Shopping on eBay is more like navigating a street marketplace than visiting a department store. Disparate vendors sell their wares without any real coordination. As a result, buyers must visit each and everyone of them to ensure that they’re getting the best deal. And with each visit, they must cope and make sense of new advertising spins and types of service.
Wigix launches in public beta today with the intent to standardize online marketplace listings, and consequently make it easier for consumers to find the products they desire. Its SKU-based system (SKU, as in the fact sheets used to describe inventoried items) forces sellers to group their goods with others who are selling essentially the same product. This allows buyers to get a more complete overview of their options, and it allows for many other opportunities as well.
For example, with the SKU system, buyers and sellers can search for item listings using more intelligent search. Type “ipod” into Wigix’s search, and it will automatically suggest all the possible iPod models that one can sell and buy through the site. The search results don’t show actual items for sale, but types of items (“Apple iPod photo 160GB” or “Apple iPod mini 4GB”). It’s only once you click on one of these results that you can see who’s selling it.
Each SKU page shows not only the current sellers but general overview information for the product as well. This includes the current market value, the recent changes in that value, reviews, specs, and more. Users who own the product but haven’t officially put it on sale can list themselves as owners just in case someone wants to come along and make them an offer they can’t refuse. This Zillow-make-me-move-like feature should change the way many people view their possessions (not just dead items but stores of exchangeable value).
Wigix can also track how prices for goods change over time, which in addition to the bid/ask aspect of the site, makes it operate very much like a stock exchange.
The service’s biggest hurdle, of course, will be to draw enough vendors and shoppers away from eBay . It’s hoping its pricing structure will produce the right incentives to do that. There is no cost to list items under $25. Between $25-100, the site takes one dollar from the buyer and one from the seller. And for more expensive items, it claims an additional 2% of the sale price.
Wigix also supports its operations by running targeted advertisements on SKU pages, such as ones for items on Amazon. Since Wigix is a place only for identifiable goods (no collectibles here, at least yet), it’s easy to serve up ads for the same products found elsewhere on the net.