Burn, eBay, Burn

It’s amazing to me that with all the dozens of new Web 2.0 companies starting up on a daily basis, nobody’s taken a serious run at eBay.  Why are auction sites so afraid of eBay?  Even eBay’s users hate eBay these days.

Maybe today’s startups are smart enough to know that auctions don’t work anymore, period? I’m not sure that’s the case.  I think eBay’s structure and system has made auctions too annoying to use effectively.  A new flashy AJAXy competitor should be able to win over a chunk of eBay’s audience, if only from one popular corner of it.

More on eBay’s trouble: Trouble at eBay – ReadWriteWeb

“I think [fixed prices] will disappear online, simply because it is possible – cheap and easy – to vary prices online.” That was MIT Media Lab’s Patti Maes in 1999, at a time when eBay’s business was booming and auctions were seen as the future of ecommerce. Flash forward 9 years, and BusinessWeek is today calling online auctions a dying breed, Nick Carr is wondering if auctions were a fad. Indeed, the fixed price (“Buy it Now” only) format is beginning to dominate eBay, and the company has taken recent steps push fixed price even harder. But the death knell of the online auction format is not eBay’s biggest problem — no, that would be the small exodus of sellers from the site.

Here’s how eBay is killing itself.  “Buy It Now, ” or “BIN”:

Fixed price BIN-only listings now account for 42% of the gross merchandise volume on the site, and the fixed price format has been growing at a much faster rate than auctions over the past 6 years.

eBay is turning into a virtual marketplace with price tags, not gavels and auctioneers. And they keep restructuring things to ensure it.

Meanwhile, I use Amazon, which gives me greater exposure, better fees, and an easier payment system.  I don’t want to venture into the world of eBay ratings anymore, thanks.  It’s a jungle in there.

4 thoughts on “Burn, eBay, Burn

  1. There are many alternatives to eBay out there on the web. Personally I prefer uk.eBid.net for auction action a decent and secure site for selling and buying.

    Auctions are not dead, they’re just dead on eBay.

  2. Plus another annoying thing about eBay – is the CRAZY amounts that some sellers will charge for shipping, as compared to AMAZON sellers who tend to use a standard rate.

  3. The thing is though that BIN prices are usually way over-priced so sane-minded people will just ignore them so eBay is essentially shooting itself in the foot.

    Amazon is pretty good especially for obscure things like textbooks and like Rob says, the shipping charges are at a fixed and reasonable price.

  4. Amazon enforces a shipping price, which it sets for you. When I was selling dozens of DVDs last fall, it worked out very well for me.

    Katherine – I hope you’re right, but the problem is that nobody’s attracted the eyeballs eBay has. THAT’S why people go there — more eyeballs means a better chance of fetching a higher price for the item. And until another site takes off, people won’t get serious on it. Catch 22.

    We might need to break up auction sites. If certain corners of eBay go to certain new websites, it’s probably do-able. I bought a lot of comic book original art on eBay. if all the sellers on there decided one day to start using OriginalArtAuctions.com (I made that up), then it would be easy enough to do that. It would be a lot easier than trying to convince everyone in the other 200 categories (guessing at that number) to do the same. eBay might have to lose its audience one niche at a time.

    The other problem with eBay is that nothing gets enforced — not deadbeat bidders or sellers. And the categories are useless. So much junk gets posted in the wrong sections that the categories break down and become too much junk to filter through to find what you’re looking for.

Comments are closed.