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RealTime IT News

eBay Takes a Shot at Amazon

Taking a shot across Amazon.com's bows, eBay launched what it calls a new "electronics superstore site" for both consumers and IT buyers, and introduced free shipping on many items, a first for the auction giant.

The San Jose, Calif.-based company said it is offering access to "millions of products" at ebayelectronics.com, including consumer electronics, computers, peripherals, networking gear, telecom, software, photography equipment and video games.

And most of this stuff is being offered by top manufacturers and retailers, not by people cleaning out their closets.

For the IT buyer, categories include things like office products and routers, servers and workstations. "We definitely have had more business buying activity on eBay over the last year," Todd Lutwak, director of eBay Electronics, was quoted as saying. A lot of the used equipment is being sold off by tech companies hurt by the downturn in IT spending.

The free shipping is being offered by sellers who are willing to ship items for free, not by eBay itself. eBay has collected all such items under one roof -- ebayelectronics.com/freeshipping.

Already up in a soft launch, eBay Electronics has an inventory of about 700,000 new, refurbished, or used products for sale and the company says the site is generating the about $2.2 billion in annualized sales.

Overall, eBay is beginning to look a lot more like its main street and shopping mall competitors, complete with consumer advertising campaigns and merchants that offer gift wrapping. In fact, sellers can purchase a special "great gift" icon when they place a listing.

On Nov. 10, eBay launched a new branding campaign on national TV and in the 50 largest newspaper markets, with the theme "doing it eBay."

Amazon.com , which has a huge electronics section, has been making a big push with its free and reduced price shipping offers, and eBay clearly has taken notice.

eBay has been aided in its push to beef up corporate sales on its site by Research Triangle Park, N.C.-based ChannelAdvisor, one of its preferred partners and a company that that facilitates trade on eBay for large sellers such as IBM, Dell, Motorola, Ingram Micro, West Marine and Omaha Steaks.

"Service providers like ChannelAdvisor increase the likelihood of success of large sellers and develop new ways of selling, such as employing eBay as a wholesale vs. retail channel," according to Anthony Noto, an analyst at Goldman Sachs, in a recent industry report.

Meanwhile, not to be outdone, eBay competitor uBid said it plans to launch the uBid Electronics Superstore channel during Thanksgiving week on its auction site. The channel, with special shipping charges of $2.49 per order, will market new brand-name consumer electronics, computers and peripherals, movie DVDs and computer games.

The Chicago-based company, majority owned by CMGI , said the move is part of a switch away from consumer-to-consumer auctions and toward more B2C. "...we're affirming uBid's focus as a leading business-to-consumer pipeline for computer and consumer electronics," said Christian Feuer, uBid CEO.