August 30, 2007, 12:00 AM

With a new widget for consumers, Buy.com moves into eBay territory

With its new Garage Sale, a web-based widget that lets consumers sell their stuff on Facebook social networking pages, Buy.com Inc. is blending social networking with e-commerce. Garage Sale enables consumers to become personal online sellers with the backing of a major Internet player, Buy.com CEO Neel Grover says.

Online retailer Buy.com Inc. has introduced Garage Sale, a web page-based widget that enables consumers to sell their own goods directly on Facebook social networking pages. Buyers can purchase merchandise on the web pages without having to leave those pages to complete a transaction.

“Garage Sale allows consumers to become personal online ­retailers using the backing of a major Internet company like Buy.com,” says Neel Grover, president and CEO. “With this embedded e-commerce capability, we see tremendous growth opportunities in providing the millions of users on business and social networks with an alternative to eBay and the ability to transform their personal profile pages beyond information-sharing.”

No listing charges

With Garage Sale, consumers do not have to pay listing charges associated with online auction sites, and they can take advantage of lower individual transaction fees, Buy.com says. The e-retailer collects a 5% commission, a portion of which covers credit card processing costs.

“Garage Sale enables users to sell their own merchandise to friends in their Facebook network,” Grover says. “In the near future, this will expand into an affiliate marketing relationship, whereby users will have the ability to promote Buy.com products and receive an affiliate commission for sales.”

Facebook users can add the Garage Sale widget to their pages from the social network’s application suite and upload product information and photos to begin selling on their personal profile pages using Garage Sale’s secure transaction capability.

To help Garage Sale users promote product sales, Buy.com will introduce a Garage Sale tab on the main Buy.com web site later this year, providing a complete marketplace for independent sellers’ goods to augment Buy.com’s own third-party retailer marketplace. Buy.com plans to roll out the service to users of other online social networks in the near future.

Buy.com is not the first Internet retailer to jump into personal online selling. Overstock.com launched Overstock Auctions three years ago, enabling customers to sell goods using the e-retailer’s infrastructure. In its first year, Overstock.com’s auctions drove gross merchandise sales of nearly $30 million. The company did not return phone calls seeking updated sales figures.

Taking on eBay

Whether e-retailers like Buy.com and Overstock.com can compete with monolith eBay is unclear, some experts say.

“It’s an interesting idea, and Buy.com is very experimental. What’s intriguing about social networks is that the bartering is initially with people presumably in your network, and that should take some risk out of peer-to-peer transactions,” says Sucharita Mulpuru, senior retail analyst at Forrester Research Inc. “However, Buy.com seems to be just trying a completely experimental tactic to see if it will give them any traction among social networks and eventually make Buy.com top of mind for young consumers.”

bill@verticalwebmedia.com

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