MediaFile

EBay’s buyer’s remorse

How do you know if you’re in a buyer’s market, or a seller’s?

Offline it’s pretty easy to know. There’s price pressure, abundance and not too many people vying for the same house, commodity or mint condition Pee-Wee Herman doll at the yard sale. In the land of the real, markets aren’t terribly efficient. Before the Internet changed everything, retailers were bound by geography and the ability (and willingness) of people to range. That’s why gas costs a lot more right off the highway exit than it does less than a mile down, where strangers would rather not venture. (Now, of course, there’s an app for that.)

Online, it’s easier to know where the consumer stands. In fact, online, it’s always a buyer’s market. There are, of course, always fixed costs that help determine an item’s price – a book publisher’s monopoly or the cost of jet fuel, say. But a buyer’s power to compare prices from a comfy chair has made it difficult for online sellers to gouge – to insist on a higher price than the market bears – because the market is transparent, fluid and infinite in all directions. Services like Kayak create an almost perfect buyer’s market for air travel, which was already one of the world’s most competitive businesses. Amazon’s ability to offer nearly everything at buyer’s market prices has created a retailing behemoth that doesn’t even need an Apple-like seller’s market to thrive.

And then there’s eBay, an Amazon contemporary with an identity that’s been in crisis for years.

At a press conference this week, eBay – when it wasn’t gushing over the potential of a growing mobile market (the company expects $10 billion in mobile sales annually) – was hyping a site redesign and an enhanced focus on personalization and recommendation. What was once an auction site is now a retail site.

EBay’s latest maneuver is a fresh attempt to shake off its proud roots as a destination where every person could buy and sell quirky collectibles and used clothing. It’s morphing into a more mainstream retailer whose suppliers don’t primarily consist of one-timers emptying their garages and bottom-fishers tolling virtual yard sales.

Will Facebook become a force in e-commerce, too?

USA-RETAIL/BLACKFRIDAYThe social graph that Facebook is slowly building has been extending its tentacles into different areas of the web – not just micro-publishing the thoughts of a user’s circle of friends, but also online videos, photos and email. One huge area that Facebook has been quiet in so far is e-commerce. But this holiday season, there are early signs that that is beginning to change.

Coremetrics, a web analytics company owned by IBM, recently looked at new trends in the annual shopping spree stretching from Black Friday to Cyber Monday. Among them, it found a nascent trend it called social shopping:

The growing trend of consumers using their networks on social sites for information about deals and inventory levels continued on Cyber Monday. While the percentage of visitors arriving from social network sites is fairly small relative to all online visitors—nearly 1 percent—it is gaining momentum, with Facebook dominating the space.

from Shop Talk:

Check Out Line: US online retailers dialing up mobile apps

phone1Check out the increasing appetite for mobile applications among U.S. online retailers.

Nearly three-quarters (74 percent) of online retailers either already have or are developing a mobile strategy and one out of every five has a fully implemented mobile strategy already in place, according to a study from Forrester Research and Shop.org, the National Retail Federation's digital division.

"It's imperative for online retailers to stay on top of what their customers want and these days it's all mobile all the time," Scott Silverman, Shop.org executive director, said in a statement. "Mobile commerce has tremendous potential and will no doubt grow to become a significant part of overall sales volume in years to come."