The catalogization of eBay, moving toward SKU-based product pages with sellers providing fulfillment, ends up feeling like a weird me-too version of the Amazon FBA race to the bottom. Small sellers with interesting inventory have been bled to death with ever-increasing fees and seem ready to pack up the wagon and move on to greener pastures.
The featured products on the homepage have the same bland sameness as every other e-com site and as a shopper I don't feel like I have much reason to ever go there these days. Right now I'm seeing a Patriots ballcap, some men's sneakers, and a small grill. Might as well be shopping at Target.
They've scared off the most interesting segment of eBay with their policies that are actively hostile to smallest sellers, and their rubber stamp appeals processes. The most interesting segment were the individuals using it for garage sales or selling grandparent's old collection and bits of Victoriana. I could, and sometimes did, spend hundreds. There's almost none left. The very few that persevere have to walk the very fine line between unacceptable listing and opening themselves to the many possible scams. They killed that niche pretty effectively. I can't imagine using it to sell ever again.
Instead, there's medium scale businesses who can afford some percentage of fraud as "cost of doing business", eBay has become another OK outlet. It's an OK place for run of the mill, boring, ecommerce, especially at the cheapest end of the scale. There's now lots of businesses trying to tread those collectables niches with very overpriced listings or endless listings of old rubbish branded collectable.
Surprisingly, I find I am using eBay a lot more than I did five years ago. It's the place to buy batteries, cables and other trivia under £5 with some confidence there's no forgeries like I've had on Amazon.
As a saver I should perhaps be grateful, but their strategies seem to have been designed to turn me, and my peers, from thousand(s) a year customers to tens. If not intentional, surely they could and should have seen the trend years ago.
One is high-volume commodities, and for that you're just going to end up with a store. Even if you have a small seller, if a thousand people buy USB cables an hour, you're not going to sell it for more than what competitors are charging and you're not going to have to sell it for less. You ask for the market price and you get it right away. Efficient, boring.
The other is low-volume commodities. The issue there is if you list something for $250 and wait six or eight months, someone pays that. But if you put it up for a seven day auction starting at $250, it doesn't sell. And if you put it up for a seven day auction starting at $1, you get $25.
Which makes that the interesting one, because on the one hand it gives people an opportunity to get rid of their junk right away and make $25 instead of having to pay someone to haul it off, and on the other hand the buyer gets a great deal on something that would otherwise cost $250.
The problem is that it tends to make the sellers grumpy. A novice lists an auction starting at $1 expecting that in a global marketplace they'll get the market price, not realizing that the market price on a time-limited sale of a low-volume product is a lot lower than what you can get by demanding a higher price and waiting longer for someone to pay it. So they get $25 on something they expected to be worth $250 and they're dissatisfied with the auction site, or do something troublesome like refuse to send the item.
Meanwhile the professional sellers have been listing that product in their stores for $250 for months, but since there is only demand at $250 for one such item every six months and the novice just satisfied it for $25, now they have to wait another six months to get it out of their warehouse at that price. Assuming another small seller doesn't list another one before then.
And the auction site wants the sales to go through at the higher price too, because they'd much rather get a commission on $250 than $25. So they shoo away the troublesome small sellers causing all these problems.
Except that occasionally getting a $250 item for $25 was the reason buyers bothered to come to their site.
Second hand was the interesting segment for so many. There's no $250 seller as it hasn't been made for decades, or someone searches for once-worn, but reduced price, shoes, or the new family looking for almost new kid's stuff. Second hand and junk shop (remember those?), or bereavement and house clearance stuff. The sort of stuff people would have no idea of value, then would throw, donate or clear. None of those went away, they just left eBay, some to landfill. eBay "helpfully" including new and global in every search, and fees increasing to 10%, just hastened the exodus. As did policies encouraging all remaining buyers to be from the "awkward squad" even for your £1 amateur one-off listing.
For a good few years it seemed like everyone put their junk on eBay, sold for decent prices, and as a result everyone tended to look too. Some made a worthwhile side income trading up junk picked up at sales and charity shops. Everyone seemed mostly happy. List a time or two, and if it doesn't sell, donate or throw away.
It's almost like yet another second rate mall/Amazon-alike wasn't what anyone was looking for, so no wonder it's losing ground. Could they have found a way to keep and grow that first market and still gain a commercial market for new products? Should they have stayed out of becoming just another second-rate mall? Good questions. :)
FWIW the appeals process is awful. I've been scammed a few times as a seller when individuals cited inaccurate description after receiving the product (mismatch). In reality there were no inaccuracies just a buyer who wanted something for free or didn't actually read the product specs and was mad. I've been pretty much done as a seller since 2010.
There are so many converter plugs for sale on eBay that are pretty much impossible for their size and price like USB to 3.5mm converters advertised to let you play music from a USB. Somehow I don't think they have a USB controller, DAC, FAT32 driver and mp3 decoder in a little cable sold for $0.70 free shipping.
eBay weight disputes heavily in buyer favour, so if I did get caught out a PayPal refund would likely be given without question.
Oddly, I find the ebay homepage more useful, since it also displays a selection of products from sellers I watch, and has figured out I have a fetish for vintage test equipment. I don't think I've ever bought anything from the Amazon homepage, but I bought at least 3 items that I saw on the eBay homepage (from sellers I watched) in the last year. This relies on active participation from the user, however, and benefits people who have used the site for a long time. And I can't kid myself, eBay can't grow selling used test equipment and motorcycle parts, but they still do the online sale of unique items better than anyone else.
I do miss the 'rummage sale' aspect though, it's now nearly impossible to browse and find weird items, you have to just search for specific items rather than browse.
My suspicion is that they have teams of "professional shoppers" seeding the AI algorithms.
That's like ten lines of code, done. It won't be any less useful than what they are doing now
Now I choose AliExpress when I want it cheaper and Amazon when I want it faster. eBay has lost a lot of marketshare in this space - yes, there's business in auctioning collectibles and second hand stuff, but it's much smaller than that direct purchase market and they'd likely have to scale back the site in some respects.
These days I have to look up my password when I log in. When I do and search for, say, "arduino", I get 85 different Chinese vendors selling what appears to be the identical product for prices that are lower than the cost of just the CPU chip that is on it.
I'm not saying it was better or worse, just different, and not what I loved about it a decade ago. But I'm in my 50s, and not the younger target demographic they think they can capture.
Half my test equipment collection came from ebay at one point or another, almost all of it bought "broken, parts only" and repaired. The bottom has completely fallen out of the market, these days it's all massive T&M vendors trying to shift junk at hugely inflated prices.
It's really raised the barrier to entry for quite a few tech-related hobbies.
There are offers galore as though the site competes with itself to get you to click on various things. I gotta say, it is downright horrendous to look at an ebay listing still!
Look at this example from just now.
I mean, it wants me to write a review for this item as though this is possibly something I would do looking at it for the first time.
It wants me to "make more cash and sell whats hot" it wants me to shop with confidence and learn more what that means. It wants me to buy it now and add it to the cart. Oh but don't forget 3-year protection plan from blah for $26.
Is there any site on the internet that has such a mess for a product page than this? I can't think of something worse.
eBay should break up the company if it means it can create reasonable item listings. What they have now is a a travesty of a product page. This hasn't been okay outside eBay, ever.
Same jumble of fonts, ropey hostile layout, it asks for reviews on products I haven't bought, suggests I might like to sell one, take out a subscription and shows ads for competing products. They also try and make the distinction between Amazon and marketplace as vague as possible.
Yet, then I look at those pages, and think to myself... really? This monstrosity is the result?
Still so confused.
After all that I finally got it all working and then eBay shut down our account just before the Christmas period requesting we send them thousands of receipts for all of our products.
EBay needs to die, and fast.
* I know exactly which business is responsible for my purchase. A business with a good reputation cannot afford to sell counterfeit products, and no shared warehouseing means counterfeits do not get mixed in with actual goods.
* Very cheap things are more competitively priced. Sometimes I like to buy things online that cost less than $5.
* It’s possible to pay less for items and get them directly from overseas. It’s nice to get a discount for having a longer planning horizon.
* It’s fairly easy to sell my unwanted items on the platform.
For example, you can’t buy a Military APC on Amazon :-)
Back in the 00's I was a PowerSeller, shifting over $20k a month. At first it was an incredible experience and I was selling high value items to people all over the world with high margins and almost always a great experience. I was long on eBay and became a shareholder, passing up on Amazon whose business seemed much less appealing to me at the time.
Then came along PayPal with their 3.5% uncapped fee, which on expensive items was significant. Buyers started expecting to be able to pay via PayPal and eBay stopped allowing trusted sellers to offer a small discount for paying by wire or cash. PayPal eventually became mandatory.
Later, eBay's fees went up significantly. Those along with PayPal's fees ate in to my margins and I eventually lost interest, packed up shop and sold my stock at about break-even.
While I continued to be an occasional buyer, I recently started selling a few items again. I was met with frequent time waster winning bidders and the same high fees that I remembered. My last sale was an iPhone X that went to Thailand, "covered" under PayPal's seller protection and sent with a shipping label printed directly from eBay's site. A few days after I had sent it, the buyer filed a dispute with PayPal saying he hadn't received it. PayPal almost immediately sided with the buyer with a boiler plate reply, removing the money from my account (including all fees) before the phone even had time to arrive. I sent an email to appeal which was met with a curt denial. I was almost $1500 out of pocket.
Don't even get me started on their site and mobile app - so much could be improved and way too many clicks to do anything meaningful. One of my last battles was spending 3 hours on the phone to try and resolve an account bug as I had transitioned from UK->US which seems to be an edge case they didn't finish working on.
It makes me sad because the idea behind eBay is fundamentally a fantastic one, you can still find great stuff on there and the prices are often much lower than Amazon (even more so with the recent coupons they must be burning through cash on). They still have the audience to make a global market place, although perhaps not for much longer.
Since the split, you now get the choice of paying through eBay directly, through PayPal, or another way (depending on what the seller accepts). Simplifying this for small dollar transactions is critical if eBay is to stay competitive with Etsy, Amazon, Target, Walmart and the numerous others that are sharing the online shopping market.
From what I recall, the fees were much higher then PayPal and it didn’t take long for PayPal to become the de facto standard.
It has been an absolute goldmine for shareholders. eBay bought PayPal for $1.5b in 2002 and spun it off in 2015 for ~$50b. PYPL is currently valued at $106b.
What is ebay? The online auction site. If you have something to sell, you should be going there. If you want something you can't find in a normal store, you should be checking ebay first.
If you aren't selling on Ebay, or aren't checking Ebay, those are the areas they need to improve on. You don't take the most successful business in a market (peer to peer auctions) and try to spin it into some other store to keep up with impossible growth expectations.
So you go look at why people aren't using your service...
I don't sell on Ebay because either the fees are too high to justify going through the effort making a listing, shipping the thing, and losing about 20% of the sale price to Ebay on something that I'm often getting poor margins on anyway. Or I'm not selling on Ebay because I don't trust their buyer contention system to be honest. I've heard enough horror stories of sellers getting refunded against and losing their often expensive products in the process with no recourse despite mountains of photo evidence of what they sold.
I don't buy on Ebay because its so hard to find legitimacy. I have never figured out why I should ever trust feedback scores - every single seller is always gold starred maxed out positive feedback, some are "Top Rated Plus" which I have no idea what that even is supposed to mean, and you can't comment on most listings or seller pages to call out the bad actors. I got some fake batteries for a Note 4 a few years back and while Ebay accepted my complaint and refunded me the batteries while letting me keep them because they were falsely advertised as NFC capable when they weren't, I had no real way to indicate to others a seller with 100,000 feedback score was selling counterfeits.
Generally their search is pretty good and their filtering is solid. I can almost always find what I'm looking for and figure out the right place to list what I want to sell. Those aren't problems. If they want more of my business, I need to have confidence that when I act legitimately I won't get scammed, and when I buy something the buyer is also legitimate. Its the exact same reason I shop so much less on Amazon nowadays and it seems zero tech company wants to take responsibility for actually insuring their storefronts are selling what the pages say they are and that sellers can expect not to be screwed over illegitimately too.
If you really want to be green, buy used items and sell your things which you aren’t using so it’s not wasting resources.
After reading the headline, my first thought was I will have to use AliExpress, but with collectables it's going to be harder. It's a sad reading, because there's always been room for department stores and for antique stores.
For instance, there are clearly a lot of electronics that sold at below-market rates just because of the hassle of an auction. If eBay could "pose as a buyer" and buy items at a certain price point, re-sell them for a little more, they could make money on the margins. In fact, I'm certain a lot of people use eBay to do exactly this, I just don't know how large the market is.
- Vintage mechanical watches
- Vintage fountain pens
- Vintage mechanical keyboards
- Vintage woodworking hand tools
- Vintage European bicycle parts
- Vintage film cameras, especially SLRs and Leicas
- New things that look like those vintage things (often superficially) and make a lot of money on Kickstarter and Massdrop and Hodinkee and get resold when the hipster buyers move on to the next thing.
eBay is the best place to buy this stuff. It's hard to believe they can't figure out how to make money.
Making a bit of money is not a problem. Making so much money that all their investors are happy is a problem. Their investors don't want a modest company that makes modest profits on modest revenue.
Google any "money" keyword such as "best Bluetooth speakers' and virtually all top 20 results will have Amazon affiliate links
This allows Amazon to dominate SERPs. No matter what people Google, the links eventually end up leading to Amazon
If a buyer buys direct on eBay from a seller, eBay gets about 10%. If it sells on StubHub, eBay gets 33-65%.
So a lot of what's left as a regular user are scams or simple resellers. Amazon also has a lot of the "garage sale" type of stuff these days
In my previous searches of Etsy so many of the results were comprised of cheap (originally), mass-produced products masquerading as 'hand-made'. Peppered among them are actual hand-made or vintage goods but I'm not sure if Etsy was intending to address such listings, though things may have changed from when I stopped browsing (a couple years ago).
Back in the day, before aliexpress, it was good too because you could rip off the sellers. Just claim the thing never arrived and since for cheap stuff they had no tracking numbers the seller always had to refund you. You could get TONS of free stuff that way. Now aliexpress does this right and it's significantly harder.
Their appeals process is pretty straight forward, in that they always side with the scam...buyer, no questions asked and no exceptions.
£45 on a £450 item and then to shaft you for fees on postage for a virtual listing is a fucking joke.
You can tell how bad it has got because eBay has no new listings unless there’s a seller fees offer on.
Also, eBay doesn't really offer you much in this era. You can't include videos, and you're limited to a small number of photos.
Arguably the worst non-feature of eBay, is that they make it incredibly difficult to calculate the average price of an item. I end up lurking for months on items to build a history of the average price of a product before I decide whether to buy it. Their aggressive policy of deleting closed auctions makes historical comparisons extremely difficult.
So on eBay you can just put the make, model and engine type in and it gives you the correct part. That’s pretty cool, albeit not terribly special. But the part I really enjoyed was that eBay told me I needed a gasket and a new O2 sensor as well (I wouldn’t have known about the gasket) and gave me a nice bundle to do it.
In the end I just ended up replacing the O2 sensor and it was pretty simple to return the other parts. Print label, slap it onto the box, and drop it at the UPS store.