|Tue Feb 14 2012 22:09:56|
Last Sacred Cow - eBay Monetizes Traffic with Ads in Listings
By: Ina Steiner
eBay has been pushing the envelope this year when it comes to advertising on the Item pages for which sellers pay eBay insertion fees. And while many people are willing to view ads in exchange for a free service, it's questionable whether eBay sellers would be in favor of free listings in exchange for ads in their listings for items that compete directly with their own items.
eBay is running at least two unannounced tests of ad placements in paid active listings on its U.S. site, and it has already moved to an ad model in Australia for certain listings.
Last month, we wrote about the display ads that appear in live listings. eBay's Johnna Hoff confirmed eBay had begun testing the ads on eBay UK last year, and sellers began talking about the ads on U.S. listing pages in late December. Currently the ads have been for services that don't directly compete with eBay listings, such as American Express, VistaPrint business cards and eBay's own Daily Deals and Mobile Apps.
This week, we wrote about the competitive listings that began appearing at the top of active listings on eBay.com - these are ads for the same item but for sale by different sellers. eBay's Hoff confirmed the ads, in a section called "More items to consider," were part of an unannounced test the company was conducting. Most worrisome to sellers was their placement, with some sellers saying they were concerned shoppers would not see the detailed descriptions that are now pushed farther down the page.
It's interesting to see what eBay has done in Australia - last month, it told Australian sellers it was providing casual sellers up to 30 free listings a month and said it would run advertisements in those listings to subsidize the free listings. eBay explained:
"To enable eBay to continue to offer free insertion fees on up to 30 listings per month to casual sellers, eBay will begin running advertisements on a certain number of View Item Pages. The advertisements will only run on the listings of those sellers who do not pay an insertion fee on their listings and will be effective as of 23 January 2012."
While eBay.com's Hoff told EcommerceBytes that U.S. sellers could opt out of the competitive-listing campaigns, sellers appear to be stuck with the display ads located underneath the seller information at the top of the listings.
The competing listings are not going over well among sellers who are commenting online. One seller wrote on LinkedIn, "Can you imagine buying a commercial ad in a newspaper or magazine and have the publisher post a competing ad inside of yours? This stinks."
Another noticed that the competing product ads were appearing in the winning bid email notifications. "My feel(ing) is that this will lead to a lot more NPB situations. ie: they win my auction and get their winning bid notice. At the bottom are 4 other items (not my items) and eBay says "Wouldn't you like to add this item to your order?" As a buyer I say, "I just paid $49.99 for this and now I see that there is one for $45.99. I think I'll just forget about the first one and buy the cheaper one." My item is forgotten about and the buyer never pays me."
In 2008, eBay began placing advertising directly on product listing pages in Australia, Austria, Switzerland, France, Italy, and the UK. In August 2009, Australian sellers were outraged when ads for the FoxTel digital television subscription service began appearing on their View Item pages directly below the "Place Bid" button, and eBay Australia backed away from that particular ad placement.
It seems eBay thinks the time is right to try more advertising in the U.S., perhaps because the seller community, which had always made it clear the listing pages belonged to them, is no longer as vocal as it once was.
Do you think this added revenue stream to eBay will make it cheaper for you to list? And will ads for competing products cannibalize your sales?