Ebay: More Bad News on Views

I find hard independent eBay performance figures hard to come by. I get to see registered user and item listing figures quite frequently. However I believe these numbers are unreliable gauges of performance as many users continue to register multiple accounts on eBay and listing numbers, taken at particular times of the year, can be wildly distorted by the effect of regular free or cheap listing promotions.

So this week I was pleased to see this UBS Internet Usage Report, based on comScore US Audience data. First the, apparently, good news that unique visitor numbers had grown on eBay by 20% year on year to August 06. A visitor could be either a buyer or seller but, at first glance, you would think this growth should be good news for the auction site.

However, to muddy the waters, the actual number of eBay pages viewed fell by 10% over the same period. So we apparently have more people looking at less pages and this is confirmed later when we see in August 05 the average different page views per visit to eBay was 36 but this had fallen to 30 a year later. Further confirmation that people are doing less when they visit eBay comes in the average time they spend on eBay each day. The average eBay visit in August 05 was 22 minutes. A year later it was just 17 minutes.

Given eBay isn’t any smaller as a site, these drops in page views and time spent on the site are dramatic. The conclusion I draw is, while more people are looking at eBay, there is actually substantially less being done on the site.

My major concern is that the fall in visitor page views and time spent on eBay is more likely to represent a reduction in buyer activity. This concern is perhaps supported by eBay’s justification for the recent stores fee increases and reduction in search visibility. They expressed the view that it was the imbalance of store inventory listings compared to the traditional auction format items that was damaging the ‘magic’ of eBay for buyers. While that may confirm my opinion that buyer activity is falling enough to cause concern, I just don’t buy eBay’s view that stores were to blame.

The eBay Store items were never mixed in to the short duration auction and buy it now listings search. They did show up for a brief period tagged on at the end of a search, but only after all the shorter duration auction listings. In my opinion, the core short duration auction listings were never adversely affected by increased Stores activity.

I believe it is the quality of the shorter duration listings that has turned buyers off from eBay. There are too many scams and the amount of penny eBooks, likely counterfeit items, potential copyright breaches and hiked up shipping charges, to name but a few issues, is staggering to me.

One example is the numerous reports I’ve seen of copied DVDs and CDs being supplied when the listing offered ‘new’ or ‘genuine’. By the time the bad feedback starts to arrive the seller has vanished, probably behind yet another user ID to run the scam again. How many times does a buyer have to be a victim of rogue sellers before they turn away from eBay altogether?

If my opinion is correct the policing of eBay should be greatly improved to restore the faith and trust of buyers. It is no longer credible for eBay to rely on users alone to report listings before checking them itself. I am also told that, even when reported, bad listings are all too often still allowed to run their course unhindered by eBay. This isn’t good news to hear.

There are two things eBay can do immediately, at virtually zero cost, to improve this situation. Firstly, increase the minimum sale price on the site to 50 cents and, secondly, ban eBooks altogether from being sold. All too often these cheap transactions with no shipping cost are simply used to buy and sell feedback ratings. A few dollars can earn a good three figure feedback rating which is, all too often, used to put a trustworthy appearance on a scam listing.

In this writers opinion eBay would do well to make user integrity and the site image a top priority now.

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