Thursday, October 19, 2017

Nobody Thinks About eBay

Chavie Lieber (via Hacker News):

One of those things that so many brands want is scale: eBay is enormous. It has 171 million users, with 1.1 billion listed items at any given time. But it’s also no longer the only game in town. There’s competition from all over, most notably from eBay's great rival to the north, Amazon; Brooklyn-based crafts giant Etsy; and venture-backed consignment sites like The Real Real and Poshmark. Deering may talk of the company’s advancements, but the truth is, eBay has fallen far behind.


These days, 88 percent of postings are “Buy It Now” items, not at all tied to the auction function eBay is known for, and 81 percent of what’s available for sale is new. To eBay, new means unopened, never-used items; this claim is murky, though, as most items are still coming from third-party sellers and not from brands themselves. In fact, eBay has become a haven for flipping, a practice in which users sell in-demand merchandise at exponentially higher prices, further adding to eBay’s sometimes-dubious reputation.


Amazon Marketplace has grown significantly in the last 17 years. Today nearly half of all products sold on Amazon come from the Marketplace, which sells about 2 billion items and brings in an estimated $132 billion in sales each year, according to e-commerce consultancy firm ChannelAdvisor.

eBay is still useful to find items that no one else sells and to resell items that Amazon won’t allow. But it’s the last place I think about because there’s so much friction compared with other sites.

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Maybe its because I'm in Australia, and no doubt things are very different in the USA, but ebay remains as my "go to" shop for most random purchases. Amazon is generally not an option because the shipping is so expensive and so many things can't be shipped at all. And going "direct" is generally not an option either. For electronics components and when there is decidedly no rush on things, I've started using aliexpress more often recently, but shipping times are always around 2 months.

Ebay remains my go-to source for a number of categories, especially for used/refurbished/open box items and for replacement computer parts. The fact that 80% of the stuff on ebay is new doesn't matter, because the site is so huge. The only downside is shipping costs - while electronics shipped from china have extremely reasonable shipping costs, just about anything shipped from the US is hideously expensive here in Canada, especially for sellers stupid enough to be using Ebay's default ripoff "global shipping program." Sometimes I luck out and find an in-Canada item, if it's not time-sensitive I just have it shipped to my friends in the US and wait for them to bring the stuff up on their next visit.

Having now read the article, I see that Ebay continues to be scared of owning its DNA as a source for used/collectable items. This makes no sense to me whatsoever.

"Maybe its because I'm in Australia, and no doubt things are very different in the USA ... Amazon is generally not an option because the shipping is so expensive."

Yeah, it's a difference in countries. In the USA, Amazon is the invasive species that ate the whole habitat. And free shipping was a core part of how they did it. (Along with really good customer service.)

I'm surprised they haven't tackled the fulfillment issue in Australia. Seems like it'd be a profitable and obvious market for them.

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