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Sales, Swaps, Auction & Approvals/Approvals Disc. : Approvals: a suggestion

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Jansimon
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11 Apr 2014
09:34:53am

Approvals
Some three months after its start, I think it is safe to say the Approvals section is a huge success. However, talking from my own experience, I note that the appeal of the Approvals has become a bit less the last weeks.
I am not sure of the reason, but I think it is because the amount of approval books is slowly becoming too high. As I write this, we have over 500 books on offer which means that it gets hard to have an overview of what is on offer.
Therefore I would like to suggest a small change in the setup of the system, based on real life approval books (at least the way they are organised over here in the Netherlands): can we agree on some sort of maximum shelf life for the approvals? For instance, arrange it so that they are automatically withdrawn after three months.

In my opinion this would first of all reduce the clutter. Furthermore, if stamps in the approvals have not been sold by then it is either because the books are too far depleted and potential buyers do not bother to go through books that are more than 70% emptied or they just are not that interesting.
Removing the books may "force" the sellers to reconsider their offerings or regroup the remaining stamps and add fresh ones in order to create new books. As a seller I have noticed that when you take stamps that did not sell the first time and put them in a new configuration with additional (replacement) stamps in a new approval book, eventually with adapted prices, they suddenly do sell.

So what do you think, is this something you would like to see in the next version of the approvals section?

Jan-Simon
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11 Apr 2014
11:31:27am
re: Approvals: a suggestion

I actually had the same thought and planned to pull my books this week and re-start.

I agree with a maximum shelf life of 3 months or when the book has been up for a month and over half have been sold.

Kelly

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rrraphy
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11 Apr 2014
12:17:45pm
re: Approvals: a suggestion

I think that the other problem we face is that too many "Books" are actually more fit to list under Auctions and are unnecessarily cluttering Approvals.
I think one and two page books, books with just a handful of items, and books that list ever changing prices on each page (with just a few items) are really a major part of the clutter problem.
I strongly urge setting a minimum standard for what constitutes an Approval book.
Right now, anything goes!
Approvals should offer substantial number of stamps to chose from. Otherwise, they belong under Auctions.
I agree with Jan-Simon. I now find it unappealing, and a turn off, to look at 500 plus books. As a result I look at just the New Books (the last 7 days) which sadly goes against the grain and purpose of Approvals... to have substantial choices of low cost stamps to pick from, available in inventory, to help collectors fill these empty spots in their collections.
There should be an software implemented automatic way to remove depleted books (say over XX% sold), or books that have not seen action for a long time (YY days), after giving notice to the seller.
Right now, clutter is rapidly making Approval worse than Auctions, since there is no expiration date!

Question: Did Approvals also pull the low cost items cluttering Auctions boards away, and help relieve the congestion of the Auctions? Not sure if it did!
rrr...

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Rhinelander
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11 Apr 2014
02:55:37pm
re: Approvals: a suggestion

The only time you see 500 books is when using the "All Books" screen. There have been discussions in the design group about the value of the all books view, especially if the number of books should eventually double or triple. If the "All Books" screen is overwhelming, you can ignore this view and instead use the "Book Categories" screen. We have routinely hundreds, if not thousands of auctions in a given category, so I really do not see how 500 books spread over 20 categories is a problem. Especially since there exists an individualized "new" flag that identifies any new books in a category that has had changes since a member last looked at it. It appears the "All Books" view rather than presenting an additional convenience, is perceived as an obstacle to finding and retrieving books in a specific collecting area (?).

We have reached book number 1400 and have 500 active books since inception at the beginning of the year (about three months). This indicates that statistically books are posted on average for little over one months before being retired. Only 18% (22%) of early books with number lower than than 300 (700) are still active today. It appears sellers do a pretty good job of retiring books in a timely fashion. There exists little empirical evidence of old, depleted, unattractive books cluttering the system. The design team has nevertheless adopted a maximum shelf life which will be measured from the last purchase from a book. This solution has not been implemented.

As for Ralph's point to set standards of what is an approval book: These standards exist. The standard is plastered all over the approval section:

Quote:

"The model of Stamporama Approvals are the APS circuit books. We have no minimum page limit, but books should offer a substantial selection of stamps in the chosen area. Please use your best judgement. Do not clutter the system with books containing only a handful of stamps."



Almost 40% of current books have 60 stamps or less. These books come disproportionately from just a handful of sellers. If sellers would combine their smaller books into larger books that actually offer a substantial selection, much would be gained with respect to the reduction of clutter. More specifically, the approx. 40% books with less than 60 items contribute 5,499 items (3,557 still available) to the approvals; the remaining books give a selection of 56,015 (41,520 still available). So 40% of the books add only 10% to the selection.

The design team has also adopted -- after exhaustive and exhausting discussion -- a beefed up enforcement mechanism to the "substantial selection"-rule. This solution has also not yet been implemented.


Arno
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michael78651
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SOR Auctioneer
11 Apr 2014
05:24:01pm
re: Approvals: a suggestion

Arno, that sounds fine. However, before calling out the approval book police, I think there needs to be a clear definition of what the term "substantial selection" means. Right now it is up to interpretation and can mean several things to different people.

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BobbyBarnhart
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11 Apr 2014
07:13:17pm
re: Approvals: a suggestion

"Substantial selection" cannot be defined in a way that is enforceable by the program. All we can do with the program is establish certain parameters (number of pages in a book, number of items in a book, etc.) the actual "selection" presented by a book is subjective and is only enforceable by a human (an approval moderator, as yet to be appointed). Some of the things to be considered by a moderator would be the number of different stamps offered, span of time of issues represented, etc.

Here is an opportunity for users of the system to suggest what their definition of "substantial selection" would be.

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michael78651
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SOR Auctioneer
11 Apr 2014
10:02:14pm
re: Approvals: a suggestion

I think we are asking for trouble if you keep matters subjective and left to the interpretation of another moderator. Look what happens in the boards when that happens and a member takes exception to the moderator's actions.

Span of time, for example, is not valid. An approval book of stamps from a year set spans little time, but could be a large number of stamps. You're going to have consider too many possibilities and have all the requirements with exceptions, etc. etc. etc. Also, I could create an approval book with one stamp from the 1800s, twelve from the 1900s and 5 from the 2000s. That spans plenty of time. But, you'd have to put in all the exceptions and the "if" "then" clauses. It will become too convoluted and could cause people to shy away from offering approval books like it has caused people to shy away from discussions, because they don't want to be castigated for breaking any rules.

Several people here keep saying to use the KISS Method. With this I agree with them. Too complicated with the rules, and you crater the enjoyment.

Before trying to fix something, ask yourself if it is broken or is causing a problem. It doesn't seem like anything is broken or causing a problem. As Arno stated, use the search function to look only for the books you want to see.

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Stampphile
12 Apr 2014
10:07:58am
re: Approvals: a suggestion

I, personally, would be disappointed to see the All Books category disappear. I use the Username sort option to reduce the impression of clutter and randomness that others have mentioned. Then I concentrate on the uppermost listings under each username to guide me to the books that will most likely be worth my while to look at. Perhaps it is the librarian in me, but I really like to see ALL! The book number is immaterial to me since books can be replenished. I find the reduced-cost icon much more useful than the book number itself to decide whether a return look might be worth my while.

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dani20
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12 Apr 2014
10:53:48am
re: Approvals: a suggestion

I agree with Stampphile
Dan C.

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Stampphile
13 Apr 2014
12:03:48pm
re: Approvals: a suggestion

Rather than yank a very hot book because it has reached a certain percentage of sales (say 70 per cent), wouldn't it be better to remove inactive books after, say, 30 days? Wouldn't that kill two birds with one stone?

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doodles69ca
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Suzanne
15 Apr 2014
05:07:20pm
re: Approvals: a suggestion

Quote:

"I think that the other problem we face is that too many "Books" are actually more fit to list under Auctions and are unnecessarily cluttering Approvals."




I think this is true... I just checked on one approval book and there are several pages with only 2 to 5 stamps on each page, with prices of $1.00 or more for each stamp. I think they would be better off in the auction.

I think approval books should have a minimum of 15 stamps per page, and be priced no more then 50 cents per stamp. And even that might be a bit high, but still not unreasonable. When you get to pricing out stamps for $1.00 or more, then for sure they should be in the auction.
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Patches
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Liz
15 Apr 2014
05:43:58pm

Auctions
re: Approvals: a suggestion

I have mixed feelings about the Approval Books. With any books that I've listed (and I've listed perhaps a couple of dozen books), I've found that the first day or perhaps two days after they appear there are a lot of sales from the books. After two days of the books being listed,I've had no success having even one additional sale from any of the books. After a couple of weeks I just close the books and remove them. Then I take the stamps, put on stock sheets, scan them either in lots, sets or singles, put them up in the auction at double or triple the price I was asking in the books, and most of them sell in the auction, some receiving multiple bids. I haven't been able to figure out why other than perhaps the people looking in the auction aren't looking in the Approval Books section! I don't think it's because the stamps in the books that are valued at over $1 apiece are being offered for 5c or 10c per stamp and being offered in the auction for 20c to 30c apiece !!!

Liz

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BobbyBarnhart
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15 Apr 2014
06:01:13pm
re: Approvals: a suggestion

I like the variety and number of books. I find it very easy to find the exact books I want using the extremely versatile sorting functions our wizard has given us. And there is no rule that says you have to use the "All Books" category: try the tab labeled "Book Categories," or, my favorite, the "Search" category and search by keyword.

Most stamp collectors are cursed with OCD or ADHD or some other alphabet soup designation (hey, it is part of the genetic makeup of philately), so we are intimidated by long lists or a page full of titles and numbers - fight through it, you'll persevere, because stamp collectors are also usually, as Yogi would say, "smarter than the average bear!"

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Rhinelander
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15 Apr 2014
10:12:50pm
re: Approvals: a suggestion

Hello Liz,

We have discussed your exact observation at length in the design team that books appear to get little attention after the first few days.

First off, many older books offer very good selections; often at par with the "books of the day."

Obviously, we want to minimize design issues that may prevent buyers from easily accessing and browsing older books.

To the extent that not design, but psychology, is responsible, there may be little that can be done. Overall I need to emphasize that the approvals are still a very new service to members. The baby can walk, but in the timeline of development we are probably still in elementary school. Both buyers and sellers need to shake certain behavioral patterns from the auction.

For sellers, it is expectations management. The approvals are supposed to mimic the APS circuit books in an online setting. The average selling rate across APS circuit books is 32% over an 18 months time span. Obviously, APS selling rates vary greatly across collecting area and sellers' pricing strategy. In our approvals, the sold percentage of all currently active books (approx. 500) is 30.14%. Because sold out books are auto-retired or pulled by sellers, the selling percentage of active books is much lower than the selling percentage of all books. This means we are doing much better than the APS, especially considering that we accomplish these sales rates in about a months and a half on average. However, sellers will typically not sell all of their stamps, and it may take a while.

Buyers, on the other hand, need to recognize the difference to our auction platform. What is "newly listed" does not give the full story. Many sellers work with their books, adding pages, reducing prices etc. This is much different from the auction. Often these changes are substantial. One has to go in the "library" of books, using the all books or book category views, and check the personalized "new" flag which indicates any books with changes since the buyer last checked the book. Also, if the depletion rate is informative, or not, is seller specific. Yes, a high depletion may mean that only less desirable stamps are left. However, many books contain multiples of the same stamp. If one or two of the same commemorative are gone, there still could be a copy left for you. Unless you check it out, you will never know.

I found actually that after a couple of weeks of inactivity, all of a sudden stamps from a book start selling again. (Some) patience appears to be a virtue here; especially when it comes to less common collecting areas.

Your observation that items sell in the auction that did not sell in the approvals, is stunning nevertheless. I would urge all folks selling in both platforms to cross reference their auctions and approvals ("save on shipping and also check out my auctions (approval books) LINK"). Beyond that, if some buyers do not wish to utilize the approvals, we cannot force them. It is also notable that as far as I can tell the approvals did not diminish the number of auction lots, including the number of 10c-items. So, to each his own, I guess.

Arno

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Patches
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Liz
15 Apr 2014
10:50:12pm

Auctions
re: Approvals: a suggestion

Arno I was under the impression (perhaps falsely so) that we were not to advertise in our listings. Perhaps referring to other listings one might have in the approval books or auctions is not considered advertising????

I agree with you that "as far as I can tell the approvals did not diminish the number of auction lots, including the number of 10c-items." IF the number of low value auction lots has decreased I think the only reason this has happened is that a few of the previous high volume sellers have been not listing in the auction, or in the Approval Books sections, nor have I even seen them on Stamporama over the past few months.

I have also found that if I retire an Approval Book, take the stamps and rearrange them on my sheets, put the same stamps up as a new Approval Book, the chances are they will be looked at and some of the stamps will sell the second time around. Strange!

Another thing that I have noticed is that if I were to add items to a book or reduce prices those books still aren't being viewed after the first initial few days of appearing under the Approval Books section.

It may be all in my imagination, but these are the observations I have made about Approval Books.

Liz

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Patches
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Liz
15 Apr 2014
10:54:58pm

Auctions
re: Approvals: a suggestion

Arno could you explain, or give examples of what you mean when you say, "Both buyers and sellers need to shake certain behavioral patterns from the auction."

Thanks!
Liz

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Rhinelander
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16 Apr 2014
12:02:39am
re: Approvals: a suggestion

Liz,

The only advertizing regulation that I am aware of refers to the discussion board. Do you see a problem to point to your other offers in your own auction? In fact, SOR does the sales promotion for you by providing a link to your other offers. It is just that these links only capture your other auction or approval lots respectively, so I would add a link to the other in my auctions (approvals) or even in the invoice.

I also confirm your observation that retiring a book, reorganizing, and reposting, strangely helps sales. The explanation likely is in what we both observed earlier: you get a boost in publicity when a book is new, and once a book gets passed down the list, you just get less exposure. From a design standpoint, this bothers me. We should not give an incentive for sellers to constantly rehash their books. This is inefficient and puts unnecessary strain on the web resources. It is also nonsensical. The stamps are "there." The buyer just have to shake their habit -- imported from the auction -- to always only check the "new today" link.

Sellers, on the other hand, need to be more patient. In the auction, they know within a week if a stamp sold or not. In the approvals, after 1, 2, 3 weeks, many sellers get antsy. I am not exempt, but have somewhat accepted the time factor. Post the book, sit back, relax. I have observed that, yes, you get some immediate sales, then nothing, but then, at irregular intervals, sales pop up again. Slowly but surely, depletion creeps up. Often, you post a new book, and a buyer uses the opportunity to check out your older books.

Approval books are not auctions. I envision the approval book system as a deep inventory of books in numerous collecting areas. Someone just finished working on his or her Philippines, and can grab books to fit the country that has just been worked on. So buyers, in essence, perhaps need to embrace the longer term nature of the approvals. The APS is sitting on an inventory of 10,000s of circuit books, ready to be shipped out when requested. I worked on my Sweden, let's check out any Sweden approval books. The fact that buyers buy the same Sweden stamp from "today's" book that did not get a hit yesterday, shows that the issue is psychological. Nobody would consider to constrain their buying only to those APS books that arrived at the headquarters "today." We are a brand new system. Over time buyers and sellers perhaps will shake the short term orientation fostered by the auction. Of course, I am conjecturing. Any suggestions to make the system better, of course, would be appreciated.

Arno

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michael78651
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SOR Auctioneer
16 Apr 2014
02:53:56am
re: Approvals: a suggestion

I asked when the approval books started if it would be permissible to cross-reference other books for sale or auction lots. The answer was a resounding "Yes". We just can't post on the Discussion Boards that we are selling anything. However, I can post what you are selling, and you can post about what I am selling.

I am having the opposite experience where packets of stamps I could not sell in auction are selling in the approval books, and for more than what I was listing the per item price for multiple stamp lots.

Patience, yes. It is a necessity. You need to have the right person come along and look at your books. It's hard to get those people to do it when you can't say anything about it, however. The past week, I have had sales resume in the books after a quiet couple of weeks. Now if I could just get some time off from work (no 12 hour days, for seven days a week) maybe I will be able to make some new books.

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smaier
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Sally
16 Apr 2014
07:21:36pm
re: Approvals: a suggestion

As a buyer, I agree with Arno's comments. It is great to have lots of auction books from the same seller to look through. I tend to look and purchase based on whatever I am working on at the moment and the bigger the selection, no matter how long the book has been up, the better. I usually look at books of interest early on in their listing but know I may not bid or purchase unless I can come up with enough to justify the shipping. Sometimes it will take many different books to make it worth the time (for me and for the seller). Most folks have been willing to hold items until I am done bidding and this is very helpful. Sally

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