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Is it time eBay spun off auctions?

By Dan Wilson October 28, 2014 - 3:08 am

It’s all change at eBay Inc.. PayPal and the eBay marketplaces will part company next year. Mobile transactions have transformed ecommerce. Outlets are increasingly eBay’s bread and butter and subject to more attention from the top table. BIN is the dominant trading format on eBay.

And none of that is bad in any real sense. eBay is bigger and better because it innovated away from its original role as an online auction site that predominantly traded second-hand goods. But languishing in attention is the auction format these days. Auctions are the foundation of eBay and still a critical source of revenue. Pre-loved is unloved.

Moreover, auctions draw a very committed cadre of buyers who love the experience. Only last weekend I stayed with friends and both he and she showed off with pride the things in their house they’d bagged from eBay auctions. They doted on their bids and thought nothing of crossing county borders to pick up their buys. They boasted of the bargains they had bought to sate their delightfully eclectic tastes.

And this is why I love eBay to this day: you can buy almost anything on it. But I worry that sometimes this wonderful stuff gets drowned out by the new stuff and the BINs. eBay seldom showcase auctions and second hand stuff on their homepage despite the curated ‘Collections’ initiative.

It seems to me that the future of ecommerce is in differentiated, honed and specialised buying experiences for buyers. One size doesn’t fit all and eBay have shown they know that with specialist shopping experiences for fashion, outlets and motors.

But actually the best they could do, really, is remember the core. Plenty of folk love auctions and plenty of folk love bargains. Moreover, it could be an exercise that really delighted those buyers who love that bit of eBay.

It might just be time for eBay to play to one of its strengths and spin off a particular marketplace website just for used and just for auctions.

What do you reckon?

  • Johnny Masada
    3 years ago

    well, in a word – Yes.

    But there would need to be a way to keep off the crap.

    The buying experience is not pleasant having to wade thru page after page of miscaterogized spammy listings of cheap new offshore merchandise being labeled as other then it is.

  • Rich
    3 years ago

    Yes.
    And you wonder if all interests might be best served by creating another site for small sellers.

  • Andy R
    3 years ago

    This is nonsense. Auctions and buy it nows cross-pollinate each other.

    We have loads of customers who buy our shop items in addition to auctions.

    Auctions also provide a shop window for buy it now items, with their increased visibility.

    If auctions and fixed priced sales are split on Ebay, both sides will die and Ebay will be finished.

    • Stuart
      3 years ago

      I agree with Andy, we do very well from auctions, not only on price but also visibility for the rest of our products.

      Ebay should be spending some time clearing out the crap from the site as well as duplicate merchants on there who fill the site with duplicate products from different accounts.

      Auctions are a thrill and exciting, especially when it’s something you have been searching for ages for, it would be a real shame if that was lost from the core of ebay.

    • 3 years ago

      I also agree with Andy, good collectables (and rarities in particular) sell well for me at auction, often for a greater price than I might have envisaged putting on a BIN. But we also have a large customer base who like the speed of BIN so we offer both formats across the range. I totally agree with David, I think the strength is in the size of the offerings available, this brings people to the site.

      However, if it does split, then my view is that Ebay is best known for its bargains, if anything should be hived off, it should be the outlets. Start up a new EbayNew and leave us the old one.

  • northumbrian
    3 years ago

    we agree with andy r though there is a danger of auctions being seen as a future cash cow asset strip by those that control the boardroom

  • northumbrian
    3 years ago

    when ever a news article mentions internet auction site for good or bad we all know who they mean , ebay would be silly to lose such a brand

  • 3 years ago

    It’s the combination that works – many buyers come for the auctions (it was ebay’s USP and they are still easily market leader) but then stay and buy fixed price items for many reasons. They get impatient waiting for auctions to end; they are outbid once too often and pay a bit extra for convenience; they see things they hadn’t considered and buy them too because they are in the search results.
    It all works really well and in any search list there is a deliberate mix of auction and fixed price listings to keep buyers happy.
    As Andy says to split them would be the worst of both worlds but it’s an interesting topic.

    • Jerry Stampfer
      3 years ago

      I agree with this.. and I have an eBay ‘shop’ and sell exclusively used (collectable, vintage, antique etc) items almost all of which (about 3,400) are BIN but sometimes I like to sometimes clear stuff out on auction and sometimes if I don’t know what something is worth I will auction it.. and the mix enriches my offer (and eBay’s)… and brings more people to the party.
      Keep it how it is eBay but don’t forget your roots!

  • Very good idea. It will provide a far better shopping experience for the shoppers looking for a bargain on the 2nd user market and the ones looking for brand new products at a competitive price.

    Best Regards
    Jean-Francois

  • David Brackin
    3 years ago

    No. Networks (which is what eBay is) are disproportionately stronger if they are bigger. With 2 people there’s only one deal you can broker. With 4 there are 6 and with 10 there are 45. The utility of the network increases as the square of its participants.

    Furthermore eBay is essentially a search company: buying in traffic and bouncing it around its network, hoping for a hit. The size both reduces the cost of traffic (both by purchasing power and size of natural fresh content) and the stickiness of the traffic once it has arrived.

    The focus should not be on cleaving the marketplace into two smaller weaker marketplaces but in proving the internal search experience to allow it to add even more inventory without burdensome seller restrictions and buyer frustration.

    • Rich
      3 years ago

      I’ve never felt at ease with ebay, so confusing for buyer and seller. On Etsy all I do is list in one currency, one format, on one site.
      I feel ebay is not coherent, tries to do all things. At first it was auctions vs fixed price, then shops over auctions, then the end of shop search, then variation over fixed listings.
      Glad others are doing well but in all honesty my business has really suffered. that’s before the labrynth of rules and restrictions, and technical glitches.
      Certainly it would benefit me as an overseas seller to be on a dedicated site. I wouldn’t be handicapped by unreasonable performance objectives, and the people buying from me would be specifically interested in dealing with an overseas seller.
      Whatever it is too cumbersome at present.

  • Jon
    3 years ago

    Noooo. Spin off the crap..not our beloved auctions. It’s the 99p shop crap that spoils the site & the 99p can openers with £7.99 postage. There is simply too much crap on eBay. Hundreds of multivariation listings at 99p that when you click into them you find the item for 99p is actually a hairclip or something equally crap & the the item you want, the one in the uploaded image that you searched for, is actually 25.00 not 99p & NOT a good shopping experience! Ebay never think things through properly & let sellers take advantage of that fact for months, even years before they get around to sorting it out. They do nothing to stop sellers using the multivariation to spam buyers or make believe they are UK sellers when they are shipping from China etc. eBay need to stick to their own rules. Over a year ago they said we all had to change the size of our uploaded images to 500 pixels on the shortest side. So why are there so many sellers with pics the size of postage stamps & many with no pics at all. Massive sellers with hundreds of Neg Feedbacks that they never bother replying to. This is where eBay need to look. Spinning off auctions would be suicide. Auctions are a welcome attraction not a hindrance.

  • Roger C
    3 years ago

    I’m a very “small time seller” but I too can conduct guests around my trophy cabinet of great eBay buys, first reaction was GREAT, give me a market place like it used to be that suits my sales and purchases . . . then I read the above.

    Punch anything into Google, click on shopping – even if just for information – and eBay listings are there sometimes at the top. Want a better deal than the High Street, go peruse eBay “shops” for immediate BIN deals. Like has been said : this is eBay for the 21st Century.

    eBay tried a split system within one web-site years ago, then binned the “big players” and brought the whole lot back under one roof. Likely reason? Too early but they could try that today and with the sheer volume of traders they could create something to challenge Amazon . . . now there’ll be a fight and a half to watch.

    Doesn’t answer the question though, does it? Very probably the greater bulk of us learnt our business in that earlier, more ethical and relaxed eBay selling experience. Some remained and became extremely proficient specialist sellers, other had sought to earn a bigger trading empire that Trotters International Trading!

    I would be desperately sorry to see “eBay Auctions” sold off to be outside the main site, all I ever want to see these day is eBay just be a bit kinsiderate on one class of their members whose “shop” may only have less that two hundred items but proudly displayed a real 100% feedback. These were the evolution of your past eBay, you are where you are because of them and who went before. Whatever you plan for them . . . remember and show true respect?

    PS : The chinese, especially those who claim to have their base here in the UK, can be a very bitter-sweet shopping experience BUT I have not found ONE problem with the goods I’ve bought from than and once I had an item delivered from Hong Kong inside THREE days . . . and it was “Free P&P” too”! Buy with caution but cut them some slack peeps?

    Right, goes off now to see if in an older version of my browser favourites still has my sign details to my dormant Ebid “shop”. . . will they FINALLY be able to compete fairly at least?

    • Roger C
      3 years ago

      The reply above is mine . . . why I’m “undefined” haven’t a clue! I’m obviously getting smaller by the day! LOL!

  • Gareth
    3 years ago

    Auctions are the one thing that gives eBay its niche, otherwise its just a poor Amazon imitation. I sell a lot in the art category and auctions account for 95% of all my listings – it’s a system that works very well for me, and attracts a lot of interest and watchers. I typically make more from an auction than trying to set the same sort of finishing prices, but as BINs.

  • Bigtimetrader
    3 years ago

    Ebay need to get their house in order by policing and locking down their site to stop the BS.

    They then need to buy and control or create and operate their own logistic delivery company.

    The future is all about delivery and service and delivery and easy free returns and delivery.

  • Ian A
    3 years ago

    I think for a business auctions are useful to give exposure to your buy it now products

    They should spin off the auctions for private sellers tho and just make it easier for every day folk to list and sell again with an emphasis on Caveat Emptor. Let buyers take some responsibility rather than the try before you buy just ask for a refund culture.

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