The latest issue of Forbes Magazine has a great article titled “Too Smart For It’s Own Good” describing the insanity going on over at E-bay. As comic book collectors and sellers, E-bay has been a great addition to the hobby, so I think it’s appropriate to delve into this a little further.
There are two points made in the article I think are of particular interest.
“Ebay is run by smart people who don’t use Ebay and spend hours debating the data about how other people use Ebay” was a quote from a former strategist. So like many companies, the bureaucracy has gone crazy and the ideas, functions and atmosphere that made it great give way to suits trying to improve results quarter by quarter. I am a firm believer in capitalism and the profit motive, but when the dollar is the only goal, strategic and tactical mistakes are going to be made. The core value the business once provided is boiled down to a few sentences on a powerpoint slide, sterilized and lost forever. Sometimes what makes a business great is not so “academic” and incorporates a lot more than a few buzzwords.
The second item I found interesting is Ebay changing their focus in 2004 when Amazon made their estimates and Ebay did not. Of course the non-user suits tried to compare themselves to Amazon and made changes to cater to “convenience” buyers. Okay. Guess what Ebay, you’re not Amazon.
I figure millions of dollars continue to be spent on consultants analyzing numbers and telling Ebay what to do. You know, the “smart people who don’t use Ebay.”
Well, I use Ebay, and I’ll give you three clues absolutely free. This sums up why people use E-bay. Ignore them at your peril. We use Ebay to (in no particular order):
1. Get hard-to-find or esoteric products
2. Get a good deal, or
3. both 1 and 2
That’s it. Simple. Not glitzy, we don’t need any powerpoint presentations. Anything and everything you do should be focused on those three points, making it easier, more pleasant, whatever, for both buyers and sellers to accomplish those goals. You are not Amazon. We don’t want you to be.
I want to buy things from regular people around the country, not just those who have put together a huge “Ebay Empire” (although they are okay too, the mix is what makes it work). It’s okay to be an online flea market.
I don’t mind that there are 1000 iPods listed. That’s great, I will probably get a great deal and keep coming back.
In the past few months Ebay has gone out of their way to ruin this experience in several ways and it’s a shame. Like I said in a previous post, EBay should be thriving in this down economy, but unfortunately their changes are ruining the opportunity.
So EBay, there you have it. No charge. I even have a MBA if it makes you feel better (I’ve reformed).
But if anyone over at Ebay headquarters feels like it, you can buy me a coffee (don’t worry, not too expensive, I drink mine black).