Can eBay reform and prosper after the PayPal spilt?

By Dan Wilson July 9, 2015 - 7:43 am

In the 16 or so years I’ve been associated with eBay, I’ve always been a champion. I like the idea of what it is and what it can help people do. At a most basic level, opening up an international, internet audience of buyers to ordinary people is still an inspiring ideal. I worked at eBay from 1999 – 2006 and after that I’ve been an outsider and watcher.

But the eBay/PayPal split is on its way and I really wonder if eBay has what it takes to survive and grow purely as a marketplace business.

Come the 17th of July, eBay will be flying solo once more. There will be buyers circling, wanting to snap it up and all of a sudden it won’t have the PayPal screen to cover its not so glam performance of late. More worryingly, I think they’ve spent nearly a year working on the terms of the split and spent very little time serving sellers and considering what comes after.

Let’s be clear. eBay isn’t growing at anywhere close to the ecommerce average. There is enormous discontent among the seller community. eBay is widely perceived as distant and unbending by the sellers who all pay good money but get shoddy customer service as standard. Pundits and commentators don’t look at eBay and see an innovative, exciting or vivacious company.

So what is to be done? eBay must reform if it is to prosper. The question is whether eBay wants to change. I don’t know. But I hope that it can. CEO Devin Wenig seems capable and willing to transform the company.

It would be easy to dwell on very specific changes that would be desirable but the problems that need solutions are bigger than that. It’s more than a tweak here and a fumble there that’s needed. eBay must surely embrace massive reform if it is to not just survive but prosper.

As an eBay seller your views count. You know eBay better than any employee but you likely feel that you don’t have a voice. So now is your chance.

Think about what you want your business to be. Consider how a future eBay firing on all cylinders could help. Ask for substantial changes rather than tiny amendments.

What are the big picture changes that you think eBay needs to embrace if it’s to prosper? Think big.

  • 2 years ago

    What has worried me is the feeling of being unloved (their previously known as) ‘enterprise’ clients have – I hope it’s something that they can manage to turn around.

    What ebay really doesn’t want or need are high-profile highstreet retailers leaving the platform… and neither does the shopper!

    • 2 years ago


      It’s an interesting point but a fair one. The big retailers are part of ebay’s draw, if I understand you right.

      I think you’re right. I wonder what they are doing to keep the big boys happy.


  • Stuart
    2 years ago

    For me it’s simple ebay need to be consistent, one week it’s this change, next week it’s this change, sales are up and down like a yoyo too.

    They need to move much faster when there is an issue and squash it.

    They need to sort out the wave of Chinese sellers, that alone would tidy up the marketplace.

    • Ian A
      2 years ago

      Agree, they just need to keep it simple and go back to a UK marketplace for UK businesses. Put the Chinese Hong Kong sellers on .com and set the default search back to UK as it’s what majority of buyers prefer. The interface still feels very 90s to me.

      The recent option to ask sellers to pay for visibility could be a nail in the coffin.
      I believe sellers should only pay when an item sells. It also proves eBay control and manipulate visibility if they are now allowing sellers to purchase it by means of pay per click

      Scary times for eBay and it’s sellers

    2 years ago

    I think it is time that Ebay went back to its roots in part. To improve interest levels they should split with a second site catering for the small individual micro business’s that were once its life blood.These are and should be home country based business’s …..some of which will grow and create employment.
    Ebay ruined Ebay for me early last summer and I’ve now given up and will rarely sell on it. They are now too expensive and too controlling on everything from visibilty to price. Even auctions no longer appear to be free and fair unless you are selling unique items that are difficult to price compare.

  • James
    2 years ago

    Unfortunately there isn’t much eBay can do as so many of the sellers are incompetent and their service doesn’t compete with the rest of the internet.

    Obviously I’m not talking about anyone subscribed to this blog – we all know what we are doing. But outside of that there are still so many shoddy sellers that do just enough to avoid eBay suspension.

    What do I do if I find a good seller with a good priced item? I try and find their website and see if I can get it for cheaper.

    Also the fact that every eBay seller spends their life moaning about eBay it doesn’t send a positive message to the buyers that are listening.

    They have spent the last 2 years pushing sellers to go internationally and destroying their global image as really so many of the sellers are not professional enough to launch successful international and multi lingual business. – especially when using unprofessional and unreliable translation tools.

    • Simon E
      2 years ago

      “What do I do if I find a good seller with a good priced item? I try and find their website and see if I can get it for cheaper.”

      The above is exactly what I do BUT what I find my customers do is quite the reverse.

      They won’t look on our different selling platforms as they appear to be happy with which ever platform they are on, and stay there.

      I have literally told customers, that might have phoned me up to ask a question, to purchase from our website as it will be less in price than the other platforms due to the good old fees.
      I ALWAYS end that with “But of course it’s whichever platform you are happiest with and feel most comfortable on”. 9 times out of 10, I see the sale go through on Amazon or ebay, despite my patter. To me I get the same amount of money out of it whichever platform they choose but I would rather the customer gets a few extra quid in their pocket than the big boys or girls.

    • James
      2 years ago

      Agreed but is it likely your demographic is older or more likely to be using a smart phone? I’d say about 50% of younger users want the best price rather than the best buying experience.

      I spend a lot of time using the Google keyword planner and there is a huge trend of eBay & Amazon titles being stripped and searched for in Google as buyers try to find things cheaper.

    • James
      2 years ago

      Sorry meant to say younger laptop buyers!

    • A+
      2 years ago

      You’re making an interesting point, James. Could it be that eBay used to be a leisure activity done by amateurs but over time buyers have come to expect a higher standard of service that only professional companies can constantly provide?

    • James
      2 years ago

      No need for sarcasm :)

      No but really this is their catch 22 they will never escape from.

    • A+
      2 years ago

      What do you mean sarcasm? I genuinely thought you were making a very good point. It has made me think that selling internationally actually requires a high level of skills. Dealing with multiple currencies, languages, taxation, accounting, import, export… and although fun it requires to be professional in order to be successful

    • James
      2 years ago

      haha Oh OK cheers! sorry I thought you were being sarcastic :)

  • richbkk
    2 years ago

    It needs to be a much simpler platform all round, perhaps along the lines of Etsy, where you list on one site in one currency, and feedback doesn’t seem to be such an onerous issue. It is by paying too much attention to defects that actually stokes buyers up and encourages fraud.
    But above all, for me anyway, it is the mindset that the seller is always wrong that needs to change big time. Ebay customer service couldn’t be worse. The feedback system is utterly flawed.
    Final value fees are way too high, if turnover increases profit will increase, if turnover is not increasing hiking fees will only worsen that situation. And that is what has happened.
    I have often thought for the good of all that international sellers should be presented on a different search criteria. And I am an international seller.

    • Ian A
      2 years ago

      I strongly agree, ebay is so cumbersome to list compared to Etsy which is a simple one page form where adding photos is fast and easy. (as opposed to the clunky 3 page, pop up, glitchy, check box, hidden, drop down, ebay nightmare).
      I suspect most sellers here use a third party tool to list?

      They could do worse than look at Etsy in terms of use and appearance.

      Agree they’ve squeezed fees everywhere. They need to realise they wont see any growth unless small businesses are allowed the profit to grow

  • 2 years ago

    The one BIG thing for me would be for Ebay to stop charging per listing per month and, instead, charge a flat fee for a ‘shop’.

    Its cheap to list everything on Amazon and only pay commission on actual sales; whereas, every time we add products to Ebay, we pay a fee per listing per month … and when Ebay sales drop off, that is just a flat tax on the bottom line … and a big disincentive to sue ebay more.

  • John
    2 years ago

    Been selling professionally on ebay for 10 years now, it is now so fixed and automated, there is no incentive to grow a small business. We used to price our items competitively, until we realised that Ebay favour higher priced items in search. So for example we took a range of products that we were selling for £4.99 + postage and raised the price to £7.99 + postage and suddenly this range started selling. We do this all the time now and while we get more money, it just not logical practice and highlights how rigged ebay is. Every week for the few years our total sales amount is roughly the same, if we sell a very expensive single item in the morning, then this will effect the amount of sales we make for the rest of the day. When its this fixed, you have no control.

  • Tinker
    2 years ago

    ebay needs to engage with everyone, not just sellers ,
    offer deals and discounts to both buyers and sellers ,
    reward good service by sellers ,and good custom by buyers
    not just pick at the edges

  • JD
    2 years ago

    As eBay has got older it has become less efficient (too complicated) and more expensive for sellers.

    eBay could not stop getting older but should have become more efficent and less expensive for sellers.

  • Roger C
    2 years ago

    A lot of good advice above and genuine concern too, few won’t have some grievance against eBay during the last few years as they put themselves before the seller and PayPal top of the tree.

    Here’s an idea, not sure if it’s workable but it’s radical.

    I presume eBay still own Gumtree and this “poor cousin” is surprisingly good at what it does best. It acts like eBay used to be.

    So, eBay, why not build on your strengths and use what you have. Revitalise Gumtree into a highly efficient “internet auction”, go back to doing what you did uniquely when everybody first hears of “EBay”.

    Now, that removes the small fish from the original business, something most SME’s might like, and allows eBay to reformat itself into a “one stop internet high street shop” but just be prepared to restrict your market to where it counts . . . dump the Chinese sellers, you’re going to end up competing with Alibaba in any case . . . mind you you’ll have to go after Amazon too . . and if you can’t do that then all you staff had better look for other jobs now.

    • James
      2 years ago

      It’s a bit out there and sounds a bit crazy but what you are saying is actually the most truthful thing in this thread.

      eBay’s core problem was and STILL is that so many people see it as a flea market. And eBay on one hand have always hated that but on the other hand as long as its the place where Joe Bloggs can go to sell his second hand stuff he doesn’t need any more it will always be seen as that by so many. Amazon do not have that problem.

      Yes, what eBay have done right is they have nurtured their major sellers through years of threatening, but yet mostly sensible business decisions & policies as well as making itself more attractive to existing professional online retailers.

      There is a core group of engaged and knowledgeable eBay sellers that account for the majority of the sales and have most likely by this stage built pretty efficient websites themselves.

      There is nothing unique about buying from eBay anymore if I can find most of the same top sellers through a Google search. The only thing unique about eBay is that you can also buy products from inexperienced sellers who are using the platform as an eCommerce 101, are selling out of their bedroom, are just genuinely bad sellers who’s measure of success is avoiding Below Standard and of course private sellers which is not necessarily a bad thing but certainly a different buying experience.

      Don’t get me wrong I know the foundation of many an eBay seller was selling out of your bedroom but its no longer entrepreneurial and buyers expecting a top quality typical eBay experience will get something unpredictable if they delve too far into the search.

      Essentially I’m agreeing with you – the market needs an Amazon substitute that doesn’t compete against its sellers but also a separate place where buyers go to buy damaged, refurbished second hand goods or new items from unprofessional sellers selling at low margin out of their garage and without a professional customer care set up.

      If Devin Wenig is reading and wants to offer me a job get in touch with Dan ;D

    • JD
      2 years ago

      ‘There is a core group of engaged and knowledgeable eBay sellers that account for the majority of the sales and have most likely by this stage built pretty efficient websites themselves’

      That is where eBay went wrong and continue to go wrong.
      eBay ARE having to compete with the very sellers that first used them. Those sellers have filtered out many many customers away from eBay.

      eBay should have had, didn’t have but now should be planning a one stop solution that does not require sellers to have a separate website that competes with marketplace sales.

    • Tinker
      2 years ago

      Not to mention ebay even actively promoting these sellers web sites with links in the auction listings and search, inviting buyers to leave the site

    • James
      2 years ago

      Yes Amazon do this as well never understood it. Short term gains long term destruction.

    • Roger C
      2 years ago

      Thanks for that James, I expected instead to be knocked down by SME’s talking a language unheard of to me as a “sole trader – private seller”.

      It’s a “Sword of Damocles”, isn’t it? eBay’s growth as the universal “garage sale” market was regarded once as outstanding success . . . so, putting “big business” to one side for the present, then rekindle that original spirit but put it into Gumtree. Do it properly, no window dressing, get your “bedroom entrepreneur” smiling again. For eBay there is still millions there to be made in fees for little cost?

      Only then, as you clearly say, can eBay put forward a fresh business model that refers to their past with pride but wants today’s retail business with hunger.

      . . . and what is this thing about referring to the UK? The company is, what makes anyone British think their views will be put first? Even as we speak eBay may have already locked their sales and support teams into classrooms to be force fed Cantonese!

    • James
      2 years ago

      No problem. It definitely makes sense to a degree but it would be one hell of a brand change but its clear that it will only get worse in the future. The inconsistent search and buying experiences will eventually mean buyers will feel better off going to google to shop for New items.

      To coin an eBay Inc buzzword – there is just too much “friction” when you land on a search result with auctions and 2nd hand items when you are looking for a brand new item from a seller with a 14 days return policy. Yes they can refine but its friction. People usually know if they want 2nd hand or if they want new.

      And the UK was the only major market in the world where eBay was beating Amazon so they definitely cared about the UK. I don’t think that’s the case any more though.

  • John
    2 years ago

    Buy a courier.Im not joking.With Amazon now rolling out their own couriers (one just been here) and other couriers often messing around etc Ebay need to secure delivery for sellers and themselves.Buy a courier and open a depot in every area for sellers to drop off orders.
    Next stop highlighting Chinese sellers.People buy not knowing and then have endless problems in delivery time or sorting any problems.Make search UK only by default.Cut final value fees in half.If you dont Google and stand alone websites will destroy you slowly.
    Hide feedback away somewhere where buyers dont have it in their face.There if you look for it,but away.Its far too much of a weapon.Sort out CS.Its the worst iv ever experienced.Selling 890 of an item then 1 gets a low star for IAS and they wont remove.Its ludicrous.Put systems in where sellers must respond,must accept returns within the limits etc but if they do they are protected from defects.

  • Saul
    2 years ago

    I agree with your artical , Dan. I am optimistic about eBay. I think it will improve. It’s also the best, even only, option for me and what I sell and how I sell it.

    There is much that needs to be improved. I think that eBay has a bit of an identity crisis. There’s a mash up of pro and am sellers on there with a mix of auctions and BINs. Vast differences in seller quality too which is difficult for buyers as they often start from a place of suspicion. eBay needs to better help buyers work out which sellers are good and bad. Feedback helped with that but it is subjective and eBay are pushing it back. Defect scores are something only sellers see and it’s what keeps me awake at night. Defects have sucked the joy out of selling on eBay.

    eBay seems to view buyers as its customers but I view my buyers as my customers and eBay as a supplier of a service. A supplier that does not provide a very good customer experience to me – a seller – one of eBay’s customers. I think eBay needs to change it’s attitude to sellers and treat us like customers. It’s from us that they get a lot of their revenue after all. What we buy to sell on on there is our risk not eBay’s.

  • Dania
    2 years ago

    The partnerships and ownership stakes that Ebay has suggest to me that the potential is there for a larger, stronger Ebay than currently exists minus Paypal.
    1. partnership suggests new and big opportunities with China
    2. 20% ownership stake in Mercado Libre
    3.Estimated 10% ownership in Snapdeal with unusually strong shareholder rights.

    There are also the notable changes to the Customer experience by working to create more uniform listings, removal of duplicate listings, and the rise of “Mobile Ebay”

  • Andy R
    2 years ago

    We left Ebay at the end of June after 12 years and will not be returning.

    Ironically, I still buy items on Ebay, as there isn’t anywhere else you can buy such a diverse range of items.

    They need to keep that rather than go down a route of only selling stuff with product identifiers.

    Don’t want to revisit our reasons for leaving, but will simply say that Ebay has to start treating all its customers, both buyers and sellers, equally.

    Life without Ebay is way less stressful.

  • DS2987
    2 years ago


    eBay over the years has got too complex and changed for the worst when ‘Best Match’ algorithm was introduced, best match match for who you could say, not always the customer or seller!

    Our best business was done on eBay with good old 10 day listings and most buyers search default was ‘time ending soonest’ that way all sellers of the same item seemed to get a fair bite of the apple on rotation, similar to what Amazon do now with the buy window.

    As eBay do not retail themselves like Amazon (as far as we know unless they own a large corporate seller incognito) it has always struck me as odd that they need sellers to attract customers but treat us as second rate like it is a privlidge to sell on their platform.

    A working partnership approach is needed, not us and them, how can we resolve issues together not the big stick approach, local businesses for local markets, eBay account managers who can work with sellers to help small businesses grow not focus on ‘Enterprise’ customers.

    Be consistent, if a policy to remove text from images is introduced enforce it for all or don’t bother if it can’t be policed. (although Facebook are quite good at detecting text on adverts, so it can be done)

    And maybe if eBay didn’t get paid very much (maybe only a shop subscription) until a seller made a sale then maybe there would not be so much complacency and more focus on seller productivity.

    New cornerstones.
    1. Fairness in search visibility.
    2. Working partnership with sellers.
    3. Consistent policy enforcement.
    4. eBay Paid on results, seller discounts for achievements.

    Build it and the sellers will return, more sellers equals more goods, more goods attracts more buyers. Its an age old principle lets go back to basics rather than thinking big about the next revolution.

    Oh and scrap feedback, introduce on listing product reviews to help other customers decide and bring back simple seller levels (New seller, Powerseller Bronze, Silver, Gold, Corporate Seller)

  • Larry
    2 years ago

    As a long time eBay seller, I am still utterly disappointed with eBay. Their approach to sellers are just cold, un-courteous and unloving. They need to have better CS like Amazon UK

    • James
      2 years ago

      You have obviously never dealt with any of Amazon’s sales teams before :D

  • John S
    2 years ago

    Think that with its current confused vision Ebay is doomed to failure, needs a visionary to give a high level direction for the future, and stick to it. The changes being made now (e.g. EAN numbers) seem to be housekeeping jobs that a 6th form student could suggest, or alternatives to services that already exist.

    Would like to see a complete revamp of the site so that it is professional and up to date in appearance and operation. Currently it’s like whoever approves additions to pages and software has an automated email response that says “Yeah send it over and we’ll throw it in’. The item pages have so many font colours and sizes, text and boxes chucked randomly onto pages that they look a total mess, and reflect the architecture, software, and processes (and mindset) sitting behind them.

    A culture change from a 70% business to a 98/100% business would help; when starting a job finish it properly. Even simple things like emails aren’t proof read or spell checked, how long does that take – 5 minutes – so it probably isn’t workload.

    Stop relying on external marketing organisations to tell them what to do next, e.g. all customers want free postage etc – suspect that wasn’t customer survey results, more likely knee jerk reaction to a report from an organisation specialising in ‘retail trends’. Ebay, as a self declared market leader, should be setting the trends not following them. Back to needing a visionary.

    How about cutting the site up into more clearly defined areas, like antiques and collectables, high end brands, high street retail outlets or something.

    Partner with Google to provide the on-site search function (ditch Cassini), maybe Google could buy a chunk of Ebay.

    Guess it wont be easy or cheap to revamp Ebay, but people are being paid millions of $$$$ to run the business (into the ground seems at present); easy shouldn’t be in their vocabulary.

  • Steve P
    2 years ago

    3 weeks ago this post was Cc’d to Devin Wenig:-

    I’m guessing the reply was full of constructive insights into how ebay was sorting out its IT to embrace the next chapter of its ecommerce existence..etc etc etc..

    Sorry.. there was no reply ?? not even the automated “sorry I’m out of the office”.. quell surprise!!…

    Myself I’m thinking that ebay will be swallowed elsewhere (google) inside of 4 weeks from the split. and to be fair the quicker the better..

  • steve
    2 years ago

    They need to get back the old ebay; it was exciting, auctions finished sequentially, as did everything else; now the chances of finding the same thing twice is frustratingly remote! Get back to basics, stop meddling and tweaking, make it work properly.
    Make it fun! that was ebays’ USP and it can be again.
    Get deal of the day back, not this multipe offers of T shirts and led lights we see often see. Its boring. People shop on Facebook, Amazon have signed 10 million on prime – ebay have a lot to do. Oh..and Sellers are your friends, not the friggin enemy (or a free Inventory source)

  • richbkk
    2 years ago

    Ebay is still great for driving sales volume, but increasingly that comes at a very tight profit margin, or not at all, and using promoted listings function, which in turn increases ebay fees.
    I guess we have to live with that, but if ebay really wants dedicate and loyal ebayers, as opposed to people who work with resentment and feel undervalued, then they might want to look at their fee structure.
    If ebay’s revenue increases then so should overall profit, and it should be absolutely unecessary to gouge sellers.

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