eBay and Community

About this time a year ago I applied for a job at eBay Australia. I figured I’d have a good chance at it, having implemented US -centric initiatives into other theatres (Europe, Asia etc) for major technology companies in the past. I’ve built massive teams from the ground-up for eBay type corporates. Plus… no shock here… I love online communities and ecommerce that revolves around P2P not B2B. I didn’ t even get past the headhunter. These things happen.

Today’s article in The Australian Fee Rise Hits eBay Minnnows by Simon Hayes outlines some of the challenges facing eBay and those who have ‘storefronts’ on that service. The link may not work for long – NewsCorp unfortunately still doesn’t understand the long tail (unlike eBay) and they remove their articles from public consumption.

EBay’s attempts to build its Chinese business have had some undesirable side effects.
Australian sellers are complaining their Chinese counterparts, benefiting from free listings, have swamped the site.
EBay Australia argues it has taken measures to make the Chinese listings less visible.

In the past I have written about eBays error in not ‘swarming down’ their community. By this I mean allowing the community to form much smaller hives in the larger community environment. Not well understood by the online auction house is the desire for people to communicate with those they trade with. eBay did get this initially – feedback and question/answer and ratings/rankings helped a lot – but they’ve since dropped the ball.

Let me go into more detail. A friend of mine has a Ducati. That’s a motorbike in case you don’t know (I didn’t). Its a red one. In fact I’m not sure they come in any other colour. He trades regularly bike parts on eBay with other Ducati enthusiasts. He prefers to buy and sell with those he knows, and sometimes drops them a line with questions that forums often provide a channel for – funny noises in the engine, bike running hot, what sort of petrol to put in, I don’t know, whatever it is guys talk about when they and fast red machines come together. Now if eBay had moved swarms to the centre of their business model and had the auction house as the drawcard and full service product, Ducati enthusiasts worldwide could meet on eBay, chat on forums, load up pictures of their bikes, have mashups of Google maps for good bike runs around Sydney and world wide and so and on and so forth. Such communities are much more resistant to raiding by Chinese and other spam-sellers.

However eBay stuck with a centralised service that put the sales first and people second. Obviously, mine is a much better model (heh!), that uses a distributed, P2P auction house integrating community software. In fact, anyone out there want to come into business with me? I can pick up the source code for a superb scaleable auction house software that integrates well into online community for a teeny weeny fee (seriously, less than a few grand US) and, with a small amount of advertising, perhaps a fee based premium service and one other idea I don’t want to talk about here, we’d make a motza. The template would work for all online communities that want to integrate their offline hobbies and sales with online discussions. Fully distributed, fully supported, members signing up members. It’d be cool.

Or maybe I should go talk to that headhunter again, I reckon eBay might listen up now. Nah, I make a much better blogger than employee.

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  1. Hi Laurel,

    eBay quit “looking after the little guy” a long, long time ago. It is in a war to eliminate Taobao (China’s eBay) and will stop at nothing, which is why Chinese sellers get free listings and a multitude of other benefits. What’s worse is that the Chinese Government appear to be subsidising the destruction of other countries’ online small biz, by paying for postage on small items up to a certain dollar amount. So Chinese sellers can manufacture, package and post an item into Australia for $1 that you or I would be charged $5 or more to send via Registered Post here!!!

    As someone who has operated successfully in the past on eBay and with other online ventures (and love doing so), I can assure you the game has changed. And not for the better. With the Chinese listings swamping our local market, job losses locally equating to less consumer spending and more price-focused bargain hunting, the environment is not healthy. Finding niche markets just got a hell of a lot tougher and now we have to contend with the bigger players throwing a lot of money into the pit to grab market share.

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