Yasushi Fujita on eBay Japan

The University of Essex is hosting a conference on the cultures surrounding eBay. One of the accepted papers is by Yasushi Fujita of the University of Texas, looking at why eBay Japan failed. This is very interesting information for any internet entrepreneur in Japan.

An eBay Japan’s Mistake
Mr Yasushi Fujita
University of Texas
Everybody knows that eBay has succeeded globally, but does not know that there is a country where eBay had failed its business. It is Japan. Why was eBay’s business unsuccessful in Japan?
There had been a prior player “Yahoo! Japan Auctions” in Japanese Internet auction market. EBay founded eBay Japan, Inc. to defeat it or even eliminate it. But this challenge became unsuccessful and eBay Japan, Inc. was dissolved. Thereafter, eBay Headquarter released a statement mentioning that eBay was intending to acquire Japanese Internet auction companies (even including Yahoo! Japan Auctions), but eBay has performed nothing in Japanese market yet.
The auction items that eBay handles are thoroughly categorised and structured in directories. EBay users can reach an item which they want to bid on or purchase through tracing the directory tree. For instance, when you want to find a desktop PC memory module, you can trace directory layer of Computers & Networking > Desktop PC Components > Memory for Desktop PC in order, and may find an appropriate one.
EBay Japan, Inc., however, constructed and provided another approach, which depended strictly on its search engine function. For a category Computers & Networking, sub-directories were not prepared at all. A search engine was done instead. It should be obvious that this style is quite inconvenient for every user. When a user enter keywords “desktop memory” for his wishing item, a listed PC itself whose description includes memory amount would be also fetched.
In the same period, Google was about to magnify its business in Japan. Compared with Google, eBay Japan’s search function was insufficient and unsatisfactory for the users. It can be mentioned that poor usability eliminated eBay itself from Japan. Further survey about the parties who selected this inappropriate tactics may be needed.

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2 comments on “Yasushi Fujita on eBay Japan
  1. James Hart says:

    The Wharton Fellows program have also published a paper which looks at (among other issues) eBay Japan. They see Yahoo’s existing user base and understanding of the market as the key to their success. The paper is available in English and Japanese: http://knowledge.wharton.upenn.edu/weblink/127.cfm

  2. gman says:

    It’s an interesting theory. I’m really curious if that’s the real reason or if it’s just that eBay was first in the U.S. and Yahoo Auctions was first in Japan. With Yahoo Auctions being first if you wanted to sell something your best choice would be to go where the most number of buyers are and if you want to buy your going to go where ever the most stuff is. So all other things being equal who ever is first is most likely going to win, at least for net auctions. I seriously doubt interface really had much influence, at least in this case.