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Thu June 17 2021 22:03:59

Seth Godin Post Sparks Memories of Early Days of eBay

By: Ina Steiner

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Today, Seth Godin wrote about a local retailer and the personal touch, and it reminded me of the early days of eBay.

Godin wrote about how his local ice cream shop sent him a personal note in the mail along with a gift card for a free ice cream cone. He compared that approach to businesses that send out spammy mass emails - not that I think there's anything wrong with targeted direct marketing. 

His post reminded me of how eBay CEOs had different approaches to the marketplace. Meg Whitman embraced the community nature of eBay - whimsy, the personal touch, human interaction. It was organic - sellers sometimes chose to include hand-written notes or little gifts with their orders - no one told them to do so.

Subsequent CEOs beginning with John Donahoe embraced mass-merchandising - the "catalog" approach, reducing the interaction between buyer and seller.

It appears Etsy is now going through a similar evolution as it expands the definition of "handmade" and attracts overseas sellers. Despite that, the current CEO embraces the *image* of the personal touch that Etsy is known for - the "special" items you can find on Etsy. Whether he truly can have his cake and eat it too remains to be seen.

Not every buyer likes the personal touch, and sometimes it depends on the item they're buying. On which marketplaces do you encounter personal touches from sellers, and which ones do you like, and which approaches are unappealing?

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by: plcombs This user has validated their user name.

Fri Jun 18 07:09:13 2021

eBay once upon a time had a unique place in the market. Folks wanted to use it, they wanted to sell there, sellers got to know their buyers, we all had account reps to assist in little issues that came up. We overtime did enough business to end up with a Monthly selling limit of 245 Million Dollars. (Today, we do less than 2% of our annual business on eBay, down from 35%.)

Then it all changed, the company began making increased demands on sellers or suffer punishment. Often the demands could not be met by small sellers. Many got crushed and have left the site.  Sellers over time have increasingly felt they are being preyed upon.

eBay has devolved into an odd hybrid of "Amazon Lite"..all the while selling off assets and cutting overhead to placate investors, with very little growth in actual sales or traffic revenue. The covid BUMP (small as it was) is running out of steam, and eBay's gross Quarterly sales are barely different than they were 6 years ago..looks like a rudderless ship to me. Its too bad...Managed Payments is just the latest money grab to boost the bottom line.  

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by: pace306 This user has validated their user name.

Fri Jun 18 10:19:39 2021

Once apon a time - eBay WAS magical, not its just lame, sleazy, corrupt and has "jumped the shark".

Who ever said that you cant grow a company without it having to resort to abusive tactics?

Amazon "does it now" too - precisely because they no longer need smaller sellers to "fill in the gaps" in their own product line(s).

But eBay is a TOTALLY different story - and every one knows it.

Back in 1998 - you could spend DAYS looking through eBay, finding deals, finding customers, finding items, and there were no problems. I had (for almost 10 years) %100 and NO Vero encounters. I didnt do anything different then then I do now (or at any other time).

I didnt change, eBay did.

I did nothing wrong, eBay got greedy and slimy.

Its not just sellers like me that noticed - I was at a wedding where a few girls were chatting about summer plans and how they were going to pay for them. The said they were going to clean out their closets and sell unwanted items to fund their trip(s).

I said (stupidly I admit) "just sell the stuff on eBay".

Boy did I get the "stink eye" - they looked at me as if I just ran over their granny in a wheel chair ...

"EBAY ? ARE YOU KIDDING?? EBAY IS SO LAME, SO YESTERDAY - NO ONE DOES EBAY ANYMORE!" ...... "WE ARE SELLING ON Poshmark!"

I asked why? I got back:

1) listing hassle(s)
2) ridiculous returns terms
3) poor search and page layouts
4) SERIOUSLY not cool or hip

They asked if *I* (still) sold on eBay and I had to admit I did ..... luckily some of the young ladies were related to me - or I would have been a REALLY miserable time ... (never mind the subpar food) ......

... others know it too. Yes eBay does well, yes eBay is #2 in ecommerce, yes eBay doesnt and has never needed or wanted me - but at least "back in the day" they left me alone to do my thing, make my sales, and there were NO ISSUES. Only when eBay went to make "IMPROVEMENTS" and hire moronic CEOs with no ecommerce experience did the trolley go off the track.

Griff - as lazy and useless as he is - was a prophet - the Dummy wrote an eBay for DUMMIES book - I guess those selling on eBay now really are DUMMIES!

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by: RL15 This user has validated their user name.

Fri Jun 18 12:53:47 2021

when I was listing / selling on fleecebay I never told anyone. If someone asked, I just would just say online.

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This user has validated their user name. by: Rexford

Sat Jun 19 14:01:18 2021

Let's not forget that Meg Whitman hand picked John Donahoe as her successor.  She may have embraced the "any monkey can drive this train" whimsy at the time but you can't tell me that she wasn't aware of the plan to open the door to big brands, big enterprise and cheap Chinese merchandise in a big way.

And I'm actually not blaming the big brands, big enterprise companies or China.  My point is that she or John opened the door and both had to be very aware of the plan.

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by: Snapped This user has validated their user name.

Sun Jun 20 13:36:48 2021

“ It appears Etsy is now going through a similar evolution ….”

What remains to be seen is if Etsy can avoid the profound mistake of not leveraging their current eCom market niche lock as they attempt to compete in an already saturated eCom commodities arena, instead of trashing a “successful past” like eBay did trying to disruptively retool, disregarding the tangibly apparent differences in marketplace dynamics between OOAK and mass market.

Mr. Godwin’s post is a poignant reminder of the potential wasted trying to standardize, digitize, and monetize what is - is endemic to be in that market - a uniquely personal trading experience. A competent CEO would have, or seek counsel from (instead of dismissing as “noise”) the experience to know and act on that. Separate does not need to mean separated.

Worst part is, they did it on purpose. Store to core. Core. They had to know what that implied, right? Anyway, too late for them. But for those somehow enamored with Etsy, pray those guys know what that actually means, if done a’la eBay.



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