Friday, April 04, 2008

The Time is Right for eBay Classic!

Auctions are being strangled by FP (Fixed Price) and commodity items and it is time that eBay spin-off Auctions onto their own site. It is time for eBay Classic! Then maybe a “Shop Victoriously” ad campaign would make sense.

I know that management doesn’t want to run two separate sites but it makes sense in so many ways. Just treat Auctions like another vertical. You have successfully run eBay Motors as a separate platform and you can accomplish the same thing with an Auction only site.

The "New" eBay can have FP, Best Match and all the marketplace controls you want; it can be the new Shopping Portal you envision; it can use the best aspects of eBay Express and add the sales velocity you get from CORE. It will be the growth engine for eBay Marketplaces -- just set auctions free.

Stephanie T. says we won’t recognize eBay this time next year. I have no problem with that as long as you spin of the “old” recognizable eBay. There are very practical reasons for spinning off auctions:

  • It will stop most of the complaining -- at least for awhile :)
  • Small sellers will once again have a chance.
  • You can retain the “soul” of eBay while maximizing the business of eBay on the “New” and improved site.
  • Auctions will have an opportunity to breath and soon you will see multiple bids and higher ASPs again.
  • It will bring back the value of the listing fee and makes sense from a business standpoint.
  • The “New” eBay can go to a higher FVF, low-to-no insertion fee model.
  • The big guys would see the value of being part of the “New” eBay.
  • And I could go on and on.

With the new management team in place, it is time to make this happen.

Just my 12%

17 comments:

Cliff said...

I still have nothing to complain about with the current format for auctions as long as the collectibles I offer are somewhat rare and in demand.

For media items I just don't think people want to wait around for the auction to end anymore, plus the prices are so well-established that it's hard to catch other bidders napping enough to pull a real bargain (same with the more common collectible items).

At least that's how I've always shopped for my media items from the start. If I want to see it, hear it, or read it, I buy it now.

But rare OOP stuff should still manage to get action at auction. Those are the items I will actually bid on.

As long as the buyers can find it, and as long as more than one person wants it, I still don't see a problem with the current format.

They're not going to bid for the sake of bidding anymore, especially when another seller may have the item available for immediate sale.

Randy Smythe said...

Cliff,

I knew you would give me your 12% on this.

Here's your quote:

"They're not going to bid for the sake of bidding anymore, especially when another seller may have the item available for immediate sale."

I believe Auctions would be vibrant again if there wasn't another seller with the item available for immediate sale.

The vast majority of Media items should be FP but Jay and Marie and other media auctioneers would do much better in an auction only platform.

eBay will not inact my plan so its a mute point anyway.

Cliff said...

But Randy, then the buyer either just moves to the other site/section and buys it now from the FP-seller (I hope), or if he doesn't have the ability to navigate to the FP-site/section, or just isn't aware of if, then we have to hope that the title he is looking for is even available at Auction in the first place or the FP-seller loses the sale for no reason.

This is one of those cases, which is really most cases for me, where I strongly believe what's bad for buyers is bad for sellers too.

As always, I hope you're right about it not being on the table, but as long as it comes up I'll be right here to have friendly arguments with you over it! Who knows, maybe one of us will convince the other in time. Never let it be said that I don't think it's an interesting idea!

Randy Smythe said...

Cliff, I think all of your concerns could be addressed and still make my idea work.

Auctions and FP are two different animals and should be treated that way or one will always dominate the other.

Tony P. said...

I know what Both of you are saying, and you're Both correct. The difference in your individual correct-ness lies within the different Categories.

I sell the OOK (or close to that) items and most of those categories are not smothered. Just about any smothering comes from import fakes, etc.

In J&M's categories, there is definite smothering. Anything that would allow a bit of Separation would be a relief. KWIM? Yeah, Randy does.

Where Cliff disagrees is where he believes that buyers would simply jump-ship to the New ebay and buy cheaper. Yes, there's truth to that, but it discounts the 'impulse' bid and all of the newbies that won't bother to comparison shop.

I'm not saying that all newbies will be Click-Happy, but.. ya just gotta know... that was part of that "Fun" thingy that's missing. The FUN is missing due to all the dammed Structured layout.

If ebay was in charge of an Amusement Park, it would be nicknamed "The Saddest Place on Earth".

Randy, when ebay relaxed the rule where sellers had to have the item on hand, is the day this all began. They had THAT much forethought back in 2001 (?), and haven't gotten any better. IMO.

I am convinced that EE was intended to separate-out the Old from the New. But, in typical ebay fashion, they had to impliment it with so many seller-unfriendly aspects that no one wanted to be there. (e.g. Related Products = other sellers' items that were nothing like being viewed)

A simple division of Old and New? Nope, not as ebay would envision IT.

Tony P. said...

Yeah, I'm double-posting. Can't help it; I've been screaming for eBay Classic for a few years!

Mr. Cobb will be gone soon, but something he said provides great insight into the ebay mentality. Back when he became Prez, he sent out an email (made an announcement with same wording, too).

He addressed many actual concerns that sellers had, back then. Like how you'd get a automated response to an email; he promised real, live people from then on. That lasted a few years, but that's not the point.

He acknowledged a gripe the sellers had - "the site is too complicated and getting moreso all the time". What he said in response, and I'm quoting here:

We hear you and we're going to work on that"***


Huh? You're going to LABOUR, to make something simple? Ex-squeeze me? I'm hoping that is just BS, because if you think that it takes WORK to make something simple, I must be on the wrong planet.

OK, so it was BS. That's what everyone would tell me; like I believe that ebay only recently invented BS. Fine, but that is my point.

When it comes to BS, like a lot of their inventions, ebay does a piss-poor job at Construction. I know 12-year-olds that could do better.


***isn't that the same line in that cellphone commercial that points out the complacency in cellphone companies' poor quality customer service?

Randy Smythe said...

Tony, thanks for weighing in.

I agree with you about EE. I think in concept they had the right idea but the execution was all wrong. They didn't expend the resources needed to make it work.

Now EE is pretty much just the same as Half.com running on cruise control.

Tony P. said...

Shoot! EE should be so lucky as to have half the acceleration as Half.com.

The last time I looked into that discussion board, a couple of Squatters had set up threads like "THE STEPFORD PINKS" and "♥ 2008 ♫ ♫ ♫ INTERESTING ♫ AUCTIONS ♫ ♫ ♫ 2008 ♥".

They are using it like their own personal playground and blog. Like they can't just go and spam somebody else's blog. (who, me?) LOL

Cliff said...

Hi Tony P.,

Part of my problem would be with that newbie who doesn't know any better. If he's not going to comparison shop, okay, great for that auction and that seller, but what about the dozen or so sellers offering the item at Fixed Price. They paid their fee too and now the item sits.

How many copies of the in-print item will sellers be able to auction off to buyer's who can't find it at Fixed Price (or find it at Amazon in the first place) before the demand is filled? Talking media I'm out of my element, but I'm basically asking who in their right mind is going to get into a bidding war over "Batman Begins" or any other readily available title?

If it's rare, and the seller knows it's rare, you can still list it at 99 cents and get fun and action and at the very least move it to someone who will resell the item at a smaller profit, or best case catch a couple of collectors.

I think this applies to Media items as well as collectibles. I think it would probably apply universally.

Speaking of Express, I pretty much despised it from the start. I opted out the moment I learned you could. What I hated was the grouping of your items with other sellers items, buyers could easily become confused. What I've never understood is why eBay won't put a cart in eBay Stores. The technology had to be similar to the universal cart of Express, or I would at least think it could be adapted from ProStores. Early on I actually believed that they bought ProStores to find a way to incorporate the cart technology into eBay Stores. I'm actually surprised I was wrong. I think they'd find a fair amount of eBay Stores proprietors willing to pay an extra subscription fee for a cart, but if it hasn't happened yet I can't see it happening.

Anonymous said...

There's no need to spin anything off ... We're growing tired of hearing people "think" that the solution to {whatever} is to spin off this part of the marketplace, or that part of the marketplace.

Nonsense.

What people need to do is learn how to conduct a search. You only want auctions? Specify as much in your entered search logic.

This isn't rocket surgery.

People need to just quit being "stupid" and *learn* //HOW// to search for something. Could eBay help in this regard? Yes. Is it their fault that people are so dumb? No.

Case an point was Griff's now famous statement that SIS was rolled back because of overload. His example was about cell phones (coutesy of Bill Cobb).

Umm, entering "cell phone" is not being specific enough when you want a manageable selection. Can we get some brains, please? Anyone want to make an effort?

Cell Phone "T-Mobile" CDMA -Sprint would be a sign of intelligence, and of a marketplace that should take pride in an over-return of results.

BE SPECIFIC AND YOU WILL BE HAPPY.

Tony P. said...

Hi Cliff,

Last week I listed a little antique lapel pin at 99-cents on auction and it sold for around $300. That's my type of goods, although definitely not my average sale price - I wish! At the worse, I may list things that have about 50 competitors, even my store items. This scenario is so far removed from what Randy had, I really couldn't make any meaningful statements about Media in this New/Classic discussion.

I do know what you're saying and I agree. The picture I described in my prior post probably doesn't even exist anymore. Back then, many newbies would end up with Buyer's Remorse. Most of them went on to accept what they had done and learn from it. Some would undoubtedly Neg a seller that wouldn't refund, etc. But, that was THEN and we have a different ebay world today.

Nowadays, that newbie that would have Learned something, will be more inclined to blame someone. And we know who that Someone is - the seller. And that occasional Neg, back then, has the potential to destroy a business now. And this is just one small example of what is different now; there are more, many more examples.

It is the above statements that *seemingly* make an argument in Favor of separation. Put the "valuable, unique, scarce and rare" into their own ebay Classic. But, there's where the main problem of this comes into play. Where does one put the Valuable Book? What about the Scarce director's-cut DVD?

Such questions are the reason that no one would really want to split up ebay (except for those that have no skin in that game). I want a seller of any- and every-thing to be my unknown partner; his DVD sale could be the buyer that sees something I have in my store, and he just has to have it. And I get a repeat customer.

That's serendipity and that is what we would lose in the breakup of ebay. So, even though I am For the breakup, I am also Against it. That is my conflicting yin and yang about this topic. It is also the Bigger picture, which causes me to write that both of you are right and wrong, at the same time.


(Cliff, a special Thank You for not taking offense when I wrote, "Where Cliff disagrees...". I should have written, "Where I believe that Cliff may disagree...". I never intended to state that I knew exactly what you would think, but only to offer what I thought might be your POV. I am an ass, but I try to stay away from being a Presumptuous ass!)

Randy Smythe said...

Gee Tony, get off the fence. :)

I just think that there are ways to deal with the downside of the split. I certainly see many problems with just a straight split.

But wouldn't you and I would assume Cliff, agree that eBay should at least do the analysis?

Cliff said...

Tony P. - no problem, to be honest I didn't see anything in your post to take personal issue with, and it never crossed my mind to think you were an ass of any kind! And I agree with much of your most recent post.

I also agree with the Anonymous above Tony P. to some degree. I'd have a big problem with "Best Match" myself if it wasn't for the fact that I think most eBayers are smart enough to filter their searches the way they prefer anyway. Another reason I don't too bent out of shape over "Best Match" is that I don't think it really effects my items too much, in that you're not going to get too many pages returned when performing a specific search for something I'm selling.

If searches aren't yielding the expected results how about some prompts such as the buyer feedback prompt to leave DSR's? How about a little pop-up saying "Not what you want, drill your search down even further using the category sorts to the left, etc." By the way, wouldn't it be nice if those DSR prompts also included a note about how rating a seller too poorly could now effect his livelihood, rather than just saying DSR's are anonymous so check them off however you please?

Randy -- I've got no problem with analysis. It was analysis which led to the feedback/DSR changes and I'm confident enough that they'll change it if the reality doesn't live up to the tests. (Another suggestion: How about separate DSR's for international trading, show them, even show US, Int. and Combined DSR, but only count domestic DSR towards Discounts?) I think in the end these moves are here to stay though because they obviously improve the buyer experience with minimal effect on the seller experience. If the tests say Classic eBay is the way to go, I'd be willing to give it a shot. But I'm more than happy to stick with the current status quo!

Tony P. said...

Thanks, Cliff, for the kind words. The best match is working as ebay intended - it is Greatly disadvantaging the 'bad' sellers. Whether those sellers can change, will change or simply leave, only time will tell.

In the meantime, the rest of us suffer, to different degrees. I’m like you, I can be pushed down only so far. But I do know that some good sellers, caught in unfortunate DSR/Neg positions (through no fault of their own), are being disadvantaged.

Randy, I'm only on the fence, philosophically. The current situation has a positive effect for a certain percentage of sellers and buyers; I think a split could be done where that percentage would be no worse and has good potential to be even better. It would all depend upon how The Split was accomplished.

I can envision a Simple Split, one that would make use of “separate, yet accessible”, like in the manner of eBay Motors. The use of Tabs, Balloon Boxes, Drop Down and other access options – YES - but, they would have to be Simple.

Ebay implemented many of these things, in an attempt to somewhat segregate the auctions from the FP and BIN. Then they instituted Item Specifics to try to deal with the proliferation of Commodities, but implemented it first in the Books and Art categories – two categories that could utilize IS, but are more in their game by Browsing.

Then they introduced IS to Pottery & Glass and rolled-up all of the categories. That move was so asinine, that the word “asinine” isn’t strong enough. Hang with me here – I’m not flogging a dead horse – this is my point:

Ebay could do the split, but their motivation is not what it should be to make the split a success.


They have a Finding Team, but Finding is not what they are truly interested in accomplishing. They appear to be more involved in Presenting. They are too engrossed with monetizing anything and everything to do what is necessary to make The Split work as best as it could. That Percentage of Positive, mentioned above, would decrease from our current status.

So, NO, I don’t want a split if ebay has anything to do with it. :-p


(yes, ebay has recently done some things that seem to not involve monetizing… it’s almost like they suddenly developed the concept of Forward Thinking. I am amazed. BUT, their past actions show a long history of short-sightedness and money-grubbing. I’m not ready to trust them with changing the ebay site, not yet.
Har-de-har-har!)

Randy Smythe said...

Tony, I guess I am being more idealistic, while I have a hard time trusting eBay management, I have seen signs that the new team is going about their business in a more trustworthy manner.

In my view of the split they would have to make a commitment to grow the eBay Classic site organically and not try and force anything. My view is that once they take off the shackles of FP and IS and Finding that eBay Classic would be a growth story.

The point is to control the new eBay with all of their new rules and strategies and let "Classic" be what it is.

Classic, would still be a cash cow for eBay and it would once again be a vibrant marketplace. Classic would actually take fewer resources from the company to manage it.

Management could then concetrate on maximizing and growing the "New" eBay.

We certainly are in agreement for the most part, I just believe that if they actually did the assesment they would realize this is the way to go.

I'm just not sure they will ever do the assessment. So this whole discussion is probably moot.

Tony P. said...

Randy, back during that 2004 IS fiasco, Michael Dearing was asked about splitting the site. He stated then that ebay would never do such a thing and gave many reasons. This isn't to say that they wouldn't do it, just saying it has come up before and was *murderously* shot-down.

Actually, I am in complete agreement with you about the benefits of a Classic, and also about how it would grow organically. I know that even through all the current conflict, if I list it, they will bid. Our only difference of opinion, if there is one, lies in what you stated:

"In my view of the split they would have to make a commitment to grow the eBay Classic site organically and not try and force anything. My view is that once they take off the shackles of FP and IS and Finding that eBay Classic would be a growth story." (my bolding)


Allow me to distill your (bolded) words and add a bit of earthiness to them... "do NOT dick with it". Now Randy, you know that is impossible for them. Their heads would explode. :-)

Randy Smythe said...

Tony,

I know they have had the debate internally but the group that believes like we do is small and insignificant.

I don't have any real hope that they will see the light on this but I wanted to be on the record in case they did.