Question from 0ctavia: Do you have any advice to offer non-eBay auction sites / niche markets which you think could make them more attractive to potential users?
Building any online community is dependent on two things: people and the platform. Perhaps ironically, eBay has proved that people are in fact more important than the platform (the website). eBay has never been the whizziest, sexiest most beautiful site but it did attract people and the people attracted more people and the virtuous cycle of buyers attracting sellers attracting buyers was established.
With the new sites emerging it’s noticeable that they seem to focus on what they don’t like about eBay and that typically means fees. The sites crow about how they are cheaper but the simple fact is they’re only going to get traction if they concentrate on what people like about eBay.
It’s too easy to say â€œthe fees are too highâ€ but with circa 10 million live listings and hundreds of millions of pounds of sales a month it’s fairly obvious that they are tolerable. Lower fees might attract some sellers, but it’s irrelevant to buyers: one eBay-a-like site actually has their ‘low fees’ message in the most prominent placement on their homepage. If I was a seller on that site I’d be crying out that they change that to a message that spoke to buyers. (Could eBay fees be lower? Certainly, but that’s a discussion for another day.)
So my advice to sites that want a bit of the eBay action is to form a plan and understand what sellers AND buyers like about eBay and take it from there.
When envisaging your site do it from a buyer’s perspective. There’s very little point building a site that’s suited perfectly to sellers or based around sellers’ grievances.
It’s about sales, stupid.
People care about sales and will pay for sales so how are you going to attract them? Very few of the ‘pretenders’ have managed to get cut through on a marketing front and it’s essential because eBay is a world-class marketing machine. PR and word of mouth are the most powerful levers.
What can you do better than eBay?
You can’t out-eBay eBay, so don’t try. But you might be able to do something better. Is it about going niche? (Etsy is a good example). Can you enhance the experience of buying?
eBay are actually very good at understanding their customers: from the community boards, using research such as focus groups and surveys and also by analysing site usage behaviour, they are pretty switched on. Make sure that you’re listening and most importantly be prepared to make changes.