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Will mobile-first auction apps curb eBay’s prowess?

January 3, 2014

Poshmark's app

While Poshmark and other mobile-first auction applications offer certain advantages over eBay such as user experiences that are highly optimized for mobile, their lack of scale is minimizing their impact — for now.

Being mobile-only is not necessarily in and of itself the winning solution, and eBay still has a significant mobile presence in addition to its desktop offerings. However, eBay may struggle to match these apps knack for catering to specific users with a great experience.

“Being fully optimized for mobile is an advantage, but the lack of the other side of the fence is a disadvantage in this case,” said Scott Michaels, executive vice president and partner at Atimi Software, Vancouver. “To be clear, it’s certainly an advantage to be mobile-centric for this kind of application, since photos, location and the ability to bid/close on the transaction from anywhere are key aspects of any type of auction/selling/transaction play.

“EBay already has both a full desktop, as well as mobile experiences,” he said. “So I would say that eBay is ahead of the competition in this regard. However, what eBay is certainly falling behind on, is creating a shopping experience for these new and used goods that matches the end user demographics.

“The competitors are targeting a niche clientele, and are tailoring the user interface to be pleasing to that end user group. That effort to have an interface that more directly speaks to the end user is certainly going to result in more loyal end users.”

Niche apps
There a number of different apps that function as a mobile marketplace where consumers can sell their belongings.

Poshmark is one such app that has been getting a bit of buzz. This mobile marketplace is centered around fashion, allowing consumers to sell and buy clothing, shoes and accessories.

Consumers simply post a few photos of the item they want to sell, and Poshmark takes care of the money transfer. Poshmark takes a 20 percent commission from all sales.

Since launching in 2011, Poshmark has sold more than a million items. According to Poshmark, an average user opens the app seven to ten times a day and spends 20-25 minutes in the app daily.

Another eBay-like app called Sold launched in April to make the selling process even easier for consumers. Sold takes care of pricing items for consumers, finding a buyer, sending packaging, handling shipping and completing the transaction.

Then there is Boxes, which has a similar feel to Instagram. The app lets consumers take photos, attach receipts, sell and buy items and build a community of followers.

The list goes on; there is SimplyListed, Bondsy, Zaarly, YardSellr and EggDrop. All of these apps think that they can take on eBay when it comes to selling used goods.

The Boxes app

EBay is clearly a giant that will not be brought down anytime soon. However, it is possible that these smaller mobile apps can take a bite out of eBay because they are built for mobile from the ground up.

While eBay started as an online site that later on added mobile aspects, such as eBay Motors, these newer apps entered the playing field with mobile on their mind. That may give them the upper hand in terms of getting mobile right and creating the best user experience for consumers.

These apps were created for mobile, so everything can take place on the go and at any time. It is convenient for consumers.

They also tend to cater to a younger audience, tapping into the photo-sharing craze and social integration. Since a different kind of consumer would flock to Poshmark as opposed to eBay, Poshmark can take advantage of that, better understand its users and respond with relevant content and design.

The SimplyListed app

While these new apps may have some advantages in the space, there are many challenges they face when coming up against the powerhouse that is eBay.

For one, eBay has amassed a level of trust and loyalty from consumers. It will take a lot of effort for Poshmark and Boxes to build up that backing.

“EBay has the advantage here, with the long standing reviews of sellers and buyers, and of course a well know dispute mechanism,” Atimi’s Mr. Michaels said. “Until the competitors are able to build up that trust level, you will always have those that are going to only trust ebay.

“This is not an insurmountable challenge, as these other apps then use the early adopters to create that base layer of reviews and ratings,” he said.

According to Marc Parrish, an advisor at Appboy, New York, these apps have no chance at turning eBay’s head in the near future.

“EBay has $15 billion in sales,” Mr. Parrish said. “I am not sure they will even take a look at this until it becomes several hundred million in sales. Amazon is taking a bite out of eBay, not smaller startups.

“Poshmark is definitely pushing the outer edge to the mainstream, but eBay is concentrating on the big picture,” he said. “EBay in the last few years has made itself into a much more nimble organization.

“EBay also made 34 acquisitions over the last five years. If Poshmark really becomes big, eBay will look to acquire them or a close competitor.”

Final Take
Rebecca Borison is editorial assistant on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York

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Rebecca Borison is editorial assistant on Mobile Commerce Daily and Mobile Marketer. Reach her at

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