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I woke up, looked at the calendar and noted that it's Thursday 4th of October.
So... what did I do?
Well I rushed over to the country's newest online auction website List Sell Trade to see if they'd done a better job than Wheedle.
Hmmm... it's still saying "List Sell Trade is accepting registrations and listings now in preparation for our full launch on Thursday October 4th."
A more detailed review of the front page indicates that I'll have to wait until 3pm for the actual launch. What an odd time to launch a website -- what's wrong? Are all the support people having a bit of a sleep-in this morning in the full and certain knowledge that they may not see their pillows again for many long days?
But let's have a look at the LST business model.
To be a buyer, all you need to do is register on the website. This will allow you to bid on auctions and purchase items from the fixed-price listings.
That sounds okay -- just like TradeMe.
However, it would seem that LST are not really interested in attracting the casual sellers that bring such diversity to the TM marketplace.
If you want to list an item for sale you have to become a "subscriber" -- and that involves signing up for a $10 a month fee. That's $10 a month, every month -- whether you have any active listings or not.
Looks as if LST is not going to be at all attractive to the huge number of people who might only list items very occasionally -- they're clearly going after the business of the regular traders.
Now this might sound like a great idea, from the perspective of someone looking solely at the dollars.
Casual traders and the revenues their listings generate probably pale into insignificance when compared to the transactions generated by "power traders" who use sites like TM as their major shopfront.
However, I think LST has overlooked the huge effect that "casual" traders have on the very important issue of achieving critical mass.
TM boasts 3 million members (or something equally as silly) and the vast vast majority of these will be casual traders. (actually -- the vast majority will be non-traders I suspect).
Without this kind of critical mass, LST runs the risk of becoming irrelevant and simply becoming yet another backwater auction site that barely creates a trickle of transactions.
The reason people go to TM is as much because they can flick off the left-overs from the cleanout and garage sale they had last weekend. This means that if you're a buyer looking for some oddball item then you've got a good chance of finding it as a result of some casual trader's listing. Kill those casual traders by making them subscribe for $10 a month and you'll loose all the virtual foot-traffic that their listings create.
The power-sellers may turn up at 3pm this afternoon but even they won't bother coming back if the virtual foot-traffic dries up due to a paucity of diverse listings.
I may be wrong (it has to happen sooner or later) but I strongly believe that LST has woefully underestimated the value of casual listings and the part they play in creating the synergy that is so critical for a successful auction website.
What do readers think?
Would you ever use LST to list items if it meant signing up for a regular billing of $10 per month -- or would you simply go to TM and pay for what you use?
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