Wanted: Online Classifieds

More major e-commerce players - and lesser known ones - are banking on classifieds as a viable channel for online sales.
While Web shops and auctions are usually the preferred channel for selling online, it seems more and more major players in the e-commerce industry are looking to classifieds ads as another way e-tailers can both gain exposure and sell their goods. Craigslist, one of the most well-known in this category, is currently the 37th most-popular Web site (ranked by Alexa), showing just how important classifieds are to online consumers. Seeing a future in online classifieds, in 2004 eBay took a 25-percent share in Craigslist, and later expanded into classifieds on its own with rent.com and Kijiji.com, a site that allows users to post advertisements in local languages.

Even with giants like Craigslist and eBay in the game — not to forget, of course offerings from Yahoo, Microsoft's Windows Live Expo, Google Base, Sell.com, Auto Trader and others — more players are jumping into the mix, showing that there is potential for revenue to be had. Given this, online classifieds are generating a lot of buzz this month, with several major players offering new services or upgrades.

DizzyAds, owned and maintained by the same owner of the online marketplace Lowbid.com (see eBay Watch: Mastering Markdowns), is one of the new ventures to launch this month. Looking to make its mark in the classifieds space, DizzyAds offers free basic 21-day listings with free images and no limits on the number of ads you can post. While the site is still very new, it looks like DizzyAds also plans to offer its own version of "yellow pages,"' job ads and personals as well.

Another new ad space that looks interesting is CityEverything, a network of more than 300 Web sites that is being billed as "a Craigslist, eBay, and CareerBuilder all rolled into one."

EBay Expands its Auction Site Classifieds Format
EBay, with its stake in Craigslist and several other classifieds properties, is well on its way to capitalizing on the classified ad market. In January, eBay President and CEO Meg Whitman said eBay has classifieds sites in 400 cities around the world but would not bring those sites to the U.S., obviously because of their share in Craigslist. It's not too surprising then to see the auction giant detailing plans to expand the successful classified-style listings on the eBay auction Web site itself.

EBay began by offering classified ad style listings to registered eBay sellers through its Ad Format program. This program allows sellers to post online classified ads — which does not involve binding contracts like auction listing — in real estate, businesses for sale, tradeshow booths, travel, advertising opportunities and other categories. Using the Ad format, sellers could generate leads by posting their ad and having it appear in the matching category on eBay.com searches.

In other classifieds news, eBay's product management team announced it will change the name from "Ad Format" to "Classified Ads." The team also plans to roll-out several enhancements to the Classified Ads program over the next few weeks, allowing sellers to list more information, such as contact details, business hours and even payment and shipping information, where applicable.

Geanie Lee, a member of the eBay product management team, also said that eBay will be improving lead and contact management functionality. Sellers using Classified Ads will now be able to view potential buyers who have e-mailed them through an improved Lead Management page that's accessible from the seller's "My eBay" page.

Another new feature is the ability for merchants to see selling totals for Classifieds Ads in their "My eBay" selling totals section. Finally, eBay's hotly debated "Best Offer" feature is being made available in many categories that support Classified Ads.

While classified ads still trail other traditional sales channels in popularity, eBay is clearly banking on their potential for future growth. Last year comScore Media Metrix measured traffic to the Online Classifieds category to be 37.4 million Internet users, which is roughly 22 percent of the total Internet population, with, of course Craigslist topping the charts followed by Auto Trader and cars.com.

Meanwhile, in Google AdSense news, John Berger, Checkout product manager, announced yesterday that AdSense ads will now display the Checkout shopping cart badge alongside the ad title. "These small icons identify ads that link to sites where shoppers can buy via Google Checkout. The addition of the Checkout badge makes it easier for people to find sites where they can use Google Checkout," he wrote in a post. In addition to shopping carts on AdSense, Berger said Google is also introducing new badges on ads that appear in Google search results.

Vangie Beal is a regular contributor to ECommerce-Guide.com. She is also managing editor of Webpodia.

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