eBay Stores Not Ready for Prime Time

In case you haven’t heard, eBay Stores are now open for business. But actually, it’s hard to imagine anyone not hearing about the grand opening.

It arrived with trumpets blaring and a spin-the-wheel, win-a-prize promotion not only online, but in a bunch of malls across the country. In other words, eBay (Nasdaq: EBAY) was very eager to make sure you knew the stores were here.

So what’s all the hullabaloo about? Not much, as it turns out.

High Hopes

Maybe this is another example of playing (or overplaying) and losing the expectations game.

eBay’s big storefront experiment had been rumored to be on the way for weeks before it was officially announced. And then there was an extended preview before the doors were thrown open for good.

From the start, the eBay storefront story seemed to have major ramifications, as analysts pointed to the potential head-to-head battles it set up with the likes of Amazon.com. Maybe the hype spun a bit out of control, but after all, eBay is a dominant player in the e-commerce world.

So we were led to expect great things. And storefronts may yet be a great thing. But not yet.

Underwhelming Results

The most graphically arresting part of the eBay Stores experience is the so-called “hub” where you start your explorations. It’s a color-splashed page with links to various shops, categories and individual items for sale.

The only problem is that once you get inside a store, the most visually appealing thing on your screen is the “Back” button on your browser. The stores are, at least to date, straight-forward text listings of items for sale.

Even the storefront maintained by Big Blue has little more than the IBM logo in one corner to distinguish it.

Simple Sample

Maybe this is the early stage of eBay Stores, and we need to give it some time. Maybe this is intentional: eBay is opting for ease of use and simplicity of design over flash.

After all, eBay’s auctions pages aren’t exactly Boo.com reincarnated. They are a triumph of function over form.

But flash is one thing. Boredom is something else.

To be sure, most eBay shoppers aren’t browsing the way I did. They have something specific in mind and they will take the shortest path to that goal. Splashy graphics only get in their way.

Wake Me When It’s Over

And, there’s a strong possibility that this is the way sellers want it. Remember, the stores are supposed to be a reward of sorts, a way for eBay’s most successful and ambitious sellers to distinguish themselves a little more from the crowd.

Still, it’s only natural to expect more from something preceded by so much hype.

The best thing that can be said about the stores right now is they’ve got nowhere to go but up. Let’s hope the eBay TV show is a bit more polished when it hits the airwaves.

What do you think? Let’s talk about it.


Note: The opinions expressed by our columnists are their own and do not necessarily reflect the views of the E-Commerce Times or its management.


5 Comments

  • Ditto to all the previous comments. I abandoned completion of my own web site when eBay announced the stores. I opened my eBay store with great enthusiasm and anticipation several months ago. I have spent hundreds of hours on this “experiment”. Originally, I believed that a combined search would be inevitable.

    Prior to Sept 11, when the store promotion was beginning, I put duplicate antique ceramic plates up in the auction and in my store. The auction items received almost 10 times more hits than the store items. I did sell one item out of my store, but not the others, even though they were priced lower than what the auctioned items eventually brought.

    The problem is NO TRAFFIC unless a shopper clicks from an auction item. Its a logistical nightmare to keep auctions running and linking to similar store items. In essence, you are stocking two sites continously; even in the stores you have to relist every 30 days.

    Until the store search function is combined with the auction search, there will be no traffic to the Mom and Pop eBay stores (who do not have national name-brand recognition). Unless the search is combined, eBay stores is simply another Online Store Hosting Site. Many eBay store owners are looking into moving to competitive store hosting sites with guaranteed traffic.

  • Hi,

    A correction: The promotion was short-lived. It was pulled on September 11th and will not be returning. (The mall promotion is now an Auctions For America promotion) Many sellers have invested a lot of time getting their stores together for the big ‘Grand Opening’ but it was all for nothing. I have nothing against ‘Auctions For America’, in fact I had auctions running right now and have raised over 500 dollars for the cause.

    The problem I had was with Ebay’s sudden pullback on the stores. You have to look high and low to find a link and if you look in the logical place like the ‘browse’ page you will not find a single mention. Ebay have message boards and a few of us were posting our legitimate concerns and an Ebay employee unloaded on us: http://forums.ebay.com/dws?50@124.NWeEbW5m5fZ^9@.eed58de to read more.

  • There has been no shortage of suggestions to ebay on how to improve the stores, and to make them work for buyers. Their own stores forum has been full of them.Right now they are designed so repeat customers have to fill out the same form all over again for each successive purchase. There is no shopping cart. The only payment system in place is Billpoint, no Paypal, no seller’s own account.Ebay did not give them much of a launch, indeed if they spent 10% of the energy they are giving Auctions for America I would be less critical. AFA is cannibalizing regular sales and has hurt most independent sellers terribly. We are not cheap and uncaring, but driving visitors to AFA in preference to regular auctions hurts badly.Ebay has such a problem with the storefronts they have just extended the “free trial” period until the first of the year. Looks like they could miss the Christmas season if they don’t make improvements soon!

  • Hi,

    Ebay has done little to keep its sellers happy. . most sellers are looking for another ebay so they can switch away from the seller unfairness, dictates, gistapo unfreebay. . it is only a matter of time(and the time seems right) to bring down the giant. . who attacks sellers with lines of policy without a chance for retort. . your day (it will take some time, but with a growing negative underlying sentitent against ebay’s policy this giant will tumble. . their are a couple auction sites waiting to get the dissatified customer. . and they will). . Great!!

  • I agree 99%. The stores are not integrated into ebay. If you search on ebay.com you only find auctions. You have to go and do a separate search in the store to find exact same thing in a fixed price. ebay likes to roll new ideas out slowly, but why bother….save your money and do right

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