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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