But losses mount for the home furnishings e-retailer that went public in October.
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“It all comes down to retailers having another way to influence purchasing decisions anytime and anywhere,” Andersen says. “As consumers are moving from a PC-centric society to a mobile society, they’re expecting fast access to their favorite web sites. And they want product information at their fingertips to help with buying decisions wherever they may be shopping.”
Going once ... going twice ...
When an item being auctioned is on the verge of being sold, bids can come fast and furious. If an interested party is out of the room, he’s also out of luck. To rectify this situation, online auctioneer eBay now offers a tool that helps bidders sneak in last-minute bids on desired items regardless of where they are-and helps itself boost revenue.
Bidders can submit bids to eBay via mobile phone using a certified eBay-compatible application created by UnWired Buyer Inc. Further, the application sends bidders updates when items they’ve indicated interest in are near closing. The service has placed 300,000 bids by e-Bay users since its launch in October 2005. EBay handles the checkout and payment process for all items purchased through UnWired Buyer.
“There are 75 million eBay users in the United States, and our surveys show more than half miss the close of an auction because they are not at their computers,” says Indraj Gill, chairman and CEO of UnWired Buyer. “Our system has helped eBay actively reach out to this audience.”
The service is free to users. EBay receives a percentage of all auctions closed via the mobile system. UnWired Buyer gets its share via commissions per transaction. The company reports up to a 20% lift in final selling prices when an UnWired Buyer user is participating in the bidding.
“Additionally, about 50% of all listings on eBay receive no bids at the close of the auction even though there are some users watching the items,” Gill says. “These ‘zero-bid’ auctions then are relisted for free by eBay. Because our service notifies users via mobile phone based on their watch lists, 26% of zero-bid auctions now are won by UnWired users.”
On other fronts, eBay is using text messaging to power a mobile phone-based service called eBay Alerts and leverages Java technology for its eBay Wireless system, which enables mobile phone users to browse, bid and buy items via a mobile browser-enabled web site.
“EBay generates revenue from buyers and sellers connecting in the marketplace. These mobile offerings make it easier for eBay users to place bids and complete transactions and ultimately will drive increased activity in the marketplace, which drives revenue,” says Eric Shoup, group product manager at eBay. “The main limitation to these systems is getting people over the age of 24 to try using their mobile phones for more than just calls. But there already are indications this is happening, and we believe mobile usage in the United States will mirror that in Europe and Asia.”