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.