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EcommerceBytes-Update, Number 6 - January 22, 2000 - ISSN 1528-6703     3 of 0

Searching Versus Browsing - A Look at eBay's Gallery


By E. S. James
EcommerceBytes.com

January 23, 2000
 



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A picture is worth a thousand words, but it may not be worth a quarter.

At least not according to what I found. With eBay fees rising, I set out to find how to get the most bang for my listing-buck online. A Gallery listing here, a reserve-fee there
they can really add up at the end of the day.

For those of you unfamiliar with eBay's Gallery feature, it allows sellers to present miniature pictures (thumbnails) of their items. Buyers can browse the Gallery and view the items. EBay charges an extra 25 cents (in addition to the 25-cent listing fee) for items appearing in the Gallery.

Based on my own admittedly unscientific study performed recently on about 200 past customers, I discovered that "Search" leads to "seizure" of merchandise, and Gallery pictures may as well be hung out to dry. I asked my customers how they found their buys. Their replies were quite interesting.

A keyword search easily won the race, garnering close to nine out of 10 customer responses. "I found your items by doing a search on Kraft pink, " Elaine S. replied. She picked up a pair of mint condition Homer Laughlin Kraft Pink soup bowls, bidding on the first day they were offered.

"Whenever I visit eBay, I know exactly what I want, or am looking for and use the search to pull up exact matches," one of my early customers said, adding, "I'm not a browser like most I guess."

Many said they used "Search" exclusively. "Almost all of my purchases on eBay are found with a keyword search," another added. ''I find it eliminates a lot of searching and I almost never use the Gallery pictures to look at things." Still, Gallery pictures did not go entirely ignored. Although only 8% of my respondents said a Gallery picture led them to their buy, it still means those thumbnails are thumbed-through.

EBay states on its listing page that "Gallery Items get 25% to 200% more bids." Is it true, or are they just trying to get a non-refundable quarter from me? True, yes. But squeezing the extra quarter, no, according to Kevin Pursglove, Senior Director of Communications for eBay.

"Some categories have the 25% success rate," Pursglove said. "And others truly get the 200% figure." Those numbers, he said, "[represent] a range that covers all the categories that have the gallery feature." How eBay calculated the figures and category-specific success rates is "internal information," Pursglove said.

It all depends on the shopper and the item, a member of the eBay public relations team said. EBay launched the Gallery so that users can shop visually rather than by leafing through page after page of line listings. By extension, it would make sense to list Art in the gallery. It's a visual thing. But, every shopper is different. Some prefer to lay in wait at the keyboard, like a sniper up a tree, poised to snatch a prize out of the Going-Going-Gone area. "I found you at Ending Today, " said Sue C., who won an early McCoy vase against few competing bidders. But that wasn't all that sold the goods.

"I thought that your merchandise was as described," she said. "You gave a thorough description of what you had up for bid. Very important. I would definitely buy from you again."

And, sometimes, the merchandise just finds you. "I was just browsing," said Joyce S., a repeat customer. "Sometimes, I go for Closing Today and if I have time, browse through Current." But, like many, Joyce doesn't stop there. "When I see something I really like, I go to sellers' other auctions to see what else one has to offer so I can save on shipping," she said. "Let's face it; shipping often costs as much as the item itself and we are shopping eBay for bargains."

As for me, I'm not quibbling about a quarter when it comes to selling a $100-plus item. But for a Victorian postcard? I'm not so quick to give up two-bits.

Note: For more information on the Gallery, see eBay's FAQs: http://pages.ebay.com/help/sellerguide/gallery-faq.html

About the author:
  1. S. James is a writer and member of the eBay community. She is an active seller dealing mainly in art, antiques and books. She can be reached by email at elise @ aglimpseofthepast.net. eBay ID: aglimpseofthepast.net.

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