Wednesday, October 08, 2008

The Real Reason eBay is Stuck!

This is a great read! Just click on the title to link to the post. I spoke with Victoria for about 30 minutes about the many issues eBay is facing and she has done a fantastic job getting to the root of the problem.

This quote says it all:
"EBay's senior ranks, in true management-consultant form, worship data above all, even when it steers them wrong. A glaring example of the perils of data-driven decision making still haunts eBay. Around 2002, executives hired McKinsey to answer a crucial question: Is Google a threat? After months of data mining the consultants concluded not really. The company stuck with that flawed insight for too long. Search technology remained a rump effort inside eBay until 2006, when it began investing more heavily in search. EBay's search still lags behind Google's and, arguably, Amazon's. It gets 15% of its traffic via paid search results from Google. If it had aimed to be the search site for online commerce, it wouldn't be paying a competitor for traffic."
This article is well worth your time and will be run in the print edition of Forbes as well. I know eBay folks are reading my blog. Please consider the points being made in this article -- they are very valid.

Just my 15%


Tony P. said...

eBay peeps read this blog? ALL-RIGHTY, then. Read this.

See that paragraph that begins, "In the fall of 2006 a group of 30 senior managers.."? Read it and the next two paragraphs. Why'd you pull the funding? To meet the Q's numbers?

How's that strategy working out for you? "data-driven dweebs" Let's examine another piece of that article:

"Donahoe's move to lower the fees for listing items has boosted the number of items on the site by 18%, according to Majestic Research."

Hey, ebay! Think that anyone will figure out that the 18% increase in Core, came from Store items moving to FP30? Constantly moving those shells around has got to be tiring!

Does any of the shells even have a pea under IT? Oh well, moving on:

"But his idea didn't pass eBay's stiff test: instant, measurable profits. "Only ideas with obvious returns get resources," says Toney."

Precisely what was the obvious return on the $4.6B Skype idea? Or, do you only apply that requirement to the existing, proven profit-producing areas of ebay? Such as category infrastructure, ease-of-use, etc

NO, I'm not talking about what your "data numbers" tell you to change about categories or GUI - I'm talking about input from actual USERS. Obviously, Toney was one. Which brings us to this:

"EBay employees in the early days often were asked to announce how many items they'd bought and sold on the site. It was a badge of pride to be in the community. But that routine faded as eBay grew and the loyalty was obviously missing when eBay's mail rooms were flooded with Amazon boxes in the weeks leading up to Christmas in 2006."

Maybe if you hadn't ran off all those Store owners with the Massive Fee Hike (ala Clutter), your employees would have "found IT on ebay". Just a thought.

Here's another thought. No charge. When you are pondering Donahoe's replacement, how about considering a person with newspaper classified advertising experience?

He prolly wouldn't be worth a chit as a "consultant", but then again, Donahoe isn't worth a chit as an advertising manager.

And face IT, ebay is nothing more than an advertising venue, which currently fails to deliver, and IT can't even serve as a birdcage liner.

Anonymous said...

I liked this quote from the article:

The oft-repeated phrase inside the company's San Jose, Calif., headquarters: "Don't screw it up."

I guess it wasn't repeated enough.


Anonymous said...

Good Job on being quoted in the article Randy.

Stefan said...

You know what's sad?

Even today, a full 7 months, SEVEN months after this so called "Best Match" was put into play, buyers still just cannot f*cking find what they are looking for.

Last year around this time, if you did a search for a hot item, let's say, oh I don't know, a Wii Remote, one of the most in-demand and sought-after commodity products of our time, instead of finding an actual Wii Remote, you would find about a million "wii remote silicon skins" & other junk clogging up the site. ...Best match was supposed to change all of that.

Yet STILL TODAY when you do a search on eBay for Wii Remote, what do you see?

A million wii remote accessories, skins, boxing gloves, and other useless items. Best match hasn't done sh*t, and everyone knows it.

"It learns over time", they say? BS, it learns jack. It is extremely flawed technology and it going to be the ultimate death of eBay unless they do something about it.

Compare this mess to a search for a Wii Remote on Amazon, and ask yourself whether or not eBay is f*cked if they stick with best match.

What's even sadder is this: The other day I figured, you know what, I'll pay $40 to try out this "featured plus" business. Surely if I pay $40.00, THAT should get my Wii Remote to show up at the top of the search, like it should. Yeah, that's it - eBay will show your item if you pay them $40! Right??

So I paid the $40.00, and guess what. Yup, you guessed it. No sales. Nothing. My Wii Remote still doesn't even show up in search. F*cking pathetic.

How broken is eBay search? So broken that STILL, to this day, a search for a Wii Remote just absolutely refuses to yield actual Wii Remotes, even when a seller pays forty dollars to have it show up.

Un. Believable.

Anonymous said...

I'm sure that some folks at eBay do read this and other blogs, but I don't think it's because they intend to learn anything. I think they just need to know what people are saying so they can spin it, counter it, deny it, non-deny deny it, and other corporate blah blah blah.

Cynical? When it comes to eBay, yes, yes I am. The lot running it don't know what it is, how it works, or what they're doing to it, no matter what their data shows.

Randy Smythe said...


I would certainly agree with that sentiment.


Unfortunately, I think they are too arrogant to roll back Best Match and Finding 2.0

ms.pat said...

I wonder how "arrogant" they'll all be on the unemployment line? :-) Most sensible business people drop arrogance the minute they figure out they have nothing to be arrogant about!

Sellers vowed to take ebay down. It slow going because they are so big but I believe its happening.

David said...

stefan ever taken a look in the mirror.

Believe it or not some people actually *do* make money on eBay so perhaps you should find a better product to sell

Stefan said...

Yeah you're right, perhaps I should. Nobody plays video games these days, right?

A lot of people do make money on eBay, and a lot don't, that's not what my post was about.

My post wasn't about making money at all, it was about buyers finding the items they are looking for. It's simple, if buyers can't find what they are looking for, they go elsewhere.

If you can't agree with that then I don't even know what to say.

Tony P. said...

I pays my money, I'd better get my purchase.

Repeat that, but this time use your real serious voice, and for good measure, let a little spit fly with each letter "P".

It's called Old School business. It entails obligations. Sometimes, retributions.

I pay for a Display Ad in the local paper, it damn well better be there. And it better not be crammed into the classified section, not for what I pay!

Yeah, that's right - johnny badass. But you know what? Except for one heated phone call and a couple of less-heated calls in 18 years, NO Problems.

And that's what really fries my arse; our newspaper is also a monopoly, but they don't act *anything* like (FU)ebay. Neither does the power co., telephone or cable co.

Sure, they're a-holes, but all of them combined don't equate to (FU)ebay. You can also throw in a dozen DMV visits, a few wisdom tooth extractions and a week-long MIL visit.

Hell, I'll "see" those things and raise ya a vasectomy aboard a sailboat. Hands down, (FU)ebay wins out. Worst Customer Service, ever! Most Despicable Business Practices, ever!

Do I still make sales on it? Sure! That has nothing to do with the fact that (FU)ebay's management is the epitome of Dumbest Decision, EVER!

I'd imagine that Stefan understands.

Randy Smythe said...

There's my Tony! Just boils the blood doesn't it.

David, I'm glad you are doing well.
If buyers cannot find what they are looking for and sellers listings are not being shown after paying $40 for featured, they have a right to be pissed.

Some folks are doing well, I can guarantee you it is not the majority. I talk to a lot of sellers each and every day and the majority, by a wide margin, are just not doing well on eBay.

Everybody's opinion is welcome at My Blog Utopia.

Tony P. said...

Everybody's opinion is welcome at My Blog Utopia.

Definitely. My "intensity" isn't really directed at David. He has his POV and that's okay. I apologize if I came across as aggressive. :)

It was actually Stefan's post that got "my dander" up. I recognized a Brother In Arms ;)

All fired up and no one to take it out on. Just shouting at the wind.

Hey, JD is welcome, right? Maybe he'll come here and post. I promise to play nice. (grin)

David said...

Tony, Best Match isn't the only sorting thing. They have "Time Ending Soonest", "Price Highest First" "Price + Shipping Lowest First".

I've always found that the secret to being succesful on eBay is selling something unique.

I made $30,000 in two weeks selling the 55 Most Wanted Iraqi Cards back in May of 2003. This is during a time where we had just gone to war, unemployment rate was high, .com's were dying, etc.

If you are selling Wii's or iPhones there are a million other sellers selling this stuff making it extremely difficult to be competitive, especially now when you have undercutting everybody.

I actually bought something from recently because he was A LOT cheaper than everybody & he offered free shipping.

Tony P. said...

Best Match???

That assumption is wrong. ASSumption is the mother of all (FU)ebay.

I wasn't writing about BM - that label is simply the underlying algorithm behind any & all sorting methods.

Spotty voids within any sort are the norm, anymore. The default sort of BM just exacerbates the gloom.

For the record: my entire selling forte is Collectibles and those hold an excellent, albeit slowed, market.

The cut-throat world (created by ebay dogma) of Commodities does not affect me.

The assumption that I cry FOUL due to my own "bad" selling experience, would be wrong.

I am the idealist. I will accept my own lot in life, but will not hesitate to rise to defend my brethren.

This isn't a discussion about any *one* particular experience, or even a group of them, it is more about a growing trend. GROWING.