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Life without eBay. The survival kit

If you go to the Seller Central at eBay forums, it is hard not to notice the very long and active discussion titled “SIGN THE PLEDGE - NO SALES FEB 18-25!”. After all it gathered over 5000 replies! The sellers are threatening to boycott the auction site in response to the higher fees and other changes that the company announced earlier this month. One of the things the sellers are particularly vocal about is that eBay will make it impossible for them to leave feedback about buyers.

I am not a regular seller on eBay but once in a while I will go there to get rid of the old stuff I don’t need any longer. eBay is great because of its popularity. eBay’s user base is so huge and diverse that oftentimes there is simply no other place where you can find people interested to buy your stuff, especially if this is something unordinary. There is not question that eBay administration is well aware of this. Ever since the site became popular the seller fees kept going up and the latest change is just another iteration.

Will the sellers boycott cause eBay any considerable damage? I doubt so. Will eBay prosper if they keep the policy of hiking fees? Randy Smythe at SickingAlpha wrote an excellent overview called eBay’s Death by a Thousand Cuts where he claims that August of 2006, when eBay had the last fee hike, is much different than today. Sellers have many more options now than back then, so do the buyers.

eBay alternatives

Whether you sell or buy, support the boycott or not, here are a few alternative venues to consider. Each of these websites below is good in their own way, many are cheaper for sellers, some are free. I will go through each and will sum up what I know about them from my own experience (as a seller and a buyer) and you are welcome to add your own story in the comments.

Craigslist

Craigslist is a great place for free local classified ads. Consider it a huge internet newspaper. You place an ad and people start emailing you. The bad part is that the ads are mostly in free format and it is pretty hard to find anything. Also, there is no buyer/seller protection or feedback system of any kind. It is up to the participants to settle the deal. Not surprisingly the place is notorious for being full of scam.

Amazon Marketplace

Amazon sells many items alongside it’s own merchandise. These are third party sellers, other companies or individuals. The information on the item for sale is limited, so buying used is a problem. Amazon seller fees vary depending on merchandise and are about the same or higher than on eBay. The good thing for buyers is protection. The deal is settled with Amazon acting as a proxy and the money exchange hands only upon a successful completion of the transaction.

Overstock

Overstock started out in 1997 by selling surplus and returned merchandise. These days the company sells new as well as surplus items and has pretty active online auctions section structured similarly to eBay auctions. Their fees seems to be much lower though and I am seriously thinking to give them a try next time I have something to sell.

Half.com (an eBay company)

Half.com is not technically an eBay alternative since eBay owns the website but still it is a very popular marketplace for used books and videos. The prices even on brand new items are VERY low and I urge you to check them out before buying retail. As far as selling stuff goes, Half.com seller fees are generally lower than those of eBay and transactions are done though Half.com directly.

uBid.com

uBid.com specializes in liquidating excess inventory and has very specific variety, mostly the stuff a corporation would sell. Have to see it to understand what I mean. The sellers are big companies like Sony, Motorola, and Dell. All auctions start at $1 and go without reserve. I have attempted to buy from uBid on several occasions but hasn’t been successful to get a fair price. I do know however people how got very good deals at uBid.

LiveDeal

LiveDeal is a local classifieds site, similar to Craigslist but with some of eBay features. I previously compared them to eBay and CraigsList. They have focused more on local listings ever since they got acquired by YellowPages. I have never used them though and cannot comment on the quality of the content. One thing that throws me off is the banner ads plastering all the pages. Yak!

SitePoint Marketplace

SitePoint MarketPlace is arguably the most popular place to sell online property, websites and such. I never sold or bought anything there but I do come to the place once in a while to pick up ideas. I believe they charge $20 per listing. Another option to consider is Digital Point Marketplace, but the place is somewhat messier in my opinion.

Less popular websites

Many of these sites are small startups that don’t offer a great variety of items for sale or have limited functionality compared to eBay. Besides small inventory, another problem I have with them is that each website looks different and it takes a while to figure out where things are. Here they are with some stats (taken from this CNN Money article). eBay numbers are also listed for comparison.

  • iOffer: 75,000 sellers (~1 million users), 16 million items
  • OnlineAuction: 50,000 sellers, 11 million items
  • eCrater: 33,000 active sellers, ~1 million items
  • BidVille: 25,000 active sellers, ~1 million items
  • (eBay: 250 million users, 113 million listed items)

eBay + CraigsList = LiveDeal

You must have heard about these two behemoths: eBay is the largest online auction while CraigsList is the largest online classified ads source.

Back in 2003 a man named Rajesh Navar – former eBay employee – saw an opportunity in the fact that eBay misses out to address well the market of goods sold locally. Those would be large items like cars, furniture that usually require a local pickup. CraigsList on the other hand was good for these but was not very business/entrepreneur oriented. It served well as online newspaper but lacked the conveniences eBay provided for pro-sellers.

LiveDealAnd so LiveDeal was born featuring a mix of functionality that the two sites provide. Similar to CraigsList LiveDeal doesn’t charge anything for listing, selling or buying an item. Yet it utilizes seller feedback based rating (the feature that made eBay very popular) and has advanced listing features. Transaction wise – LiveDeal leaves it up to the buyer and seller to settle it. To that extend LiveDeal acts more like an on-line classified ads source. Here is a short summary comparing the three web sites.

eBay CraigsList LiveDeal
Fees Multiple fees: Insertion, Listing Enhancements, Transaction, Premium Accounts No fees No fees to list up to 10 items. Fees for Premium Accounts. Listing Enhancement fees
Sales Type Price is defined via limited time open auction Up to the buyer and seller to settle the price Up to the buyer and seller to settle the price
Listing Enhancements Advanced features: Featured, Highlighted, Sub-title, Bold, Pictures, Gallery, Reserved Price, Buy Now, etc Pictures Some features: Home page & Category featured, Highlighted, Pictures, Buy Now
Pro-seller support Store Fronts, Batch Submissions None Store Fronts, Batch Submissions
Listing Duration 1-10 days Major US Cities: 7 days for classifieds, 30 days for resumes;
Other Cities: 45 days.
up to 30 days
Buyer Convenience Advanced search & sorting functionality, email alerts Search by city, category, price Search by ZIP-code, category, price, email alerts
Countries Serviced Multiple Multiple US, Canada
Banner ads Few to no ads No ads A lot of ads

It will be fair to note that due to the fact that eBay controls the sales transaction itself it can provide extended user interface features which the other two web sites cannot. For example eBay allows you to search past/completed auctions – a very convenient feature if you want to see what similar items sold for in the past.

eBay have learnt their lesson and is aggressively moving into the local markets. They improved eBay autos to make a better accent to the seller location. They are adding classifieds to eBay listings. They purchased 25% stake in CraigsList and launched an international classified brand: kijiji.com

Will LiveDeal present any serious threat to either eBay or CraigsList? I doubt. It is now 3 years since it launched and according to this Alexa chart it barely made any dent in the other two web sites popularity.

LiveDeals Alexa

eBay has practically monopolized the market. Buyers are happy with the advanced features the web site offers and don’t see the numerous fees eBay charges sellers. Sellers see a potential in the huge buyers base eBay offers. I don’t think the picture is going to change anytime soon.

Read more about LiveDeal here.




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