QXL Exchange and LastMinute have been receiving a good deal of
attention in the mainstream and industry press, in the last few
It’s a great story, which begins two years ago with the launch of
Quixell (as it was known before the name change) by Tim Jackson and
Brent Hoberman. It was the UK and Europe’s first online auction site,
using a successful model taken from similar sites in the US. Users could
bid for products on the site in auctions that had end points fixed in
time. A bid increment was set and the auction kept going with the top
dog taking away the product at the final bell. The site was (and still
is) pioneering, and has continued to grow at a good rate with product
range and features added all the time.
A new development on the site is the Exchange. This allows users to
auction their own goods on the site. QXL acts as a facilitator putting
the buyers in touch with the sellers (no charges are made and no
commission is taken).
Sellers may choose to use QXL’s transaction and distribution services,
where a charge is made - or opt for free methods.
Making money from this is not the real revenue stream for QXL - the
intention, I am sure, is to develop a large, profiled user base offering
endless opportunities for marketing folk.
During Quixell’s rise, Brent Hoberman left to set up his own company
and, in the middle of 1998, LastMinute appeared on the scene.
LastMinute offers (unsurprisingly) last-minute deals on almost
everything from weekend breaks and theatre tickets to perfume and
underwear. LastMinute sources these deals from everywhere and anywhere
and operates a publishing system so it can add the offers to its site
straightaway. This means that, once it has secured an offer, the user
can buy it almost immediately. The online payment system is
straightforward and, I am told, the distribution service is good.
LastMinute is competing with QXL’s original site (which now offers
holiday breaks and gifts in addition to the core products of PC hardware
and electronics) but the experience for the user is different. On
LastMinute, you can get the items there and then, without participating
in an auction.
The immediacy is appealing and, with prices on QXL sometimes spiralling
above normal shop prices, it’s worth noting LastMinute’s price promise:
it will refund the price of the item plus pounds 20 if you can find it
at a lower price elsewhere.
A possible contender for auction at either of these sites this time next
year is the Millennium Dome. This site could be considered to be an
accurate reflection of the Dome’s current status in the minds of the UK:
all hype and no substance. This is not deliberately cruel: the site is
well built with Flash and HTML versions, the design looks slick,
downloads quickly and the navigation is easy to use. The use of internet
infomercials (animated shorts produced in Flash) is also nice to
The problem is that it has nothing to say - I browsed the entire site in
about 15 minutes and was left with not much more of an idea of what was
going to be happening, when or why. Content will be added to the site in
the next ten months, I am sure, so this is a good starting point for the
Reebok Europe could also do with a bit extra. As an umbrella site for
Reebok’s European operations, it’s well designed and has been built in
four languages. Unfortunately, the site falls down in its interaction
with product. I enjoyed seeing the range of trainers available.
Now that I like that trainer, I want to buy it. Can I do this? Buying
online would be difficult as it would rely on direct distribution, but I
could go to my local store, where they stock Reebok.
Sadly, I couldn’t find a store locator. It’s a shame as there must be
some retail site out there willing to partner with Reebok to offer this
information. This would be difficult to arrange across Europe, but you
need this feature to get people to re-use this site. The chat forums are
doing fairly well, but I’m unlikely to return to the site for them.