CQout: There really is life beyond eBay
By Dave Bromley
If you read the popular press you might be forgiven for thinking
that there was only one online auction site on the Internet. Ebay
with its massive publicity machine grabs all the headlines. In fairness,
they do have 95% of the market, but there are some interesting UK-based
challengers emerging from the pack.
It's unlikely that any rival will be in a position to seriously
challenge eBay for the number one spot. However, I think that there's
an opportunity emerging for a UK company to take a fair slice of
the market. Recently I've been looking at a range of online auctions
and one particularly has caught my eye and my interest. If you haven't
yet discovered CQout (pronounced "Seek You Out") I'd recommend
you visit the site at www.CQout.com.
This is no "me too" eBay clone but an auction site that
has taken its own path to offer online auction buyers and sellers
what they claim to want: tighter security, no listing fees and decent
customer service. CQout is the only online auction site that I know
that charges a one-off registration fee, £2 by credit or debit
card, but when you think about it, the logic for doing so is pretty
Although you can browse the site for free, I was initially surprised
to find I'd have to pay the registration fee even if I only wanted
to buy. Thinking it through, I can see how this can prevent "shill
bidding" (a user registering several IDs and then bidding on
their own items to push the price up- and believe me, it does happen!).
Next time your bid is pushed up several pounds by the seller bidding
against you under an alias, you may realise that paying a £2
one-off fee to a site which eliminates this practice is actually
very good value.
Debiting your card with this minimal fee (after all, what can you
buy for £2 these days?) allows CQout to confirm that a user's
address and the other details are genuine. I was also most impressed
after I registered to receive a phone call to confirm my acceptance.
No doubt another security check and it left me with the impression
that here was a company that really cared about security and was
not just paying lip service to the concept.
As Tony Newton, a founder Director of CQout told me,
"We know that a registration fee and the associated checks
put some potential users off, but if these keep out fraudsters then
every genuine user who does join is better off: they know that they're
joining a secure, trustworthy trading community. Coupled with our
CQ Trusted Seller certification scheme that requires certain high
standards, time has proved our registration strategy to be right."
This would most certainly appear to be the case. Despite the fact
that they use virtually no advertising and rely instead on recommendation
and word of mouth, CQout is now second only to eBay in the UK, judged
by the number of items offered for sale.
One feature that will appeal to all auction sellers is the fact
that basic listings are free. Enhancement and final listing fees
are also considerably lower than eBay's.
CQout launched in 1999. After a slow start, which is typical of
most new auction sites, they are now growing rapidly. A year ago
they had users in 39 countries: now it is 58. A powerful feature
is that users can place and view auctions in their local currency.
Although a general auction site, CQout is gaining a reputation
in specialist categories including movie memorabilia and music,
and recently seems to be gathering momentum as a result of sellers
moving to the site and bringing all their existing customers with
them: a clever touch is that some sellers are even offering to refund
the CQout registration fee from their first purchase as a means
of easing their customers' transition to CQout.
The challenge for any auction site is to attract enough buyers.
Free listings will always attract the "well I have nothing
to lose" brigade, but unless there are buyers any auction site
will eventually fail. Says CQout Managing Director Siamak Bashi,
"Lots of players have come and gone since we started in 1999:
some spent a fortune on advertising which could never be recouped,
others offered everything for free- which doesn't make for a sustainable
business. We're in this business for the long haul, which means
recognising and remembering that customer service is king."
CQout has proved that it can attract users by offering a secure
and fair trading environment. It may not be as big, bold and brash
as its American rival but it does have a rather friendly reassuring
feel that I like. Why don't you visit the site and give it a look,
you could be surprised: www.CQout.com
Dave Bromley is the publisher of the twice monthly newsletter
UK Auction Line and author of The UK Auction Line Double CD video/audio
tutorial and "The Path to Power Selling"
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