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New Zealand's longest-running online daily news and commentary publication, now in its 23rd year. The opinion pieces presented here are not purported to be fact but reasonable effort is made to ensure accuracy.

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Is it all about marketing?

27 February 2013

It wasn't too long ago that several new players in the online auction marketplace rolled out (or tried to roll out) their TradeMe-killer sites.

Wheedle was stillborn, ListSellTrade has failed to fire, and even the best of this bunch - Bananas4Free seems to be unable to create any critical mass.

Will that change now that TradeMe seems to have suffered a serious melt-down affecting many power-sellers and professional traders?

Unlikely.

Despite the fact that so very many people are so willing to bitch and moan about TM's fees, lousy service and bugs -- few seem willing to take a punt on the pretenders to the crown.

How silly.

Right now, anyone considering launching a TM-killer website ought to be spending a lot of time examining why it is that, despite the oft-admitted "hate" so many of its customers express towards the company, they continue to accept all its faults and fees.

Is it just the "critical mass" issue?

Certainly that's one major factor -- but I wonder if there isn't something else going on. After all, critical mass is something you'd expect to come over time, so long as you wait long enough and have a top-quality product.

Of course the issue is that we're a nation seeking "instant gratification". If we list an item on those other sites and it doesn't sell then we tend to think "waste of time" and simply throw it up on TM.

Surely, if the traders who are complaining so vocally were true to their convictions, they'd set aside some of their products for listing exclusively on their chosen TM-killer site, perhaps even offering a lower reserve or buy-now price so as to recognise the lower (or lack of) success fees involved.

But they don't.

For the vast majority, this means they get the crappy service and pay the outrageous fees they deserve.

Maybe it's the traders who need to invest (by way of their patronage and discounted prices) in these TM-alternatives -- if they really want a viable option for their listings.

And, if I was trying to market one of these contender-sites, my ad-spend would be going into a campaign that enticed every man, woman and child to list just one item on my site. Imagine if you got just a 10% success rate -- you'd have 400,000 listings and that *would* create a critical mass of foot-traffic through your virtual auction-room doors.

The problem with the current marketing campaigns is that they seem to focus on attracting the foot-traffic first and that just doesn't work. All that happens is that people wander through an empty framework -- noting nothing other than the fact that there is nothing to buy and writing-off the site as a viable option to TM.

Get folk listing their treasures and unwanted junk first. If your shelves are filled with such things, everyone who wanders in the virtual door will be surprised by the selection and return again - probably after telling their friends and families to do the same.

Could it be that the real reason these auction sites are dead in the water is because they're all putting the cart before the horse and don't have a clue about how to properly promote them to an audience that would really *love* to walk away from TradeMe?

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