eBay’s Magic Is Gone

CNN Money writes about eBay’s slide from a financial point-of-view.  This quote from an earnings call made me reflect on some of the things I knew:

“Buyers are increasingly buying from the highest rated sellers and buying less – in fact, they have stopped buying – from lower rated sellers,” Donahoe said Wednesday in a conference call with analysts following eBay’s third-quarter earnings release.

Donahoe cast that shift as a positive one for eBay. “We see clear evidence that the site today is safer and easier to use than it was six months ago,” he said.

This smells like spin to me.  Browsing eBay is painful these days.  I searched for “ipod mini” to see what I could get for my old ipod, and 90% of the results were for headphones, cables, adapters, and so on, all of which were spammed for multiple entries each. User-generated titles and product information makes eBay’s searches worse, not better, with so many results.  The site has always been a little tedious to navigate, and if the trend is more and more big sellers and fewer small sellers, good deals will be harder to find.

When it came to selling off my old videogames for my move, I started on eBay but moved to half.com.  eBay’s tools for listing games are worse than half’s, and half hasn’t been updated significantly in years!  Listing and re-re-re-listing items on ebay is a bigger task than list-and-forget half.com.  There are few items where it makes sense to list as an auction.  Even for powersellers, or perhaps especially for powersellers, the auction format makes little sense.

And yet eBay is still structured as an auction site, in the seller’s tools, in the time format, in the searches, and in the user-generated content.  But they’re also focusing on BuyItNow and powerseller storefronts in their business model.  The one-click option does seem natural for online shopping, but that doesnt mean that eBay is doing it well.  Compared to Amazon or Half, which show new and used products side by side for easy comparison alongside user reviews, and letting people BuyItNow just isnt measuring up.

There’s no going back for eBay, business has taken over and the fun is gone.