Proving that if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, Picclick continues to generate millions of clicks—despite the site remaining unchanged since 2008
There always seem to be successful niche websites stuck in the past. Outdated design’s just fine, if the feature or function delivers as promised. Picclick has taken that ethos to the Nth degree. A search engine for deals on Ebay and Amazon, Picclick has hardly changed its stripes since 2008. What else is unchanged are the millions of users that flock to the site every month. So how and where does it get its massive reach?
First-time visitors to Picclick are likely to ask themselves: What, exactly, am I to do here? Beneath a search box, there is a long list of products and beneath that in large letters: “PicClick – Search eBay faster. Find it first!” Then come a few sales props, touting its “Proprietary Data,” “Valuable Features” and “Engaging Experience.” “PicClick is a site which enables you to search visually on eBay. It’s way faster than eBay search and returns an infinite scrolling page of images in seconds,” founder Ryan Sit said of his company back in 2018. “Rather than a list or gallery view on eBay itself, it enable users to scan hundreds of search results allowing the eye to be drawn to items of interest.”
So if you type in a search term like “external hard drive,” you’ll directly see hundreds of product images of external hard drives currently listed on Ebay and Amazon. Users can toggle a slider to adjust how many images are displayed at once. One click leads then leads directly to the listing in question on the e-commerce platform. And the whole thing looks like it’s from a bygone era of the Internet. Despite its outdated appearance, Picclick continues to rack up views, with monthly visits stateside at 7 million and 3 million more in our home market of Germany. In total, PicClick is said to generate a total of 20 million visits across all eight country-specific pages.
Beloved among power users?
But why does such a simple image search for Ebay and Amazon still register millions of visits? Some of it, at least, likely comes from loyal power users. “Humans can search visually much faster,” said Sit, “we also don’t have any banner ads to distract you.” The beauty of Picclick in Sit’s eyes is its simplicity and speed in helping users find the best deals on Ebay quickly. There is also the filter function that can help refine searches to only display auctions with no bids, for example, or auctions set to end within the next 24 hours.
But there figures to be another large target group: Ebay sellers. According to Sit, they use the tool for competitive research. The large number of results at a glance makes it easier to see which products are selling at good and which are selling at bad prices. On a detail page, Picclick also shows how many Ebay users are viewing the product and which similar products are being viewed more or less. In addition, there is information about the current price and whether it’s ever been higher or lower. Then there is data on the respective dealers. According to Sit, this allows sellers to quickly identify which product categories and positioning still have room for improvement.
There has been one change since its inception in 2008. At first, Picclick only worked for Ebay, but later Sit also integrated an Etsy product search, which is no longer active. Instead, Picclick also shows Amazon results and has embedded an Amazon button behind the Ebay search results. This then typically only leads to an Amazon search results page, since it does not carry every product offered on Ebay. Nevertheless, offers from Amazon can be compared with those on Ebay at a glance. Sit is obviously banking on affiliate revenues from both platforms.
Search brings millions in traffic
But for that to in any way shape or form lucrative, Picclick needs to generate lots and lots of traffic. And that comes not only from power users and sellers who regularly use his tool, but also through the many people who unintentionally end up on Picclick. Like users searching for something on Google, clicking one of the first results and then being befuddled at the archaic Picclick look. According to Similarweb, more than 75 percent of traffic to the German version of Picclick comes from Search.
A big factor to its success, however, is apparently not the success of broad keywords. Picclick is successful thanks to sheer mass, i.e. long tail. Analytics tool Sistrix shows over 550k keywords for Picclick alone that rank globally, and over 2.2 million for Germany. According to Similarweb, however, 20 percent of users come directly to Picclick in Germany. With just under three million views per month, that would also be 600,000 loyal users.
Revenue through affiliate commissions
And these users are integral to Sit’s business model. He had previously built an image search for Craigslist, a popular classifieds portal in the U.S., but had to shut it down after the platform banned it for scraping. The project then gave rise to Picclick, this time with official and permitted use of the APIs of Ebay and Amazon.
The majority of Picclick’s sales are likely to come from these two platforms. Various analysis sites from the USA peg these annual sales at around USD 5m. Since Sit has not integrated any advertising banners, this figures to come entirely from affiliate commissions from Ebay and Amazon. According to Sit himself, he is part of the Ebay affiliate network. Whenever users land on the e-commerce platforms via his site and then buy something, Sit receives a small commission. In 2010, Ryan Sit said that USD 1m in sales were made through his site every month.
It is what it is
For Sit to get anywhere near USD 5m in annual sales would be an absolute home run. Even though the Picclick indicates that it has a team of 20 in its employ, no one else is likely to be really actively working for Picclick. The company can only be reached through a mailbox in Rancho Santa Fe, California, and Sit said years ago, “Picclick is a completely passive business. Most days, no work is required to keep it alive.” Judging by the look of the site, that story checks out.
So Picclick seems to be a classic one-man business, passively and diligently performing its function. If the numbers are anywhere near right, a profitable business for the founder and for some users apparently also an important tool for Ebay and Amazon research. If we check back in on Picclick in five years, nothing figures to have changed.