(last updated July 2019)
As the eBay community grew and the number of transactions increased, a range of special tools and services was added to the site to make sure that it continued to run smoothly. Features available to buyers and sellers include the PayPal online payment service, online dispute resolution, customisable eBay 'Shops' and special software to help sellers to list multiple items and manage their auctions. eBay continues to add new features to its website to meet the needs of its community. Sometimes it makes big changes - for example in 2008 it changed the way the search feature works and also abolished negative feedback for buyers. In Spring 2011, eBay introduced the 'shopping basket' which makes shopping on eBay for fixed price items more convenient for the buyer and eBay continues to roll out and update its mobile apps for shoppers using handheld devices.
The 'eBay economy'
Although eBay was originally designed as a way for private sellers and collectors to sell their unwanted items to private buyers, it didn't take the business world long to spot the potential of online auctions and fixed price listings. Existing businesses realised that, by selling on eBay, they increased their potential market to millions of users. (eBay claims that 75% of eBay Shop sellers surveyed said that opening an eBay shop had increased their sales.) Others spotted opportunities to find bargains at car boot sales, surplus outlets and wholesalers and make a profit by reselling them on eBay. Still others realised that they could run a traditional retail business but without premises, enabling them to attract buyers by undercutting the High Street shops. Many major businesses such as Sports Direct, Argos and Tesco now use eBay as an additional sales channel for new items, to get rid of old stock and surplus inventory and to sell refurbished items that customers have returned.
More and more people now make their living from their eBay business, enjoying the benefits of being their own boss, working from home and choosing their own working hours while still being 'open for business' 24 hours every day.
The eBay boom has even created its own dedicated industry as people have written numerous books on how to buy and sell and produced a range of third party software to help users get the most out of eBay.
Buying and selling on eBay is part of the wider ecommerce sector and this has seen strong growth in recent years, bucking the generally downward trend on the High Street during the late 2000s and 2010s. The sector is not immune to the general economic situation, however, and the value of ecommerce transactions, which peaked in 2013, fell in 2014 and 2015 before starting to recover again in 2016 and 2017. The value of transactions was, however, still down 9% on the 2013 value. Ecommerce sales are forecast to continue to grow, further boosted by the popularity of using smartphones and tablets to shop online.
Other online auctions
Although eBay is the biggest and best known online auction site, it is by no means the only one. Another is eBid, which offers free listings. Amazon Marketplace, although it doesn't have auction listings, offers a similar range of online buying and selling services that commercial sellers (not private individuals) can take advantage of.
Keeping up with developments
Once you've got to grips with eBay and the way it works you'll want to stay up to date with new developments. The eBay website has a 'Community' section which includes chatboards and forums, news and information about events and education. eBay also has a news and announcements section, where you can find out about developments as they happen.