Why Should eBay Care About Auctions?
In short, eBay needs to care about the auction format because that is what sets them apart from the growing list of ecommerce platforms. While some sellers may see no value in auctions the truth is that without a strong base of auctions eBay is just a poorly designed Amazon.com clone. Auctions are what made eBay what it is today. By trying to distance themselves from that they are putting themselves at a disadvantage. However, some may feel that the auction format no longer holds the appeal to consumers that it once did. The thrill is no longer there. While to a certain extent that may be true it doesn’t mean that auctions should be abandoned. Instead innovative approaches can revitalize the auction format and bring back both buyers and sellers to eBay.
- Descending Price Auctions. Descending price auctions could really help bring buyers back to eBay and would also help sellers get fair market value for their listings. Here’s how it works instead of starting at a low price and being incrementally bid up the auction would start at high price and go lower over time. The first buyer to bid would win and be able to purchase the item at the price. For example you could start an item at say $20 and have the price lower every hour by $0.05. A buyer then would have to determine when to pull the trigger, knowing that the longer they wait the more likely it becomes that someone else will buy the item. This new format would bring back some of the excitement that has faded from eBay auctions. That addictive feeling of “winning” an auction. For sellers it would mean that they could list items at auction without worrying that they won’t get a fair market price.
- Extend Active Auctions. One of the things that turned off many buyers to auctions was sniping. Sniping software allowed professional buyers to swoop in the final seconds and outbid the competition. Of course many buyers who were just looking for bargains were discouraged from even trying to bid on auctions. One solution is to extend the time limit on active auctions. For example, if an auction has received bids in the closing minutes then the time limit could be extended by a few minutes. Then if more bids are received it could be extended further, only after not receiving any bids for a specified length of time would the auction end. This would put an end to sniping as the practice would only serve to extend the auction and give others a chance to bid. It would also help sellers by maximizing the potential auction price.
- No Seller Cancellations. Another practice that hurts the auction format is seller cancellation. Sellers have been allowed to cancel an auction after it is complete if they no longer have the item or there was an error in their listing. This policy has been abused by many sellers who will cancel an auction if it doesn’t reach their price. This drives away buyers who are looking for a deal. They soon realize that most sellers won’t let them get any real bargains and that low starting bids will often end with a relisting of the item.
- More Flexible End Times. Sellers don’t care so much about when an auction starts, what is really important is when it will end. Instead of giving sellers a fixed auction duration, why not let them decide when they want the auction to end? If I’m listing a product on a Monday I may not want to have that auction end in week or three days.What I probably want is the auction to end on the weekend. Under the current system for that to happen I would have to schedule that item to start on the weekend and wait an extra week. All the wasted time is unnecessary, just let the seller schedule their own end time. This in itself should boost the number of auctions on eBay.
eBay may not realize it but without auctions they are just another e-commerce venue. Auctions are what makes eBay unique, in fact the first thing that pops to mind when someone thinks of eBay is the auction format. The auction format isn’t dead but it can be made better and revitalizing it should be a priority.