How the new eBay Feed was invented

The Feed will be a massive change for eBay’s homepage as it rolls out to 10% of eBay.com users immediately, and then to 100% in the next 100 days up to the end of the year. From then on it’s expected to roll out worldwide and appear on eBay UK at some point in the New Year.

Whilst in New York I had the opportunity to speak to Jack Abraham, the guy behind The Feed. Jack pitched the idea to John Donahoe, President and CEO of eBay, in a meeting without agenda but on the topic of innovation. Everything was up for discussion, but The Feed immediately grabbed John’s attention and Jack was given free rein to develop the concept.

So who is Jack Abraham? He’s best known as the Founder of Milo, the local shopping solution, a company eBay purchased back in 2010. Today Jack is the Director of Local for eBay marketplaces and focuses on developing eBay’s position as the leader in integrating online and offline commerce.

When Jack left John Donahoe that day, he’d been given carte blanche to develop the idea of The Feed and immediately put a team together. Known internally as ‘Team Six’ (after the US Navy Seals), the team was assembled on a Friday and that weekend flew to Australia where they locked themselves up in a safe house (were they on the run? -Ed.) free from outside distractions.

Pretty much no one knew where they were, or how to contact them, and after a fortnight of 2am finishes, the team flew back with a first build of The Feed.

Seeing the results, John Donahoe immediately green lighted the project to go into full production resulting in the most dramatic change on eBay for years.

What do eBay execs follow on their own Feeds

Seeing as up until yesterday noone outside eBay had even heard of The Feed, let alone had a chance to play with it, I was keen to find out what eBay execs had found with the new tool.

Jack has been busily hunting for items for his apartment. One of his first purchases from The Feed was for a really rare hand drawn map of Europe dating back to the 1600s. I pointed out it’s probably more than a little out of date, so not to use it for local shopping in Europe!

Other interests for Jack are Murano hand blown glass and he found “some really cool stuff, pieces of glass artwork”, and also some watches. He bought a couple of watches from his eBay Feed but has since stopped following them… he says a man can only own so many watches and he’s got enough for the time being. Jack added that this is how your eBay Feed should evolve over time to reflect your changing interests.

Mark Carges is Chief Technology Officer for eBay. It’s his job to make everything work, so understandably, he’s been experimenting with his eBay Feed too.

Mark says the most interesting thing he follows is Polish Christmas Decorations. It’s still a few months to Christmas but Mark says, apart from potential purchases, it adds colour and interest to his Feed.

Although a technologist, Mark is passionate about images. He says high quality pictures are essential because internal reporting at eBay shows that buyers quite simply buy more when the pictures are good.

That should serve as a warning to sellers. With larger images now appearing in search, on the View Item page soon and, of course, in The Feed – a focus on producing large, crisp, clear images with unfussy backgrounds will pay dividends when it comes to sellers’ conversion rates.

Mark also gave me an insight into how he expects The Feed will impact sales. eBay data shows that buyers who create saved searches spend more on the site. Not only that, but even if a buyer only ever has one saved search, they will still buy a lot more than buyers who never saved a search. It’s a sign of engagement with eBay.

It is hoped that The Feed will encourage many more buyers to save searches, albeit in a different format. eBay aren’t backing Jack’s idea just because it looks great, they’re making such a radical change because they believe it’s going to radically increase sales.