Thursday, August 21, 2008

A Eulogy for eBay Express!

I've already added this blog post by Adam Nash, former Director of eBay Express, to My Blog Utopia reader, but I felt it needed some additional exposure.

It is a great post and presents a very interesting look at the inner workings of eBay. Please take time to read the comments as well, many of those commenting worked on the project while at eBay.

With all of the changes being made to eBay today, it is clear to me that the lessons learned from the failure of eBay Express may be going unnoticed.

A Eulogy for eBay Express

Just my 15%


Anonymous said...

Randy, do you get the sense that they are going to be leaving alone? I've found its still an OK place to sell used books...doesn't seem to have the traffic that it used to, but I get enough sales to bother....

Anonymous said...

Don't eulogize it.

Euthanize it!

Randy Smythe said...


I asked specifically about and was told they are not going to shut it down.

It is a very profitable business for them.

Cliff Aliperti said...

I was throwing dirt over it the day it launched. Pardon me, but when I think of Express, the first words springing to mind are half-assed. Not only did it only offer buyers items they could already buy on eBay, only it was far fewer items, it had the nerve to flaunt a site-wide shopping cart in seller's faces and show us they could implement one if they wanted too.

Tony P. said...

"It all started in Q4 2004, which was a real wake-up call for eBay. It was the first quarter where the metrics made it clear that there were significant issues with the way buyer demand was scaling on" ~Adam Nash

"Swear words are the mark of a weak mind" ~ some self-righteous, pompous ass individual

In the summer of 2004 we told ebay to stop F'ing-up the site with that IS and category rollup crap. They didn't listen. They instead dedicated resources to implimenting processes that would advantage the searching for and purchasing of, Fixed Price retail goods.

Those FP-centric processes not only helped ferret-out all manner of New, Retail goods on the site, but they also disadvantaged the searching for and purchasing of, auction-type collectibles and antiques. It was obvious to all, but the absolutly myopic people in charge of ebay.

You - ebay - Fked IT up. IT, being the magic, fun and place to find anything. Then, you were totally shocked when the metrics indicated that Auctions were falling out of favor.

W.T.F? Are you mental midgets? What (T.F.) does 2+2 equal in your world? Evidently it equals 3+1 and the 1 stands for Auctions. Well, there ya go... auctions suck! Point proven. Concrete scientific evidence.

FU ebay! FU ebay and the POS Accord that Pierre rode in on! Just, plainly...


(sorry, Randy. feel free to delete. but, man, i do feel better. thanks!)

Randy Smythe said...


I hope you feel better. Now that you brought it up my business started to struggle in March of 2004 with the category roll-up and never fully recovered. I had to reorganize to stay afloat in 2005 and toss in the towell in Jan of 2006

I read Adam's post a couple of times and never made the connection.

Tony P. said...

Thanks, Randy, I do feel better now. I just finished reading Adam's post for the 2nd time, like you, and here's my final thoughts. Sans expletives.

The metrics showed that peeps wanted a retail experience. Ebay built one. Nobody came.

Were the metrics wrong? Doubtful. Were the metrics skewed by previous actions? Most likely.

Were the metrics interpreted, incorrectly? (you know my answer to this)

Ebay, are you still 'interpreting' metrics? Why?

Ebay, you took self-fulfilling indications, driven mainly by your own actions and combined them with the sales numbers of the Christmas/Holiday shopping season, and then attempted to become something that you were not then and never will be.

Ebay's own survey of 6 'whole' cities in the USA show that people think you are an AUCTION site. Every online article about you starts out, "The ebay auction site..." and continues with, "..its core auction business...".

But take heart ebay, unless you've really screwed-da-pooch this time, the metrics will strongly indicate peeps want FP retail, real soon. I predict that will start to happen in about 2 months. You can just assume it's because of all your wonderful changes.

"It became very clear to me sitting out there today, that every decision I've ever made, in my entire life, has been wrong. My life is the opposite of everything I want it to be. Every instinct I have, in every of life, be it something to wear, something to eat ... It's all been wrong." ~ George Costanza (Jason Alexander)

ms.pat said...

Yes, my sales started to falter in March or april of 2004 when they got rid of Going, Going, Gone. I know the artists ranted and raved and wrote to everyone at ebay for almost a year and nothing was done. Art sales never went back to what they once were. Ebay makes up that money now by selling feature plus listings and artists buy them up at an extra 15.00 a pop plus fees. Who can give bargains when saddled with fees like that? Up till that point in 2004 I could have put my grandmother's old dentures on auction and there would be a bidding war over them! Since I make everything I sell and every single thing was selling, I was very very busy up until that time! Its Ebay all along tinkering with something that was great all by itself. In their absolute greed they're the ones killing off auctions and losing buyers by the day.

"W.T.F? Are you mental midgets?" I think we all know the answer to that! ;-)

nadine said...

Tony, they did listen to one group in 2004. They tried rolling up all the Pottery and Glass categories around June 2004 and completely tanked everybody's business. The Item Specifics they put in looked like they had been designed by a college student in an all-nighter. After about two months of screaming, they did put that one back. I even had a long phone discussion with a young woman from eBay, trying to explain to her why collectibles could not be identified by a few neat parameters like new shoes. She might have understood, or might not.

ms.pat said...

pottery and glass was lucky. They managed to overturn that one...arts was never able to make that same argument stick. They treat finding art the same way they treat finding an iPod - just put what you want in search! :-( Nobody buys paintings that way - its a visual medium and needs to be seen!

Ms. Jewelry-Maker said...

We sold handmade jewelry on ebay starting in 1998. Our sales started to tank around late 2004 too and never recovered. Every subsequent month, our sales dipped a little more, and we had to adjust again and again just to stay status quo. There was a brief period when they added store items to search that our sales picked up enormously. It was amazing. I thought ebay had finally gotten it right! Then ebay realized that they were giving too many sales away to stores and stopped it. We continued our downward spiral month after month, until we started loosing money and threw in the towel. I have toyed with the idea of seeing what would happen if we listed on ebay again, but I don't want to waste the time and effort at this point. I'm of the opinion that even if we did have any sales, ebay would do something to screw it up. It seems everything they do is against the small seller. I can't believe this time would be different. I hate to be so negative, but it has come from years of experience with this company. I hate to say this, but I'm glad they are finally feeling pain. They caused enough of it with sellers thru the years. I still believe that if they just LISTENED to the small seller, just for 6 months, that they would turn things around.

Tony P. said...

Nadine, I wuz there! You betcha!! Remember the "red vase" example from a pink? That's all I have to say to anyone that was there - Red Vase - and they usually go ballistic.

"Well, we heard from a buyer searching for a red vase that she just loves the new Item Specifics" Immediately afterwards, curse words appeared on that thread.

The Art Glass world has no fewer than 12 different terms expressing the color red, and that's not counting the hued, opalescent and multi-toned variations of the color RED.

I wrote that above sentence into the Red Vase thread and was met with looks of DUH (I guess), as no pink had anything to say. Sellers did reply and a few even pointed out how there might be 15 or more different terms used for the color "red".

Yes, ebay, it IS that danged complicated. There aren't enough 'standard labels', no matter how many damned pigeonholes you come up with for this IS system. They never really caught on, but the lack of listings guided them to rescind the category rollups.

Their disconnect continues. I read the comments on Adam's blog about the death of EE and even he still doesn't "see" some things. And for the record, I think Adam is one of ebay's best and brightest.

Someone left him a comment about how EE didn't have features to allow for the selection of various choices - something that is fairly Standard in almost all eCommerce sites. Example: t-shirt sizes and colors.

Adam commented back that these were definitely selectable options when searching (by way of IS, aka Product Finder) and would produce exactly what the buyer requested. Adam is correct in this answer, but fails to understand that is NOT what the person was talking about.

It is one thing to search and find 12 different listings for 12 different t-shirts, it is entirely a different thing to find a SINGLE listing and make all selections from that one page. This latter ability is available with almost all website shopping carts, but the most simplistic.

Ebay's recent approval of Choice listings is a bandaid on a gaping wound. It will allow some sellers to increase their sales, while reducing their listing fees, but they will have to really watch their P's and Q's to not screwup an order.

For a full-fledged Choice system to work, the choices would have to be made through the software, not through an email or note. Adam could have created that system for ebay, but NO, they had him working on the (un)Related Items code and other useless stuff.

I apologize to Adam if he is offended by that 'useless stuff' remark, but I mean it in the context of what a seller would consider as useful, or not. It was that, the sellers not adopting EE and its capabilities, which ultimately led to its eulogy.

nadine said...

Tony, it's the classic programmer/user divide, magnified a thousand fold. eBey thinks they can stay programmers because they are bright enough to just figure things out. No amount of experience to the contrary has yet taught they that they can't and they aren;t.