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My questions require a fair bit of background information, so please bare with me.

We have an e-commerce app that lets users sell their records. To simplify the selling process we populated our database with a large collection of existing records. This allows sellers to search and select a record to sell, choose a price and an condition, and create their listing.

Our business rules represent the items as unique individual units, and the products as profiles in our database associated with items.

This forces the checkout process to be "Product centric" as opposed to "Item centric". In other words, when you search, or visit a product page, you're not looking at the actual item a seller wants to sell. Rather, you'll see the product profile, and along with it with a number of buying options. Each buying option corresponds to a different seller, different price, and a different condition.

Simply put "Here's the product and it's info, and here are the different sellers selling it." Although the sellers remain anonymous.

This leads to some questions:

  1. When looking at a product, how should we prioritise the sellers?

We plan to display a single listing for each item condition (New, Excellent, Good, Record Only), giving the buyer a choice. But how do we choose those items? Based on price or the order they were listed?

Prioritising price means sellers who list first, but at a higher price, may never sell. This approach may also have implications for "promoted items."

Prioritising listing date may cause an item to never sell if the first seller has a very high price.

  1. Our design decisions mean the catalogue index page will list unique products from our database. Only once a product page is visited by buyers will they see different buying options from all the sellers who listed an item. Is this a good approach?

We considered making the catalogue index "item centric." Instead of listing products from our db, we could list actual items listed by sellers. This means users will be able to visit pages associated with unique items, instead of a product profile with a bunch of sellers.

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"Prioritising price means sellers who list first, but at a higher price, may never sell." Isn't this a good thing? –  Brendon Jul 9 '13 at 23:09
    
I think so. But we're reluctant to to commit to an approach without knowing if it stifles transactions. –  Micky Jul 9 '13 at 23:23

1 Answer 1

up vote 2 down vote accepted

You could consider allowing user transaction feedback to order sellers on the listing page, this way the better sellers would float to the top and sellers would be encouraged to make transactions go smoothly and list products with honestly described conditions.

You could also allow customers to order the listings, three ways immediately spring to mind: by price; by condition; and by seller rating (assuming you implement the above).

On the second question you will need to consider how the listings pages may end up. For example, searching for a popular artist will return many records, even if you just list products. You could list items, but be aware that if 50 people all list the same record you will be expecting users to scroll through a lot of repetitive entries.

Are you aware of http://discogs.com ? They have been working on solving this problem for at least a decade, you may want to have a look at how they do things for inspiration.

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Thank you. Great answer. Unfortunately I can not vote you up since I don't have enough rep. On a side note, interesting suggestion re sellers ratings. We're trying to eliminate that aspect of the process, leaving sellers largely anonymous. But that should not prevent us from using some ratings system. Thanks for the link too. –  Micky Jul 9 '13 at 23:01
    
@Micky: you could indeed implement the rating system even when your users remain anonymous. Anonymous does not mean unidentifiable and, all else being (almost) equal (condition/price) seller rating is about the only means shoppers have of selecting from whom to buy. –  Marjan Venema Jul 10 '13 at 16:51
    
It's true, ebay users may have names, but they really are anonymous. I know nothing about them and only care that the transaction is carried out professionally. –  ColinSharpe Jul 10 '13 at 16:55

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