Exploring Sellers' Experiences in the C2C Online Auction Environment
Online auction websites are becoming increasingly important as an intermediary for both sellers and buyers. They offer consumers an alternative source of goods to those sold at retail stores and other second-hand traditional consumer-to-consumer (C2C) channels, such as garage sales or flea markets. They also represent a new market model which incorporates a new distribution channel and a new means of establishing prices. Some researchers predict that retailers are now facing a new competition and the potential for declining sales as a result of the cannibalisation effect of the C2C online auction market. Noticeably, although much research has been carried out in an attempt to understand online auctions in relation to buying behaviour, little effort has been made to investigate the dynamic nature of individual sellers, in particular C2C sellers, in the online auction environment. Therefore, this study is aimed at filling in the gaps by exploring the sellers' behaviour and experiences in the C2C online auction environment. Its objectives are: (1) to explore the learning process that individual sellers go through in the C2C online auction environment; and (2) to find out what skills and techniques are commonly used by sellers and how these skills have been applied when marketing their products in the online auction environment. This study used a qualitative method, and a market-oriented ethnography was adopted. Data was collected through semi-structured in-depth interviews with sellers on TradeMe and from a wide range of archival documents. Nineteen sellers were recruited to participate into this study. Consequently, a learning model has been built, based on the consumer socialisation model, to explain the learning process of sellers as they become experienced in the C2C online auction environment. The findings from this study highlighted that sellers went through a learning process to become more experienced in online auctions. Moreover, different learning methods occurred at different stages of the learning process, including social interaction, observing and imitating, rewards and punishments, and other sources of information. This study also demonstrated the fact that sellers both implicitly and explicitly perceived the importance of marketing strategies and tactics and had extensively applied them. Several implications and recommendations arise from this study, including the need for more in-depth research on sellers' behaviour and experiences, using a longitudinal approach. Additionally, it is recommended that TradeMe should continue to improve their auction site in order to attract more sellers which, in turn, will lead to a greater number of buyers.