|Thu Jan 16 2014 11:30:36|
Report Says eBay to Launch Retail Mall The Plaza
By: Julia Wilkinson
EBay is reportedly taking another stab at a retail area on their site, where goods from brands are differentiated from eBay's traditional blend of used-and-new items. To be called "The Plaza" and launch this spring, according to a report from Macquarie Capital analyst Ben Schachter, Plaza has been compared to Alibaba’s Tmall.
But these items will apparently be sold in some kind of walled-off area from eBay's other items. One retailer "with knowledge of eBay’s plans said that the site will allow brands to sell direct to consumers using eBay," according to a TechCrunch article, "but in a more controlled area than the traditional eBay marketplace." Brands could "use eBay to gain access to the company’s customers without weakening their brand by listing and selling alongside used and auctioned goods." (Auctioned and Used Goods and Bears, oh my!).
Similar things have been tried before by eBay, such as Branded Outlet Stores which Ina wrote about back in 2011. Today, eBay does have a "Fashion Outlet," but its search results currently appear to be commingled with other eBay sellers' items.
There was also eBay Express, which pretty much tanked and is now gone. The items there truly were in a separate area, and how did that work out? The question is, will a walled-off area benefit consumers? If shoppers search on eBay.com and don't get all the results, how does that help them? What if a shopper wants a new Bulova watch, say, and wants to see ones sold by regular Joes and Janes (who may be selling an unwanted new with tags gift watch at a low price) alongside those from Bulova itself?
My take: many will see this as a further Amazonification of eBay. But as I have written before (and as have other consumers as in a letter reacting to a New York Times Magazine article), eBay's unique strength remains its blend of both pre-owned and new items. EBay has been the main place to get not only quirky vintage items and collectibles, but also great deals from some sellers who peddle new-with-tags items, even if those items were sourced at a thrift store. If they squelch those horrible (yes this is sarcasm) "used" items too much, that distinction goes bye-bye.
Are there any areas where a Plaza could benefit consumers? I don't know for sure, but to be fair, it may be desirable to consumers who want to buy items they know are definitely not fake, such as in the Asian antiques space. (Even though eBay has Vero for major brands to patrol fakes, some think there are still pockets on eBay where fakes persist). I would be interested to get your opinion on any ways in which you think such a Plaza could be a good thing for eBay shoppers.
We'll see what shape this Plaza really takes; eBay is not commenting other than to say "eBay partners with brands, designers and retailers – and sellers of all sizes – to help them grow their business. As such, we are always exploring new, innovative ways to help them market directly to eBay’s global audience and connect them to the things they need and love. We don’t comment on industry rumors or speculation," as reported in the TechCrunch piece. TechCrunch followed up this commentary with, "That's not a denial, folks."
What do you think of this "Plaza" concept? Will it be much different from other attempts eBay has made to differentiate items directly from retailers? Post a comment here!