|EcommerceBytes-NewsFlash, Number 2077 - July 10, 2009 - ISSN 1539-5065 1 of 4|
eBay sellers were buzzing on Thursday about a brand new seller with only 22 feedback ratings who was able to get a top spot on the eBay.com navigation bar across the entire site, and a banner on the home page. A bright red "Fashion Deals" button appeared next to the Daily Deals tab directly underneath the search box on eBay pages and it, along with a banner on the eBay.com homepage, linked to a "sales event" for Cole Haan branded items from eBay seller ideeli. The user name belongs to ideeli.com, an "invite-only shopping community."
While no mention of the Fashion Deals feature was announced to members, eBay executive Stephanie Tilenius had told retailers attending the Internet Retailer conference last month that eBay was testing "flash sales" in the Clothes, Shoes & Accessories (CSA) category in which it offered limited-time offers on certain products. Tilenius told retailers, whom she was trying to recruit to sell on eBay, that the marketplace planned to expand the program to other categories after experimenting in the CSA category.
With this week's Fashion Deals, ideeli offered a range of Cole Haan items over a 2-day period.
Fashion Deals is similar to eBay's Daily Deals feature, which launched last year and is patterned after Woot's limited-time offers of heavily discounted items. Daily Deals are only available to sellers with large volumes of a particular SKU they can push through in one day. Buy.com is a frequent participant in Daily Deals, and is also the first retailer known to have made a special deal with eBay, now referred to as Diamond sellers.
In fact, long time eBay sellers are having to get used to a very different treatment from the company which, for over 10 years, had promised them a "level playing field." Since John Donahoe took the reins from Meg Whitman last year, that approach as been sidelined as he transforms the marketplace into a more mainstream retail site.
eBay's new Large Merchant Services API allows companies to easily launch high-volumes of goods onto the marketplace, and eBay plays matchmaker, finding PowerSellers to sell on mainstream merchants' or manufacturers' behalf. What perhaps offends sellers the most is eBay's Best Match search, in large part for its algorithm's favoritism toward large sellers.
Already sellers are posting about ideeli's special placement and treatment (a negative feedback rating was removed, according to this post). Some have complained that ideeli is allowed to offer Terms of Sale that regular sellers are not allowed to offer.
Meanwhile, forums are filled with small sellers frustrated at holds placed on their accounts, such a seller on The Purse Forum who said when she tried to get eBay to allow her to sell more than 10 designer items, they instead cancelled eight of her active listings.
As eBay comes under pressure from designer brands, including high profile lawsuits from French designers, it is increasingly limiting smaller sellers and actively promoting known retailers and manufacturers. ideeli, for example, writes that it is a Cole Haan authorized dealer. "All items sold on the ideeli pop-up shop are new and 100% authentic and have been received directly from Cole Haan. ideeli stands behind the quality and authenticity of the brand names and products we bring to you."
In an unusual move, the banner on the eBay home page promoting the Fashion Deals 2-day sale linked to a page that offered a chance to win a special item if shoppers clicked through to the Cole Haan website, in effect sending traffic directly to the retailer's website.
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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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