Skype Diving into E-Commerce

Tuesday Jun 20th 2006 by Ed Sutherland
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eBay adds 'Skype Me' buttons into its auction listings.

Last year, eBay bought Skype for a hefty $2.6 billion, insisting the purchase would enhance the online marketplace. Since then, the online auction house has looked for ways to integrate the Internet phone company.

The online auction powerhouse seems to have found a solution as it now lets users integrate Skype into more than a dozen categories of listings. A "Skype Me" button will allow buyers and sellers to stay in contact on higher-priced items from cars to cameras

"Skype represents a tremendous opportunity for our sellers to connect even more closely with their buyers," said Bill Cobb, president of eBay North America, in a written statement.

In the pilot program that began June 19, sellers can add a Skype Me button to listings. The button then appears in the "Ask a seller a question" section when buyers view the item. Selecting the button will allow interested persons to contact the seller by voice, as well as text.

The service will be free once users download the Skype software and purchase headsets. Categories chosen for the Skype button include those with items that are pricier than usual, complex or elicit a high volume of questions, according to eBay.

The integration of Skype solves two nagging problems for high-value online transactions. Buyers want to talk to sellers, but sellers don't want to give out their phone numbers said Lydia Leong, a Gartner analyst. The Skype option "fosters transactional trust," Leong said.

For Skype to compete, it must also break out of the cheaper phone call mentality. Voice minutes are fundamentally commoditized, according to the analyst. "The real value is bringing things together," Leong said.

Smooth communication is at the core of e-commerce, eBay said. "We are watching Skype take its first steps into the e-commerce mainstream," Henry Gomes, eBay's North America general manager, said in a statement.

Items that have a local component, such as products requiring local delivery or pick up are also prime categories for using Skype. Additionally, collectibles are also deemed ideal for the click-to-call feature.

In another effort to widen the use of Skype, top PC maker Dell said it would the free VoIP software on its new high-end laptops. That followed news Skype will suspend calling charges when calling out to regular phones.

Adapted from Internetnews.com.

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