eBay Motors app infographicEnlarge Photo
We expected the eBay Motors app to arrive in March, but it missed that deadline by a couple of months. Now that it's finally arrived, can the app redeem itself by preserving eBay's standing as a worthwhile shopping destination?
There's no denying that eBay has lost luster over the past few years. When the site launched in 1995, it was heralded as a paradise of laissez-faire economics -- a wonderland where value and demand were linked, and grandmothers could become overnight millionaires by unloading Lladro figurines.
As eBay grew, however, it became increasingly difficult for users to find things they needed. Savvy sellers included keywords to lure searchers to unrelated lots. Shoppers began migrating toward more curated marketplaces. Even the equally large Amazon trumped eBay with its popular "recommendations" feature.
To eBay's credit, the company got into the mobile game very early, launching one of the first apps in Apple's App Store. But that hasn't made the site's search function any better -- in fact, given the smaller screens on mobile devices, search is now more frustrating than ever. The situation is only going to deteriorate as a recent survey of mobile phone users found that more people would rather shop from their phones and tablets than from a PC.
Add those facts together, and eBay has some ground to recover. The company is putting a lot of its eggs in the basket of eBay Motors -- a sub-site where tinkerers and fix-it-yourselfers still go to find the stuff they need. Can the eBay Motors app save the day?
At this point, no.
Upon first glance, the app seems promising. Crack it open, and you're given the chance to create an online "garage" for your cars. In the best of all possible worlds, you'd be able to store your vehicle data here, then quickly find parts and accessories that fit your needs.
Sadly, that isn't how it works. For starters, eBay Motors doesn't have a full auto database. It maintains a record of models available by year -- so if you punch in "Ford" and "2010", you can select your model from a list -- but that's it. You even need to type in the sort of transmission on your ride, which doesn't inspire a lot of confidence. A full database -- like the kind found on nearly any classified site -- would give users some options to choose from and provide a veneer of reliability.
But the worst part is that search is still a nightmare. During our test run, we had two options when searching: (1) we could hit "search" and get a full list of parts and accessories for our vehicle, which numbered in the hundreds, or (2) we could enter some search terms (after enabling that function in the "refine" submenu) and somehow get even more listings than there were before -- most of which were irrelevant.
We're big fans of eBay Motors, but at this point, the app works better in theory than in practice. Here's hoping that eBay gives it a tune-up in future updates.The eBay Motors app is currently available for iPhone only and can be downloaded by clicking here.