EBay vs. Amazon: An Interesting Lesson in Customer Care

Rob Enderle
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Getting Your Customer Service Agents Through High-Volume Times

These last several weeks I've been shopping for parts for my XK8 project car on both Amazon and eBay. Since I write on customer care and Internet best practices, I wanted to do a comparison between my eBay and Amazon customer experiences because I thought the differences between the two services, both very successful, to also be very interesting.


What initially prompted this idea was a meeting I'd had with eBay's CEO a few weeks ago and a question I'd raised on whether eBay would consider a dedicated buying device, which is what Amazon has in the Kindle Fire. His response got me wondering if eBay even thinks of Amazon as a tier-one competitor and this seemed to be something that might be interesting to explore.


Well, interest went out the window Sunday night when I got banned from eBay. Had someone told me this would happen, I would have assumed they were joking - banning a power buyer just doesn't make sense. I've since been restored thanks to a lot of hard work by some great folks, but I doubt this outcome would have been the same for anyone else. I'll cover what makes the two services different first and then cover the lesson learned.


EBay vs. Amazon


What is interesting about the two services is that, at the core, Amazon is a store while eBay is still Internet classified ads. This means that Amazon curates most of its content, which is new, and eBay manages mostly third-party buyers selling used products. However, both increasingly have third-party retailers selling new products in their services and Amazon increasingly has used options, suggesting that they are both increasingly competing for the same buy.


Amazon has recently moved to put apps on phones, PCs and iPads to buy books and manage music and I can imagine them eventually moving to some kind of more comprehensive purchasing app. The Kindle Fire is basically a packaged Amazon store, focused on media consumption, but containing a store front. It is on an Apple-like path of controlling the user experience to a high degree and, if it is successful, it will effectively be putting a super mall in every pocket that is tied only to Amazon and its affiliates.


EBay isn't controlling the user experience as closely and its interface appears older and far more painful as a result. For instance, with Amazon, you have "one click" buying where, with one click, you can buy most anything. EBay requires you first pick a PayPal payment method, then either re-enter your credit card information or log into PayPal. If you take the PayPal login route, it will default to taking money out of your bank account. If you want to use a credit card, you have to change it, and on the way to changing the buying method it will toss up an offer to get a PayPal credit card, which you have to accept or decline before moving on. It does this every time. If you are buying a lot of things at once, this gets pretty annoying pretty fast. In the end, you feel what appears to be a conflict between PayPal's goals of maximizing revenue and eBay's goals of providing a good experience and PayPal unfortunately wins.


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