I was having lunch with members of the PR team on Thursday and the subject of a new partnership with Buy.com came up. I was told I’d have information by the weekend so I could draft a post for Ink. Two hours after lunch, Randy Smythe of My Blog Utopia contacted me asking if there was any reason for the apparently sudden surge of Buy.com postings to the site. As you can see from his post, he has certainly done his homework and, for the most part, he sums it up very well.
In a nutshell, yes, eBay has entered into a partnership with Buy.com that will see them move all of Buy.com’s new and in-season inventory onto their eBay store in the coming weeks. Terms of the deal are not being disclosed publicly but the messages I’m hearing echo recent themes coming out of eBay presentations focusing on a better buyer experience and moving toward a more retail-like experience. eBay spokesperson, Usher Lieberman, provided Randy and I with the following:
“eBay is aggressively using price as a lever to improve the value and selection on eBay.com. Consistent with our goals, we have entered into a partnership with Buy.com to bring their new-in-season merchandise onto eBay.com. We expect to learn a great deal from this partnership and we will build upon the results.”
In order to protect sellers from being crowded out of search results, Buy.com merchandise will be limited to a single-listing per SKU and, even though Buy.com will be competing for eye balls in the same way as all of eBay’s sellers (through DSRs), I must point out the fact that this deal is “economically feasible” for both parties.
That said, I do want to address previous comments on Ink — and Randy’s assessment of it in his post (copied below) — regarding Pierre Omidyar’s recent indication of what he meant by a “level playing field.”
From Randy’s post:
I’m all for allowing sellers to negotiate volume deals with eBay, I had asked to negotiate my fees every year I sold on eBay and was always told “that is not going to happen,” but in light of eBay founder, Pierre Omidyar’s recent quote about “the level playing field” you can see that this announcement will not sit well with eBay sellers.
Pierre said, in a recent quote from a video clip “What I meant by level playing field is that everyone should be given an equal opportunity….. I didn’t want to have sort of artificial barriers placed on newcomers and to have people by virtue of their stature outside of the eBay community somehow be treated better—special deals behind the scenes because they’re a big retailer and we want to get them to come on eBay, that kind of stuff. That would have been—is—a disaster. That is what I meant by level playing field.”
It’s my assertion that Pierre was talking about the conditions and approach to the Marketplace at the company’s founding. It has obviously evolved since then and it’s pretty clear that eBay has been, and continues to, expand and experiment with new pricing and business models on the site. Again, all geared at providing the best possible buyer experience. (I know, I know, there is PR-hack / kool-aid speak in that sentence… I just can’t help it sometimes).
I’ve been informed that we are not, at this time, extending the “deal” to top sellers and that any partnerships will be assessed on a one-off basis with hand picked partners. Personally, I think that top sellers that have put the sweat equity into helping make eBay what it is today – that have consistently provided excellent service for their customers – should be included for consideration when the time comes.