The Inside Source is eBay's latest announcement. The searching, buying, and selling habits of its 88 million active users have added up to an enormous dataset, one that could have easily been hoarded and sold to marketers, brands, and others with a vested interest in online retail and trends.
Although eBay isn't releasing raw stats into the wild, it is publishing editorial content and news on trends as well as a tag cloud of most popular searches right now. Coming soon are multimedia galleries and real-time visualizations of current eBay searches. Can we get an open API? Read on to find out.
The consumer-focused site is broken up into several sections of articles by topic as well as a general blog. In addition to getting information on fashion and pop culture, users can also browse articles on "green" products and tech gadgets. Users can login through Facebook Connect, although this feature appeared to be unusable at press time.
Here's a rather scripted video from editorial director Meredith Barnett:
According to emails we've exchanged with an Inside Source representative, the site's staff is working closely with eBay's analytics team to cull information on trends. The trends examined are as broad as correlation between events and increased searches for a term (e.g., celebrity wears knee-high boots at red carpet shindig; users start looking for knee-high boots on eBay) and as narrow as data such as were used for a recent post on a Rock & Roll Hall of Fame concert:
For kicks, we decided to do a comparison of all the Hall of Famers participating in the concert series (there's a second show at MSG tonight that includes U2, Metallica, Aretha Franklin, Lenny Kravitz, Ozzy Osbourne, Lou Reed, and more) to see which names popped up most frequently on eBay over the past week.
The results were pretty fascinating: in terms of keyword searches, Metallica was far and away the most sought after band among the bunch (more than 86,000 searches!)... Second to Metallica in frequency of keyword searches was U2 (75,190), followed by Bruce Springsteen (32,690). The number of search per artist dropped off significantly from there, with but Ozzy Osbourne coming in fourth (5,290) and Sting rounded out the top five at 4,570... The supply of concert tees correlates pretty well with the demand, with the top five live listings for the concert performers and the term "shirt" as follows as of this afternoon: Metallica (1,759), Ozzy Osbourne (327), Bruce Springsteen (376), U2 (680), BB King (61).
The editorial nature of the site also puts eBay in a unique position as both a retail outlet and a recommendation source. For example, The Inside Source features a widget on the left side of the page, a thumbnail gallery of most watched items featuring auctions from around the site. Clicking the thumbnail directs the user straight to the auction page for purchase decision making. And the post we linked to above ends in a series of recommended auctions.
While it's nice to know about trending topics, the site is also definitely geared toward encouraging positive user actions - by which we mean that eBay is still directing attention in ways that will increase sales. It would be really interesting to see more of the data released in a raw, less glossy-consumer-mag-style format. Currently, eBay offers one research-focused API, powered by AERS, for retrieving pricing information for a given search term. AERS offers a suite of tools for retrieving and parsing eBay user data, as well. Their API includes calls for popular items, trends, keywords, and more.