Jeff Sexton

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Memo to eBay, Part VI


I have been an eBay user since 1997. When I first saw eBay I thought it was one of the most ingenious ideas that had yet appeared on the web. It's self-policing nature, and its limited role bringing together sellers and buyers of all sorts of things, particularly antiques and collectibles (in other words, junk), I thought was brilliant. Since then a number of improvements have been made. With the integration with PayPal, the My-eBay one-page tracking center, automatic searches, feedback, and the ability to print postage, buying, selling, shipping and tracking it all have been made about as simple and easy as their are going to get. All the while eBay's popularity grew until a certain critical mass was reached. It's hard to imagine an other site getting into the auction business in any meaningful way. It's eBay that has the traffic, today. But one of the things I hope eBay will realize is that the critical component of this traffic is the buyer, not so much the seller. If eBay does not make some badly needed course corrections, buyers will go elsewhere. And once enough of them do, the critical mass is lost and will never be recovered. Somewhere, right now, some smart people are sitting around thinking up what a better auction site might look like. Some of them will, eventually, actually build it.

I'm guessing, but eBay probably sees the seller side as the principle revenue stream. I hope eBay will consider that it is the sellers that can most easily shift that stream to another auction site. They will follow the buyers. Buyers on the other hand, are needed in a large mass for the concept to work at all. Lose that mass, and sellers will vanish. eBay discounts the buyer's online experience at its peril.

Search Improvements!

  • The search engine is buggy. Make it return correct and complete results.
  • Add an option for "any of these words" or "all of these words".
  • Simplify advanced search use.
  • eBay provides any number of ways for buyers to find sellers, add them as "favorites" and view other items offered. Add the ability for buyers to exclude selected sellers from searches.
  • Add the search selection on postage charged.

Make it work!

  • Getting the web pages to function properly every single time must be the top priority. If it doesn't work, everything else is pointless.
  • Cut down os graphics significantly.
  • Remove references to slow and unreliable external servers, such as, that reduce eBay's functionality and clutter the page, while doing nothing at all to improve the users' experience.

And More!

  • Get out of unrelated businesses.
  • Stop trying to compete with discount retailers.
  • Remember to think of the buyers' experience, not just the sellers'.
  • Focus on what made eBay a great service: online, person-to-person, auctions.

A lot of people are hoping eBay will change its course, and soon.

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