Review: MarketBlast for eBay — Part 2

By Frank Fortunato | Posted August 23, 2005

Yesterday, we introduced you to a new eBay management tool called MarketBlast. Today, we review more advanced features and share our experience in testing this new product.

Reports
MarketBlast is an auction management tool, but it also contains features that aid in market insight with its extensive array of reporting features. MarketBlast can generate reports for any of four groups: Inventory, Listings, Transactions and Consignment. A "Report Generator" produces or exports reports in printout, saved file, Excel or 'Quick Report' formats. You can customize reports and control remaining stock, costs, average selling period, itemized fees, summarized revenue, invoice, gross and itemized revenue, shipping history and feedback received, among other categories.

Further, a graphs and ledger section lets you evaluate statistical trends regarding your business, allowing for visual or numerical overviews of sales performances. Monitor trends by week, month or financial quarter and analyze GMS (gross merchant sales,) ASP (average sales price,) listings, fees and even feedback six ways till Sunday. In fact, the array of report-generating tools built into the product adds considerable value to MarketBlast, as it should eliminate the need to purchase separate Market Insight software for all but the largest and/or most fastidious sellers.

eBay Sandbox and Developer Programs
MarketBlast's functionality extends to eBay Sandbox and Developer environments — the ability to test products by simulating the eBay sales process outside the live eBay community. You must first establish Sandbox and Developer accounts with eBay and generate access tokens and passwords. From there, you open MarketBlast, enter the appropriate eBay codes, select the 'Production' environment "Sandbox" or "Developer" to begin using MarketBlast as a testing tool.

These features are best left to the most advanced users, however.

Testing
People experienced at using bulk-listing eBay software or hosts should have little difficulty adjusting to Market Blast's many features and requirements.

Then there are the rest of us.

While this writer has accrued over a thousand feedbacks as an eBay seller, a techie he is not. Beyond the product's exhaustive User's Guide, MarketBlast currently offers free phone and e-mail support for the life of the product, and offers an online tutorial class via a link on the MarketBlast site hosted by a lead engineer. One or all of these will probably be necessary initial expedients for many who, like myself, are used to working with less complex, 'dumb-guy-proof' auction hosting products or services.

Keeping the MarketBlast's User Guide open in a separate window will be a requisite for all but those with a photographic memory or intuitive genius for the first several times they use the product.

By referring to the User Guide at each step and using the nifty HTML editor, I was quickly able to compose a listing and get to the image uploading phase prior to launching. Here, I encountered difficulty both in uploading images from my PC and fetching images previously placed in my Flickr account. Bewildering prompts and murky directions slowed me to a stop. I used tech assistance to get through this step, but it seems to me that the product could use simplification and refinement in this area. Once this phase is straightened out, saving data and the actual eBay launch can be accomplished with a single click.


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MarketBlast's automation features is one of its best. It lets you perform tasks like re-listing an item automatically.

The central problem for Andale or Vendio refugees will probably be the sheer number of options, prompts, bells and whistles that must be dealt with in MarketBlast when initiating most functions. But once you set the preferences, and you take several turns around the block with the product, the confusion should disappear.

Though a longtime and vaunted database software company, this is a start-up product for 4D. MarketBlast was beta tested for about six months before release of the initial 1.05 version in early June. Since then, customers have asked for more or better functionality in the following areas:

  1. Providing support for eBay International sites
  2. Enhanced transaction support — including handling multiple items, invoicing and shipping
  3. Enhanced picture support. Like me, others found it initially difficult to add and manage pictures inside MarketBlast.


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MarketBlast's listing tool is an easy-to-use template-based feature to make listing your auctions that much easier.

A MarketBlast spokesmen told me that they had begun responding to the feedback with an updated 1.08 version due for release on August 5.You can download this and all subsequent revisions directly from MarketBlast.

Again, MarketBlast is not for the small volume seller, novice or those contemplating tippy-toeing into eBay. With its array of set-and-forget features, the product is probably better suited for vendors selling the same renewable merchandise, and it's valuable for people who deal in one-of-a-kind items as well. But for any eBay bulk-listing seller weary of being fleeced with monthly charges, it certainly warrants a look.

Given the ever escalating costs of auction and image hosting services, and the dazzling array of features available in MarketBlast, including its report-generating capabilities, as well as the product's excellent support alternatives and continuing revisions, it presents an outstanding value in today's eBay sales management solution marketplace.

Adapted from ECommerce-Guide.com, part of Internet.com's Small Business Channel.

Do you have a comment or question about this article or other small business topics in general? Speak out in the SmallBusinessComputing.com Forums. Join the discussion today!


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