eBay 20th Anniversary Thoughts

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It’s been a few days since eBay’s 20th anniversary celebration which means a few days to let the hype (and great food) settle in. A few reflections:

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MY PERSPECTIVE

I’m a buyer and seller on eBay; marketing applications to eBay sellers for over six years; founded an eBay/ecommerce seller Meetup group in the SF Bay Area that has grown to over 1,200 members; and started the Top Rated Seller Webinar series, which averages over 700 sellers a month. So I talk to a LOT of sellers.

chris
Chris Taylor

 

 

THEY WEREN’T ALL WRONG

There have been a lot of unhappy eBay sellers (and subsequently ex-eBay sellers) in recent years. And rightfully so, for a variety of reasons. But a lot of that was resistance to where eBay was pushing all of us: things like shorter handling times, free shipping, improved return policies, better customer service and more. Look at the world of ecommerce and our competition today. We needed to improve to succeed, and eBay helped kick us in the butt to get there. I’m not saying everything they did worked or was good for sellers, but a lot was, even though it made our business lives more challenging.

 

THEY’RE STILL HUGE

“Not surprised all the buyers and sellers are leaving eBay…” was a recent eBay forum post. I smile when I read comments like that. We all see similar posts. eBay’s Gross Merchandise Volume was $83 billion in 2014, with 157 million active buyers and 25 million active sellers. Maybe “all” is a little bit of an exaggeration? Devin Wenig, President and CEO of eBay, gives a great overview of the company in his opening keynote.

Does that mean the company has had smooth sailing in recent times? No way! Who can forget the big Google SEO issues or the hack attack, to name a couple. Does it mean that eBay is the place for every seller? No. If you’re serious about your business, you should be looking multi-channel to see if other marketplaces in addition to eBay make sense. But make an objective decision for your business.

 

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THEY’RE NOT AMAZON…AND NOW I DON’T THINK THEY WANT TO BE

Hearing them talk, it appears eBay doesn’t want to be Amazon any longer. They’re going to focus on their uniqueness, enhance that and leverage it. Will it work? Heck if I know! But that’s who they are and that’s what they’re going with.

 

 NEW FOCUS ON SMALL-MEDIUM SELLERS

They talked a lot about this during the two-day event. Some executives were saying publicly and privately that they’d “lost their way” and were more committed to partnering with sellers. You can watch Jordan Sweetnam, eBay’s VP of Seller Experience, talk about what they’re doing in his presentation.

Only time will tell if these are empty promises or really a new focus of the company. But during a break between presentations, I had a casual conversation with an eBay employee. She told me there really is a different mindset and feeling internally with the new executive team running things now.

We’ll all believe it when we see it, but they were sure saying the right things at this event. It doesn’t mean big brands aren’t still important in the marketplace. But the small-medium sellers appear to be the real foundation.

 

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ACTIONS SPEAK LOUDER THAN WORDS…AND CHEERS ARE THE BEST!

The Fall Seller Update seemed to be real tangible actions to support improvements for sellers: many defect rate changes, simplified seller standards, enhanced returns management options and more. The seller comments I’ve seen and heard have been very positive.

So that’s all good, but seriously, in the “hype” category I have to say having hundreds of eBay employees cheer sellers as we left the main ballroom after a presentation was a pretty fantastic feeling. As I began leaving the presentation room after a session I paused when I heard cheers outside. I figured it was for some celebrity or surprise guest. No problem, I’ll wait until the person leaves then leave. After a couple minutes I asked an eBayer next to me who it was for…and they said me, and you, and all the sellers. Wow! Don’t tell my wife but I got a little choked up.

 

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SERIOUS ABOUT BUSINESS
As we know, there have been problems and issues as sellers with various aspects of the eBay marketplace. Omniture anyone? Seeing the new Seller Hub shows that they’re going to provide more serious business tools and data that are absolutely mandatory to run your business and optimize your success. Enhance these with tools like Markdown Guru and Best Offer Advisor from CampaignGO, and you’re ready to get much greater insight into your eBay business and improve your chances of success. You can see more from Heather Friedland, VP of Local and Seller Experience for eBay in her presentation.

 

IT GOES DEEPER

Having worked at a number of companies, including a couple of huge public companies, I have a sense of what goes on in the back end of big websites and major applications. eBay is huge and has a basic technology foundation that was created 20 years ago. I don’t know how much of the infrastructure has been dug out and replaced over that time, but I’m sure there are still remnants remaining. As one of their engineering gurus told us, there are LOTS of problems with that infrastructure. But they’re committed to what they call eBay 4.0, which is making fundamental changes to the platform that will ultimately benefit both buyers and sellers. It will take time, but hopefully they’re headed in the right direction. Please, I don’t want to hear the word “Cassini” ever again!

 

eBay Founder Pierre Omidyar and Chris Taylor
eBay Founder Pierre Omidyar and Chris Taylor

 

A NEW DAY FOR BUYERS TOO…AND HOPEFULLY MORE OF THEM!

So we can blab all we want about sellers, but really it’s buyers that we are about. eBay’s efforts to keep growing the base of shoppers buying on eBay are getting a boost too. They’ve created some pretty good new ad spots. When AdWeek calls your spots “glorious” and “impeccably designed and fun to watch”, you know they’re good. See the ads for yourself. And watch Hal Lawton, eBay SVP of North America’s presentation on the holiday promotions to learn all that’s going on.

 

To see the rest of the presentations from eBay’s 20th Anniversary Celebration, including breakout sessions, check them out here.

Great selling!

Chris Taylor

VP Marketing, CampaignGO

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