Is It Time For eBay To Break Up With…Itself?
Kevin Harmon is the CEO of Red Shorts Media LLC, which owns movie and music trade-in/buyback websites. He is the former CEO of Inflatable Madness, LLC, one of the largest DVD and CD resellers on eBay and Amazon.
Kevin has appeared on Startup Nation Radio multiple times, has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, has been a featured speaker at eBay Live, and has appeared on Fox Business Channel.
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So, I’ve been thinking about this idea for a while now.
Let’s say that you are eBay, and you recently realized that your core business idea, auctions, has a fad component to it. By that, I mean that auctions were a very cool idea 10 years ago, but the novelty of them is now wearing off. New users are slowing, current users are dropping off, and sellers are going multichannel and pulling product off the site.
Today’s buyer, more and more, just wants a really great deal on something, right now. That is one reason why Amazon’s business is just on fire right now, and eBay’s is headed the opposite direction.
eBay has to react to this trend, and they are reacting to it in spectacular fashion – several years ago, they introduced Stores, where sellers can park their fixed price listings. They now have Fixed Price listings and Buy It Now listings so buyers can just buy something without bidding. Everything they are doing right now leads me to believe they want to become a fixed price site.
Here’s the problem though. eBay has developed a split personality. What they are trying to do is try to satisfy both the auction-happy folks AND the Buy It Now folks at the same time. The site is full of fixed price listings, auctions, Store listings, banner ads, and classified ads, more or less all jumbled together. They had to create a better finding system, Best Match and Finding 2.0, just to try to keep the buyers from being so overwhelmed with the site that they wouldn’t come back.
I personally think that, sooner or later, trying to satisfy both kinds of buying experiences at the same time will put eBay in a virtual mental institution.
Shouldn’t eBay simply develop 2 sites? One for the good-old pure auction model, and another for fixed priced items? Many people thought that eBay Express was that step towards fixed price, but us smart large sellers knew all along that eBay needed to test out its new finding software, magellan, off of the main site, and thus created eBay Express to accomplish that. Now that Finding 2.0 is on the main site, how many times have you heard eBay mention Express? Zippo.
Call them ebayclassic.com and ebaynow.com, or something like that – let the auction folks not be bothered with fixed price. Let them have their fun. After all, it used to be fun to bid on auctions, remember? Let all the people who just want the item right now actually find the item they want right now. Integrate a payment method directly into the main site. Make it easier to buy an item on eBay. Don’t charge listing fees at all – take the money on the back end and become a partner of us sellers.
Ebay could run each company in the exact way that each sites’ business model would call for, instead of spending lots and lots of time trying to figure out how to mash it all together into a single site. The auction site could focus on maintaining dominance of the auction market, and the fixed price site could start the long road back to catching up to fixed priced e-commerce.
What do you think?