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Feeding eBay


Consumers and businesses in Germany and the US can now drop off items they want sold on eBay. How's that for re-intermediation?

Leave it to auction juggernaut eBay to single-handedly inspire thousands of entrepreneurs to launch complementary services catering to eBay’s 95 million or so registered users. Our favorite new eBay feeder business? Auction drop-off shops! At DropShop in Munich, Germany and AuctionDrop, iSoldIt, AuctionWagon, and in the US, consumers and businesses can now drop off items they want to sell. Staff will evaluate the goods, take professional photographs, and prepare an attractive, detailed listing on eBay. They’ll then track the auction, answer questions from prospective buyers, and process payment when the auction closes. Once an item has been sold, they’ll ship it to the winner, and send their customer a check minus the shop’s commission, which ranges from 20 to 40% of the final selling price. Items that don’t sell are returned. Benefits for consumers and businesses extend beyond just saving precious time and hassle: selling on Ebay these days is quite an endeavour (feedback ratings, ad and price strategies, PayPal accounts!), so what started out as the ultimate do-it-yourself service has turned into something better left to professionals. This latter also explains the massive growth of eBay’s Trading Assistants Program, which allows individuals to leverage their eBay selling experience, sell and buy on behalf of others, and basically function as one-man drop-off stores. More than 21,000 people worldwide have registered. To qualify, a seller must have a minimum of 50 feedback comments from previous eBay sales, at least one transaction in the previous 30 days and a positive rating from at least 98 percent of his/her customers. How’s that for re-intermediation?!


Something that not only saves consumers time and hassle, but also makes them money from surplus possessions, will surely do well. With professional drop-off shops operating in only a handful of countries so far, this leaves a pleasant market opportunity for many an entrepreneur. Especially as not just the US, but the entire world is selling and buying collectibles and bric-a-brac on eBay. The future for drop-off services thus is decidedly global: with net international transaction revenues growing 96% in 2003, eBay’s local sites from Spain to Singapore underscore the global riches to be had.And what about massive emerging economies where access to online computers is still relatively low? Consumers in Brazil, Russia, India and China have plenty of desirable local goods (Chinese antiques!? Communist memorabilia?) they would like to auction off, and the world would be happy to snap up. So why not open drop-off shops in Shanghai or Mumbai, providing a brilliant bridge to gap the dreaded digital divide. Entrepreneurs and NGOs alike, pay attention, before this opportunity is going once, going twice, gone!


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