Lessons of eBay - Traffic is king - Long Live Traffic
Recently, I wrote an article highlighting the traffic history of three of eBay competitors, Compete: OnlineAuction.com vs Bonanzle.com vs. etsy.com
The article on iBusinessLogic.com/blog highlights the relatively flat traffic levels of two of the three sites, with etsy being the clear winner when looking at both growth and monthly visitors to the site. To be fair, Bonanzle has not been in the race long enough to be compared in this way (Bonanzle opened for business in June 2008) and Compete.com figures are not always considered the most accurate.
The current climate of disruption at eBay makes it no surprise that competitors new and old have tried to seize the day by collecting as many of the fleeing sellers as possible for their own sites. Attracting sellers is certainly an important part of building a new online marketplace but it is only half of the battle.
Every seller looking for a new venue is seeking buyers, any venue who can provide buyer traffic will have no trouble attracting eBay sellers.
It is a catch 22 situation and it appears sites like Onlineauction.com are caught up in the vortex. Online Auction has a vibrant and engaged seller community yet the buyer traffic is slim, the same thing could be said for many other would be eBay heirs.
eBay certainly has the traffic numbers (or had) to make almost any competitor short of Amazon seem almost a trivial pursuit. But how did eBay get to that point? What was it that made eBay an almost overnight success and kept them on a steady growth curve for so long?
Lessons can be learned about the early success at eBay which today's new and fresh competition (like Bonanzle) should mimic to grow beyond current expectations. I think Bonanzle has attempted to mirror some of the early eBay elan' but are they there yet?
Lets look at what eBay had going for them in the late 1990's. Admittedly some of these market factors could not be replicated now (no competition, barrier to entry for sellers elsewhere) yet some factors can be replicated by any of todays upstart eBay alternatives.
- eBay provided a community of buyers and sellers and promoted the one on one communications between these two groups. eBay no longer provides this social interaction, many alternative sites do - good job!
- eBay was an easy way to get products online - easy to sell with minimal friction. (Once again, no longer true at eBay but sites like Bonanzle and etsy have this wrapped up). Good Job for Alternatives
- eBay was the place to find the unusual, unique and outlandish - No longer the story at eBay. Some alternatives are working hard to fill this niche - Good Job!
- eBay was a fair playing field, designed to allow the small merchant or at home sellers the ability to have equal standing with huge retailers. - Not true any longer. A message more of the alternatives should trumpet, true in most cases on competetive sites however. Good Job!
- eBay opened up a Worldwide marketplace - Still true, to its detriment sometimes - Asian knock offs flooding categories and killing perceived value.
- eBay provided a searchable database of merchandise from around the world - Not always the best of search but early on it was the only search - now it is a broken search. Alternatives should focus on making sure search is always functional and easly to use.
- eBay brought buyers and traffic with partner relationships. The obvious early partners were Google and Yahoo. Yahoo is still with eBay, Google not so much. Alternative sites need to find ways to make sure they maintain a good relationship with Google - This is Crucual.
- eBay took advantage of mass marketing via affiliates through Commision Junction - now they have almost strangled the relationship they enjoyed for so long with affiliates with the switch to the eBay Partner Network.
Effective Affiliate marketing can propel any website to the top of the leaderboard in traffic from buyers in a matter of mere months. Utilized in the right way an affiliate program will build any sites page rank and inbound links exponentially in a matter of weeks. eBay shared the wealth with affiliates and Google early on and it worked for them in a grand and glorious fashion.
I question why sites who want to tackle the giant of eBay when it has shown its weaknesses have not utilized this simple method of attracting new users and visitors. Affiliate Marketing.