Why Ebay Lost Its Original Customers
I remember when I was first was told about eBay 23 years ago. Ebay was a great platform to bid and possibly win at auction interesting, older items. Many times rare purchases could be won for a bargain. Books, ephemera and unusual items. At least that’s how it started for me.
Over the years eBay evolved from a relatively small community user-based auction site to a worldwide commercial behemoth store. And it’s not a very good one. Along the way they lost their original customer base.
Sometime in the early 2000s eBay executives looked at Amazon and decided they wanted to be Amazon.
That was their first and most crucial mistake, eBay will never be Amazon. It’s a mistake they have kept perpetuating.
Instead of concentrating and growing on what they did well, auctions on desirable and collectible items, eBay has attempted to be the online mega-store for everything …and they have failed to catch Amazon.
Ebay could have and should have set up a second company to deal in merchandising everything else and may have been as successful as Amazon, but they didn’t. In the process, eBay managed over a long period, to slowly and methodically lose and enrage its fairly large and original passionate customer base.
How many users does eBay currently have? The latest estimate was 180 million worldwide with 25 million sellers. But whatever number provided is highly suspect. The way I know that is true is looking back at past buyers and sellers on my feedback forum over 23 years, more than three quarters of the people are NARU – short for – Not (or No longer) a registered user. They left the eBay platform because of high fees and restrictive eBay policies. Yes, eBay has more users in sheer numbers in 2019. What percentage of those users are active? How many are passionate auction buyers who buy multiple items per month as the original eBayers did?
As a company becomes bigger, it generally gets worse in all facets. The bigger you are the more sluggish you are. You fall out of touch with your customers. You are not nimble and cannot deal with issues or complaints efficiently. This is what happened to eBay.
Ebay is essentially a middleman taking fees from both sellers and buyers. Incredibly the company over the long haul found ways to alienate both sides of their original users.
The main complaints against eBay (besides fraud which was curtailed) were never addressed over the years. The upper management apparently never bothered to read the most prevalent complaints and comments left by users in their online forums. They never proactively responded to the real issues. The problems were laid out for all to see over a 20 year period in those forums. With indignance, people complained about various eBay policies and were ignored.
Today at eBay, what is the level of the worker who reads the eBay forum? Is it the eBay executive at the C-level suite? Hah.
When so many users have complained about a specific issue you would think they would resolve it. It rarely happens.
So what does it all come down to?
Management doesn’t care.
The management cares about three things:
1. the eBay stock price;
2. profits and:
3. keeping their jobs.
Ebay was founded in 1994 as a sole proprietorship. In 1996, eBay incorporated and in 1998 they were reincorporated. In the early 2000s the changes, mostly all for the worse were underway.
Give me the late 90s version of eBay any day.
The privately owned, small community based eBay was great because nearly every single aspect of eBay was better than it is today. The past 20 years has been like somebody at eBay management said “Let’s take something that works well and dismantle it slowly, messing it up bit by bit until we piss off and rid ourselves of most of our original users.”
What you’ve lost in 20 years as an eBay customer:
Communication – Interacting with and contacting other users directly who bid on the same type of things so you could converse on what your shared interests are. Email addresses were taken out of public view.
Knowing Your Competition – Seeing who was bidding against you; and more importantly what someone else who bought similar items to you, was currently bidding on. If someone collected the same things as you, you would discover things to bid on for yourself. I would often do this. It was shortsighted to cut that out because eBay lost revenue if I wasn’t aware an item was up for auction in a different category that I normally never searched through.
Now you are biding against phantoms as users names are obscured. Shill bidding (fake users driving up the price) is still a concern. Unlike an actual auction where you can look around the room to see the person bidding against you, eBay has cloaked the identity of everyone but sellers.
As a seller being able to leave negative feedback to deadbeat or extremely slow paying bidders or those who lied in feedback about the end product they received.
Being able to pay by check, cash or money order without a hassle.
The list goes on and on. And eBay says its all in the name of “safety.”
We know, really it’s about fear of losing revenue with sales outside of eBay.
Oh… why am I wasting my time writing this???? The complete lack of response from eBay. More to the point – 20 plus years of growing frustration on a website I used to use 75 or more times a year on purchases, down to less than a dozen transactions per year.
Ebay’s solution to your current complaints? Let’s put the users through hoops and then they can complain by emailing or speaking with customer reps that are 7,000 miles away from the U.S. and have absolutely no concept of what you’re talking about. The reason they have no concept (and it’s not their fault) is English is not their first language. Offshoring help desks is not unique to eBay, but when you’re dealing in monetary issues it would be helpful to have people who are in customer service who speak and understand English.