Monday, February 23, 2009

Scot Wingo's Amazon vs. eBay Series! Updated

I couldn't think of anything earth shattering to write about, so instead I thought I would highlight a great series of blog posts by Scot Wingo, CEO of ChannelAdvisor, comparing eBay and Amazon.

The entire series originally consisted of 4 Episodes (Episodes being Scot's tribute to Star Wars) but has since morphed into a Q&A post and part A and B of Episode 3.  Stay tuned this series could go on for ever.
Episode IV may take several more blog posts, who knows. Anyway, Scot has some great stuff in these posts.

Just my 15%


Henrietta said...

Absolutely right, just about to go back and re-read. Scot Wingo has made a number of cogent and valid points.

Is anybody at eBay listening?

Probably not because they have a plan devised by highly paid and educated execs which has not yet been given time to run to completion.

Besides what would they do with all those Powerpoint presentations showing how well they are doing.

eBay is toast, cold leathery toast. I read Wingo because much of what he says is extremely applicable to my life after eBay AND the man walks the walk daily. He has credibility.

ms.pat said...

Ebay is on the wrong track and the exes are terribly wrong and woefully inexperienced and I believe they are beginning to realize that....heck Bongo the chimp could tell them by now! I think the problem here is they simply do NOT know how to turn things around and so they continue down the same wrong path hoping for some kind of miracle and getting themselves in deeper and deeper with each scatter-brained idea they try to put into effect. Now that they've destroyed my business its kind of fun to sit back and watch them squirm - I'm sure thousands of other sellers are doing the same thing!

2010 or Bust said...

Thanks Randy, fascinating read. Appreciate the link.

Any word/details on the Top Seller Summit in Long Beach, CA that you can share?

Siva said...

Well as a Star Wars fan, Scot knows that Episode IV is called "A New Hope" so perhaps its aptly titled for eBay.

nadine said...

Did you see that Skip McGrath commented on Motley Fool's "Kick Ebay in the Pants" article, saying

I know from talks I have had with folks inside eBay that they finally understand this and I expect there will be a major announcement at the June meeting. One thing that is being kicked around is the concept of "Two eBays"

Think of an attached Duplex House. The house on the left would be akin to the "old eBay" --a place to sell unique or used goods, handmade items and new highly niche market goods all in the auction format. The house on the right would be a fixed-price site for new consumer goods.

There is a lot of support in the eBay community for a solution like this.

Gee, where have I heard that idea before? I'm sure there is internal support inside eBay for it - just as there was internal support for previous ideas such as "put the fun back into eBay". By now it's too little too late as you've been saying for the last two years, Randy.

When your problem is idiot MBA gearhead management it is not curable until management is replaced. Which is why my solution for eBay is to have Google buy it, break up the component parts, and integrate them into the Google portfolio or sell them if they don't fit. eBay Paypal can integrate with Google Checkout, eBay Marketplace with Google Base, and Search can finally be made to work.

2010 or Bust said...

I have heard the 2 eBay idea before from this blog, other sellers and even people in out business. I really think this is a “be careful what you wish for” situation.

eBay's strength is the depth and breadth of the products you can find new and used. I strongly believe they all feed each other and both new and used item sellers benefit from this symbiotic system.

Once you start having two eBays you have just greased the slippery slope that eBay has been on for the last few years.

Obviously a big part of the problem (okay, a really big part) has been eBay's really poor management decisions, lack of creative action and horrible PR. Another big part of the problem is simply the nature of what is going on in the world outside eBay – new selling channels, Google Ads, etc.

But just as I think many of the changes in the last year have done more to grease the wheels of exodus and discontent of eBay’s core sellers, I think a “classic” eBay along side a “new” eBay would be even worse. Sellers of new items would suffer because eBay makes a really bad Amazon. Sellers of used items and niche items would lose the customers who stumble upon their items. As a seller of both new and used items who works post-sale to find out why our customers shop they way they do, I can guarantee this is fact.

This is even more true if the basic overall problems that eBay faces are not addressed and they still were to split up eBay: What would the real change be if all the policies, etc. stay the same but now the overall customer bases is divided up?

eBay’s remaining #1 strength is the customer traffic that it generates. Start to dilute that even more by splitting it up and it will be a disaster for all kinds of sellers. In my opinion, you don’t fix the one part of eBay that still works – the fact that millions of people cruise to each month. Ask Overstock and some of the other sites how they would like that traffic. And if you are a smaller seller and you are going to be forced to sell and manage listings on “classic” eBay and various other channels just so you can get the traffic you need, it will be more work then ever.

eBay surely needs fixing and tweaking, but if they do split it up like that, it will be an epically bad decision from which they (and many of us) will never recover.

That’s my 7.5% because I am only half as smart as Randy!

Randy Smythe said...


As Skip said, they have talked about the idea of two sites, they just think they can make one work.

I agree, that Google buying them would be fantastic, but don't hold your breath.


It is obvious the two sites in one aren't working correctly so they at least need to consider the two separate sites.

I agree there are issues with that plan and eBay has not been known for their execution, but if executed properly I believe it could work.

But since they don't understand retail, a retail version of eBay wouldn't work.

ms.pat said...

I am not as sure about Google as the rest of you seem to be. I've had to work with them in Google Base and Google Adwords and they don't make it easy for the people who aren't complete computer nerds. They don't easily relate to the layperson and that would be their biggest drawback.

As for separating Ebay into two sides - heck Overstock did that but they never kept up the auction side and so they really lost out on that. I've tried their auctions several times over the years - they don't advertise them and most buyers don't know they're there.

Ebay would benefit greatly from ridding the site of that gosh-awful search, Best Match and giving sellers what they PAY for....honest exposure! I'm sure confused buyers would appreciate that too. KISS!

2010 or Bust said...

Randy, the Bezos napkin actually goes along with my contention that splitting eBay up into a classic eBay and new eBay would be a terrible mistake.

Traffic is everything and traffic is the one thing that eBay has going for it still. To dilute the major strength that eBay has by dividing traffic up to multiple sites would be a disaster. I can't tell you how many customers I have that were looking for something else when they came across our products on eBay.

To divide eBay would be throwing the baby out with the bath water. There are already a lot of eBay classics out there. And CL and Google Ads and Yahoo stores are not going anywhere.

What eBay did was show their small sellers the door when they did not need to do that and definitely not do it in the manner that they did.

Bezos got that and reversed a trend by including a specific type of 3P seller just as eBay was formulating plans that would alienate their sellers.

Its all about the traffic!

ms.pat said...

Splitting Ebay up doesn't have to be on different sites. My own website is split into sections, one for my artwork, one for my tatting patterns and supplies and one for everything else. I've never had one complaint - to the contrary I've had many compliments on the ease of use of my site. Changing sections on the new Ebay woudl be as easy as clicking links. That's how I'd envision an Ebay that is sectioned. If I go there looking for something new I'd click on the section or if I want vintage I'd click on Classic Ebay - each page would have each link prominently displayed at the top so the buyer can jump from section to section. Wow, I think that would be grand and would also lesson the items in each section and give more importance and exposure to each item in time ending soonest...which Scott says would be the default. If they could figure out a shopping cart that could accomodate each section that would be the cherry on the cake. Simple and wonderful!!!

Randy Smythe said...


I think there is a way to manage the traffic and have the separate sites or maybe we just call them segments rather than sites.

Wingo makes some very valid points in his Episode IV and he's also added a third site/segment to the mix which I agree would work. (eBay Local)

The point Scot makes and I've been making as well; it isn't working in the current hodgepodge called search/finding. By trying to do everything in the same search they marginalize everything. So we have to look at alternatives.

Separating the market segments makes sense to me.

Anonymous said...

A very key element in Wingo's plan is consolidating all registration, accounting and member management into PayPal. Enforcing identification of buyers and sellers and eliminating the constant rereg of users kicked off.

And a PayPal Shopping Cart usable across all the sites (or as Randy suggested)/segments.

When looking at full force of the suggestions you need to not forget the Pay PaL element and not just discuss whether fixed price or auctions would survive in a separate site.



nadine said...

Scot has an admirablely clear, well thought out vision for eBay. Let's hope one of the smart guys on the Board is capable of taking it on board because current management isn't, that's for sure.

Scot also made me laugh out loud at certain points in describing the current disaster. My favorite description was this:

Many insiders have told me off the record that eBay wants to fit a niche they see 'in-between' Amazon and Craigslist. ... This 'in-between' strategy freaks me out... This is like saying: "Hey my strategy is to fit between a rock and hard-place - sound good? "

Too true! and entirely symptomatic of a management that has no deep understanding of ecommerce and so can only define itself against the other players, not the needs of the marketplace.

Anonymous said...

And the posters would be foolish to trust eBay again... why?

With a track record of YEARS of being untrustworthy why would anyone want to return?

A buyout by Google?

One bad apple and all that! I TRULY and GENUINELY believe that ebay is now TOO CORRUPT to be trusted not to pollute all it touches.

Why would anyone want to return to such a vile place?

Grow the other sites.


Tony P. said...

... but if executed properly I believe it could work.

If'n you is talking 'bout the execs, then we got us a deal. !! :-)

Sorry Randy, I just couldn't resist. The thing is, ebay already tried the separating route with EE and we all know that mess.

They just don't take suggestions, which wouldn't be too awful bad, 'cept they know squat about selling.

Heck, just look at how bad a job that DonnaWho did in selling that snow job at the quarterly report!

To my simpleton mind, it seems like we could have (oh I don't know) maybe some TABS at the top of the search pages to guide peeps to the different "segments" of the site.

Still just pulling 'em outta my somewhere, maybe we could label those Tabs with titles like (oh I don't know) AUCTIONS, BUY IT NOW and, last but not least, ALL.

'course in my world, the word -ALL- would actually (and finally) mean ALL.

Whatcha think?

Randy Smythe said...

Tony, it sounds like there is a simple explanation, huh? They have the tabs now and it isn't working. There needs to be a change.

Express failed because they executed poorly. I don't believe they learned the right lessons from that failure.

They (some execs) believe they have the solution and they are going to sink or swim with their plan. All we can do is sit back and watch. I don't even make suggestions any longer.

Scot Wingo made a case for what would work and that is certainly different than what they have planned.

Tony P. said...

They have the tabs now and it isn't working.

Yes, but..

..because they executed poorly

explains the Tab failure, as well. It explains everything that has failed. I believe that you understand what I mean, but it still can come across as nothing more than negative blathering, which it isn't.

A central POV: the ebay elite haven't a clue.

If they built a store, its door would blend in with the woodwork.

After they painted the door (suggested by a good samaritan), it would be stuck shut.

After forcing the door open and damaging it, they'd repair it with nails. Yep, you guessed it, it's now nailed shut.

And, they'd blame the door manufacturer for all of their ills.

They created a Tab labeled Auctions and it just about fades into the background so frickin' thoroughly, it might as well be nailed shut.

OTOH - if they were to "improve" that Tab, it would get loaded down with Flash and probably end up jumping all over the page so you'd need to play a game of Quick Click just to use it.

None of that disqualifies the validity of that Tab, nor diminishes its true potential.

It's all a matter of the proper Execution of an Insightful plan. I could make those Tabs into siren songs and the first part of the plan is to engage the input of web site designers that understand the KISS principle.

No MBA's need apply.