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eBay Launches Yet Another Fashion Channel; Chicsters Click and Yawn

ebay fashion site home pageeBay (EBAY) is introducing new channels to sell fashion on its site faster than a stylista can jump into her J Brand skinny jeans. First, there was the Narciso Rodriguez exclusive collection, and then last week I posted on eBay's Fashion Vault's latest flash sale of French Connection threads. Though each broke new ground for the online auctioneer, these initiatives do little more than play copycat to successful retailers such as Target (TGT) with GO International and Gilt Groupe, the members-only e-commerce site that offers the added cachet of luxury goods at limited-time-only availability.

But eBay hasn't stopped with imitating these chicsters of clickable couture. The company just launched a new site that it's touting as the "new enhanced shopping destination for clothing, shoes, and accessories." Enhanced for eBay perhaps. But for those who cut their teeth -- err, credit cards -- on the ease of the basic functionality on sites from J. Crew (JCG) to Bloomingdale's (M) -- well, not so much. Let's break it down.

The home page got a makeover. And it looks vaguely familiar. Take an artful collage of apparel and accessories a la Anthropologie's (URBN) home page. Add a white and grey design palette courtesy, add a dash of Gap-owned PiperLime's stylish display (GPS) and voila! There's nothing really groundbreaking here, not even the "cloud" of most used terms (in eBay's case, it's a listing of popular brands). Personal blogs have deployed this feature for several years now.

There's a "fashion tab" right at the top of the page. That's not innovative -- it should be inherent. Shoppers can't buy if they can't browse. I just wonder what took them so long to figure out that no one wants to browse more than 19 million average daily listings. They just want to search, click, and buy.

The "New Look" features both gallery views of items as well as "quick looks" which pop individual items out and list details on price and size. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, many other shopping sites already have this feature.

"Editorial Merchandising" will be provided by fashion insiders and stylists, a whole stable of them, according to eBay. So far, the only one I can find is on the homepage in which Karen Bard suggests, "Think of ruffles as the ultimate accessory -- no need to wear a necklace, just rock the built in embellishment." eBay says it will additionally offer a "Fashion Voice" (which I can't find) that profiles the site's editorial contributors.

The minimalist hipsters over at Theory trotted out their own hand-picked stylists on a revamped e-commerce site back in February. Though it's still too early to tell how that will affect the brand's sales, one of the comments that post received said it all:

Personally, I am sick of every e commerce site having too many bells and whistles just for the sake of having them and checking the "innovative" box. Marketing teams need to start thinking about the brand, and stop adding the newest trends in e-commerce if they don't fit.

What does fit eBay in this new channel is the image similarity technology. Shoppers can see "more like this" when they click an item. Again, it's not a new concept ( pioneered the feature) but it's a good one. The problem? It's hard to find. Clicking products only takes me to auction sites where some sellers feature a rotator that displays all they have for sale. Only the "quick look" of an item offers the option to see more and then it takes you to a gallery of items where the only similarity is the color. An Abercrombie kid's dress took me to a host of blue dresses -- for women.

Taken together, this latest attempt is merely ho-hum. eBay's got an uphill climb if it truly wants to remake itself into a fashion destination.