eBay's New Economy
69 million users buy, sell and earn a living on eBay,
here is a conversation with Kevin Pursglove, eBay's senior
Greenlee, co-Host WebTalkGuys Radio
Thursday, September 4, 2003; 12:20pm EST
Selling and buying online has
been made easy and enticing by the granddaddy of all e-commerce sites
� eBay.com. Kevin Pursglove lives and breathes eBay culture as their
senior communications director. Want to do a little shopping through
their 16 million items for sale or supplement your paycheck by selling
your neglected trinkets?
Kevin tells us about the fun to be had dabbling your feet in the
waters of eBay - and how eBay can help you sail through tough economic
Q: Most people probably don�t realize how diverse the selection is
at eBay. How broad is your database?
Pursglove: A lot of people remember eBay from its early days
when people would clean out their garage or attic and sell merchandise
on eBay. But eBay has branched much further than that. There are
26,000 categories on eBay right now. On any given day, eBay users have
a choice of 16 million listings and eBay users will create 2 million
new listings each and every day. Those listings are in categories as
wide ranging as antiques, books and sports memorabilia, which were
around in the early days. Some of the newer categories are business,
industrial, home furnishing, computers and electronics.
Q: What are some of the unusual things available on eBay?
Pursglove: Elvis Presley-related merchandise has always been
one of the more popular categories on our site. I have seen everything
from used bowling shirts with Elvis Presley�s image, some very early
45s as well as a recent listing where a seller suggested they actually
had a tooth, a lock of Elvis Presley�s hair, as well as one of his
early recordings. If you did a really quick sample on eBay of
Elvis-related items, I wouldn�t be surprised if you found 14,000 items
available on the site.
Q: It�s fascinating that all these items are coming out of the
woodwork that you couldn�t conceive someone would sell.
Pursglove: When eBay first started in 1995, it was not unusual
for us to hear stories of those no longer limited by their region in
terms of their trading. Now they could sell merchandise across state
lines. As time went on, people could sell anywhere in the United
States. Now close to 10-12 percent of the merchandise bought and sold
on eBay crosses international boundaries.
Q: Is eBay growing into those other countries rapidly?
Pursglove: Despite the company�s phenomenal growth over the
past five years, there�s a possibility for us to grow even further
because eBay is only scratching 2 percent of the overall accessible
market area. Part of that is the international reach. eBay sellers now
conduct about 37 percent of our business through international
transactions. eBay is in the United Kingdom, there is eBay Germany,
eBay in Seoul, Korea - all of the sites are growing at very nice rates
right now. In the not too distant future, eBay International will
actually outsell eBay U.S.
Q: eBay has created a lot of new businesses as people have looked
at selling as an employment opportunity. With today�s economy and so
many people out of work, are you seeing a big boom with people earning
their livelihood through eBay?
Pursglove: It�s hard to get precise numbers, but just
anecdotally we�ve done some research and we estimate that somewhere in
the neighborhood of 165,000 eBay users now regularly make a full-time
income on eBay, either as a sole proprietor or as the operator of a
very small business that may employ 5-10 people. That could be
anywhere from people selling automobiles, toys or pet supplies. It
really doesn�t matter which category sellers are located. The chances
to make a full-time income or substantially supplement one�s income
are very real on eBay. Of course, as everyone knows who has started a
business, it can take a lot of work and a lot of hours.
Q: eBay is known for selling used items. Are you also moving into
selling brand new items?
Pursglove: We do a little bit of it. Where eBay can really add
value is where inefficiencies exist in the current marketplace. For
example, when a brand new item�s first coming out and, for some
reason, the item will be available on eBay before national retailers
will get hold of the product. This is typically a very short period of
time - one to two weeks - where the item becomes very popular and high
in demand and the people come to eBay to find the item. Six or seven
months down the road, when the item has fallen out of season or comes
to the end of its lifecycle, that again is where eBay will be a good
place for the buyers and sellers.
For example, the retailers are getting ready for the fall season and
might start stocking jackets and sweaters. It�s possible some
retailers may test market the merchandise on eBay in the very early
stages. The item is in very limited supply and there is high demand on
eBay. After that it will find its way into the retailers across the
country. Then in another seven months, the jacket will be out of
season and you�ll see it on eBay again. It is at those double ends of
the lifecycle of the product that eBay feels it can offer value.
Q: Can you explain your philosophy on how eBay has built this rabid
group of buyers and sellers?
Pursglove: eBay was really built by the users. Employees at
eBay consider themselves stewards of the marketplace. What we do is
watch the trends of our buyers and sellers and then make strategic
decisions on how to help them buy and sell. The community is really
the heart of eBay. The best thing that eBay can do is stay out of the
way, watch what our users do, and provide them with the tools they
A great example of this is eBay Motors. We just watched a group of
buyers and sellers in our miscellaneous category buy and sell
automobiles for a period of four to five months. We began doing
surveys of our users to see if they were really interested in selling
and buying cars on eBay. So we started providing the tools like
on-site mechanic inspections, the escrow service and insurance
shipping that made the market grow bigger and bigger. But it was
really the users that came up with the idea.
About Source of Article
Dana Greenlee is producer and co-host of the WebTalkGuys Radio
Show. WebTalkGuys, a Seattle-based talk show featuring
technology news and interviews. It is broadcast on WebTalkGuys Radio,
Sonic Box, via Pocket PC at Mazingo Networks and the telephone via the
Mobile Broadcast Network. It's on the radio in Seattle at KLAY
1180 AM. Past show and interviews are also webcast via the
http://www.webtalkguys.com/. Greenlee is also a member of the The
International Academy of Digital Arts & Sciences.