Buyers and sellers cruising the dedicated Irish eBay site can now haggle using Skype free internet voice calls and instant messaging service. Sellers will be able to include a "Skype Me" button on the eBay.ie listings page accessible to buyers.
By clicking the button, buyers can talk to sellers or use Skype instant messenger at no extra cost to ask about items and discuss arrangements for the delivery of goods.
These "click to call" features through which eBay customers can contact sellers directly via text message or voice calls are perhaps the first manifestation of eBay's expensive $2.6bn acquisition of Skype in October.
Users of eBay who wish to use the free voice call service will probably have to invest in earphones or microphones if their computer does not already have a Skype phone.
Skype Me will go live on 4 July in Ireland, Britain, France, the United States, the Benelux countries, Canada, China, Taiwan and the Philippines. It is understood the service will be a pilot programme and used to evaluate Skype amongst different types of goods and user communities.
The eBay.ie Skype service will be trialled in the art, antiques, stamps, coins, pottery and glass, sports memorabilia, real estate, baby products, musical instruments, and audio consumer electronics categories. A spokeswoman explained these categories had been chosen because of the high value of goods traded and the possible necessity of buyer and seller getting in contact to negotiate issues such as shipment.
"This is a really exciting area of integration for Skype and eBay and will make it even easier for buyers and sellers to communicate," eBay Ireland customer development head John McElligott said. "We expect it will reassure buyers while dramatically increasing both the number and value of sales."
A statement from eBay.ie said the introduction of Skype follows extensive research amongst buyers and sellers. Sellers felt the opportunity to communicate more with buyers and share information about their products would smooth the purchase process. Buyers agreed the service would help them learn more about both seller and product.
Skype head of developer relations Len Pryor said in an interview last week that the company has been testing Skype integration with eBay in five small markets in Asia and Europe, including Belgium.
eBay is not the only internet giant experimenting with internet telephony (VoIP). Google recently launched its Google Talk service, which allows users of its instant messenger program to chat over the internet. Microsoft has also got in on the act, acquiring small VoIP company Teleo, while rival Yahoo recently bought DialPad.
Skype has become increasingly popular in recent months, as more users join the VoIP craze. According to a report from Analysys, up to 32m workers in Europe will be using VoIP by 2010, while spending in the sector will surge to €12bn within the next four years.
In Ireland, eBay has 200,000 registered Irish users. According to the auction site, an item in the computing and music categories is sold by an Irish seller every four minutes, while an item of clothing or an object from the collectible category is bought every two minutes. DVDs and auto parts are also popular purchases for Irish buyers.
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