The eBay “In Demand Program” – Isn’t It Time to Give It Up?

Posted on January 15, 2010. Filed under: eBay | Tags: , , , , , |

In October 2008, eBay’s blogger Richard Brewer-Hay wrote about the new eBay In Demand  program and, at the time, some eBay members expressed their concern that only the large eBay sellers could benefit from this new program.  Their fears were short-lived because the program never went anywhere.  It’s now more than a year later and I thought it would be interesting to check out the eBay In Demand now that the program has had more than enough time to move out of the beta stage.

In October 2009, I took at the items listed in the In Demand program and now almost 3 months I took another look.  The very same 24 In Demand items listed in October 2009 are listed today including one VERY old Brother printer.  I don’t understand why an old outdated electronics item would be “in demand” when anyone could buy a newer improved model for half the price.  Perhaps I am just not aware that there are printer “collectors” out there who desire 3 year old printers for twice the price of a new one. 

What you’ll notice right away is that you are told there are 24 results that were returned and there are 24 results actually listed.  However, the categories on the left hand, which are clickable, only show a total of 17 items.  Interestingly enough, the Brother printer I previously mentionned appears in the list of results returned but is not included in a category on the left side. 

So, what type of items does eBay have listed as being in demand  or where “buyer demand is high and inventory is low” as the program advertises?   One such item is the book titled “What to Expect When You’re Expecting”.  I’m a seller who wants and needs to make a profit so I checked early November to see what kind of money I could possibly make if I were to source this book and sell it on eBay.  Looking at the completed listings I noticed that out of the 4 recent completed listings only one sold.  The book sold for $1.00 plus $3.50 shipping.  Other sellers who had the book listed for $2.99 with $4 shipping didn’t get any bids. 

However, when I looked again today there were several listings at $1 buy now price with $3.99 shipping that closed without anyone purchasing the book.  So, even if I could successfully sell the book for $1 with $3.50 shipping why would I want to?  And for eBay to encourage me to source the book, inventory it, list it, package it, and deal with all the customer service issues just so that I would lose money isn’t the best suggestion eBay has ever had.  Come to think it, most of the “suggestions” eBay offers to its sellers is of about the same quality as the In Demand program but I digress.

When eBay first announced the In Demand program, I thought they were prepared to share some of their wealth of information and I was curious.  I know that even if eBay were successful in mining data and giving that valuable information to sellers through the In Demand program that it still cannot address the demand of new items – items that are newly manufactured and/or that have never been listed on the platform before.  These are not products that have a proven sales history so that someone has historical data upon which to predict the future. 

Think for a minute about department stores or big box stores.  They actually employ “buyers” who make decisions about which products to purchase to resell because there is a human element needed in that decision making process.  Ecommerce merchants have to make the same type of decisions.  As an ecommerce merchant who sells toys, I am provided with all sorts of information in February (Toy Fair month) about  products that will arrive July through September in time for the upcoming holiday season.  Many of these products are new and, thus, one cannot go to eBay completed sales to determine how well the item is selling or use eBay data to predict how well the product will sell in the future.  And so the buyers for the department stores and the self-employed ecommerce merchants have to make educated guesses about what will sell and place orders accordingly.  There is a big risk involved.  Order too much of a product, especially one where the manufacturer overproduces and then has to lower the price after you have purchased your big lot, and you will end up with stale inventory that you can’t even sell for your original investment.  But order enough of a hot product, especially one where the manufacturer didn’t produce enough to meet demand, and you have a joyous holiday season.  Amazon understands the commitment required of ecommerce merchants and, as a result, I believe Amazon treats its sellers with much more dignity and respect than eBay but, again I digress.  

I’m really not sure what eBay was trying to accomplish with the In Demand program.  It’s another one of the pie-in-the-sky-ideas that somebody from eBay threw out there but didn’t devote any resources to and then a few years later will wonder why it wasn’t successful.  There isn’t a lack of cheap product available on eBay (ie “What to Expect…” book for $1 plus $3.50 shipping) for buyers to choose from so why eBay wants more sellers to sell even more of those cheap products, possibly at even cheaper prices, is a mystery to me.  And if there is “low inventory” on eBay for an item where there is “buyer demand” it just tells me that there is a pretty darned good reason for the low inventory status.  It could be because, I don’t know…. perhaps because no ecommerce merchant is going to purposely source product to sell below cost.

The eBay In Demand program was obviously created because someone at eBay perceived there was a supply problem and that sellers were not smart enough to figure out on their own which items were currently in demand.  But, in reality, for the current products showcased it was the low demand on eBay which resulted in a low price which then created fewer sellers willing to sell that particular merchandise at the going rate.  I can guarantee you that eBay sellers are savvy enough to know when there is enough of a gap between supply and demand to warrant investment in inventory to sell on eBay.  I never saw ZuZu pets listed on eBay In Demand.  That is because eBay, unlike the ecommerce merchant, doesn’t have to consider the selling price in its view of the relationship between supply and demand. 

Given that the eBay In Demand program was originally announced as for use only by sellers with DSRs of 4.8 or higher, it was obviously designed to be a perk for Top Rated sellers.  The eBay In Demand program has failed to provide any valuable information and I definitely would not label it a perk for any eBay member.  Isn’t it time for eBay to officially put an end to the In Demand program and quit torturing us by displaying  the same 24 tired products month after month?

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2 Responses to “The eBay “In Demand Program” – Isn’t It Time to Give It Up?”

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Brews,

I’ll add another dinosaur to the list:
MSNBC is still continuing to air, “The eBay Effect”, the 2005 documentary made with eBay’s cooperation and input.

At this point, this program is nothing more than hollow propaganda and misinformation. It obviously still gets ratings or MSNBC wouldn’t be running it over and over and over. Too bad, as innocents are still viewing this program and believing that they should give eBay selling a try and become “eBay millionaires” themselves! Yikes!!

“It’s another one of the pie-in-the-sky-ideas that somebody from eBay threw out there but didn’t devote any resources to and then a few years later will wonder why it wasn’t successful.”

Think it’s less a matter of insufficient resources and more lack of follow through. For many long years eBay INC has suffered from short attention span management.

1) Someone throws out a spiffy idea,
2) Management smiles and green light’s it,
3) Project enthusiastically worked on, then people get bored.
4) Upper management wants something new and disruptive.
5) GO TO 1

Classic examples are eBay Express, eBay “San Dimas” Desktop, Skype integration.

Abundant resources poured into the projects, but the ‘kids’ bore easily and want some new and shiny toy. The sport metaphor for this type of management mindset is training for the 100 meter dash, but entered in the Marathon.

Don’t envision this dynamic altering without a complete change … of diapers and wearers.

//

“Okay, if this is what 11 year olds do, then I’m sending my kids to military school right after kindergarten.”
Clover, Totally Spies (2001-2009)


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