EcommerceBytes-Update, Number 268 - August 08, 2010 - ISSN 1528-6703     3 of 7

Atomic Mall Bets on the Viability of Online Auctions

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Mike Shannon launched the Atomic Mall online marketplace in 2008 and expects to soon surpass 50,000 registered members. Atomic Mall redesigned its Item page this month, adding an Auction tab in preparation for the launch of an auction format. We spoke to Shannon to learn more about the new format and when we could expect to online auctions on

What kind of time frame are you thinking about in terms of the launch of auctions?

I don't have a date, but I will say that I'm not comfortable with keeping a non-functioning "Auction" tab on the site for very long. I would like to see them in by year's end, but I'm 50/50 whether that deadline will be met. The issue is that so much of what has already been coded will have to be completely redone to make auctions work as they should, and then of course testing will take a huge chunk of time too.

When it's done, I believe it will be worth the wait, as the format will be quite unusual and should pique the interest of some of the sellers who've maybe lost interest in traditional auction formats, as well as the veteran auction users who may just be looking for a different venue.

Why are you launching auctions?

For the same reason the vast majority of our site upgrades have taken place: consumer demand. I realize there is a significant core group of sellers out there who simply won't list their items in anything but an auction format, and I'm interested in capturing and retaining those sellers, as well as the unique items they offer.

Many of those items can't really be sold effectively in a fixed-price environment because of the difficulty in establishing value, and being able to place them in a unique auction selling format that hasn't been seen before should help create some buzz within the industry about Atomic Mall, and show that we have a few cutting edge ideas up our sleeves.

Online auctions require a lot of buyers in order for sellers to attain a reasonable selling price when selling in the auction format. How confident are you that Atomic Mall can reach the necessary critical mass for bidding activity?

I'd say I'm optimistic that the auction format will start to gain traction as shoppers become aware of it. I don't have any track record with running my own auctions to be able to say I'm "confident" that they will reach that necessary critical mass you mention, but I do think it will be designed in such a way that users will find the process of bidding and winning enjoyable, and hopefully that experience will slowly become ingrained to a degree that will make shoppers want to do it on a repeated basis.

It's a bit of a shot in the dark, but most of the current successful site features also started that way, so maybe that's a good indicator.

I'm keen on designing a shopping destination that sets itself apart from the cookie cutter sites through new and compelling features, and AM's auction format is another step in that direction.

Any statistics you can share with readers?

Well it's early, but since we added the "Buy it Fast" option, shoppers seem to be preferring that checkout method over the cart method, by almost 70% to 30%. I anticipate this trend will probably stay pretty true as some past indicators have shown that buyers tend to prefer fewer hurdles during the checkout process, even if it means giving up some control.

As for other stats, we expect to hit 50,000 registered members in the next week or two.

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

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