eBay Caught Napping by Amazon

eBay Caught Napping by Amazon Handmade


If you’ve not seen it yet, Amazon have released “Amazon Handmade”, an integrated marketplace on the Amazon US site that supports the customisation of products, we can only assume to take on Etsy and to take yet another chomp at eBay.

Personally I’m a huge fan of eBay, however they have really been caught napping by failing to adapt.

I’ve never been to an eBay meetup (organised by eBay or externally) where business owners attending have not raised the inability for their customers to customise the products they are purchasing as an issue.

Right now business owners on eBay are using a mish-mash of workarounds to allow their customers to customise their purchases, hardly ideal by any stretch of the imagination.

Using the simplest of examples, customisation via email. This is where the customer/seller communicates the customisation options via one or more emails after the purchase.

Just think of the time-sapping communications spent by those business owners “toing and froing” between each other, when frankly the time spent could be better spent in so many other areas of their businesses (such as finding new products to customise!).

Then Amazon Handmade appears.

Amazon Handmade in Action

It’s reported that from idea to launch, Amazon Handmade took two years.

Amazon had to take very similar steps that eBay would have had to have made to enable this on their site and the best way of explaining this is via an example.

If you take a look at customisable product on Amazon Handmade here http://www.amazon.com/Amazing-Personalized-Christmas-Ornament-Custom/dp/B016C86JM6/ you’ll see that you as a customer are able to select from 3 options, Colour, Year & Name to personalise the purchase.

Amazon Handmade Options

Allowing the customisation of any fields by customers on eBay is not possible.

There are no options for a customer to enter such details and eBay businesses rely on buyers either adding customisation notes in the hidden “add message to seller” box during the checkout on eBay or say via email (arhhhhh!).

Both options rely on the customer to take these extra actions and we know that relying on a customer is never a good idea (ever).

The Annoying Thing is….

eBay have the framework in place to enable customisation like this.

When creating a new listing for a product on eBay, you have the option to add in item specifics and also single or multi-variation options.

These are text entry fields that allow the seller to customise the options that buyers see when selecting a size or say colour choice for a pair of boots on eBay.

Using the size and colour options as the example here, the seller sets what these values are and thus what a customer can select from drop-down boxes when making a purchase.

eBay Custom Options

Or if we make this even more simple, the seller has defined options for the customer to select using the “dropdown” input type for a web form.

Why can’t this be an “edit box” instead?

So that the customer is able to set the text for one more additional option for “name”. We’re dealing with a web-based app here and technically anything is possible we’ve just changed the input type.

Note: I am keeping this really simple here. Obviously there would need to be extra options for input validation and whether the option has a stock control impact, but there isn’t any need to overcomplicate things to make the point in this article (that’s what the development team is there for after all).

Caught Napping

I’m a big fan of eBay, infact I’m off to grab a 2nd hand computer for the workshop as soon as I’ve written this article. However if I wanted that purchase customised in any shape or fashion, I’m screwed.

eBay right now is in a perfect position to adapt.

Its just had it’s cash-cow PayPal pulled out by its horns and eBay has now been left to fend for itself. Literally, Carl Icahn who instigated the breakup, has just dumped his stake in eBay and moved them over to PayPal only a few days ago.

This one seemingly small detail of customisation has spawned not just one marketplace, Etsy, but a second too with Amazon Handmade.

Its “fight or flight” time for eBay over the next couple of years. Let’s hope they don’t continue to nap.

What’s your thoughts on this?

Should eBay allow customisable options for customers? Have eBay been caught napping by Amazon?

Let me know in the comments box below.

As always, to your continued success,

Matt Ogborne
I love coffee almost as much as I love Fridays

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