eBay’s Focus: Personalization, Payments and Experience

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eBay Inc.’s namesake online marketplace connects 171 million active shoppers worldwide. And as outlined on its Q2 earnings call, it has an ambitious plan to grow the platform : “improving the core eBay experience, investing in service and clarifying our brand, while pursuing significant opportunities in advertising and payments,” as CEO Devin Wenig told analysts.

As Wenig elaborated, these investments are attracting new customers: “Users that are new to eBay are responding well to product-based commerce with improved conversion. However, this is yet to translate to our existing active buyers and we will continue iterating on this experience until we see those conversion gains across most of our base.”

“We continue to scale Guaranteed Delivery in the U.S. and we recently launched in Australia,” he added. “We exited Q2 with nearly 300,000 (eBay) sellers and 80 million live listings in the program, both significant increases versus the prior quarter. In the (second) quarter, Guaranteed Delivery purchases represented 5% of volume, and with 95% order delivery accuracy.”

“Within our broader advertising efforts, Promoted Listings continued its strong growth trajectory. We launched several enhancements in Q2, including a new item recommendation tool to guide sellers on which inventory they should promote. We now have over 300,000 sellers promoting over 150 million listings, leading to revenue growth in excess of 150%, offsetting declines in non-strategic third-party advertising.”

“We are also adding first-party services recently launching Highline Search ads, which enables sellers to bid for better placement from the top of search results,” he continued.

“Ensuring our users have access to great customer service is an important priority for us. We continue to scale our premium service offering, Concierge, to more top buyers and sellers. Customers with access to this offering show high satisfaction and are driving higher buyer and selling activity.”

“Simplifying and Modernizing”

Data insights—including hiring a chief scientist to oversee its Artificial Intelligence efforts earlier this year—are increasing personalization and modernization.

“We recently launched a program aimed at new buyers using proactive outreach whenever we see an issue with a first purchase,” as Wenig told analysts. “We are also simplifying and modernizing our self-service platforms with an entirely new AI-based experience now live in the U.S., U.K., Germany and Australia. And we are moving more of our customer service roles in house with hundreds of new eBay service jobs hired over the last year, reducing our reliance on outsourced roles.”

“We continue to advertise our brands to drive awareness and consideration of eBay,” he added. “While our brand campaign has been well-regarded externally it’s not yet materially moved the needle on consideration, which is key to driving new buyer acquisition. We will be back in market with a new advertising campaign this quarter, while also activating multiple marketing channels in the second half of the year to drive traffic in buyer activity.”

“Finally, we are making good progress on building our managed payment service. We recently announced that Steve Fisher, our CTO, has moved roles and will now focus solely on delivering this critical initiative for us. Product development is well underway… We have also identified the sellers who will be invited into the initial phase of our new payments experience this fall.”

Wenig also commented in response to an analyst’s question: “We are seeing good performance of new buyers that come to eBay (and) we want to bring more of them, and to do that we are going to continue to activate our marketing channels and market aggressively. We are responding to a competitive e-commerce landscape.”

“We love our proposition. We think that when people come to eBay that they see what a great proposition we have. So you can expect us to light up our brand in the second half (of 2018) further. You can expect us to be active in all marketing channels, and to ‘plus that up’ along with the new product releases.”

With categories including fashion, home and garden, electronics, cars, collectibles, antiques and electronics, the eBay platform is expanding its payment options beyond PayPal, with Apple Pay becoming an option by the end of this year.

In January, eBay also announced it would replace PayPal as its primary payments provider with Dutch startup Adyen, with PayPal remaining a payment option until July 2023. For sellers, eBay has also updated its Android and iOS apps, allowing items to be listed on eBay within seconds and simplifying the selling process.

Changing Perceptions

Last year, eBay handled $88 billion of gross merchandise volume. Defying the perception that it’s primarily an auction marketplace for secondhand items, 80% of all merchandise sold on eBay is new while 88% of items sold on eBay are “Buy It Now” instant purhases and not sold by auction. What’s more, 62% of sales involve mobile.

Striving to simply the process for buyers and sellers, eBay has introduced Interests, its personalized homepage that tailors the shopping experience based on users’ passions, hobbies and style, and Best Price Guarantee.

It’s also expanding its innovation investments globally. A competitive initiative in Australia includes eBay Plus, eBay’s membership shopping program that gives members in Australia free delivery and returns on 15 million products and Guaranteed Delivery. The company also plans to relaunch eBay India with a focus on cross-border trade opportunities.

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