Google, eBay and the Power of Competition
By Ina Steiner
Google launched Google Base on November 16, and in addition to speculation about how this might affect eBay, sellers are trying to see if they can use Google Base to increase sales.
Google Base allows anyone to upload content, including ecommerce listings. Auction-management service provider ChannelAdvisor jumped on the bandwagon right away (http://www.auctionbytes.com/cab/abn/y05/m11/i18/s01) and is offering its Merchant customers the ability to easily launch inventory to Google Base.
If you go to (http://base.google.com) and do a search for ChannelAdvisor, you'll see listings that link back to sellers' ChannelAdvisor storefronts.
If you're interested in uploading your own ecommerce site's inventory to Google Base, there's a tutorial outlining the steps for creating a bulk upload using Microsoft Excel (http://digbig.com/4fjbw).
Google Base is in beta testing and its full potential has yet to be revealed. It's a difficult time of year to devote time to learning a new system with the holiday shopping season upon us. If you use an inventory management system, see if you can push your listings to Google Base for the added exposure, but be sure and concentrate on your normal sales activities. The initial reviews of Google Base are mixed, but things are bound to get clearer and easier in the coming weeks and months. We'll keep you posted on news about Google Base and other sales channels.
eBay also made an interesting announcement - it launched eBay Marketplace Research. The Pro subscription has good data; it does not allow you to do category research, but you can do keyword research and isolate results to a specific seller, which should prove to be a popular feature.
The downside is the price tag: $24.99/month. Considering that eBay sellers can use the data to improve sales, which would put money in eBay's pocket too, it's surprising how much they are charging for the new service. In contrast, Google launched a research ("analytics") tool to help its AdSense publishers improve their sites. Because Google recognizes that more sales for its customers means more money for Google, they are not charging anything for the service.
Another downside to eBay Marketplace Research is the potential for poor support and a lack of communication when something goes wrong. As an example, eBay provides traffic data to sellers with an eBay Store. Data has been missing from sellers' eBay Traffic Reports for 3 weeks, and there is virtually no communication from eBay regarding this issue. Sellers discussing this on eBay's discussion board are still in the dark (http://forums.ebay.com/db2/thread.jspa?messageID=1002162102).
eBay's new research service also raises an issue long debated by developers in the industry - why does eBay charge developers for services and then turn around and compete with them?
eBay has finally done away with most developer fees (http://www.auctionbytes.com/cab/abn/y05/m11/i14/s01), but as a letter from an eBay seller reveals (see today's Letters from Readers), it's not perfect. This reader said once you join eBay's developer program, you can no longer "scrape" data from eBay, which he does in order to get completed-item data. "For us, that would be a significant blow to our ability to accurately gauge the value of items that clients bring us, and determine the best strategies for selling what we accept."
And eBay continues to charge companies that license data through its Market Data program significant fees plus 25 percent of revenue (http://developer.ebay.com/marketdata).
The fact that eBay is doing away with some developer fees highlights the positive things brought about by competition, and one hopes eBay continues to move in a less restrictive way that views developers and sellers as partners.
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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