How CEO Devin Wenig plans to make eBay great again

Victor Corcoran is the CEO of XSellco, a company that provides help desk, repricing and feedback solutions to online retailers. This week Victor has been in Las Vegas at the eBay Open event and here are his thoughts on eBay CEO Devin Wenig’s presentation:

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How eBay CEO Devin Wenig plans to rediscover the ‘eBay way’

The eBay Open 2016 kicked off in Vegas on Wednesday with an energising update from eBay CEO Devin Wenig.

Devin was met by an enthusiastic crowd of over 1000 eBay sellers and 200 eBay employees who were showing little signs of a Vegas-style Tuesday night.

There was no mention from Devin of the story that had been breaking earlier in the week – several analysts predicted a potential bid for eBay by tech giants Google or Alibaba.

Instead, Devin came across as someone with a clear, long term plan for eBay. He took the crowd through his first 12 months at the heart of the company and spelt out his vision for the future to an engaged audience.

At the forefront of his vision is to ensure eBay becomes the leader in eCommerce by emphasizing what made eBay unique and great, but also by making eBay think and work like a merchant.

His plan consists of three key phases: ‘build, accelerate and disrupt’, with his first 12 months focusing very much around ‘build’.

Rediscovering the eBay way

Devin acknowledged that eBay had lost its way in the past.

He said he knew that customers who wanted to buy an iPhone, did not want to browse through thousands of listings to figure out what was available. They wanted to go to a product page with good comparison data, reviews and a simple purchasing process.

This has been a key component of what eBay has been working on under his watch and will be for the foreseeable future. What he referred to as the ‘Structured Data plan’ has been very much the driver of both recent acquisitions and in-house development.

How smaller sellers with unique products fit into this vision isn’t clear but it was clear that he sees eBay not as a marketplace for odds and ends, but as a place for all key commodities.

Following on from the ongoing drive to develop and improve product pages was plan to allow eBay and online sellers to better tell their story. He announced that larger sellers in particular should look out for new APIs to be launched, that will allow sellers to feed relevant but personal stories into the eBay platform.

His commitment to rebuilding a community of sellers and improving their experience through further enhancements to the Seller Hub and his support for more regular events such as the inaugural eBay Open, was very popular with the audience of sellers.

Move faster than the competition

He moved on to the future, which for him is to accelerate product improvements and enhance marketing with the goal of adding another 100 million buyers globally. He plans to deliver this by moving faster than the competition to reach untapped markets and beat competitors in customer experience through regular product improvements.

He finished off a strong speech with recollections on what made eBay great – betting on emerging, disruptive technologies. He recalled how eBay became the global brand it is today by being one of the first to bet on the concept of selling stuff online and on getting the rapid shift to mobile right.

Today he assured the crowd that eBay was betting big on Artificial Intelligence, the Internet of Things and on Assisted Reality. He gave an example of early success in VR where 20 percent of ticket buyers on VR-enabled Stub Hub use their new ability to see the view from the seat before buying the ticket.

Clear vision

All in all it was a well delivered performance from a man who has a clear vision for eBay, and he has already delivered initial success with an increase in customer numbers. But it still left some doubts if eBay could deliver on his vision when its key competitor is ahead in some areas.

Devin talked about investment in technology and has been acting on his words by buying some small tech companies, but Amazon already has live products in competing markets such as Echo.

Some key questions remain on whether eBay can complete and win without the clout of a partner like Google behind it – and where smaller sellers will fit into Devin’s vision for the new eBay.