The New Year is bound to bring lots of changes to the online-auction industry. Rather than make predictions, AuctionBytes presents some things to watch in 2007.
1) Sayonara, Meg Whitman?
eBay CEO Meg Whitman led the helm during eBay's formative and most successful years, moving the site from collectibles site to global platform. But her luck began running out in 2005, and the leader that no one ever questioned has increasingly been on the hot seat, facing skepticism about the Skype acquisition and loss of face in China.
2) eBay Fee Hikes.
Each year, eBay adjusts fees with the net effect of higher costs for the serious seller. In 2006, eBay turned things upside down with its "core to store" rebalancing initiative, hiking Stores fees while decreasing their exposure on the platform. Wall Street responds favorably to fee increases, but it's hard to predict which fees eBay might raise in 2007.
3) Patent Ruling.
This Spring could see Judge Friedman rule on MercExchange's request for an injunction against eBay's BIN feature, or he could decide to wait for the patent office to publish the outcome of its reexam.
4) Impact of eBay Reorganization.
Look for changes coming out of eBay's late 2006 house-cleaning, which included the creation of an auctions group and a fixed-price marketplaces group.
5) eBay's Fixed-Price Strategy.
eBay reported that its move to display fixed-price Store listings on the auctions platform backfired, but it's certainly not ready to give up the fixed-price arena. Look for developments on eBay Express; eBay's classifieds sites; and on Shopping.com, where eBay is testing shopping carts on the comparison-shopping site.
6) Other Online Auction Websites.
Keep an eye on uBid to see if can leverage its acquisition of Bidville.com. And tune-in daily to keep up with changes at Overstock.com, whose commitment to auctions is coming into question as it launches classifieds.
7) Rumor Central.
The year 2006 was rife with speculation about a merger to counter Google's increasing dominance - pick any two (or three): Yahoo, Microsoft, AOL and eBay. But with eBay intrigued by the potential of Skype and Pay-Per-Call, it could venture further into advertising with an acquisition of its own. Speculation is just that, but one thing I can predict with certainty: there will be more rumors in 2007!