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Are auctions dying on eBay?

By Dan Wilson March 16, 2015 - 1:18 am

Auction sales on eBay declined 26.2% year on year in February according to ChannelAdvisor.

ChannelAdvisor publishes a monthly digest of relevant numbers and insights regarding ecommerce based (as I understand it) on the data they garner from the sellers and retailers that use their service. It is a vital and fascinating regular snapshot on the health of online marketplace trade.

You can take a look at the latest SSS (Same Store Sales) report here and it includes comment from CA’s venerable CEO Scot Wingo too.

One aspect of the report leaps out to me. And, whilst it isn’t necessarily alarming or unexpected, it is notable. The auction side of the eBay business isn’t doing well. CA says that auctions were down 26.2% Year on Year in February 2015, down 16% YoY in January and that’s on top of a December 2014 decline of 12.9%. Indeed, every single month in the last year has seen auctions diminish.

Now, here’s a note of caution. The bigger sellers that use CA (and, as far as I can see, these numbers are based on their experiences) are not necessarily natural auction sellers. They will likely depend on BINs etc to make the bulk of their sales on eBay. So this might not be the most appropriate sample. That said, it is a huge data set.

Would a decline in auction sales be a problem? For some sellers, yes. And it would dent eBay’s brand, I suggest, if auctions died entirely. eBay is still, in the popular consciousness, an internet auction site despite the pre-eminence of fixed price selling.

I’d like to see eBay actually expend some time and effort to protect auctions because they are vital to the eBay brand and experience. Auctions have served it so well for so many years and it is vital that they remain part of the mix.

  • radroach
    2 years ago

    The fee structure encourages the use of buy it now listings in that the inclusive allowance with shop subscriptions does not include auctions, only fixed price.

    So eBay are to some extent pushing sellers in the direction of buy it now instead of auctions.

    Similarly the occasional offers to business sellers of 50,000 zero insertion fee listings is structured in the same way.

    eBay themselves make auction style listings less attractive thereby distorting the stats – is this a deliberate policy?

  • tinker
    2 years ago

    there are statistics and there is reality
    we would not object to just a 1% cut of the revenue ebay collect in fees from auctions
    there are also some categories that the only sensible method is auctions

  • Gary
    2 years ago

    Auction interest from buyers has declined. I have noticed a much higher rate of single bid auction sales in the last 12 months. The traditional strategy of starting at 99p presents much higher risk than 2 years ago with just 2 bidders appearing on many occasions when there used to be 5 or more.

    Also the discounted private seller FVF shop fees of 8% only apply to BINs. Auction still attract 10%. i would also suggest that ebay have more post sale overhead on auctions than BINs so they see it as in their interests to promote BINs. If I get non payers and returns it is inevtiably an auction sale so a higher defect and rating risk for sellers also.

    All things considered is it no wonder auctions are in decline. It is so obvious what ebay need to do to revitalise the auction format but they won’t because they are blinkered.

  • 2 years ago

    This is no real surprise to me. The whole model of eBay has been changing over the past few years in terms of the types of seller that they are targeting.

    What started life as an online auction site for people to sell unwanted items from their bedrooms is now a serious selling platform for businesses of all sizes.

    These businesses are largely selling new or refurbished items which have a price point that needs to be hit. They also usually have multiple units of these items for sale so the Buy it Now type listing is much more tuned in for this type of sale.

    As eBay becomes more and more of a business site rather than a casual selling site for the man on the street, the decline in auction listings will continue and who is to say that it will not disappear altogether in the future?

  • Je Suis 3.3.3
    2 years ago

    I have not bought or sold a single item on eBay since they ‘reinvented’ their Ipad app and made it the worst rated app in the App Store. RJ Pittman’s refusal to listen to the reviews in the App Store or the complaints on their own site set up to communicate with their users getsatisfaction.com/ebaymobile, just shows how out of touch they are.
    Mr Pittman, Mr Giger and Ms Leishman and the phony Ms Mirabalshould all be fired. Unfortunately, they have a system that allows them to pat themselves on their back and pronounce success while ignoring the truth.
    Read the reviews of v3.40 and v3.41 and ask yourself why the can’t just restore v 3.3.3 and make it available to those who want to use it. Is this any way to run a company?

  • Tony C
    2 years ago

    Ian’s correct. And I have noticed, when buying on eBay, that most of the private sellers from whom I have bought things have been using the Auction format, whereas buying items from business sellers is usually by the BIN route. There seems to be this polarization…..

    But then I am not surprised. Businesses such as mine rely on fast turnover of fixed-price, small-value products that the buyer wants *now*, whereas the private sellers are still selling things from their attics, but at auction, and buyers of that sort of thing would likely not mind waiting because its just something they want rather than something they need. Which to my mind is as it should be :)

  • 2 years ago

    As a former power seller, ebays entire platform for selling needs to be overhauled. I know other power-sellers that were doing $250k to $1 million a year and they walked away from ebay, in part because of unfair or unreasonable business practices. One is negative feedback the other is the amount of fraud a seller has to deal with. There is nothing stopping buyers from spending hundred or thousands of dollars on ebay and then claim they never received it or it was damaged in the mail, in addition the buyer never returns the item or sometimes just an empty box. Ebay and paypal will always favor the buyer in such disputes which is a real shame. No wonder why 45% of ebay’s revenue is driven by paypal.

  • Mandy
    2 years ago

    The reason people are not buying on Ebay as much as they used to is mainly due to Ebay taking an unjustified and greedy 10% of the postage and packaging on top of their final vale fee of 10%. There are too many unscrupulous sellers who charge excessive p&p to profit and despite Ebay supposedly clamping down on this it still continues. Ebay should have the software to be able to direct postage to royal mail,s website and put a cap on the p&p allowed using the prices charged by royal mail for different services.
    Ebay has declined over the years and the good sellers it once had have gone due to being fed up with Ebay,s greedy fees and the exceptionally poor service provided by Ebay staff. I do not even think it is legal for Ebay to take 10% of the postage and packaging from a seller when they contribute nothing to the costs but no one has even challenged the legalities of this so they continue to be a law unto themselves. I have been an Ebay member for 10 years and used to enjoy Ebay but now I detest it and Ebay only have themselves to blame.

  • Andy R
    2 years ago

    Auctions don’t work any more on Ebay.

    The carrot of the 99p start no long works, possibly because people aren’t looking at Ebay any more.

    We still auction more interesting items, but effectively start them at the price we want.

    The new management look like corporate asset strippers to me.

    More pain to come!

  • Gareth
    2 years ago

    In the art category (originals as opposed to prints) it is very difficult to price BIN’s, as valuation can be very subjective and auctions are vital to a great many sellers.
    My whole set up has always relied on auctions and for customers to dictate what they will pay, and it is something that has worked very well.
    I suspect there are number of niches where sellers require auctions as much as BINs. Auctions are the only thing that gives eBay an edge over many similar sites. To throw that away would be shortsighted.

  • 2 years ago

    I don’t sell coins but I do buy coins. I like the Auction as against the BIN. Often but by no means always the coin starts at 99p and depending what it is rapidly climbs to finally sell at a realistic price.

    In regard to BIN the original price is way over anything reasonable and it goes through without gathering any interest. Then later the seller tries again at a marginally lower but still grossly overpriced BIN with the difference between the original unsuccessful BIN and the current but still grossly overpriced BIN shown as a price reduction.

    When I am selling in Books I price at a reralistic price(OK I think its realistic) and sometimes it sells but by no means always sells). The trouble often is that somebody else has come in under me and the rush to the bottom can start.

  • radroach
    2 years ago

    Looks like the US site at least is doing something to revitalize auction listings, according to EcommerceBytes the Spring Seller update to be released later today includes the following:

    “The good news: beginning in May, eBay will provide credits for insertion fees for auction listings that sell”

  • Gwen
    2 years ago

    I don’t do auctions on my main business selling account as BINs and MVL’s seem to work best.
    However, on our personal account we have always run auctions when selling say a guitar or amp etc

  • dan
    2 years ago

    i have a mixture of uses for ebay, i sell BIN with best offer mostly, motoring items

    BUT i am also putting up my personal collection of motoring memrobilia, brochures etc and these are auction, and usually thats best for these type of items i find, as some sellers in the same category have had their identical items on for years! (one seller has £50 BIN on an item everyone else sells regularly for £20, and this has been relisted for 40 months!)

    as someone said above the 99p start with a gaurantee it will rocket is over, i have lost a couple this week that have gone for the 99p start that i would have expected a few bids on.

    i will be setting the base bid higher and letting it “find its value”, but no more 99p starts!

  • Gary
    2 years ago

    i have had 2x99p sales this week for items that normally average £4 to £12 based on previos sale history. also had something sell For £12 when the last similar sale I made of an identical item was £40 and they normally go for £20+. This is recent post Xmas history. Ebay auctions are now high risk and at this time for some reason base line prices are not being hit.

  • tinker
    2 years ago

    rather than the auction format not working
    could it be that the individuals listings ? are not keeping up with the market ,or are no longer viable

  • Gary
    2 years ago

    Point accepted. Maybe my recent good fortune with similar encouraged others to come out of the woodwork with their same stuff with resulting market flood. Point is some buyers got absolute steals and no other bidder interest which was surprise even if flood.

  • Robert C
    2 years ago

    Sotheby’s certainly don’t think ebay auctions are dead.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-31921738

  • Gary
    2 years ago

    Streamed auction hammer set by auctioneer not ebay with live video and sound. Completely different to standard ebay auction format.

    • Robert C
      2 years ago

      Ah, so it is. Just saw it on bbc’s website, interesting partnership though!

    • tinker
      2 years ago

      most B&M auction houses use the saleroom.com
      they simply could not cope with ebays buyers

  • Jess
    2 years ago

    Selling stuff on eBay is rather expensive, u get charged a fee on the total price ( includes postage?!) Then u get another fee for using PayPal. U earn probably a dollar after everything else is deducted. So much effort and time and not getting much in return.

  • Gary
    2 years ago

    Spooky but some of my long standing BINS have just sold in rapid succession at the same time as the “auctions are dead” comments. Makes up for some of the recent auction defeats. I wonder if the auction troubles are linked in any way to ebay search failings?

  • james
    2 years ago

    ebay want more BIN – they charge extra for auctions and punish them in search. sellers suffer.

    buyers want auctions, get annoyed ebay is wiping them out, go elsewhere. sellers suffer.

    buyers start selecting “auction only”, ebay says bring back auctions, and charge extra for BIN. sellers suffer.

    i swear i’d feel more wanted by ebay if they just threw faeces at our warehouse each morning.

  • paddy
    2 years ago

    What killed auctions was when they brought in Best Match. If effectively meant that some auctions never reached the top of a particular category even if its was near the end of the auction.

  • rob
    2 years ago

    auctions are down.am using buy it now for 90% of my stuff but the peeps are just watching :)

  • 2 years ago

    eBay auctions was great while it lasted, but consider it dead and gone. It was so seductive to buy a vintage item and sell it at auction for a great price, without having any actual knowledge on the item’s scarcity or value. Today it is all Buy It Now, and in that venue, you have to research and price items carefully.

    So why bother at all with eBay and their ridiculous fee structure? You can post Buy It Now listings on your own website, Facebook, Craigs List anywhere!!!

    I will still have the occasional odd lot to post as an eBay Auction, and let it sell for whatever, but for most things I am selling on collector forums. You get people who are serious buyers, know what they are getting, and I have never been scammed buy a buyer on a forum.

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