The eBay Marketplace was built as a venue on which buyers and sellers could independently engage in transactions, and eBay relied heavily on its community for its success. eBay's announcements last week should put to rest any lingering doubts about whether eBay has abandoned the principles on which it was built to instead embark in a new direction. eBay is increasingly controlling sellers' business practices, may introduce a certified seller program, and will now begin to intervene in transactions between buyers and sellers with the introduction of a new dispute resolution process.
eBay said eventually it would stand behind every transaction on the eBay marketplace, explaining there may be times when eBay needs to play a role to ensure buyer and seller satisfaction. In some cases, eBay itself will refund buyers but was evasive about how it would recapture those monies when it chose to recoup them from sellers.
eBay also obfuscated changes coming in June that limit sellers from branding and merchandising on third-party checkout systems. While its ProStores subsidiary informed its own merchants, eBay itself failed to inform its sellers of the changes to Third Party Checkout until AuctionBytes reported it on Thursday. eBay has yet to provide any details, choosing to simply state that the changes to functionality are "consistent with eBay listing policies and existing legal agreements."
The move toward controlling all aspects of the buyer and seller transaction and limiting seller branding is accompanied by a move away from community. When eBay acquired StumbleUpon 2 years ago, it said the service fit within its goal of "pioneering new communities based on commerce and sustained by trust."
Last week's divestiture of StumbleUpon follows the cancellation of eBay's annual user conference and the firing of moderators who used to engage with users on the eBay discussion boards, where there are now strict limitations on what users can discuss. eBay's disengagement from its community comes at a time when many major brands are actively engaging their customers on social networking sites such as Twitter, Facebook and MySpace.
And in case you think Twitter isn't mainstream, Oprah featured the micro-blogging service on her television show on Friday. If you don't know anything about Twitter, you can catch up by reading "Eight Creative Ways to Market Your Ecommerce Business with Twitter" in our EcommerceBytes Insider newsletter. (Sign up for our monthly EcommerceBytes Insider here.)
Sellers no longer rely on marketplaces for marketing - they are using these new social networking tools themselves to do their own customer engagement. We'd like to hear from you on how you are using social networking to help your online sales.
Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org containing a 300-400 word description of how you are using social networking sites like Twitter, Facebook, MySpace and blogs to drive traffic and boost your online sales. (Be specific and include links.) We'll publish our favorite entry in the next issue of this newsletter and send the reader an autographed copy of Guy Kawasaki's book, "Reality Check: The Irreverent Guide to Outsmarting, Outmanaging, and Outmarketing Your Competition."
In today's issue, Greg Holden digs deeper into Ztail's new price-protection guarantee. The Ztail Guarantee program gives shoppers an incentive to buy because it guarantees shoppers can resell their item at a set price on eBay within the first year of ownership.
Today's issue also contains a summary of last week's eBay's announcements; a roundup of news from eBay alternative marketplaces in the This & That column; a look at collectible "Heathkits" in the Collector's Corner column; some newlywed adventures in "First Item Sold Online"; and Letters from Readers.
Thanks for reading.