eBay Focused Squarely On New Goods, Not Second-Hand

eBay rose to fame as a place where people could sell second-hand goods via an auction process, but these days the ecommerce giant is concentrating most of its energies on stores that sell new items using its Buy It Now process. What does that mean for consumers?

eBay has always liked boasting about the number of items listed on its site. But there's another number that it likes to trot out even more frequently: 78% of the items listed are now new, not second-hand. While the number of second-hand items at any given tim is still clearly more than you'll find in the local Vinnies, that's now a minor part of the operation.

As ANZ head of product Lisa Wong put it at a briefing I attended recently: "Our seller is no longer Joe down the road." Or if it is, Joe down the road is having to run a professional operation, the kind that Gerry Harvey doesn't believe is possible. eBay begs to differ: its own calculations suggest that its top 2000 Australian sellers grew their business by 38% over the last year.

My own personal period of really intense eBay usage was some years back, when second-hand goods were very much the focus. So there's part of me that finds getting a list of results back that are centred on new goods a bit strange. On the other hand, all businesses have to change and evolve, and having a bunch of local operators with a well-integrated payment mechanism is not a bad outcome for consumers on the whole. The fact that eBay topped Choice's rankings for best online retailer also suggests plenty of people are happy with it.

The new focus does mean changes to eBay's overall approach. As we foreshadowed a couple of weeks ago, from this week eBay will ban sellers from including multiple duplicate listings of the same product. That's a change aimed squarely at professional sellers. The move to allow searching for items using barcodes on an iPhone also points in the same direction, even though the implementation is somewhat lacking.

Some of the changes aimed at the more traditional clearing-out-your-garage eBay seller aren't pleasing either. For instance, eBay is now offering an option where sellers can list products at no cost but pay a higher final value percentage fee. As we noted when that option was first announced, this isn't necessarily a good idea, since for anything that sells for more than $15 you'll actually end up handing more of your earnings over to eBay in the long run.

Do you find eBay more useful now that the focus is squarely on professional sellers? Or do you hanker for the old days when it was more of a treasure trove? Tell us in the comments.

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Comments

    Without Amazon in Australia, ebay doesn't really have any competitors online in the small business marketplace.

    theres www.quicksales.com.au. Thats their direct competitor. But not advertised much. Way cheaper fees.

      Quicksales is a great site. Unfortunately they don't advertise it enough or at all like you said. For some reason the site seems to attract more sellers than buyers as they don't seem to bid on anything. One thing I do like about it is there are no listing fees and final value fees are low. I think with all the changes ebay are doing will backfire eventually and are forgetting the sellers who made it happen.

    Haven't gone back to eBay ever since I discovered gumtree.com.au. It's a clunky site, but it's comprehensive and has a shit load of second-hand goods. Bought a washing machine, hall table, dining table from there successfully.

      That's strange because my few brushes with Gumtree have been with out and out scams. Family who recently listed furniture as they are moving interstate also said they got a lot of obvious scammers (my favourite was the oceanographer who was out at sea - with internet access - but needed the furniture really badly so if they delivered it to his address he would send a PayPal payment as soon as he got back to land. More holes than a swiss cheese factory).

        Scammers in terms of buying or selling? I've only ever bought and gone with my gut instinct - if it looks dodgy, bit probably is. Always see the item in person and pay them cash at time of delivery/pick-up.

          I should also point out that eBay owns Gumtree.

            Angus Kidman
            April 5, 2011 at 1:17 PM

            "I should also point out that eBay owns Gumtree."

            Ahh Crap,... So what now? :{

            I wasn't aware of that either. What's the excuse for the hideous website then?

        I'm an oceanographer and have to say that's almost plausible. In coastal waters, I often have mobile internet access and even colleagues in Antarctic waters have (limited, expensive) satellite internet access. But, having internet access, PayPal payments are possible.

      I've typically used a combination of the two over the last couple of years.

      eBay still comes into its own when you looking for smaller goods that are easily shipped domestically or internationally into Australia. To date I haven't found a better way to pickup commodity consumables on the cheap.

      Also worth noting, while eBay claims second hand goods make up a minority of their sales, I'd be willing to wager their growth has continued and continued, so while the share of second hand goods has dropped, theres probably as many second hand goods available on eBay as there ever was.

      Gumtree really is bread-and-butter in comparison, but the benefit of it, is that it allows you direct and easy communication with the seller to get the information you need. Definitely worthwhile for local transactions.

        I used to use ebay for small consumer goods - mostly electronics - until I discovered dealextreme. It tends to have equal or lower prices, free international shipping, and (slightly) more quality control.

        ebay still wins when I'm looking for replacement parts, trying to find unusual items of clothing, and when I want a general indication of what something will sell for. It has it's place, but it's not my first port of call.

    Seems to reflect my ebay buying patterns. I can't really remember the last time I bought something second-hand off ebay. But in the last six months I've bought a computer, a set of headphones, exercise equipment, bed linen, plus various tech accessories and consummables, all brand new.

    Gumtree's definitely the place for second hand goods, these days.

    i like gumtree too.. it rocks

    IMHO Ebay's gone down hill from where it used to be. Back in the day when the net first came out and Ebay was still a baby (figorativly speaking).. it was great to have somewhere decent where you could sell stuff and have people auction for it and get the highest price. But in the past few years its near impossible to sell a product worth $1000 and get any thing more than $300 for it. Everyone wants to undercut everyone else like competitors in China selling the same stuff.. Of course they can do.. cuz they are the wholesalers or manufacturers. On the flip side I can see it good for consumers to go get new stuff on the cheap. But if you want to get rid of stuff that you have accumulated and auction it off... ebay is no longer the place to do it.. when it 'used' to do it realy well. A little bit of great history lost if you ask me.. u loose my vote ebay.

      exactly why ebay is still good.

      I recently bought a >$500 new electrical product from China on eBay, paid $170.

      It's no longer a place to auction your stuff because you can buy a new product for less than what people expect to get for their used belongings.

      I dont care if it's new or second hand - i just care about the lowest price.

      Also, someone should develop an online shopping aggregator

      If you can't get $1000 for it, it's not worth $1000 =\

    I noticed this the other day when I was looking for some old car parts, and there was basically nothing...but there was a Gumtree.com.au advert at the top of every page. Does eBay have a financial interest in Gum Tree?

      As Angus stated earlier in the comments ^ - eBay owns Gumtree

      Ebay owns Gumtree as they do Paypal & Shopping.com Australia.

    eBay has gone from a "trading community" of equals, to a "shopping mall" of retailers and consumers. They have told sellers to offer "free", shipping and work shipping and fees into price of items, Sellers profit margin goes down, buyers cost goes up, eBay lines their greedy pockets!

    It was always in Ebay's interest to own Gumtree, since listing and selling is totally free on there, and now Gumtree discourages posting items to buyers. This would really be bad news for ebay if Gumtree allowed it.

    I remember before I left the UK I never used ebay, I always used Amazon and Gumtree and in comaprison to Gumtree and Amazon I found ebay difficult to navigate (find what I want, listing is not as easy and clear cut, calculating fees! etc etc), but since coming to Australia I haven't known about other options, not until recently did I find out about ebid.net and oztion.com.au (quicksales). I am trying to start an online business and planned to start on ebay, but when I compare the fees on ebay to the fees on quicksales and ebid I very quickly lose my inspiration to sell on ebay.

    Ebay is trying to become amazon because the sell more with less negative feedback.
    When the get closer to all new products the will use paypal as a trump card and only allow it to be used on ebay. So buyers who like the protection will want to buy on ebay and this will force sellers to change sites to. BEWARE! Every person and business should stop using paypal, as ebay can not force change down your throat like an un-American tyrant without paypal behind them.

    I am finding vintage items on Amazon, Addoway, and other alt sites, especially Etsy.
    I often find what I am looking for cheaper somewhere else, but if I buy new I check Amazon first.

    For individual items, new or preowned, fixed price and auction format are not the best. Better is a declining price format such as at Pricetack. Prices go down until items sell.

    7-10 years ago, Ebay was an excellent sales channel for small business with total cost of selling around 6-7% of sales. Given that small business can't sell below cost and survive , it may take multiple listings to sell. In 2011, if items need to be re-listed, total selling costs on Ebay can rise to 13-14% of sales revenues plus handling costs- it is no longer viable for small business when margins have to be slim to be competitive. Like us - many sellers now have their own websites. The eBay formula suits sellers with big margins and big inventory of duplicate items.

    I have to agree with the title of this article. A long time ago before eBay came to Oz, everybody sold their stuff in a fortnightly published paper called The Personal Trading Post, which was good because everybody used it and you could find all sorts of weird & wonderful used goods and generally pretty cheap because I remember if you were selling something that had not sold after a period of time they would ring you up and say "you should drop your price!".

    Suddenly they got greedy and changed their name from The Personal trading Post to just Trading Post and started to allow commercial listings. From then on it went down hill and to this day it would have to be about 70% - 80% commercial listings and the private listings are overinflated prices, I have not used it in a long time.

    Now it looks like Ebay is going the same way but down a different path. I have noticed that it is flooded with goods from China and alike countries and if you try to filter this out there are Australian based sites acting as fronts for these places. Try to buy Australian on eBay! Also I thought operators of smaller eBay shops were people working from their garages and alike, but I don't think this is the case either.

    I purchased a business shirt from a small eBay shop that stated "Made in Australia", it took two weeks to rollup, was the wrong size and said it was made in China. I left the appropriate feedback and let them know what I thought, I received a reply saying it was not their fault it was a warehouse mixup. Warehouse!!?? He then explained that he received orders from eBay and sent them to a company (import) he has a "deal" with, that then posts the items out, he only had a brochure of the items stocked and did not actually see items.

    How bizarre is that? I have had recent similar circumstances to this as well.

    No, I think eBay is going to crap and will be on the lookout for something better.

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