eBay Auctions Decline: Lessons for Ecommerce Web Sites

If anything is in sharp focus on Christmas Eve it’s that I need to find that last minute gift and I need to “Buy It Now.” It’s a good lesson for all Ecommerce Web Sites. Keep it simple. Simple means, “Here is how much this is” and, “Here is how you get it.” And maybe, “Here is what else you may want that others looked at.”

We know who the master of this process is – Amazon. And they are a favorite for easy user experience and Web Design friendly Interactive Marketing. If you want another great example, go to Netflix and you’ll just feel the difference. Now go back to eBay.

Let’s face it. The online auction was a fad and eBay’s monstrous earnings decline seems to suggest as much. The writing was on the wall when they introduced “Buy It Now” way back and under their new CEO in 2008 saw revenue increase only in Buy It Now items. That’s not good when you’re an auction site.

When you complicate this with the fact that Paypal is no longer a service option for payment it’s the mandatory method to the exclusion of all other forms, you can see eBay is itself hedging. They own Paypal. It?s a revenue source they now must depend on.

eBay is a platform for third party sellers. But it is a complex one. Constant changes to rules from feedback limitations to shipping methods have caused all the big sellers to leave. Higher seller fees have played no small role either. And Buy It Now isn’t even simple: eBay’s site says, “The Buy It Now price must be at least 10% higher than the auction starting price. For eBay Motors, this applies to Parts & Accessories, but not to vehicle listings.” Spread sheet anyone? Actually eBay has a spread sheet on their site for the Buy It Now rules which are only part of the rules, sub rules, and exceptions to rules (and sub rules).

Ecommerce Web Sites, even if you are selling a third party’s goods, need to utilize the power of convenience. Billing and shipping should be a breeze and you should have simple policies and rules, especially if your business provides a fulfillment channel for third party sellers. Time is money as they say.

Pricing? We know that in a few clicks the average buyer now has so much pricing information on any product they want that price alone is not going to get you there. The Pew Internet and American Life Project found that even two years ago 81% of web site hunters research products online before buying. We are well past the curve of the morphing of Ecommerce.

One last interesting note: when eBay bought its minority stake in Craigslist, it was understood that Craigslist would not create a classifieds web site. But by the end of 2007, it had launched classified ads internationally and gave us another free classifieds site, Kijiji. EBay and Craigslist then found that there were all sorts of reasons to start suing each other.

User experience, buy now, customer service and keep it simple. Sounds like the old corner store in my neighborhood when I was growing up. Web Usability and Web Design: Think of the Users! That is how your Ecommerce Web Site will stand out from the rest in 2011..

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