NDES news: EBay targets small-business customers

26 Feb, 2004 By: Sara Ferris

Along with Beanie Babies, Barbie convertibles, and other collectibles, eBay has been quietly selling hardware, machinery, parts, and other equipment to the tune of $2 billion in business sales for 2003. Now eBay is targeting business buyers and sellers with an assortment of features designed to build awareness of the variety of goods and potential cost savings available on eBay. A related goal is to encourage businesses to look at eBay as a distribution channel for their goods and services, says Laurence Toney, eBay’s senior category manager, business and industrial.

The eBay business site brings together all business-related listings (figure 1). Categories include industries such as construction, metalworking, electronic components, process equipment, and specialty manufacturing. Some categories can be browsed by region. You can also browse office equipment listings such as monitors, desktop and notebook computers, copiers, and software.

eBay business site

Figure 1. eBay's business marketplace.

A resource center targets small businesses with workshops, articles, tips, and discussion groups that cover general challenges and issues. Through April 15, you can also register for a promotion with a top prize of $50,000 in eBay Anything Points as the top prize.

Also new is an equipment financing service provided by Direct Capital Corp. Business buyers can finance industrial equipment and information technology purchases of $2,000 and more. Eligible categories include computers, networking, telecom, construction, agriculture, metalworking, restaurant, commercial printing and medical equipment.

What sort of savings can you expect on eBay? METALQUEST, a contract manufacturer, has used eBay to purchase a telephone system, servers, and machine tools and parts. Company founder and president Scott Harms estimates he’s saved more than a quarter of a million dollars by shopping on eBay.

“If I need something the next day, it may still be useful to go through traditional channels,” says Harms. “But 75% of the time, I can get it faster on eBay and the cost savings are phenomenal.” He also notes that many of the parts he buys are new and still under warranty: “eBay allows us to overbuild and overengineer a machine for maximum reliability and still save money.”

A quick search for the Dell UltraSharp 2001FP, which earned a highly recommended rating in our recent LCD monitor review, returned eight matches. Most appear to be new, and current top bids ranged from US$320 to $660. Buy It Now options were $775 and $795. Estimated street price for the Dell monitor is $999. You can also find wide-format scanners and plotters, along with supplies such as ink cartridges and paper.

Buying software online can be tricky. Be sure to read the full product description to make sure it’s not an academic or limited version. Also check with the seller about anything that’s not clear from the product description—for example, whether the software has been registered already.

Most of the CAD programs listed on eBay are relatively low-cost applications such as TurboCAD and AutoCAD LT. Midrange and higher applications are represented mainly by training materials. Ebay is a good place to look for discontinued products or old versions—AutoVision v2 for AutoCAD Release 13 or Graphisoft MiniCAD 5 for the Mac, to list two examples found recently.