IDEA #11 – Classifieds by Cell – The Long Tail of Used Goods that has yet to Emerge

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Currently it can take 5+ minutes to list anything for sale online — I’m proposing a process of less than 1 minute … and tapping into the long tail of items in people’s homes that they would sell (garage sale type items), if they had a quick way of listing the items.

Market / Problem being solved: Yes there is eBay for tons of used products, as well as Craigslist that has an emphasis on localized buying/selling of used products — but what about all the items that you’d typically find at a garage sale or flea market? I bet eBay and Craigslist are only 20% of the potential of products that could be sold online — I bet there’s an 80% long tail of items in people’s homes that they just don’t want to waste the time (given current listing options online) to list these items.

I have 3 used DSL modems, a watch, some music CDs, and DVDs that I’ll never list for sale online, because I don’t want to spend more than 1-minute listing each. The current process would require me to photograph the item, get the photo on my computer, then upload the photo to the site — and if eBay, take at least 5-30 minutes to list the item for sale. If Craigslist, likely 5 minutes (with the photo transferring / upload time included).

I’m proposing a 1-minute or less method of posting an item for sale — using your cell phone…

SMS is expensive — I’d use the email-to-text capabilities of cell phones. Have users register at this website once by inputting their cell phone number, send them a message with a code; user verifies their cell, then allow them to start posting.

User simply records a video or takes photos of something they want to sell — and sends it to an email address they store in their cell’s address book. Once the system receives the message, the system auto-dials the user by voice phone (using VXML technology). The user is then prompted a couple questions —

  1. Is the item available for local delivery only (or can it be shipped national/international)?
  2. How much are you seeking for the item in # of dollars?
  3. Record up to a 3-minute audio description.
  4. Do you have additional photos/videos you’d like to add to the listing? If yes, the system will send a specific text message to the user’s phone with a code in it corresponding to this item. The user simply hits reply to that text message with more photos / videos they want to attach to the listing.

The user can easily login to the website to make quick updates to the title/description/price for any of their items for sale — using AJAX technology, so that the changes are very easy/quick for the seller. The seller can also choose a category for their items that are for sale, to help buyers find their items.
Buyers use the website to surf all the items for sale. They can purchase the item instantly — or if the item is cash only, the buyer can put the item on a “pending sale” — which notifies the seller via text message (and possibly the seller/buyer are connected by voice using VXML).

To ensure listings don’t get out of date, we’ll contact the seller every 2 weeks to verify their items are still for sale — if we don’t hear from them within a week of that contact, we put their items ‘pending verification they are still for sale’ status.

Also, to create higher quality listings — users could update listings they view. We might also incorporate simple speech-to-text software (WizzScribe SI (Speaker Independent) for Linux – $3,400 CPU license), which will help somewhat in getting some text associated to an item for sale — we’d convert the (up to) 3 minute audio description that the seller leaves.

Possible revenue streams: Charging the buyer a fee to get contact information of the seller. Charging the seller a fee to get contact information of the buyer. Charging a one-time listing fee per item for sale (items can stay online for sale for forever). Connecting the buyer/seller via voice phone call — forcing either/both to listen to an audio ad by phone. If we get the mass community of buyers/sellers using the website, we simply do advertising on the site — and/or charge for specific listings, such as cars, apartments, homes, and/or jobs.
What do you think is the revenue stream?

Further use of this technology: Listing apartments for rent, homes for sale, automobiles for sale, etc. Eventually the ability for buyers to inquire using text messaging on their cell phone to get photos/videos/text about a specific item for sale (or standing in front of an apartment and getting a video tour on their cell phone; or standing in front of a car at a dealership and getting a video tour on their cell phone).

Trick is getting the mass community. eBay and Craigslist already have the big community, while competitors such as LiveDeal, and newbies Cellit and IQZone all try to establish brand / communities. I would partner with Oodle.com, Google Base, edgeio, and any others to spread the item listings.