While eBay Freefalls, Consumers Move To Online Classifieds

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For a very long time, eBay has owned the alternative marketplace. It has been a place for consumers to find good deals and for sellers to unload product in a seemingly user-friendly environment. But things have changed. Whether because of eBay's ever-changing and ever-increasing seller fees (not to mention PayPal's cut), or the fact that consumers are tiring of online bidding wars, eBay is losing ground - and quickly. A look at their traffic using Compete.com shows a drop of more than 10 million unique visits since March, 2008. December saw eBay's uniques reach nearly 80 million. Last month, that number peaked at just over 64 million. Overall, eBay has lost 13.2% of its unique traffic since last year. And it's not just eBay suffering. UBid.com, another online auction site, has seen their traffic drop more than 58% this year.

So, it's time to find some alternatives - not just to eBay but to online auctions in general. And one marketplace that's thriving is online classified ads. It's time to get back to salesmanship - selling face-to-face, albeit in a high-tech world. Below are some alternatives:

Craigslist - the kingpin of online classified sites, and the biggest free-for-all on the Internet. You can buy and list just about anything here, and I mean anything, in every major city in the U.S. It's bare-bones and perhaps not the best place for branding, but the numbers demand attention. Craigslist's traffic is up more than 50% this year, with approximately 40 million visits last month.

Oodle.com - one of the fasted growing online classified sites. Traffic at Oodle.com is up more than 93% this year. Ad placement is free with unlimited text and up to four pictures, and will remain live on the site for 30 days. When you place an ad through Oodle, it's automatically submitted to "hundreds of other sites," including GoogleBase, Lycos Classifieds and Local.com.

Kijiji - eBay's free classified site celebrated their one-year anniversary in June. Currently the site sees about 2.5 million unique visits per month, up 66% from last year. Leveraging eBay's foothold, Kijiji sites are available in more than 1,000 cities and countries around the world. Craigslist and Kijiji are currently suing each other.

A few other alternatives:

MySpace Classifieds is an attractive option, if only because of the sheer number of users of the networking site. StumbleHere.com will take your classified ad and submit it to many other sites, including MySpace, Oodle, craigslist and Wal-Mart Classifieds. Finally, don't rule out your local newspaper's website. People still read the local news and still break out the virtual red pen to search for deals in their local area. Traffic is up this year for the online versions of The Los Angeles Times (136%), The New York Times (46%) and the Chicago Tribune (89%).

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John AlanR 11-20-2008 3:04 PM

One of the things I still like about eBay is the fact that the most common scams and problems on eBay are well documented. I don't know if there are many places to find information about what can go wrong on the other sites.

Mike Phillips 11-20-2008 3:56 PM

That's a good point, John. Many of these site are "buyer beware," especially Craigslist, who seems to wash their hands of most responsibilities.

Jenna Lloyd 11-20-2008 4:00 PM

As a former eBay PowerSeller & technical editor/contributor to several books about eBay, I can tell you that part of eBay's problem is a change in business model that is moving it towards an Amazon marketplace model that favors the big sellers.  The mom&pops are being pushed out.  Although you are right about people tiring of auction-type sales, eBay has had a fixed price listing option for years, so that truly is not the reason.

Craigslist is a great option for buyers and sellers, especially if you realize that Craig's mission with craigslist has always been to have an online resource that brings people together offline.  

Follow their terms of use.  Understand that Craigslist's fans are absolutely rabid and hate businesses taking trying to spam, getting to html-oriented, or trying to turn the site into a national selling platform.

While I don't follow the other classifieds, I can tell you that for as much scamming as there is on these sites, common sense is the #1 to avoiding them, with the #2 being keep your business local and #3 dole out your personal information very carefully.  Following these rules keeps you within terms of service and makes it much harder to get scammed.

My book on craigslist - craigslist 4 Everyone was published by QUE Publishing this month.  Craig wrote the forward and I am proud to say that it is filled with useful information - all of which stays within the terms of service.  

If anyone has any questions about buying or selling on craigslist, they are welcome to email me at jenna@craigslist4everyone.com.

Anthony 11-20-2008 5:53 PM

eBay dropped the ball when they increased seller fee's and took away the ability for sellers to leave accurate feedback...


MannyS 11-23-2008 5:14 PM

I agree...!  The worse thing ebay has done is to remove the ability of sellers to leave negative feedback when appropriate!   eBay is a fast dying breed!!

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