Ebay Marketing Gone Wrong

Sometimes, when you see a company, especially one as big as eBay, breaking one of the cardinal rules of social media marketing, you just have to call attenton to it, and since eBay isn’t a client of ours, they’re welcome to follow my advice without the 104 page report and $20 K “strategy” piece that a big agency might charge a global company with eBay’s market cap.

That said, we’ll stick to the KISS principle, and get right to it:

Bid now so you can get a deal!? Really??
Now as everyone who has a couple hundred eBay transactions on their member page should know, ¬†“bidding now” or “bidding early” ALWAYS benefits the seller, not the buyer. I could fill 50 of those 104 pages with all sorts of empirical data that confirms this, but like I said, everyone knows this, so why bother?

And that’s a big problem for eBay’s credibility to it’s buyer / bidder / members. As a bidder, I cringe every time I see this, as it is an absolute LIE (as well as an insult to my intelligence). When you bid early you will NOT “get a deal”. And please, let’s not spend a lot of time about defining what a “deal” is. Let’s just acknowledge that getting a “deal” infers paying less money for the buyer, not making more money for the seller.

Now the other thing we can infer from this, (which is true) is that eBay isn’t having such a hard time attracting buyers as much as it is having a hard time keeping quality sellers. Why? The pure economics of ¬†global price arbitrage, which puts pressure on local and regional sellers, who really make up the bulk of eBay’s commerce (since international shipping is cost prohibitive). That’s about another 15 pages there in the report I’m not writing, but that’s not the biggest rub either.

Really, there can’t be an experienced eBay bidder out there that doesn’t see what’s going on here. eBay is misleading bidders to bid early so that its buyers can get more bids, and as everyone knows (another 10 pages here, greatly condensed) early bids mean more bids, more bids mean bigger bids, and with a little luck, a bidding war, which means: (1) buyer happy, makes more money, (2) eBay happy, bigger commission, and (3) bidder loses, doesn’t get as good a “deal” as if he or she had waited until the last minute.

Now, the proliferation of snipe (automated final moment bidding) programs alone should tell us all we need to know, without an additional 29 pages of proof … that bidders who wait until the last minute help to create the impression that there’s no interest in the auction, therefore the psychology of a bidding frenzy never has a chance to go viral.

Yes, we could spend some time on the social psychology of “wanting something more, when you see others wanting it too” but please, we even have a social share button right next to the “get a deal” recommendation to help get that bidding war started early among your network of Facebook friends. Case closed.

HOWEVER … and not being one to criticize a problem without offering a viable solution … what eBay could do is recognize the ONE thing that does occasionally happen when bidders wait until the last minute. And that is … they could time the auction wrong, miss the end, and both the buyer and the seller lose out.

This is called … (wait for it) … the TRUTH … and it should resonate among experienced eBay members who have probably had this happen to them by trying to manually snipe an auction. Even a sluggish computer, or a last minute interruption (guilty), or even falling asleep (I admit it) can be to blame.

So, as my good deed for the day, and saving eBay the cost of all that empirical data for the recommendation, how about trying some truth in advertising and changing that phrase to:

“Bid now, so you don’t miss out”.

What a big difference such a tiny change would make.

It’s something refreshingly honest that most bidders can relate to, and it certainly comes across as being more genuine than what eBay is doing for its bidding “members” today.

OK eBay, that’s all you get for free. DO THE RIGHT THING, and get with the program. Social media marketing today is about transparency. And it’s shamefully transparent that you’re pretending to help buyers “get a deal” when you’re really helping your sellers (and eBay) make more money.

And by the way, there’s nothing wrong with making money for your sellers, or yourself … only with how you’re doing it.