Wednesday, October 23, 2013

eBay goats and sheep

In October 2013, without warning or real explanation, eBay users discovered that saved searches had been changed to "searches you follow", and saved sellers changed to "sellers you follow", together with other changes along the lines of social networking. In the process, important buyer functionality was removed, including the abilities to rename searches and to add notes to searches.

Cries of outrage from eBay users have mostly assumed these changes were due to bad design. Here in eBay's own words is what's really going on:

Sellers: This new experience puts great new tools in your hands for driving sales and developing loyal, repeat customers. You can use the new collections, following, and eBay profile to transform moments of inspiration into purchases of your great inventory. We’ll also be introducing new features and an exciting new look for your eBay Store. From bigger, bolder listing images to new ways to spotlight inventory and share on social media, subscribers will soon have even more tools available to them to turn browsers into buyers. All sellers will have this option by the end of January 2014!

Whether you buy or sell on eBay—or both—we encourage you to explore these new features, to tap into your passions and expertise to create collections of items for others to explore, to follow collections of our curators, valued sellers and eBay members, and to connect to the things you need and love.

In other words, it's all about Amazon (Newegg, etc). This isn't about buyers -- this is about sellers, and further transitioning eBay from a peer-to-peer auction site into a marketplace of storefronts. In the process, users are being transitioned from goats (buyers) into sheep (consumers) that follow sellers, curators, and other buyers. So tools that helped buyers to find what they want to buy are being replaced with tools that push consumers to buy what sellers want them to buy. Welcome to the brave new world. There won't be any going back unless a great many stop using eBay (which probably isn't going to happen), so goats (real buyers) will have to look someplace else.

Sellers are the eBay customers. Buyers are the eBay products.

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