Jeff Sexton

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Memo to eBay, Part VI

Conclusions



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 doubleclick.com, 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.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Memo to eBay, Part V

Postage Due



Something I thought was very clever about eBay when it appeared was the self-policing nature of the site. Such schemes are common around the web today, but eBay's was one of the first I'd seen with such features. The search and, particularly, the rating system go a long way toward providing a buyer with the confidence to use eBay. This was especially important in the early days. Lately, some annoying trends have appeared that the system does not provide a good, clear way to discourage. One of these is price gouging on postage. For example, I recently received the following from a friend and fellow long-time eBay user:

"I was looking for a PCI USBII card for a pc at work. They are pretty cheap - like a few bucks. But some places were charging upwards of $20 to ship
them. There were like 1341 listed when I looked so I had to wade through a few pages of listings before I found one for a reasonable *shipping* price."


This problem is exacerbated by sellers that do not fill in the shipping costs fields in eBay's listing framework. Dealing with this problem would be simple and quick without eBay having to use any heavy-handed requirements, by once again returning to the buyer community. It is possible to include the listing postage in your search results. This helps, but it is not the default. It should be. In addition to the ability to exclude specific sellers, eBay should make a maximum shipping cost an advanced search option.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Memo to eBay, Part IV

It's the Web Stupid



Of all the things I'd really like to let eBay know, there's one that really stands out as critical to the site continuing on top of the auction heap: website performance. They can create all new "features" to nickel and dime us for, all new "services" and all the fancy graphics they want, and none of it makes any difference if the website simple doesn't work. I wish eBay would severely restrict all development of new ways to spam buyers with "bold" and "featured items" and "two line titles" until they where sure, and I mean dead sure, that the website itself performed perfectly all the time, and every time.

Not too long ago, eBay did reduce and simplify the number of images on their pages. This was a positive step. However, the fact remains that all the flashy graphics and logos add absolutely nothing to the buyers' experience, and add nothing to the site's ease of use, while serving to create longer page load times and opportunities for errors.

IIS server errors are also quite common. I can be browsing along, go to make a bid, and find out all I'm going to get in IIS page not found errors. Various combinations of logging out and back in, and clearing cache and cookies restores the functionality - sometimes. Other times, it doesn't and I'm simply done for the day. At other times certain items will become unviewable, or even parts of a page. I've also seen pages become malformed in various ways when sections of HTML are not transmitted for whatever reason. IIS? Please eBay, it's 2006. It's long past time to switch to some enterprise-grade server software.

No Deal?

This watch;

http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&ih=007&item=170033195420&rd=1&sspagename=STRK%3AMESO%3AIT&rd=1

eBay #170033195420,

from two weeks ago has not been paid for. The buyer did go through the eBay check out right away, but no payment has been received. The buyer had a zero rating, which I've seen before. But now the buyer's rating is -1. The negative feedback reads "DONT SELL FAKE ID.....NEVER PAID GOT FREE WATCH FOR NOW WHITE COLLAR REPORTED" on eBay item #120035097771;

http://feedback.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewFeedback&userid=saloonso&iid=170033195420

I wasn't planning to post a watch this week. But if a couple more days go by, I'll repost #170033195420.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Memo to eBay, Part III

Searching



There are some excellent search engines out there on the internet. eBay's is not one of them. Yes it's true that complicated searches using words included and words not included can be done. It is also true that criteria regarding time remaining, item location and payment methods can be included. But creating a search that will really narrow down to what I am looking for is difficult. Documentation is not readily available. And the specific ins and outs of it are frankly more than many potential eBay buyers are interested in uncovering and learning. In addition, there are things that, as far as I know, can't be done, like "any of these words" verses "all of these words".

The search engine will be most users first eBay experience. Shouldn't it be really, really good? Shouldn't it be simple to use and take users right where they want, without the clutter of "featured items" that have simply paid eBay to be there?

There are some excellent search engines around that have proved what a good system can do. And that is not the business eBay is in. eBay really should consider partnering with a major search company to index their site. Features such as the ability to filter out certain sellers and categories, filtering identical items, "all these" or "any of these" conditions are badly needed.

There's a repeating theme developing here. Put the buyer first.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Memo to eBay, Part Two

Get With The Program



One of the trends on eBay most annoying to regular eBay buyers is the ever increasing tendency of sellers to evade, ignore and otherwise not participate in eBay itself. eBay has done a great deal of work to make buying and selling easy from posting an auction, watching it's progress, paying for items and even paying for postage.

It's been annoying enough to encounter sellers not using PayPal, but there are now sellers who refuse to do anything at all through eBay. There are sellers who will not even respond to eBay messages. Sellers need to realize that buyers will, given the opportunity, avoid buying through third parties that will not integrate with the eBay checkout. Every time, as a buyer, I have to enter my shipping address an extra time, or even worse, create yet another account on some other website, I make a note never to buy from that vendor again.

There was an improvement made recently where eBay began listing the shipping amount in search results. This allows buyers to avoid sellers that have not fully filled out their auction information with the postage. That was a good start. As a further service to buyers, eBay needs to create a way for buyer to block selected sellers from their search results and category listings. eBay, please put the buyer first.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Memo to eBay, Part One

It's Not Macy's



One thing I have always loved about eBay is that it's like the world's largest garage sale. It's wonderful to see so many individuals buying and selling, well, just anything. eBay proves beyond any doubt that one seller's junk is another buyer's treasure.

Recently, eBay's front page is plastered with colorful ads that look straight out of fashion magazines. These are obviously the wares of on-line mass-retailers. However there are already a very large number of sites on the internet available to purchase goods from ordinary retailers, and a large number of sites available for comparison shopping (not to mention physical storefronts).

The vast majority of these sellers use reserve prices or buy-it-now prices set a few dollars above the opening bid. Clearly there's not going to be any super deals to be found here. In reality, they are simply selling goods at a fixed price. So what's the point? eBay has entered into an extremely crowded space, to which it brings nothing new, at the expense of what is unique to eBay's business.

I can imagine a response to this; eBay is an open market and the money coming into eBay from the sales of full-blown retailers is as good as anyone else's. I hope eBay will be cautious about this. An email inbox is open to whomever sends email to that address, but that doesn't mean we don't object to spam.

Major retailers spoil eBay. They do not offer real bargains, they do not fit their payment and checkout systems into eBay's framework, and they are frequently unresponsive to email.

This week's eBay sale is 18 size Elgin pocketwatch. This one runs quite well. It's nice due to its age (1887) and really strong running condition.

eBay #170037612926

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

This Week's Watch

This week's eBay sale is 18 size Elgin pocketwatch. This one runs quite well. It's in a well worn case, although it does have a train on the back which people seen to like (I'm not sure why exactly). The movement in this one is especially clean. A nice one...

eBay #170035499394

This Week's Watch

This week's eBay sale is 18 size Elgin pocketwatch. This one runs quite well. It's in a well worn case, although it does have a train on the back which people seen to like (I'm not sure why exactly). The movement in this one is especially clean. A nice one...

eBay #170035499394

This Week's Watch

This week's eBay sale is 18 size Elgin pocketwatch. This one runs quite well. It's in a well worn case, although it does have a train on the back which people seen to like (I'm not sure why exactly). The movement in this one is especially clean. A nice one...

eBay #170035499394

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