It's not a funky virus. It's not a funny dance. Wagglepop is actually the latest player in the online auction field. Three years ago former eBay power seller Ray Romeo began to lay the groundwork for the new service, which is slated for a February launch.
"I sold on eBay for close to five years. I just did it for the fun of it. I was a computer instructor at the time. It seemed natural for me. I just did it because I liked it and made a couple of dollars. After a while, I realized there were people that were unhappy with the fees. Some months, my fees equaled my profits. The service was disproportionate to what they were charging for," Romeo told ECommerce-Guide.com.
"Three years ago I started to research whether there was market for (an alternative to eBay) or not," said Romeo. As it looks now, it seems he has plenty of faith by taking the plunge into what many say is a marketplace owned and dominated by eBay.
And thus began Romeo's quest to build a better auction marketplace. The debut ironically coincides with eBay's recent listing fee and store subscription fee hikes, which have outraged thousands of sellers. Many of those disgruntled eBay sellers now are lining up behind Wagglepop.com and are determined to see it succeed.
"EBay is in kind of a unique position. They've grown beyond what they originally intended," said Romeo. "They're more global and less concerned with seller unhappiness in general in relation to their bottom lime. They don't seem as responsive (as they used to be). Their general attitude is that they think sellers are undeserving of an explanation about the fee increases."
Wagglepop is based on "the belief that people need and deserve an auction site that makes buying and selling easier, and better. Our commitment is to maintain a site where buyers and sellers can meet and trade in an environment that promotes and rewards good, honest e-commerce behavior. Basically, a site that just plain works," says an online mission statement and site introduction page.
Among Wagglepop's features that are designed to attract sellers and buyers are free basic listings, low-priced listing upgrade and sale fees, a "logical, easy-to-use" layout and site navigation system. There is also an advanced browse feature and targeted search capabilities that allows for all items listed on Wagglepop to be exposed to the main search engine, unlike eBay which does not include store items in its basic search function.
Automatic re-listing of unsold items is also one of the site's features.
Another attractive option Wagglepop is offering its store owners is a free membership in its search engine optimization (SEO), called the Web Presence Program. Store owners will be able to partially customize store URLs, specify store landing pages, and customize title, description and keyword meta tags. These features are all aimed at giving its store owners more presence on popular search engines like Google and Yahoo.
Fraud has become a hot topic on eBay, and those looking at Wagglepop have the same questions about buyer and seller verification to prevent rampant fraud from infecting the site. In order to protect against bogus sellers or buyers, all potential members will have their identities verified via credit card during the sign-up phase.
Users Await Grand Opening
Kerry Crawford, of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, has been a small-time seller on eBay since last summer. She said she is ceasing business on the site and is eagerly anticipating Wagglepop's opening.
"Since I started selling on eBay in August 2004, I have essentially broken even, but have considered this to be a pretty cheap hobby. Now, however, with the fee hikes, I can no longer afford to sell on eBay. If I continued, I would actually be losing money. I closed my little store in November 2004, and have been anxiously awaiting the opening of Wagglepop as an alternative selling venue," she said via e-mail.
|“Ebay is in kind of a unique position. They've grown beyond what they originally intended. They're more global and less concerned with seller unhappiness in general in relation to their bottom lime. They don't seem as responsive (as they used to be). Their general attitude is that they think sellers are undeserving of an explanation about the fee increases.” |
"For eBay to have upped fees so dramatically, it must have been with the full understanding that this would drive small sellers away, thereby 'un-glutting' their glutted market," she added.
Donna Seibring, who runs the "Candles By Donna" store on eBay, said she is shutting down her store on Feb. 17 the day before eBay's fee increases and store subscriptions go into effect.
"I will still be listing some auctions, but no more store, too bad, because I really enjoyed selling that way. Wagglepop looks like the avenue I would like to take," said Seibring on Monday.
Julie Swanson, an eBay Power Seller who primarily sells children's clothing, said her eBay sales have remained healthy despite what many other sellers have said they experienced. However, she's moving most of her future business off eBay for the time being.
"The announcement of fee increases just pushed me to investigate other venues and diversify my business. Then I discovered Wagglepop and decided my best bet was to move my store there but keep running some auctions on eBay to point traffic to my WP store," she said on Monday.
"I'm still grateful for eBay and all that it has allowed me to do (primarily stay home with my kids). I'm just trying to make the best decisions possible for my business (nothing emotional or personal, though it is a little sad to close my store). If Wagglepop proves successful as I sincerely hope it will I will continue expanding my business there," said Swanson.
"I guess I'm not thrilled at all with the fees, but I'm glad about the results--the chance to try something new (WP) and see what happens," she added.
Another eBay store owner who opened her store just two months ago is already prepared to make the switch to another venue.
"I am a 'small' seller in the eBay wheel and with all the increases in the store price itself, final value fees and my inventory costs, it will not be worth the money to keep a store on eBay," said Karen McBride, owner of Karen's Eclectic Treasures. "Which is sad as I've worked hard on getting it where I wanted it so I could become a bigger seller. I have tried to get the management of eBay to really listen to groups of sellers through our Community Boards and UniteeBay (a Yahoo group), but they do not want to hear from 'small' sellers even though we helped build eBay into what it is today."
McBride said Wagglepop has become an attractive alternative for her for several reasons.
"Even before the site is up, I have already learned much more than I did at other venues about how to sell better online, and how to maximize my earnings, showing me that this site wants to work with me and help me do better business-wise. Ray Romeo, has asked for input from sellers and actually listened to it! He has been a seller for years - which means he has 'walked in my shoes' so he understands a lot of the things that are important to me as a seller things Meg (Whitman, CEO, eBay) will never understand," she said.
"Ray is doing everything he can to make Wagglepop not only easy, cost-efficient and profitable for sellers, but also for buyers. If it is easy for buyers, they are likely to come and keep coming back! Plus, he is doing all he can to ensure that we do not run into the same type of issues that remain problems on eBay; requiring those who buy or sell to be verified which will cut down on scams, non-paying bidders and identity fraud, keeping the site glitches to a minimum, etc." added McBride.
When asked why she and other sellers aren't as excited about other online auction sites like Yahoo or Overstock.com, McBride explained that there are a number of reasons why people are hesitant to do business on many alternative sites.
"Yahoo stores' cost is prohibitive, while the traffic and reputation is not the best. Overstock is first and foremost an online 'bargain center.' Again, there are questions (about) reputation as far as allowing repros and fakes to be sold, along with their 'personal ratings' system which also gives me pause. That said, I have thought of Overstock as a possible auction venue if they clean up the issues on the site," she said.
"The people who are very excited about Wagglepop are all willing to work together to make the site the best one online, while also helping each other with better selling techniques, and are just plain fun and friendly!," she said.
While a firm date has not been announced for Wagglepop's launch, Romeo is anticipating an early February launch. The thousands of pre-registered sellers will receive an email a few days in advance of the site's official debut.
"We're timing our launch with the fee hike," said Romeo. "The growth we've had already is ten times what we initially projected. We anticipated 500 stores by the time we launched. Right now, we have firm commitments from 2500. It should be up to 5,000-6,000 stores within 30 days. That should put a pretty good dent in the marketplace."
When asked about any response eBay has had regarding Wagglepop's debut, Romeo said the reaction has been what he expected.
"I don't think they take us seriously. Maybe they shouldn't. There are a lot of skeptics out there. A lot of people are probably positioning us, prematurely, as head to head competition. Along with that, though, comes some enthusiasm," he said.
Devin Comiskey is Managing Editor of ECommerce-Guide.com
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