I keep hearing eBay compared to Amazon as a venue for independent sellers. Is this a false dichotomy, or are they really the "Big Two?" How can a seller best determine which to pursue?
—Torn in Tallahassee
Maxey: Neither Amazon nor eBay meet the needs of all sellers. There's always room for more venues, and that's why you have the Etsys and Bonanzles (and several others) of the world. When choosing between these venues, the place to start is looking at what you have to sell. One-of-a-kind items may go well on a specialized venue like Etsy, but if you're selling something like power tools, Amazon might be your venue. If you're selling cell phones or women's fashions, or automotive parts and accessories in volume, you might be inclined to use eBay. You need to study each venue carefully in order to decide which is best for you. Factors worth consideration include fees, competition, average selling price and ease of use.
eBay is still a very good venue for people just starting out in e-commerce sales. Thanks to its history and the huge pool of buyers eBay provides, it's still one of a very few places you can start off small—listing one, five or maybe 10 items a month—and then grow your business from there. eBay's incredible shopper traffic means a lot of potential buyers for your items and, therefore, a really good shot at selling successfully.
There have been hints on the forum recently that Auctiva is planning to make the software work for other listing sites, besides eBay. Can you give a timeframe for when that would happen?
—Hopeful in Halifax
Maxey: We have heard loud and clear from sellers who say they want to sell in off-eBay venues as well on eBay. We already have our Auctiva Commerce Store offering that appeals to people who want the control and brand identity they can achieve by owning and operating their own independent e-commerce store. Auctiva Commerce has been very well received, too.
However, we hear sellers looking for simple, easy-to-use off-eBay formats that don't require as much work as is needed to set up and operate a full blown e-commerce store. This is an opportunity we're addressing, and we plan to provide more specifics later this year.
We don't see ourselves as competing in any direct sense with eBay, because with AMP we are doing different things than eBay is doing
eBay seems to be segmenting itself into several niche marketplaces connected to one platform—sort of how you've described the Auctiva Marketplace Platform. Are you prepared to compete with eBay?
—Concerned in Centerville
Maxey: In some sense, everyone in e-commerce is competing with everyone else. But to answer your question directly, we don't see ourselves as competing in any direct sense with eBay, because with AMP we are doing different things than eBay is doing. eBay is a market whereas AMP is a platform that allows developers to create applications for the e-commerce space, and can be home to many different markets that focus on different areas, such as vintage items, eco-friendly products, the list goes on and on.
Why didn't Jeff Schlicht snag that gaudy Michael Jackson portrait?
—Inquiring in Indianapolis
Maxey: You would need to ask him. I personally still haven't gotten over losing Elvis.
Is a national Internet sales tax inevitable in the U.S.? How do you think it would impact independent e-commerce merchants, such as those who sell on eBay or Amazon?
—Uncertain in University Park
Maxey: I wouldn't say a national Internet sales tax is inevitable, but it's not so farfetched anymore, either. Paul Volcker, one of the president's economic advisers, has already called for a national sales tax. Will it happen? I hope not, but it could.
John Donahoe says buyers are gravitating toward Buy It Now purchases and predicts auctions will be only a third of eBay's sales by 2011. Has buyer preference really changed, or is eBay influencing the trend through its pricing and policies?
—Skeptical in Shreveport
Maxey: I don't think buyer preferences have changed all that much. Auctions are a great format for used or one-of-a-kind items; that's where eBay started. But there is only so much demand for the types of items that sell well at auction. eBay found that in order to keep growing, it needed to get listings from sellers offering the type of items—mostly new items—that sell more readily in a Buy It Now format. Donahoe's comment is reflective of the fact they have had some success in doing that.
Our new 1,280 × 1,024-pixel images are twice the size of eBay's Supersized images, and they are great for showing detail that's lost in smaller images
I read that Auctiva made its Supersized images even bigger. How do I take advantage of this feature in my listings?
—Wide Eyed in Wageningen
Maxey: It's really easy. Before we increased the size of the Supersized image, you could upload an image with the maximum dimensions of 1,024 × 768 pixels, and that would be the size that we would display for you as a Supersized image. With the change we made in March, you can upload an even bigger image than before, with maximum dimensions of 1,280 × 1,024 pixels, and we will display that larger-size image for you as a Supersized image in your listing.
These 1,280 × 1,024-pixel images are twice the size of eBay's Supersized images, and they are great for showing detail that's lost in smaller images. They also take advantage of the growing average size of computer monitors. Just be sure to only upload high-quality images at this size. Of course, 1,280 × 1,024 is just the maximum. Images of any smaller size can also be used.
Aside from dealing with eBay's continuous changes, what new features is Auctiva developing to help sellers?
—Eager in Elizabeth
Maxey: We frequently get requests from users for new features, and we've added quite a number of them to the site over the last several months. The list is changing frequently as we get things done and crossed off the list. Folks can get a better idea by going to our Feature Center. Feel free to leave us an idea or suggestion while you're there. Recent features include our Multi-Variation Listing Tool, larger Supersized images, an Auto-Feedback enhancement and Thumbnail Gallery Image support.
Facebook is starting to look like a real competitor to Google for driving traffic to online stores. How do you see Facebook and other social networking sites changing the way people buy online?
—Observing in Orange
Maxey: Google is built around a user running a search engine, whereas Facebook is built around users socially networking with each other. These are distinctively different user experiences.
A lot of people buy products on the recommendation of others, so if they see one of their Facebook "friends" praising a product, they will be more likely to try it than if they see them being negative toward that product. However, once you have decided you want to buy a product, you still need to find a reputable seller who is offering a good deal on it, and that's where search engines come in.
Interestingly, Facebook has begun competing with Google in the search engine arena. While Google is unquestionably the dominant search engine today, Facebook has begun recommending Microsoft's Bing search engine, to its 200+ million users. How will that play out? We'll have to wait and see.
You can ask Auctiva management your own questions by e-mailing "AskAuctiva" at the Auctiva dot com domain. Not all questions will be answered, but those selected will be published with responses from Auctiva's top managers in future Ask Auctiva articles. Due to the volume of mail we receive, it will not be possible to reply to you personally.
Please do not submit inquiries requiring an immediate response. Instead, please file a support request for technical or account-related issues.