June 23rd, 2007

Does eBay work for selling Jewelry?

eBay keynote San Jose, picture by Pierre OmidyarWhile this post was supposed to be solely about selling Jewelry on eBay, there was some news and a funny Google search that expands the topic.

People always ask me about selling online. One person wanted to know about selling jewelry on eBay. I’ve seen so many buyers and sellers have bad experiences on eBay, especially when it comes to Jewelry, that I said no. Even for regular items, I’m finding that eBay keeps raising the prices and offloading the responsibility of marketing the items to the seller. eBay got big because it provided the marketing. If you have to do that yourself, you may as well not use eBay.

A friend of mine tried to sell a guitar rock wall on eBay with the proceeds going to charity. It was a Grammy-related piece of memorabilia. Every single Grammy award winner signed the rock wall. Not one bid. Not one bite. Nothing. Except a fee.

But to be a bit more thorough on the topic, I walked into a branch of one of those “Sell it on eBay” type stores and had a chat with the manager about Jewelry Sales. Right off the bat, he told me don’t bother to auction Jewelry on eBay. It doesn’t sell well. The fees are prohibitive. Certifying quality is a nightmare. It’s hard to get both parties satisfied. While I was expecting it to be a problem, I didn’t think I’d get such an honest assessment from someone who specializes in eBay sales, nor that it would be quite that bad.

While researching this post, I found out some funny things. You would expect grown up corporations to be scared of being labeled spammers in fear of losing their brand value. But you’d be wrong. Google has a quirk in their algorithm that lets authority sites get a lot of listings for their subdomains. A site with “authority” should be more trusted and trustworthy, no? I guess not. A search on “eBay for Jewelry” turns up a page full of eBay subdomains, each one has two entries, making the situation worse. It takes until the 15th item to find a non-eBay site.

You’ve got jewelry.ebay.com (listed twice for some reason), forums.ebay.com, search.ebay.com, here’s a good one jewelry.listings.ebay.com, pages.ebay.com, jewelry.stores.ebay.com, stores.ebay.com, services.listings.ebay.com, blogs.ebay.com, health-beauty.search.ebay.com, stores-keyword.ebay.com, getting tired yet…well if that wasn’t bad enough they have different country domains like cgi.ebay.ie. I mean honestly, how greedy can one company be? Out of the first 100 results, only 21 are outside of the eBay domain. You can argue that since eBay was in the search terms they deserve more screen space, but I was looking for alternatives to eBay in the field of Jewelry. They are doing the subdomains on purpose.

Do you think Pierre Omidyar is proud? Or that he had spamming Google in mind when he founded eBay? Or that the community that MADE eBay what it is are happy? eBay has seriously jumped the shark in my opinion.

They have a huge community. Even if you duplicate their features, it is hard to compete with that. But it is an unhappy community. Just waiting for a Google to create something competitive to it. The day that happens, people will switch overnight.

Which leads to the rumors that Yahoo! and eBay will merge. Like the MySpace rumors, I think this would be a bad move for Yahoo!. They built their own auction site (which they recently killed). But without any cool features. They never updated it. I always found it a shame they neglected it and did not realize the potential. They should bring it back, leverage the technology, add in some great new social network elements, use the team that built del.icio.us and flickr, those developers really “get it” and compete with eBay. Don’t merge with a dying company. Unless you get a really good price.

Same goes for MySpace. It’s amazing that MySpace ever did well with such a poor technology. They have a huge base. True. But so did Geocities. How has that merger gone for Yahoo? MySpace is built on high school and college kids. The most fickle, unpredictable people on Earth. They will turn on you on a dime. With Facebook in their Face, MySpace too is dying. Or let’s say they will be a flash in the pan. How much of MySpace is now geocities-like spam?

Besides the subdomain algorithm problems at Google, they have been in the news related to eBay as well. The moves these companies make sometimes are astounding. They come off like children. Ebay and Google have an on again off again love-hate relationship. eBay fears Google. They know the day Google decides to compete with them will be the beginning of the end.

So they really didn’t take well to Google Checkout’s Let Freedom Ring party planned during one of eBay’s events. So eBay pulled their Google ads, which total some 5% of Google’s ad revenue. Personally I felt that was good for Google. The quality of the eBay ads are horrible. They are paying for millions of terms and it’s impossible to properly target ads at that volume. They did Google a favor by cutting out their ads. Unfortunately, they’re back.

I’m sure we will be hearing some big news very soon.

UPDATE: I was wrong. Even from the search results that were supposedly NOT from eBay, there was an eBay owned listing. What’s in Store Blog belongs to Shopping.com which belongs to eBay. One has to wonder if eBay was not responsible for such a huge chunk of revenue for Google, how long such a situation would last.

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