eBay has been surveying user reaction to sales of fixed-price items
on its site, in a further indication that the leading auction site is looking
to move beyond its core business of person-to-person auctions.
If eBay were to add fixed-price auctions--in
which the seller sets a minimum price and the first bidder to top it wins--it
would follow the lead of AuctionUniverse, a smaller
competitor. Last month, AuctionUniverse launched a new type of listing known as
"FirstBid Wins" for those who want to sell quickly at a specific price rather
than wait for an auction to close. Often, those sellers are businesses who
want the exposure that a popular site brings but aren't willing to auction
items below retail prices.
Although eBay has registered more than 2 million users on the strength of its
person-to-person auction format, new competitors like Amazon.com are making a bigger play for the
business-to-consumer market, where consumers bid on items from retailers rather
than individuals. According to Forrester
Research, within a few years business-to-consumer transactions will dwarf the person-to-person auction
Earlier this week, eBay sent out a survey to certain users about fixed-price
auctions, and also asked if they would be in favor of adding retailers to the
site and allowing them, as well as individual sellers, to set up storefronts
that would pull together multiple listings.
eBay spokesman Kevin Pursglove said the company has no plans yet to add
fixed-price auctions. The survey "just gives us a sense of how users feel about
the issue," he said.
The profitable auction site certainly has the capital to expand into new lines
of business, and is looking around for new opportunities. Earlier this week,
eBay completed a $1.1 billion
secondary offering, the largest Internet stock offering ever. Earlier this
week, eBay and San Francisco auction house Butterfield & Butterfield announced
a plan to create a new category for high-level art and antique auctions on the
eBay's most formidable competitor, Amazon Auctions doesn't list fixed-price
auctions, the site has aggressively courted merchants who want to sell some of
their merchandise in an auction format. The site was launched with more than
100 charter merchants, whose listings are mixed in individuals' listings.