Catalyst 2015: Grow your business with eBay

David-BrackinDavid Brackin is the co-founder of Stuff U Sell and has sold over 200,000 different items on eBay. He is also a regular contributor to Tamebay and today has reporting from the ChannelAdvisor Catalyst EU 2015 conference. He attended the session delivered by Marty Ellis of eBay. Not normally one to mince his words, afterwards he was pretty positive about eBay’s comments and here’s what he had to say:

How to grow your business with eBay

The main eBay speaker at Catalyst this year was Marty Ellis. As sellers, we often love to grumble that eBay isn’t doing enough to help us, but the appointment of Marty to lead the seller experience team is really good news: he’s one of the good guys who gets that eBay’s success is the same as seller success and is focused on knocking down barriers to growth. Today he spoke about the ways in which eBay can go beyond being simply a provider of traffic to using its scale to address the big problems that smaller sellers lack the resources to do. He also announced some very welcome initiatives to support and engage with sellers.

Mobile commerce

eBay always talk about how important mobile commerce is becoming. In the last few years eBay’s mobile sales have risen from $5bn in 2011 to $28bn in 2014 and half of all transactions are “touched” by mobile. Marty sees the challenge for smaller sellers is in customising across multiple devices and platforms and also overcoming the reluctance of users to download more than just a handful of apps. eBay’s app usually makes that list and it has the technical resources to develop and maintain across all the platforms. The seller can focus on providing inventory and let eBay do the tech stuff that makes it look right on the buyer’s device.

Competition is intense

The success of ecommerce means that the large retailers are starting to re-focus form having an online offering as an afterthought to using large distribution and retail networks to support their offering. Experience suggests that buyers love the Click n Collect services pioneered by these retailers. Smaller sellers are unable to match this, but eBay’s scale opened the door to the deal with Argos to allow this to be rolled out for eBayers.

To go global you have to act local

The final challenge where eBay’s scale can help is international sales. Most growth in ecommerce will come from overseas markets, but success here depends on localisation and successful shipping. To this end, eBay is pioneering machine translation and customisation of its 800m mostly English-language listings to local languages. It has also expanded the Global Shipping Programme to cover 32 countries: this is the service where eBay provides a UK forwarding address for otherwise unreachable international buyers and handles all of the onwards shipping (and – subject to a few minor issues to be ironed out – protects from any buyer problems or feedback issues arising).
The impressive thing about nearly all of these initiatives is that as a seller, you need do nearly nothing to participate: it’s the marketplace solving marketplace problems without disrupting the sellers who are focused on sourcing inventory. This is really refreshing when compared with so many initiatives which require sellers to do all the heavy-lifting.

Seller initiatives

To round off, Marty was refreshingly straight-forward about the grumbles which sellers have about the marketplace, and he hinted at a number of areas where he is driving for the kind of changes that we clamour for:-

  • The feedback system needs to work better. Marty told us that whilst creating a trusted marketplace for buyers, it is equally important that seller ratings allow businesses to thrive in a stable environment and to focus on growth rather than the niggles. Can we finally stop worrying and start selling?
  • While there must continue to be site changes, the message has got through to eBay that where these affect sellers, they need to be communcated much more clearly, much earlier and supported properly. eBay will be hosting a series of one-day conferences around the UK to engage with sellers and hear their concerns.
  • Finally, the tools available to help sellers will be reviewed: some of the less well-known tools will be made more widely available and other tools developed. He hinted at some developments in search visiblity — will we at last be seeing some kind of bid-based Adwords-type product for eBay search?

Overall this was a really positive talk from eBay, and it was noticeable how well populated and visited their stand has been throughout the day with over 20 staff engaging with sellers on a one-to-one basis.