eBay is all grown up. As the online marketplace celebrates its 20th birthday, weird and wonderful facts have been popping up all over the web - did you know that a ‘lunch with Warren Buffet’ sold for $2.3m this year?
But in a market saturated with other big boys Etsy, Amazon and Alibaba, where does eBay stand?
Etsy, the youngest of the big four e-commerce players, may be the newest addition to the game but that hasn’t stopped it playing hard and fast. Now worth over $3bn, the arts and crafts marketplace is expanding across the globe. Its USP is the intimacy of each sale. From dollhouses to handmade wedding rings, usually with a note from the seller, Etsy entrepreneurs can create a personalised experience for the customer.
But Jeff Bezos, Amazon founder and online Godfather, has seen Etsy's creative realness and raised it with Amazon Handmade: a new store on Amazon for invited artisans to sell their unique, handmade goods to the internet titan’s millions of worldwide customers.
When it comes to innovation, Bezos knows best. The e-tailer’s one hour delivery option Prime Now piggybacks off an idea that was originally eBay’s: eBay Now. The latter’s same-day local delivery service allowed mobile customers to shop and receive items from nearby retailers for an additional $5 in the States but after two years, it was killed off.
Then there’s Jack Ma, the other Godfather of the internet, who has harnessed the power of Chinese e-commerce to create Alibaba.
The interesting thing about Ma is his customer-first approach. On multiple occasions the 51-year old has essentially said he does not care for shareholders: “It’s customers No.1, employees, two, and shareholders, three. It’s the customer who pays us the money, it’s the employees who drive the vision, and it’s the shareholders who when the [financial] crisis comes, these people ran away. My customers and my people stayed.”
Your move eBay.
Now credit should be given where credit is due. Although the etail giant may be starting to show its age, it shouldn’t be forgotten that eBay has played a massive hand in igniting entrepreneurial spirit across the world. In the UK alone, 200,000 sellers leverage the platform and globally, it’s 25m.
“From its humble beginnings in 1995, to selling millions of goods every day in 2015, eBay has been part of revolutionising the way consumers browse and shop for goods,” comments VoucherCodes MD Claire Davenport.
It pioneered the optimisation of service for mobile devices and has helped retailers in all shapes and sizes marry online and offline shopping.
“eBay is an enabler of opportunities,” Sarah Calcott, Senior Director of Operations at eBay, tells Retail Gazette in-between meeting sellers at an eBay seller conference.
One should certainly recognise former eBay boss John Donahoe’s early bet on mobile, which current Chief Exec Devin Wenig is ready to build on. Last week, Wenig announced Seller Hub, a new product which includes a suite of information and tools that can help all sellers, including info on how categories of products are performing on eBay, suggestions on pricing and more. The new offering is also designed to help sellers better manage inventory.
In addition, he’s introduced a united and flexible returns process designed to take complexity and cost out of the process. It seems eBay is ageing gracefully.
eBay, the vibrant marketplace that it is, can provide granular customer insights and offer mentorship for sellers using the trading platform. “The best eBay businesses are really nimble,” Calott says. “The ones that have seen rapid growth are the ones who have responded to consumer demand by tapping into, for example, the success of The Great British Bake-off”.
On the flipside, the company releases a monthly barometer outlining the most popular searches, and by analysing what shoppers are searching for on eBay, retailers can learn quite quickly what’s trending.
In this new digital age, the bar is going up and up. 20 years ago shopping across devices wasn’t a thing but now, competition is high. eBay’s auction sales may be falling, and more year-over-year sellers may be moving to Amazon, but there is still room for it in the online world. Amazon may well be dubbed the ‘everything store’, but only on eBay would a buyer find the original Hollywood sign or ‘the meaning of life’.