Will eBay Survive Its Professionalization?

Written by Evan Schuman
February 19th, 2009

A new book about eBay is coming out and it makes the argument that in an attempt to make the site and its sellers seem more professional, it’s hurting the very same small sellers that made the auction site work. It was those quirky items for sale and the well-timed sale that would periodically deliver a stunningly low price that gave eBay its charm.

But in an attempt to give users a more consistent and professional experience—professional as in free shipping, 24-hour customer service and instant purchases—is eBay abandoning everything that made it work, everything that made it the world’s largest and best garage sale? Sure, garage sales might be more efficient if they had self-checkout and kiosks that listed all of the merchandise and networked POS units ringing up orders while they update your CRM card, but that’s not likely what you went to a garage sale for.

This comment is not to suggest that free shipping and 24-hour customer service are not good services, but that understanding why customers come to you is much more important. If eBay becomes just like Amazon, why would this be good news for eBay fans?

Customer satisfaction scores at eBay are already starting to take a hit. Clearly, eBay believes it will make more profits by increasing professionalism. But if these changes drive away sellers and their customers, will a better profit margin be of much comfort?


2 Comments | Read Will eBay Survive Its Professionalization?

  1. Patricia013 Says:

    Ebay has and is making a big mistake. Donahoe is determined to go toe to toe with amazon and he’s in for a very rude awakening….that awakening has already started only he is too stubborn or uninformed to see it. Amazon built its business model over years of non-profit before it began to make its niche the hard way – thru hard work, determination and a good business plan. Donahoe believes he can bully his sellers into offering some of the same things (customer service, free shipping) that Amazon offers and then Ebay can sit back and rake in the money. He forgets a couple of things. The outraged small sellers are doing a great job of getting the word out about the bully Ebay has become…about its absolutely hostile environment to all but its large diamond sellers and buyers are not only listening they are finding their favorite small sellers elsewhere! Also in Ebay becoming a cheap imitation of Amazon…it is just that….a cheap imitation and nobody likes an imitator! If you want to buy Amazon style why would you go anyplace else but Amazon? Ebay’s niche was in the rare, vintage and unusual items that people could find nowhere else. How foolish they are to kill the very thing that gets people to its site….the very thing that interests people enough to buy on Ebay. Hey…I can get an iPod anyplace (in fact I bought my direct from Apple)….but the 5 milkglass lamps I needed for my vintage chandelier could only be found on Ebay.

    The board of directors needs to wise up and fast. They need proper management…management schooled in the hard knocks of online selling. Otherwise, after this next drastic decline in quarter sales they will finally see that Ebay is on the path to destruction! Its rapidly becoming too late for Ebay to survive.

    Ex 10 year Ebay Seller.

  2. The Preppy Princess Says:

    We definitely concur with the book’s premise. Once the emphasis was shifted to competing with Amazon, much of the focus on the quirky, novel appeal of the site diminished.

    Clearly the company’s pursuit of sellers & buyers far removed from their original target market is not going as projected. In the long run, while still a lucrative endeavor, eBay cannot return to those customers and values that made it so wildly successful.


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