Amazon.com Inc added a new feature to its website on Tuesday that allows customers to bid for lower prices on more than 150,000 items, including fine art and rare coins, sold by third-party vendors.
The new feature represents a renewed attempt by Amazon to move beyond the fixed-price model on its site. In 1999, Amazon launched an online auction site, but the effort failed to compete with eBay Inc. Amazon went on to create a lucrative marketplace for third-party sellers which now accounts for about 40 percent of its quarterly unit sales.
In a recent survey of sellers conducted by Amazon, nearly half of the respondents said the ability to negotiate prices “would be important to drive more sales on Amazon”, said Peter Faricy, who runs Amazon Marketplace.
The largest U.S. online retailer said the new “make-an-offer” was distinct from an auction because price negotiations are private and a customer will never pay more than the listed price. Sellers have 72 hours to reject, accept or counter an offer from a customer. If the seller counters, the customer has another 72 hours to respond.
Amazon plans to expand the “make-an-offer” option to “hundreds of thousands” of items in 2015. Items that can be negotiated now include an 1863 document signed by U.S. President Abraham Lincoln sold for $150,000 and a mint-condition baseball signed by Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig with a nearly $10,000 price tag.