Is eBay as a viable alternative to a bespoke ecommerce solution?

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What started as a consumer to consumer online auction site has evolved and adapted to become a very realistic and interesting proposition for business looking to sell online but can it take the place of a traditional bespoke ecommerce site?

The statistics are impressive and if the current eBay development plan is anything to go by then they are only set to increase. eBay currently has 17 million unique visitors per month with 62% of all buyers located in the UK, the average age of which is between 24 and 54 and whom 51% are women.

Recent 30-day search data reveals the scale of demand among consumers for branded products on eBay. Next, 4.1m searched; Top Shop, 4.4m; John Lewis, 216,000, M&S 777,000.*

So, with this information could a business consider using eBay as their primary sales channel?

It does of course depend on the type of business, the product being sold and the customer demographic.  Although eBay is a solid ecommerce platform complete with listing analytics, its defining selling point (a place to find reduced proceed goods, below retail price) will no doubt be off-putting to businesses retailing premium brands. It does seem that eBay has reached the same conclusions and for the time being is focusing on outlet style shops to provide a “complimentary channel to brands and retailers.” – Clare Gilmartain (Ebay’s EU Marketplaces vice president)

eBay outlet shops allow retailers to create store fronts within eBay using visuals in line with their existing branding. Customers will however be required to use the eBay checkout process. Garnering interest using the power of the sale tag also opens the door to presenting full price stock alongside discount items.

My advice to anyone exploring the world of ecommerce would be to certainly consider eBay as a valid and worthwhile part of your wider business strategy  but not ignore the traditional bespoke ecommerce solution that will provide you with flexibility in deploying new functionality and that will scale as your business grows.

*Source: Internet Retailing March 2011

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