EcommerceBytes-Update, Number 215 - May 18, 2008 - ISSN 1528-6703     3 of 8

Flippid: Can a Reverse Auction Model Go Full Steam Ahead?

By Julia Wilkinson

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Flippid is an appropriate name for something that turns the auction model on its head, and that's what does. Instead of rooting around a shopping site looking for just the right thing, you can create something called a "BuyOff," where you post something you want, and then are contacted if and when it's available.

After years of using eBay, eBay certified developer Daniel Logue came up with the idea for the site. According to marketing coordinator Peter Howell, Logue's thinking was that it would be a great to have a marketplace where you could post whatever you wanted and have deals find you as opposed to having to hunt and search endlessly for a bargain. "Flippid matches people who want stuff, with people who have stuff. Name your price, and let people sell it to you," Howell said.

With the "BuyOff," Flippid automatically notifies buyers through its messaging system (and via RSS and email) of any relevant listings posted by sellers. Buyers are notified if the item can be purchased immediately, or if it is being offered in a new "SellOff" auction listing. "There's no more online rummaging; it's all about connecting buyers and sellers together seamlessly and effectively," said Howell.

Sellers can get in on it too. "We also empower sellers to have "SellOff" auction-style listings that allow you to watch buyers bid in real time and even offer multiple units of a particular item in one simple listing," said Howell.

Right now, the biggest impediment to seeing how well this new buying and selling model really works is the relatively small number of users on the site; it truly seems like a new community where the activity that gives a sense of vibrancy hasn't kicked in yet. A scrolling list on the Flippid home page of buyer usernames, their feedback ratings, and what they want helps this some: "klcjrc( (0 rated transactions (0/0)) 0) wants:A2.2 XOM Active Dual Acoustic Guitar Pickup," for example.

Browsing some of the main categories such as Home Electronics, Computers & Office, and Toys & Games, there is a smattering of items in each; 20, 30, and 15 respectively. The stuff in Computers & Office, for example, includes such standard computer fare as a Dell wireless Bluetooth 2.0 + EDR Card kit, an HP business Desktop Microtower, and a few sets of Logitech speakers. What I think sellers will like about browsing the Flippid categories is they can see a list to the right of the Flippid users who want things, what the items are, and the price at which they'd like to buy it.

Eager to try this new reverse auction model, I posted a BuyOff for one of my favorite perfumes, Clinique's "Happy." To start a BuyOff, you simply click "buy something" from the main menu, then fill in the "Name of the item," and relevant tags, a max price and shipping price, and whether you want it to be a "BuyOff" or just save it to a "want list." There's also a field for any notes; the example they use is "I'd prefer it to be new, but great condition is OK."

After you submit this info, you can choose from a selection of stock images of the item, if any are available. For my perfume it found five images, and I selected one that matched the size I wanted. After grabbing the image, I could see the "SellOff" listing I'd created, which a seller could then select to sell to me.

Next, I posted a black apple iPhone and added it to my want list as there didn't seem to be any available.

Going back to the site a few days later, I can check the status of my BuyOffs and SellOff by clicking the "my profile" link at the top of the page. There had been no seller bids for the perfume or iPod, so I decided to use some of Flippid's sharing features, publishing my want list to my blog. (You can also post it to your MySpace page, website, or anywhere you can post html code). Flippid gives you code to cut and paste, under the link "Cool stuff to do with your want list."

The code created a cool-looking box on my blog, with a couple of slowly bouncing animated images of my wanted items. I felt a bit greedy posting these; is this what bridal registries will come to in the future? But it does make for a fun way to display your wish list to friends, your blog readers, or whomever.

Flippid also recently debuted a facebook app called "My Want List." After adding the widget, you can see "Stuff recently added to people's want lists," which included a Fisher-Price Rainforest Musical Mobile, an Apple iPod touch 8GB MP3 Player, a Masterbuilt Veranda Steel Propane Grill, and a "HELLO KITTY SANYO sackt2p - 4-Cup Hello Kitty Coffee Maker w/Auto-Stop." If you want to indulge in even more shopping voyeurism, you can view the BuyOffs on the Flippid site.

Buyers can also set up something called an "AutoBid," the maximum amount they are willing to pay for a "SellOff." Howell says this allows users to bid "confidently and simply, without having to worry about "sniping" that is rampant on other auction sites."

Currently, Flippid only charges when you sell something, and that is based on a tiered structure ranging from $0.10 for items less than $5.00, up to a maximum of $2.00 for items $100 and up. There is also a single $0.35 processing fee per billing cycle. But in the future, according to Howell, the site plans go "completely free": "There will be no fees to buy and sell on Flippid. Period," said Howell.

"Originally, the purpose of charging was to ensure that the scam artists were kept at bay seeing as they would have to input credit card information and leave some form of traceable credibility," said Howell. But this is no longer a concern with the enhanced security of the second design of the site, he said.

In this new free world, Flippid's revenue will be generated through on-site advertising. Howell said they will eventually add optional premium features for sellers' storefronts at a minimal cost, "but even then, the stores themselves are always going to be fully customizable and free of charge."

Flippid will be rolling out a "full marketing campaign on the web, national TV, and radio to get the word out," said Howell. "There's no secret that online sellers are looking for a new and innovative marketplace and we couldn't be more excited about Flippid."

He said they are also "individually contacting thousands of online and eBay sellers to do everything we can to make their transition to Flippid as smooth and seamless as possible. From offering free custom storefronts and automatically uploading their inventory using our convenient (tools), sellers will not be able to find a more user friendly online marketplace next month." These marketing pushes, on top of the fees elimination, are likely to boost Flippid's current small amount of buying and selling activity.

Flippid has an intriguing business model, a nice clean design, and much Web 2.0 integration. Now it just remains to be seen if it can cut through the clutter of all the startup ecommerce sites out there and really capture a chunk of the online buying and selling market.

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About the author:

Julia Wilkinson is the author of "The eBay Price Guide" (No Starch Press, 2006) and "eBay Top 100 Simplified Tips & Tricks" (Wiley, 2004-6). Her free "Yard Salers" newsletter is at available at where you will also find her latest ebook, Flip It Again.

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