In a bid to attract big-name retailers to its site in time for the holiday shopping rush, eBay announced Large Merchant Services, a set of application programming interfaces designed to help high-volume sellers quickly upload entire catalogs of inventory.
The move brings full circle eBay's efforts to transform its marketplace from an online flea market to a more retail-like environmenta goal chief executive John Donahoe first articulated nearly a year agoand has been the subject of heated controversy ever since.
eBay's introduction in July of the Diamond PowerSeller tiera rank reserved for sellers who gross at least $500,000 a monthlaid the foundation for what eBay hopes will become a virtual catalog of big-box and branded retail stores.
But by granting Diamond sellers reduced or no selling fees, eBay also created deep resentment among many existing sellers, who fear they will be forced out of business by the en masse arrival of leading retailers operating with lower cost structures.
"I'm sure high-volume sellers will welcome the chance to reach such a large market at greatly reduced riskwho wouldn't?" says e-commerce expert and Auctiva contributor Brad Schepp. "This doesn't change the animosity many long-time PowerSellers feel about this new privileged class, given their special treatment and the way eBay has so quietly brought them onto the platform."
eBay is said to be courting at least a dozen major merchants to join the Diamond PowerSeller program by the end of the year. So far, the only confirmed members are Buy and SmartBargains, though several others are rumored to be on board.
Using the Large Merchant Services APIs, sellers will be able to upload thousands of listings to eBay at a time and perform bulk operations, such as revising prices and quantities, acknowledging orders and retrieving shipping information. The services cater to large merchants who already have a presence on eBay, as well as those that are new to the site.
Discount retailer SmartBargains, is among the first major merchants to take advantage of the new interface. The company joined eBay in September and is using a new software product from Mercent to integrate with eBay's Large Merchant Services program, according Mercent. Mercent's existing customer list includes names such as Guess?, PetSmart, REI and 1-800-Flowers.
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Auctiva staff writers constantly monitor trends and best practices of those selling on eBay and elsewhere online. They attend relevant training seminars and trade shows and regularly discuss the market with PowerSellers and other market experts.