EBay's 'Buy It New' Rebranding Angers Devoted Used SellersAs companies like Netflix (NFLX) and Facebook have learned, having a rabid Internet fan base has its downsides. Probably no company is more aware of that than eBay (EBAY), an Internet pioneer with 90 million active users. It's not always easy to satisfy them all.

The site angered some of its devoted users this holiday season with its new slogan, "Buy it new. Buy it now." The company's first big marketing effort in two years aims to seduce shoppers using iPhones, Androids and other mobile devices with its wealth of brand-new, brand-name items. Many longtime sellers of used goods on eBay claim that the marketplace's focus on new products hurts their business.

EBay has come a long way since its days as an Internet flea market. Today, 62% of eBay listings are fixed price, not auctions, and 70% are new, eBay's CMO Richelle Parham told DailyFinance. By comparison, in 2008, only 43% of eBay listings were fixed price. But the brand's image has lagged behind. In the past few years, eBay has met with steep competition from other marketplaces like Amazon, which offer new items as well as perks like free shipping.

So far, the app featured in the ads has been a hit with shoppers, downloaded 47 million times, according eBay. But sellers of used merchandise are less than thrilled. "It was a slap in the face for them to air that commercial," says Karen Drake, an eBay "Top Rated Seller" of used clothing for 15 of the company's 16 years. "I don't sell new items, but I pay eBay $500 a month in fees."

Drake remembers driving over to the "tiny, one-room" eBay office in 1997 to pay her selling fees on her lunch break. Times have changed since she called herself "eBay's biggest cheerleader," she says.

The End of an Auction Era

While sellers may pay fees, which provide the marketplace component of eBay's revenue, eBay executives decide how they are spent. While eBay declined to say how much it paid for the ad campaign, it reported that its sales and marketing expenses increased 29% to $623.3 million in the third quarter.

In one commercial, a father at his child's school musical falls asleep and begins dreaming about a pair of chrome rims for his car. Barely awake, he presses a few buttons on his smartphone and -- SNAP! -- buys them on eBay Motors.

Speedy mobile purchases are expected to bring eBay almost $5 billion in sales this year, more than enough to pay for the commercials. That's more than double that what mobile sales made the company last year, and what is expected for competitor Amazon (AMZN).

While the growth of mobile sales may be a recent phenomenon, eBay's shift toward new, fixed-price items has been under way for almost four years. In 2008, John Donahoe took over as CEO and began altering policies to encourage buy-it-now sales and favor high-volume "Top Rated Sellers," a marketplace overhaul intended to improve buyer experience and safety.

This year, eBay has recruited some of its highest profile sellers yet, especially in the fashion category. Neiman Marcus Last Call, Cole Haan and Timberland all now sell their wares directly through eBay's Fashion Outlet.

This year's campaign, which includes outdoor billboards and a recently opened "Inspiration Shop," promotes these new types of eBay products in addition to the mobile app. At the Inspiration Shop window display on New York City's Park Avenue, passersby can look up curated items -- like eco-friendly Hunter rain boots -- on their phones by scanning QR codes which take them to marketplace listings. EBay hopes shoppers will use the feature to check bar codes in stores and compare prices to those on the marketplace.

An eBay Vintage

Karen Drake, the longtime eBay seller, was better served by eBay's 2007 holiday campaign, where packs of shoppers on horseback chased through the brush in hot pursuit of a vintage Evel Knievel lunch box. Today, sellers like Drake are fast becoming rare items themselves. Drake says the company is partially responsible for their departures by airing ads that promote certain sellers and disadvantage others.

According to Ina Steiner, a former market research analyst and founder of AuctionBytes, which covers e-commerce news geared towards small businesses, many longtime sellers feel that they lose business when eBay pushes new, brand name products on consumers, both via ads and search features like "Best Match," which uses an algorithm to sort listings by seller size and rating, among other factors.

"Up until 2008, there was a contract between eBay and its sellers to have a level playing field," Steiner explains. "Longtime sellers and small sellers feel that [since] eBay has made trust violations."

Last week on AuctionBytes, one seller wrote to Steiner's blog to complain about Neiman Marcus's status as a "Top Rated Seller," despite its high number of negative feedback ratings.

"This is UNDENIABLE PROOF . . . that the rules are DIFFERENT FOR BIG BOX SELLERS on Ebay," the seller wrote.

Many small sellers left eBay after 2008, moving to other websites or even returning to in-person sales at flea markets and auction houses. But others have stayed, unable to find another marketplace with a comparable user base that also allows their types of listings. Etsy and Bonanza are much more niche than eBay, and Amazon doesn't do used clothing.

"If any other site existed, 95% of the sellers I know would leave eBay," Drake says. Drake, who regularly keeps up with about 150 other used clothing sellers via an email listserv, says that she and many of her peers called eBay to complain when they saw the ads.

Consumer-led Commerce

EBay says that its new ads aren't meant to alienate or disadvantage, but to show shoppers the diversity of merchandise available. "EBay has options of how to shop -- online at a computer or on the go with custom mobile apps -- and options of what to buy that include both new and used items," an eBay spokesperson told DailyFinance.

"The campaign is also raising awareness of our mobile offering," she wrote in an email. "eBay's aggressive innovation in Mobile commerce directly benefits and empowers sellers of all sizes as their inventory is showing up on mobile devices around the world."

While any listing -- auction or otherwise -- can be looked up by the app, sellers of used items doubt that they will get much of the $5 billion mobile sales pie. Antiques don't have QR codes that show up in searches, and hasty mobile shoppers often fail to read detailed descriptions or examine full sized photos. This results in dissatisfied customers, according to Steiner, as well as returns and bad feedback. (While the app also includes a selling function, it's not much of a help for professional sellers listing many items a day, Steiner adds.)

But the biggest issue for sellers like Drake is eBay deciding what consumers want on their behalf. "Long-time vendors I hear from aren't convinced that [the move to new, buy-it-now products] is an organic phenomenon," says Steiner. "They feel that eBay is pushing it on consumers."

EBay insists that all of its changes are inspired by its desire to help shoppers find what they want, how they want it. "Our company is focused on enabling commerce," Donahoe explained to analysts on the Q3 call. "Retail must be technology-enabled and consumer-led."

Shoppers looking for collectibles and vintage items also still come to eBay, though one-of-a-kind items are now harder to find beneath the flood of new goods.

"I would just like to know where to go online to get great vintage, antiques and collectibles," says Janel Scott, another long-time buyer and seller of used clothing and collectibles from Appleton, Wis. "For now, we still look on eBay."



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JewelEffects

www.ebid.net
A UK based company, has been voted twice the #1 alternative auction site on the internet. It has been around since 1999 - They opened up to the rest of the world about 4 years ago and are progressing very nicely. You can opt for a Seller+ Lifetime membership for a one time fee of 49.49 for which you receive 5 free stores - 5 free images per auction listing 600px X 600px - unlimited free listings (2% FVF if you use the gallery auction style listing) - list for as long as you like with up to 10 auto re-lists - small upgrade fees for ie bold, front page, highlight etc - dictate your own shipping terms - dictate your own payment terms - dictate your own feedback (both ways) which are editable should transaction take a different turn - bid and buy now options - free worldwide exposure - exceptional customer service - fun, friendly and extremely helpful forums - buddy points for various transactions (buddy points are used as payment for ebid's own auction items) - join www.ebid.net affiliation program - Come and join us at www.ebid.net

I just want to correct a piece of my input earlier on:
affiliation program www.ebid.net

should have been.net and not .com

November 04 2011 at 2:24 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
ukelaine

As many others have stated, if a new site came along and was able to get the following of Viewers like Ebay, so MANY Sellers would jump ship, already in the past few years, so MANY Sellers have already gone and sadly, most were the GOOD Sellers, who cared and loved selling on Ebay.
It is true, in the past few years Ebay is no longer the Site people go to as much to buy or sell.
For Sellers, the fees, lack of assistance from Ebay, and the feeling that a Seller is nothing more than something that stuck to the bottom of Ebay's Corporation shoes, unless, you are a big time Seller of NEW items.
For Buyers, the over flow of junk from China, less and less thrill of the auction, and the lack of the personal touch, 99% of correspondence HAS to go through Ebay.
It would not have been so hard to come up with an Advertisement, showing a man dreaming about a toy he had when he was young and his wife finding it on Ebay, the thrill of the bidding and her winning the item for him, YES, a USED item that will make his Christmas when he unwraps it !!
Now is that so hard ? When millions are being paid out to Advertisements Companies and I've just gave you the idea for FREE !!!
Maybe a discount on my fees ?? for the extra revenue you could recieve from running such an ad ??
Many older people are drawn back to their younger days and love the joy of purchasing an item that reminds then of their youth, heck, look at the amount of men who are older riding around in cars or on a motorcycle that they used to have when they were younger.
Same goes for toys from their youth !! There are so many USED treasures on Ebay and ads targeting only NEW items makes Ebay no better than a Department Store, that is NOT what started Ebay, that is NOT what Ebay should be.
Trying to scrape more pennies from the barrel they started charging a fee on postage, double dipping, as Paypal (owned by Ebay) also charges on postage.
More and more Sellers see Ebay as the ENEMY and not the place it once was, which is sad.
I would love to be loyal to Ebay, but, it works both ways and what started as a place to find hard to find items is slowly going down the toilet.
Let's hope someone steps up before it is too late and sees the value of Ebay, it's Auctions and to sell BOTH used and new items and that without Sellers Ebay would be a thing we think about when we are saying "Do you remember that Company called EBAY ?"

November 04 2011 at 1:20 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
vserio

I used to sell about $20000 a month on ebay selling used phones. I will NEVER EVER sell on ebay again. They are the WORST company EVER. They treat sellers like crap and charge crazy fees and ALWAYS side with the buyer no matter how much time you put in advertising the products correctly. They think they run your company and will never last. I am surprised they last this long. WORST COMPANY EVER and I WILL NEVER SELL ON THERE AGAIN. I wont even buy on there. Why am I gonna give them $0.01 in profit. Screw EBAY!

November 04 2011 at 11:43 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
robertcbl3

THEY NEED TO TREAT US LITTLE SELLERS BETTER. WE ARE THE ONES GIVEING THEM MORE MONEY IN THE LONG RUN. I DID SO MUCH BETTER LAST YEAR. WHAT HAPPON I DONT KNOW EXCEPT MAYBE THIS HAS SOMETHING TO DO WITH IT. MAYBE WE SHOULD DO SOMETHING. LETS THINK ABOUT THIS. WE CANT LET THEM DO THIS TO US. THANK YOU

November 03 2011 at 6:12 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
JewelEffects

A UK based company, has been voted twice the #1 alternative auction site on the internet. It has been around since 1999 - They opened up to the rest of the world about 4 years ago and are progressing very nicely. You can opt for a Seller+ Lifetime membership for a one time fee of 49.49 for which you receive 5 free stores - 5 free images per auction listing 600px X 600px - unlimited free listings (2% FVF if you use the gallery auction style listing) - list for as long as you like with up to 10 auto relists - small upgrade fees for ie bold, front page, hilight etc - dictate your own shipping terms - dictate your own payment terms - dictate your own feedback (both ways) which are editable should transaction take a different turn - bid and buy now options - free worldwide exposure - exceptional customer service - fun, friendly and extremely helpful forums - buddy points for various transactions (buddy points are used as payment for ebid's own auction items) - join www.ebid.com affiliation program - Come and join us at www.ebid.net

November 03 2011 at 2:45 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
JewelEffects

www.ebid.net
A UK based company, has been voted twice the #1 alternative auction site on the internet. It has been around since 1999 - They opened up to the rest of the world about 4 years ago and are progressing very nicely. You can opt for a Seller+ Lifetime membership for a one time fee of 49.49 for which you receive 5 free stores - 5 free images per auction listing 600px X 600px - unlimited free listings (2% FVF if you use the gallery auction style listing) - list for as long as you like with up to 10 auto re-lists - small upgrade fees for ie bold, front page, highlight etc - dictate your own shipping terms - dictate your own payment terms - dictate your own feedback (both ways) which are editable should transaction take a different turn - bid and buy now options - free worldwide exposure - exceptional customer service - fun, friendly and extremely helpful forums - buddy points for various transactions (buddy points are used as payment for ebid's own auction items) - join www.ebid.com affiliation program - Come and join us at www.ebid.net

November 03 2011 at 2:43 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Jack

ebay is screwing up as far as i am concerned. I like bidding on items if I wanted buy it now I would go to the store!!!!!!!

November 03 2011 at 2:18 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Holli, Chaney

Craigs list is clearly the one in place to replace Ebay.

November 03 2011 at 12:47 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
rsobus9013

Ebay has already lost in Europe, closing offices in Poland and several other countries. Allegro.pl and their couterparts in Czach Rep., Ukraine, Hungary control the local market. Need an alternative here.

November 03 2011 at 12:10 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
gailgrprns3

Someone needs to tell this person they placed all that in the wrong catagory.

November 03 2011 at 11:59 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply