EcommerceBytes-NewsFlash, Number 2101 - August 20, 2009     1 of 3

Is eBay Phasing out 'Voices' Focus-Group Program?

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eBay told members of its 10-year old "Voices of the Community" program, commonly referred to as Voices, that it was purging the group of its founding members. The program was launched in 1999 as a focus group after the company faced a negative outpouring from the community over changes it had made.

eBay ejected over 30 members from the program, whose participants give eBay monthly input into features and programs during the development process. There are 47 groups in Voices comprised of about 130 active members. Voices members are not paid, and some of them worked within the program for a decade to help eBay grow the site. Voices members also often acted as eBay's biggest advocates in the community.

Update: We spoke to eBay on Thursday about the Voices program news. Garnor Morantes, Senior Manager of Seller Development for eBay Marketplaces, who is responsible for Voices, said he is very happy and very proud of the program, and wanted to be clear that there are no plans to end Voices, and that eBay is continuing to recruit buyers and sellers into the program.

"This change is something we've been thinking about for a while and is meant to give others the chance to participate in the program. We're looking to bring in some new perspectives, some new buyers and sellers - all levels of selling." Mr. Morantes said that with the recent change, the Voices program now has about 100 participants, with about 10 who are exclusively buyers, and the remaining who are active sellers who may also do some buying as well. All levels of powersellers are represented.

Scaling down the membership to roughly 100 members will allow eBay to most effectively manage Voices input. Going forward on a yearly basis, eBay will retire some groups as it brings in new members.

Morantes said eBay reached out to all participants to explain the change and has been completely transparent in what they are trying to achieve. "The people I've spoken to certainly understood the decision and understood our goal of reaching out and providing an opportunity for others to participate in the program."

eBay spokesperson John Pluhowski said, "Voices was created to gain insights from active buyers and sellers. Its essence has not changed nor has our commitment to it. It is woven into the fabric of eBay and we value the contributions that all members have made over the years."

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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

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