When eBay introduced collections a few months ago I wondered if they were a replacement for their not-so-slick lists. Themselves a fairly new extension of the veteran Watch List, lists were a way to categorize all those things you “watch” – often with no real intention to buy. They encourage the rampant window shopping that, if other members are like me, makes up the vast majority of time spent on eBay. Unfortunately, lists don’t have a sexy* user interface and are buried under vague navigation clicks. The result is they’re forgotten just as quickly as they’re made.
Collections amp up the “sex” appeal of list-making by presenting collected items in the fluid grid format that modern web users have come to expect. So, while not particularly innovative, they are definitely easier on the eyes. They also add a social element in that they are public and can be followed by other members. In fact, I was reminded of my desire to blog about eBay’s new content ventures by a nice little email that alerted me to a new follower. It’s notable that the focus of the notice is on visiting this followers profile, rather than on directing you back to your own collection. This fact seems to solidify collections as part of a new social content strategy, rather than being a direct driver of sales. That is, from a buyer’s perspective.
On the other hand, collections could be a slick way for sellers to present inventory in a way that has a editorial element. For webmasters and the like this immediately provokes a desire for an embeddable collection. Currently, togo.ebay.com offers beta stage widgets that lets you embed items currently for sale. The design and function of these are very limited, however. They are dynamic banner ads, at best. I predict this little neglected corner will soon go the way of eBay blogs.
There have been many visible changes on eBay recently. Some are hits, some are misses, and all seem to demonstrate a real push to move the industry giant into the modern web world. It’s smart business, considering the many niche resale sites that pop up on a daily basis. If eBay can keep up by evolving it’s aesthetics and functionality (or even just remain a step behind), it will continue to dominate the market.
*Things that are sexy visually stunning, contextually captivating, and highly motivational.