eBay is taking another step into high-end auctions. Delivering on a partnership announced last summer, eBay is today launching a new area of its website built specifically for the auction house Sotheby's. The section provides a much cleaner and more informative experience than you'd find elsewhere on the site and allows visitors to register for online access to live auctions.
eBay wants expensive auctions, Sotheby's wants access to millions of potential bidders
While browsing items up for auction at Sotheby's, you'll be able to quickly skip from one item to the next and read information about each piece. There will also be editorial content interspersed, targeted toward new collectors.
Sotheby's plans to feature a variety of item types on eBay, including photos, paintings, sculptures, and jewelry. "We're really engaging and calling out the items for sale that may appeal to an online audience," Josh Pullan, e-commerce director for Sotheby's, tells The Verge. For now, only items at its New York location will be included.
The intention, from both eBay and Sotheby's, is to make high-end auctions accessible to a broader audience. Sotheby's already offers online bidding through its own site, but its site is more likely to be used by people who feel comfortable in that high-end world. eBay, on the other hand, has 155 million active buyers who it can introduce these auctions to.
"When you pair that with Sotheby's ... it really opens the doors of our brick-and-mortar auditions in New York," Pullan says. "And [it] does so in a way that's really engaging and, we think, exciting."
eBay says that its goal is to give people the same rush you'd get being in the actual auction room. It already offers live auctions through other partners, and that experience isn't changing here. Live auctions from Sotheby's will have a number of items being sold in succession, and the auction page will switch from one to the next after each item is sold. In many cases, live video feed of the auction will be streamed on the page.
eBay and Sotheby's partnered over a decade ago and failed
Notable, this is not the first attempt at a partnership between eBay and Sotheby's. The two companies partnered over a decade ago, in 2002, for about a year before calling it quits. Asked why it'll work this time around, eBay says that it's just a matter of how much technology has changed. "That was a bit too head of its time, frankly," one company representative tells The Verge.
And eBay has at least some reason to believe that these pricey auctions can actually catch on this time. It says that collectibles accounted for $8 billion of its business last year, and that more than 3,500 auctions each day close with prices above $5,000. Live auctions, which launched in October, are already responsible for "regularly" selling art and jewelry in the $15,000 to $25,000 range. Attracting eBay buyers willing to spend that much will be necessary to make auctions from Sotheby's work, and the hope is that this new website will get their attention.