eBay Express disappoints merchants

Sales channel remains irrelevant and mostly deserted, several large merchants say

Merchants complain that eBay Express doesn't attract sufficient shoppers and generates an inconsequential volume of sales, although eBay says it is satisfied and remains committed to the site.

eBay Express is designed to draw shoppers who dislike the complexity and risk of eBay's core marketplace by offering a simpler, safer experience similar to the ones from mainstream e-tailers like Amazon.com and Wal-Mart Stores' online store.

For example, Express features only fixed-price items, most of them new, from experienced sellers with outstanding track records, and offers buyers a shopping cart. Meanwhile, eBay.com lacks a cart, many items are used and sold via auction, and many sellers are novices.

But Express, which was launched in April in preview mode and has been heavily promoted since September, remains an irrelevant, mostly deserted sales channel, according to several large merchants interviewed recently.

"We've certainly not seen the results we and many other sellers had anticipated for eBay Express," says David Yaskulka, president of Harris Michael, an online jewellery store.

There is no additional cost or effort required of qualified eBay merchants to appear on Express, because qualifying products listed on eBay.com automatically show up on Express as well. Still, the promise of benefiting from new, convenience-minded shoppers created high expectations among the star merchants Express was built for.

"We were hoping it would be a good driver of additional sales but we haven't seen much in the way of sales from eBay Express," says Jonathan Garriss, executive director of the Professional eBay Sellers Alliance (PESA) and chief executive officer of Gotham City Online, an apparel store on eBay that also has its own site.

George Trantas, president of footwear and apparel vendor Designer Athletic, estimates having about 4,000 items listed on Express, yet so far in December, the company has made 33 sales on the site, versus almost 8,000 on the eBay marketplace. "The Express hype and publicity have been good, but the sales have been very slow," Trantas says.

Lara Housser, director of eBay Express in the U.S., declines to disclose the site's traffic and sales, but says eBay is pleased with the results. "I can't comment on individual seller experiences but I'd say we're certainly in the early days of the site. It's a new channel and we're seeing traffic grow organically," Housser says.

Almost 90 percent of Express shoppers rate the site as either meeting or exceeding their expectations. eBay.com shoppers who also buy at Express spend more time and money at the site than those who haven't tried out Express, she says.

Still, based on the experiences of merchants interviewed, Express resembles a ghost town with tumbleweeds blowing through it rather than a busy shopping mall.

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