and I am lobbying COMC to do the same. I have seen your charity section and it’s very nice. Now I have no idea of the work that would need to go into this and if there would be a response, but I am in hopes that COMC would try. I will be the first to donate some cards to this cause. Will also look here first before buying any cards. If any others would like to support this please respond to this post so COMC knows there is an interest. Sorry for being off topic.

  19. Pingback: 4/5 – How to Flip on COMC.com « CheckOutMyCards.com Blog

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