As the CEO of BiddingForGood, I get asked all the time, what about eBay? It’s a reasonable question given they are the 800-lb. gorilla in the auction market. Most folks are surprised to hear we don’t run into eBay very often; when we do we almost always get the business. And when we don’t, we will often pick it up the next year. Here’s why;
• The Platform: eBay is a generalist platform which has been built for “power sellers.” These are mom and pop operations which are running a business (usually out of their house) on eBay and have very specific needs. BiddingForGood on the other hand is a specialty platform dedicated to a single market. Our platform has loads of features that a power seller would never be able to use (cash donations, ticket sales, sponsorship capability, etc, etc).
• Marketplace: When you look at the eBay marketplace, it is dominated by used items and out of stock inventory. The fact that they publicly reported sell-thru rate is 50% (ours is 50% higher) suggests that there is a fair amount of clutter and not very appealing stuff listed. By contrast almost all of our items are new and there is a bias toward services and experiences. I think of eBay as a gigantic flea market while we are a specialty retail shop.
• Bidders: I don’t have hard data on this I highly suspect that the eBay bidder community mirrors the U.S. population economic demographics. The BiddingForGood demographics (we have tons of data on this) include upscale baby boomers with a heavy skew to women. A substantial proportion has a net worth over $1 million and they are cause oriented.
• Client Services: The eBay model is by design a self service model. The problem is that participants in the fundraising auction market don’t do it more than once a year and because pulling one of these things off (successfully) involves a number of decisions. There is a clear need/value to delivering consultative support. We by contrast assign an auction consultant to every account and can be reached by phone or email with turnaround usually less than 2 hours. We hear over and over that this single area of our model is a big deal. Well followed consultative support has enormous leverage. It can add thousands of dollars to the outcome.
• Provided Items: We have a full time sales staff on the road securing bulk item donations from retailers or travel companies who want the exposure to our high end demographic. These items usually have a retail worth of several thousand dollars and are another way we make folks money.
• Online vs. In-Room: We understand that many folks want to move online items into their live event and we allow orgs to close out items in the room. We are also launching our new in-room mobile bidding services to make the transition from online to in-room as smooth as possible all while expanding their bidder pool at live events. eBay does not allow this. This is an example of a specialist vs. a generalist.
I could go on and on here but the punch line is that a specialist will almost always better serve the targeted market than a generalist. VC’s have made fortunes on this premise backing specialists to take a corner of a generalist’s market.
If you have any thoughts on the topic (agree or disagree) please chime in. We feel pretty good about the value we bring and welcome the conversation.