E-Commerce Times Talkback
See Full Story
EBay has launched a new wireless service that will let auction aficionados bid in
real-time when another user places a higher competing bid. The online auctioneer's 46
million users now can receive text message alerts on cell phones and other mobile devices
that reflect the minimum bid at the time the user was trumped. "The ability to access
content with a wireless device is only so valuable. Often, the user will want to act on
that information," Yankee Group senior analyst Adam Zawel told the E-Commerce Times.
This eBay/Inphonic partnership may be a failure in the making.
First of all, I'm a devoted eBayer, but I am highly skeptical - if not downright saddened - by this Inphonic solution. Lack of actual market demand and usability are two issues that will hinder the growth of this "wireless rebidding" service.
Let's do some #s first. Let's break it down like this.
a) 46 mm est. eBay members
a.5) of 46 mm eBay members, how many are Americans?
b) US mobile penetration % = 45%, so roughly 20.7 mm of them have a wireless device
c) then u have to narrow the 20.7 mm figure even further
d) of 20.7 mm how many are text-enabled devices
e) of that figure, how many people are aware of texting
f) of that figure, how many actually texts
g) of that figure, how many eBayers "buy from the site one to three times a month"
The bottom line is this, Mr. Steinberg of Inphonic is praying that "5 percent to 10 percent" of eBayers will use this to make the arrangement "financially viable". So how many of the 46 mm are really dedicated members - ones who shop 1 to 3 times a month? Let's optimistically place that at 5 mm (which I still think is too high), 5 to 10% of 5 mm is only 250,000 to 500,000 - a far cry from the sort of wishful thinking on this service. All this contributes to the fact that if not a lot of people will use the service, it doesn't matter how much you charge for it.
That "notifications typically are sent within two minutes ... reflects the minimum bid at the time the user was trumped".
This is a huge problem. Two minutes in eBay time can mean a lot of things - especially at the end of an auction. For example:
a) by the time u get the outbid notice and rebid with a higher price, someone might have already placed a bid higher than your rebid price
b) at the end of an auction, while different people are trying to win the auction with last-ditch bids, the user might be bombarded with notification messages
c) worse, due to the inherent latency problem in mobile networks, the user may receive messages OUT OF ORDER - thus generating even more chaos and confusion.
These are just two aspects of this story that should be brought to your attention.
Sin Hang Lai