eBay Brings Back Real-Time Auctions

Would you stop by eBay for a real-time auction of valuable art or collectibles? Five years ago, the company got rid of their live auctions, though they never really made the reason clear. Now they’ve partnered up with Invaluable, a company that handles online bidding for auctions of much higher-end merchandise than typical eBay fare.

eBay has made a few attempts at entering the fancy live auction business: early on, they bought and then divested themselves of auction houses Butterfield & Butterfield and Kruse. A service called eBay Live Auctions filled this niche for a while, but eBay ended the service at the beginning of 2009. “In the case of Live Auctions, maintaining and improving this platform falls outside our immediate focus, and will, therefore, be retired at the end of the year,” they announced shortly beforehand. It probably didn’t help that the company was being sued over a form of alleged shill bidding through the Live Auctions platform.

Now, an eBay executive tells Ina Steiner of EcommerceBytes, technology has improved enough in the interim that they’re going to give live auctions another try. Instead of a separate brand and site, instead they will simply offer live auction items among the results whenever a customer searches for collectibles that might be available.

What’s the biggest difference for users between 2009 and now? More of us are walking around with smartphones in our pockets, which from eBay’s point of view might as well be millions of tiny, push-notifying bidding devices. Steiner speculates that this may be why eBay is trying live auctions anew: the combination of customers carrying computers in our pockets 24/7 and eBay not getting a piece of the $8 billion high-end auction market is simply too much for the company to resist.

eBay Revives Live Auctions after a Five Year Absence [EcommerceBytes]