Is eBay putting the (shopping) cart before the (search) horse?

August 23, 2010

ChannelAdvisor ChannelAdvisor By ChannelAdvisor

Basket_one
After taking the summer mostly off from blogging, there’s a lot going on in the land of eBay I wanted to update everyone about.  In this instalment I wanted to take a deep dive into the much anticipated eBay Checkout (Basket) that is in a test in the UK. I’m going to write this a little backwards with the summary first and then a detailed tour last.

Thoughts about the Basket

We’ve spent a lot of time with the early experience Basket in the UK and while it’s a good start, we’ve found several problems that indicate that it’s very raw and buggy.  It’s great to see eBay moving into the modern era with the checkout, but it lacks many of the benefits that normal carts offer:

  • Since most likely items will be from different sellers, promotions around cart size to drive an increase in AOV
  • Thus far there aren’t any of the AOV expanding options you would expect from a modern cart such as up-sells and product recommendations
  • The short-life of most eBay listings makes the occurrence of items in the cart going out of stock much more likely than any other site.
  • eBay did an interesting implementation with auctions – it will be interesting to see how buyers react to it.
  • The cart/basket is definitely more convenient than the single-path checkout, but my biggest question is eBay’s priorities.

eBay seems to be spending a lot of engineering resources on the cart.  My biggest concern with the cart is not the functionality itself, but the priority.  In my opinion, the eBay search experience is so far behind the times and moving so slowly forward, eBay should take every available resource that is working on cart/basket and put it towards the search effort.

Until eBay gets search ‘right’, any other changes to the back-end of the process won’t do much to accelerate GMV and help buyers.  In other words, if you can’t find the products you are looking for, then what good is a multi-item cart?

In a future post, I’ll give a concrete example of eBay’s search challenge, before then let’s take a brief tour of the eBay cart so you can see it in action for yourself.

Basket tour

Note in this section, I’ve scaled the screen shots down to preserve space – click on them to see the larger version.

The first time you notice something different is when you see a little basket in the upper right corner of the eBay homepage.

The other indication this isn’t your normal eBay is on an item page instead of the “Buy it Now’ button, you have an ‘Add to Basket’ button.


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When you add the item to your basket, it is shown there with the other items and you are able to see all of the items in your basket and check out if you’d like to.

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If you add an item to a cart and come back, say a day or two later, and the underlying item has sold,  you get the message you see below.  At that point, you have to remove it from the basket to be able to continue. Most of the items on eBay still have quantity=1, so it will be interesting to see how frequently this happens and if it ends up really turning off users that are more used to a cart metaphor that is more persistent (Amazon).
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Another interesting situation that is happening frequently with the UK cart is that the seller either doesn’t allow shipping outside the UK, or the seller hasn’t setup their S+H properly and either the item won’t add to the cart at all, or it won’t calculate the shipping and handling properly.  In the following, you can see an example.

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Auction items are automatically added to your cart and are ready to checkout as illustrated below (the first item was from an auction and the others are fixed-price ‘add to basket’ items),  When you’ve successfully added items to the cart, you initiate the checkout process by checking off the boxes of the items you want to include in the purchase as illustrated below:

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From there your items are totaled and you checkout in one single checkout vs. multiples.  The exception is if the seller is using third party checkout, then you go through two checkouts.

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One last thing, as you add items to your basket the little icon shows that it is full.
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As mentioned, the basket has several bugs including:

  • Frequently when items are added to the cart, they don’t actually go into the cart.
  • Over a period of 24-48 hours, items drop out of the cart
  • The cart’s shipping and handling calculations can sometimes get ‘off’ and create an endless loop.

I’m sure eBay will resolve these, but with the ‘basics’ of the cart still not there, I don’t think we’ll have a global site-wide solution for some time to come.

What do you think?  Is eBay on the right path?

What are your thoughts on the eBay cart/basket?  Silver bullet or putting the cart before the horse?

SeekingAlpha disclosure – I am long Google and Amazon. eBay is an investor in ChannelAdvisor where I am CEO.