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EBay Struggles to Appeal to Younger Consumers; Should Vintage Be Forgotten?

EBay Struggles to Appeal to Younger Consumers; Should Vintage Be Forgotten?

EBay is trying hard to appeal to younger consumers such as millennials, according to a recent piece in the Wall Street Journal. "It is rolling out improved search features and personalized recommendations and reviews. A new ad campaign stars a supermodel, and wine is now available," according to the piece. (The supermodel is model Karlie Kloss, who is shown in an ad outfitting an apartment with things bought from eBay).

The message of wanting to be a "one-stop shopping" place and shedding the "grandma's attic" reputation came from
executives during the company’s third-quarter earnings call last Wednesday. "EBay reported revenue grew 5.6% to $2.22 billion, beating analyst expectations for a third straight quarter of sales gain -- signs that the company’s new e-commerce strategy is starting to pay off," per the Journal article.

Part of the appeal is supposedly that eBay has a higher-percentage mix of new to used items now, with 80% of the items on the site are new, and 86% sold at a fixed price. Auctions are supposedly the antiquated model of the Internet, and what with more people knowing how much things are worth because it is easy to do research on the Internet, they aren't as fun anymore, according to the piece.

But is this really true? Even in the piece, it's said "many millennials are open to buying vintage or used offerings," according to Ken Seiff, managing partner at early-stage retail technology venture capital fund Beanstalk Ventures and a former retail executive. “But that’s not the direct message of eBay’s new marketing campaign,” he said.

And a frequent eBay buyer, Jason Burke, recently purchased three ’90s-era T-shirts, a bolo tie and some old video games via bidding or fixed-price sales, according to the piece. He is 34 years old, and says vintage clothes are cheaper on eBay than at stores near where he lives in Brooklyn.

Many of the changes eBay is making, such as its cataloging of items which allows a clearer presentation of factors such as brand and item features to buyers, and no doubt its amped-up ad presence, are bringing new buyers to the site, and one seller said her sales of both new and used fashion items are up.

I still see sales in my own vintage items as being strong, although admittedly that's most of what I offer. And even if the auction format is not as popular as it once was, people are still dickering: I get a lot of "best offers" on items rather than outright bids.

I think it's a good thing eBay wants to increase its offerings of new items and appeal to younger buyers; I just hope it doesn't lose its vintage soul in doing so. It can be strong in new items and still be the go-to place for the unique and the offbeat.

What do you think about eBay's efforts to attract younger buyers? Is it working? Are you a younger buyer yourself?  If so, what kind of mix of items would you like to see on the site?  Post a comment here!