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eBay CEO Devin Wenig writes a letter to shareholders

By Dan Wilson April 22, 2018 - 8:47 pm

eBay has published a letter to shareholders from CEO Devin Wenig looking at what eBay has achieved in the past year that also looks ahead to future challenges and changes in the tech industry. In particular he considers the landscape with regard to private and trust in relation to recent controversies at Facebook. The letter was originally part of eBay’s 2017 annual report.

Several aspects of the letter are notable. Wenig concentrates on the marketplace and its developments but also looks at StubHub too, which remains an engine for growth at eBay Inc. He writes:

To help drive the most powerful selling platform, we continued to improve and evolve Seller Hub, a centralized toolkit for sellers to effectively manage their business on eBay. During the year we acquired Terapeak, which will provide additional functionality to eBay’s Seller Hub — from sales history and performance enhancement opportunities to price guidance and comparisons — to help merchants manage and scale their business on eBay. We also enabled more sellers to leverage promoted listings to drive sales velocity — with more than 100 million live promoted listings and over 160,000 sellers using the product in the fourth quarter.
– eBay CEO Devin Wenig

But perhaps most significantly, he does also consider one thing that is doubtless the biggest challenge to tech companies and ecommerce in general in the coming years. And that’s government regulation and the potential increased incursion of an online sales tax. It’s an issue that Bill Ready at PayPal has recently spoken about too.

It’s a thoughtful piece even if, on occasion, it is a bit sugary and overly corporate for British readers. But the message is clear: expect more change. Wenig is unwavering in his belief that eBay will be innovating and developing more than ever before in the years to come.

What do you think about the assessment of the future from eBay CEO Devin Wenig? Does he say enough to assuage your fears? Is he thinking enough about merchants?

  • Andy
    1 month ago

    The most striking thing here is that Wenig is talking to shareholders and NOT sellers.

    So now, on Ebay, sellers are third priority, behind buyers and shareholders.

    Wenig’s “vision” clearly revolves around technology and analytics, whilst ignoring the in-built problems with the site, such as the checkout / basket problems for both buyers and sellers. The issue of the erratic search returns and item visibility remains unresolved. The Ebay site continues to have slowness / unavailability issues, seemingly dependent upon what device or even which ISP you use.

    The alarming rise in fees under Wenig now means sellers have to choose between raising prices or taking an effective pay cut. Price rises are difficult, given that so many still trade without paying proper taxes and can undercut. There are only so many efficiencies you can make to trim costs at the other end.

    So the future under Wenig seems to mean higher selling costs, flat or falling sales due to the problems mentioned above and unproven theories about how to evolve the site in future. If Wenig has got this right, then those who remain on Ebay will benefit, albeit with higher costs. If he’s got it wrong, it’s unlikely Ebay would be able to recover, as they are already miles behind Amazon in terms of performance.

  • Andy
    1 month ago

    As a further, thought, Wenig and his crew would get a better hearing from sellers if they engaged more with them.

    There was a time when sellers were consulted and feedback sought about “upcoming” changes to Ebay. Most of those channels were closed down by the current management, who clearly had no interest in having their plans shaped by sellers, whatever their claims to be listening. Interesting that large entities or governments who claim to be “listening” rarely actually listen to anyone but themselves.

    Instead of handing down stone tablets from the mountain, Wenig, how about talking more to sellers, rather than shareholders? Many of us have been on Ebay almost from the start and our views would at least be worth hearing.

    At the moment, many Ebay sellers I speak to seem to feel completely outside the loop with what’s happening at Ebay. How can Ebay expect sellers to be happy about changes which they are not consulted about, have no choice but to accept and the only alternative is to close your account???

  • Toby
    1 month ago

    Totally agree with Andy. Ebay have forgotten that ebay is a like a clock… sellers are as much a driving ‘cog’ as buyers, big business and trends. neglect one cog and all the rest will grind to a halt.
    oh and for crying out loud will they do something with the dreadful ebay app. it is like something out of the 90s.

  • SAM
    1 month ago

    “And we run the business for the long run, with investments that we believe are critical, but may take years to pay off. We are not afraid to forgo short term growth or profitability for long term impact if it is the right thing to do for our customers and business over time.” That is a load of nonsense eBay unlike Amazon never seem to look at the longer term.
    From a merchants point of view there was nothing in it, lots of fancy words and statements, how there there for small biz but on the next line about how they want to attract big brands. AI tech and all that. Problem is eBay is expensive…and people are more price savvy than ever.

    We are however still dealing with the same issues (all very eBay issues) as we were dealing with 10 years ago.
    We have done Ok with eBay over the years, but we really cannot see us growing any further with the site, it will be their of course but it certainly is not as important as it used to be.
    Reason the classified got a mention (and we are getting a ton of marketing emails from Gumtree) is Facebook marketplace has taken over that area.

  • northumbrian
    1 month ago

    ebay have neglected their jewel in the crown
    AUCTIONS,
    its the one thing few if any other marketplaces have,
    ebay are doing a royal mail thinking their invincible,
    the saleroom .com has turned into a multi-million pound business that dominates the antiques auction saleroom section
    where ebay at one time were the only game in town

    • 1 month ago

      Unless you’ve got something rare that is definitely going to get a lot of attention and more importantly, a lot of competing bids, an auction on ebay is the worst selling format you could chose.

      This isn’t ebay’s fault particularly and there’s not much they can do about it either. Bidders used to fight it out over an item in the early days on ebay and you could do well selling as auctions, but then they learnt to snipe bid at the last second, and then they learnt that if they didn’t battle it out but just waited, another item, just like the one they were bidding on, will be listed very soon by another seller.

      You can see what a failure the format is compared to buy it now in most categories. Just search an item and select sold listings, sort by highest price, and you’ll have the buy it nows at the top, and the auctions down the bottom, usually finishing with a bunch of 99p 1 bid sales.

      It’s a terrible format for most items and most sellers. And there’s no way of saving it.

    • 1 month ago

      Have to disagree with you there. People now want everything yesterday delivered for free with free returns. It is not possible to calculate margins when you don’t know how much something is going to sell for. I buy clearance stock/returns and somethings make great money other stuff you buy in bulk you just try to get your money back on. Tried auctions a few times but to get rid of things, might get lots of watchers but then one bid at the last minute if you are lucky. Other things don’t sell, relist them for more at buy it now and they usually sell with in a few weeks.
      Maybe when someone bids in the last 5 or 10 minutes then another 5 or 10 minutes gets added to the auction.

    • northumbrian
      1 month ago

      auctions dont work for everyone of everything
      though neither does buy it now
      but
      its something ebay have ,
      that none of the other big players have

  • Dave
    1 month ago

    ‘During the year we acquired Terapeak, which will provide additional functionality to eBay’s Seller Hub — from sales history and performance enhancement opportunities to price guidance and comparisons’

    And that works well doesn’t it. I click on the link today from SellerHub

    ‘Our pricing recommendations could help you sell more. Download your personalised report now.’

    and that takes me to the ebay.de login page.

    Cracking work. Guess Wenig is busy at GM today…..

  • 1 month ago

    eBay is making one fatal mistake – they’re not realising that they have become a search engine of goods. Amazon knows this and introduced PPC many years ago, while eBay years later only managed to do Promoted Listings – which are no where near as effective as a true PPC platform, like Amazon or Google provides.

    As much as people would hate paying for those clicks, it’s time to realise that there are TOO MANY listings on eBay to sort them out in some natural way! People are simply not browsing that far in search and only way to get on top, right now, is to basically offer lowest price on eBay. Then you get tons of business.

    There should be a way to pay for targeted ads in search, based on keywords – just like we do it on Amazon or AdWords. Then at least people who sell higher quality, more premium products would stand a chance to get their listings shown in search. Right now it is simply not possible as eBay’s search algorithm is heavily based on the lowest price.

    Plus the lack of proper product reviews in place – they even messed up the new review system when they should have just copied what Amazon does.

    eBay is great for selling used items (but not phones and other expensive items as it’s so easy for scammers to get you on those) but without a PPC platform, it does not offer the control over traffic/clicks a business would like to have in 2018 and beyond.

    • SAM
      1 month ago

      PPC is poor value for money compared to Promoted listings, and suits those who can afford to pay to play. I could not afford to outbid Shopto for keywords in our sector it is impossible and actually just offers a biased search.

      Promoted listings at least you have to get a sale. However both still do offer a biased search.

      It is how you actually list your products on ebay. That product title…

      We cannot compete with Magpie and Shopto on PRICE but can still fetch a better price.
      Amazon is the real race to the bottom on price not eBay (it is however getting there.

  • 1 month ago

    Amazon for one is NOT all about the price! The algorithm on Amazon is so much more sophisticated than eBay’s and IF you sell a high quality product on Amazon, you can get very high in search due to reviews, even if your price is not cheapest.

    I have sold on both eBay and Amazon platforms and know this is 100% true. You can pick 10-20 products, search for them on eBay and Amazon and just analyse those first 20 placements in search results – you will quickly see the difference in prices and how on each platform results look different.

    As for PPC being poor value – at least you know what you’re paying for, down to keyword level. You can use that info on optimising listings, title, do outside marketing etc. PLUS it’s not like PPC is the only way to get sales on Amazon – it just helps to launch new products, get sales going and then over time – organic rankings and sales from search takes over. But at least we have that option to launch a listing and make sales from day one, rather than on eBay – list the product and HOPE that it will land somewhere on the first page.

    I have been a big advocate for eBay platform for many years but they are so many years behind Amazon that they make sellers life so complicated and un-predictable. I rather pay for clicks but know that I can get steady amount of sales in every day than relay on luck or selling the item for lowest price possible.

    Andrew