eBay Live 2005 Conference Wrap-Up
By Ina Steiner
Last month's eBay Live 2005 in San Jose was more commercial than past years, which was apparent before even taking a foot inside the convention center. A truck carrying a "billboard on wheels" advertising eBay competitor Overstock.com circled the center, while a contingent of street hawkers gave out literature and giveaways for companies like Overstock, MarketBlast and others. But the award for best guerrilla marketing goes to Alibaba.com, who had strategically placed people around downtown San Jose to give out bright orange Alibaba bags, which were carried everywhere by convention-goers throughout their 3 days.
eBay's fourth conference seemed to have fewer attendees than last year, though eBay said 11,600 people had registered for the 2005 event compared to 10,000 in 2004. AuctionBytes estimates a fireside chat event with Pierre Omidayar drew 2,000 attendees, which seems mind-bogglingly low given the mania surrounding eBay's founder in years past.
Everyone seemed to agree the conference was more serious with less "eBay-mania," but some were glad while others called it "flat." After the conference, Adam Hersh, President of Adam Hersh Auctions, said "I brought six people this year, which was a different kind of experience. It's nice to have staff see the digital world come to life. I've never seen them so motivated as this week. I might bring even more next year."
The vendors who had paid to set up booths in the exhibit hall to show off their services seemed pleased at the quality of the attendees. And attendees seemed pleased that there were 3 full days of classes, with a greater selection of advanced classes than previous years.
eBay CEO Meg Whitman's Thursday address to attendees had more of a rock concert feel than a conference keynote, in part because it was held at a hockey stadium. Whitman uttered words some thought they would never hear from the mouth of the forceful CEO: "off eBay." For eBay to acknowledge ecommerce outside its own site was a first.
As AuctionBytes had predicted, eBay introduced a service called ProStores based on Kurant's StoreSense service so sellers could create their own website. But as usual with eBay, they want their cake and eat it too. Prostores doesn't go far enough - eBay doesn't allow users to launch ProStore inventory to other marketplaces.
A discussion thread set up on AuctionBytes on June 18 to talk about a possible eBay web hosting service has some interesting comments along with reaction to ProStores when it launched 5 days later (http://digbig.com/4dxgq).
There was also news about eBay's "Policy Improvements and New Enforcement Consequences." You can read about it in the July issue of the eBay Chatter newsletter: http://pages.ebay.com/community/chatter/2005july/LetterFromMatt.html
Gossip from the Show Floor
Much goes on behind the scenes in the online auction industry. There was speculation about eBay's decision a few weeks before the show to move ChannelAdvisor's booth to a faraway corner.
Alibaba was slated to be an exhibitor, but said eBay banned them at the last minute. Things are heating up in China between eBay Eachnet and Alibaba's TaoBao website. Alibaba still managed to have a presence at the show with the bright orange bags that advertised Alibaba, and thousands of people went to their Hilton hotel suite to listen to a presentation and pick up a free MP3 player.
eBay CEO Meg Whitman dissed Alibaba during the Q&A session at the Annual Shareholder Meeeting held 10 minutes away in Santa Clara Thursday morning. She more than implied that the B2B marketplace had a problem with not-so-authentic goods, which is ironic given eBay suffers from that problem too.
There was talk about what a Google payment service would mean for PayPal during the eBay Developers Conference, but attention shifted to a Wall Street Journal article published mid-week that profiled sellers who had started on eBay but expanded to other channels as their businesses grew.
Audio interviews of vendors, eBay and eBay competitors, and a former eBay employee were new additions to the AuctionBytes coverage of the annual eBay Live conference last month. Here's a photo of AuctionBytes interviewing Greg Isaacs, Director of eBay's Developer Program (http://www.auctionbytes.com/05album_dev/09.html).
As in past years' coverage, photos and in-depth reporting gave people who did not attend the San Jose event a real-time view of what was happening at the conference. The AuctionBytes news crew is pictured here http://www.auctionbytes.com/05album12/10.html. From left to right is Lissa McGrath (freelance writer); Phil Davies (photographer); Ina Steiner; Barb Shaughnessy (freelance writer); and Nikki Ballard (editor). Not pictured are Tom Shaughnessy (photographer) - who took this photo; and Julia Wilkinson (freelance writer). (Here's a link to a photo of Tom http://www.auctionbytes.com/05album08/17.html.)
Here are links to the AuctionBytes coverage of eBay Live 2005, thanks to everyone for making it a fun event to report, and again to our sponsors for making it possible!
Audio Interviews & Blog
eBay Radio Coverage
Thanks to Chris Murch for inviting me as a guest on a segment of eBay Radio. You can listen to all of the eBay Live coverage here http://digbig.com/4dxpk.
Next year's conference will take place June 13-15, 2006 at the Mandalay Bay Hotel and Convention Center in Las Vegas, Nevada.
About the author:
Ina Steiner is co-founder and Editor of EcommerceBytes and has been reporting on ecommerce since 1999. She's a widely cited authority on marketplace selling and is author of "Turn eBay Data Into Dollars" (McGraw-Hill 2006). Her blog was featured in the book, "Blogging Heroes" (Wiley 2008). Follow her on Twitter at @ecommercebytes and send news tips to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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