eBay Watch: eBay China Hits a Great Wall

This week: Things aren't going well for eBay in China, but the company is making some strides in the U.S.

After weeks of little news out of the eBay camp, we're finally seeing business return to normal this week as a bunch of important announcements - the first of which doesn't bode well for eBay's Far East prospects. Let's get right to it.

Uh-Oh
So you remember all the hubbub about eBay jacking up listing fees on its U.S. site last January, right? Well, users in China are probably chuckling at us right now. Why? Well, as of today, they don't have to pay any seller fees. According to the Mail & Guardian Online, "...eBay on Friday scrapped all sellers' transaction fees in China, in an effort to compete with local competitors offering free services, including Yahoo-invested Alibaba.com."

"The online auctioneer announced the changes on its China auction website, saying transaction fees would be waived, but small fees would continue to be charged for listing products on the site's webspace and for 'feature' products," it continued.

Mail & Guardian added that Yahoo last year invested $1 billion into Alibaba, while eBay bought out the Shanghai-based Eachnet for $180-million in a series of transactions ending in 2004. According to the Shanghai Daily, eBay Eachnet had 17.9-million users at the end of the fourth quarter of 2005, compared with Taobao's 13.9-million users.

"However, Taobao saw an increase of 3.85-million new users between September and the end of the year, while eBay Eachnet only registered 2.8-million new users during the quarter," says Mail & Guardian.

This move reminds us of General Motors' move last year to offer employee pricing - meaning there's trouble on the horizon. The company has been heavily promoting its Chinese site, even to U.S.-based sellers and buyer since last year. Cutting most of the fees is a sure sign the company is struggling in Asia.

New Year, New Fee Rules
eBay North America President Bill Cobb, who was brought in last year in a move to quell the seller uproar over higher listing fees, announced this week that eBay U.S. is making a few minor changes to its fee structure this year - and it doesn't affect Store owners this time.

"For core insertion fees for auctions and Fixed Price listings on eBay.com, we're again lowering the lowest tranche fee (i.e. for items with a starting price of $0.01 to $0.99) - from a quarter to twenty cents," said Cobb in a posting on eBay's announcement board this week.

Regarding feature fees: "We're making Picture Show and Sales Reports Plus free for everyone. We're reducing the fees for the second and third tiers of Picture Manager and increasing the storage you get at these higher levels. And we're trying something that has worked well for us on eBay Motors. For the first time, we're offering two new bundles of optional listing features that can save you up to 39 percent per listing," Cobb said.

"For final value fees for auctions and Fixed Price listings on eBay.com, we are increasing one fee this year - the final value fee for the middle tranche, which will increase from 2.75 to 3 percent. There are no changes for eBay Stores fees," he added.

Thanks, Amazon!
In better news, we reported last week that eBay and Amazon had finally settled their dispute over the "one-click to purchase" idea. This week eBay formally announced what they are going to do with this "new" technology.

In a posting on eBay's announcement board, Cobb introduced eBay Express, which will launch this spring.

"eBay Express will be an exciting new buying experience, offering items that are available for purchase right away," said Cobb. "We think eBay Express will encourage more shopping among our existing buyers, who today may only buy on eBay for certain purposes or types of products. We also think it will attract new buyers to eBay who prefer a more conventional e-commerce shopping experience."

"While eBay Express will be a specialty site, it'll be part of the eBay marketplace, so Store and Fixed Price listings that qualify will automatically appear on both eBay.com and eBay Express - at no additional cost. Many sellers will benefit from the additional exposure without having to list their inventory twice, or change the way they sell. eBay Express will offer quick and easy ways to search and browse, a shopping cart (yes, at last!), and payments via credit card or PayPal. And because payments are made at the point of purchase, sellers will not experience unpaid items," he added.

Cobb also said eBay is placing strict requirements on who can sell through eBay Express.

"We'll be opening eBay Express to sellers who have a positive track record on the site and who list items that are available for immediate purchase. Only sellers with 98 percent positive feedback or better - and a feedback score of at least 100 - will be eligible to sell on eBay Express. Sellers must also accept PayPal. There are a few other requirements for selling on eBay Express," he said.

Auction of the Week — Zoom Zoom Zoom

Car-o-philes were drooling this week after several new muscle car concepts debuted at the North American International Car Show in Detroit. Powerful V8 engines and retro styling have become the norm with a new Chevy Camaro and Dodge Challenger Super Bee among the spectacles. However, some of us car guys here at ECommerce Guide are getting a wee bit tired of this retro craze. We think there's nothing like the original muscle cars. So this week we went onto eBay and found the real deal.

The only problem is, you'll have to come up with a lot more than the spare change in your sofa to buy what we found.

Seller train426 is auctioning of a pristine, reconditioned 1969 Dodge Charge Daytona - gigantic rear wing and all!

"This Car has been restored with new paint, interior including a new headliner. The car has been stored in a heated Garage for over 20 years. This car is an original Dodge Daytona with a 4 Speed transmission," says the seller.

No doubt, this car is a heck of a lot more head-turning than anything Detroit can dream up these days. The price tag? $147,400.

Devin Comiskey is the Managing Editor of ECommerce-Guide.com.

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