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Devin Wenig wants a discovery-based shopping experience for eBay

By Chris Dawson October 15, 2018 - 9:00 am

Devin Wenig, eBay’s CEO said at the recent Geekwire Summit that he doesn’t want to compete with Amazon. Further, he wants to get as far away from Amazon as he can with a discovery-based shopping experince. You might think this somewhat strange considering eBay‘s current move to a product based shopping experience which involves listing compression – the practise of rolling 100s of listings into a single search result which is very reminiscent of Amazon‘s Single Product Detail Page. However the structured data and image search technology which is so Amazon like is exactly the data needed to power discovery-based shopping.

“I don’t want to compete with Amazon; I want to get as far away from Amazon as I can. I want us to stand for something fundamentally different. I want eBay to be a winner in discovery-based shopping. I want it to be a place where people think of first for the things they love, not just the things they need.”
– Devin Wenig, CEO, eBay (via Geekwire)

The refusal to compete with Amazon is a smart strategy however, it’s also an acknowledgement that Amazon wiped the floor with all ecommerce competition and just about won the war in the West for convenience, selection and price. eBay has failed to give buyers a way to surface items that can ship quickly, in our opinion failing sellers who can provide the service and in fact do as they also sell on Amazon. Whilst we believe eBay could do much more to highlight the service that their sellers can offer and enable buyers to find listings offering premium service, trying to compete with Amazon purely on service is doomed to failure. eBay don’t control the delivery service as Amazon does with their FBA and Seller Fulfilled Prime service and mainstream couriers don’t collect from small businesses on weekend and this is where Amazon wins.

If you can’t compete and win then the best tactic is to change the rules of the game and eBay should be able to out-eBay Amazon on selection and discovery is certainly an area that they should be able to win. eBay have a vastly more diverse selection of goods than are available on Amazon – Antiques, Collectibles and Motors are just three of the categories where eBay trounces Amazon, not to mention the choice of new, used, manufacture refurbished, seller refurbished, and new old stock which eBay sellers offer but aren’t generally found on Amazon.

Discovery-based shopping is where eBay should be winning but currently history says they’ve tried a number of times and not totally got it right. Stumbleupon, a discovery based shopping engine was acquired by eBay back in 2007 but sold back to the founders in 2009. Stumbleupon was perhaps a search engine that was ahead of the curve and their goal to become the world’s largest recommendation engine is today directly aligned with Devin’s wish to make eBay the winner in discovery-based shopping.

In 2012, Jack Abraham, then Director of Local for eBay marketplaces, pitched the idea of the ‘eBay Feed‘, a saved search based home page for eBay that aimed to surface products based on the buyer’s interests. Eventually the feed disappeared from the eBay home page

In 2017 eBay had another shot, again with the aim to provide every shopper with a personalised and compelling discovery-based shopping homepage experience, powered by Artificial Intelligence and built on structured data.

“We’re also rolling out a new homepage that is powered by the replatforming work we’ve been doing.
Using structured data — a transformative step to drive discoverability of our vast inventory, insights into supply and demand, pricing trends, among other things — and artificial intelligence, we’re creating a shopping experience that is tailored to each eBay user’s interests, passions and shopping history. With more than one billion items from new, to nearly new to vintage, we’re making shopping on eBay all about you, instead of a one-size-fits-all approach.
You will see a simpler, more personal and discovery-based buying experience with highly tailored choices and unique selection, helping you find your version of perfect, no matter what it is.”

– Devin Wenig, CEO, eBay in 2017 introducing discovery-based new eBay homepage

At Geekwire, Devin acknowledged that eBay and Amazon naturally compete in the same space for buyers and seller’s inventory. His main point was to explain that the two marketplaces shouldn’t be mirror images and his aim is to build a build a differentiated proposition for buyers and sellers. Devin want’s eBay to be something different and the problem is, he says, that there are a billion buyers out there who could benefit from eBay… The problem is that they don’t know what eBay do.

One might think that the sellers and buyers already on eBay also aren’t really clear what eBay do and that their proposition is. Whilst Devin is steering eBay on a multi-year journey to reinvent the marketplace buyers and sellers haven’t all grasped the vision for the future. Have you?

  • 1 month ago

    Devin Wenig:

    “I don’t want to compete with Amazon” – translation: we’ve already lost, so what’s the point?

    “I want to get as far away from Amazon as I can” – translation: they haven’t offered me a job.

    “I want us to stand for something fundamentally different” – translation: hello, is there anybody out there?

    “I want Ebay to be winner in discovery-based shopping” – translation: hopefully I will get my pay-off before anyone works out this is meaningless

    “I want it to be a place where people think of first for the things they love, not just the things they need” – translation: people can’t find what they need on Ebay any more

    Summary translation:

    Will GM please give me a full time job, so I can get outta here.

  • JoeB
    1 month ago

    I’ve been saying for years that eBay need to stop trying to be Amazon and make eBay the place to go for things you simply can’t find anywhere else, that’s its main strength IMO.

    I feel it’s too late though, eBay is a dinosaur and is dying a very slow death.

  • 1 month ago

    “I want it to be a place where people think of first for the things they love, not just the things they need” – translation: people can’t find what they need on Ebay any more’

    ^^^^^^ This!

    I’ve just about given up on buying on eBay these days and just head to Amazon. It took me nearly an hour to buy a large quantity of AAA batteries on eBay the other day (960 in a box) as it was impossible to narrow down the search to what I wanted and had to fight through (discovered?!) the 3600 results. Ended up with 4x 240 batteries, £60. Good deal in the end but very painful. If it’s hard to find the thing you KNOW you want, then how the hell is this discovery rubbish going to help?

    I have a few suppliers I buy regularly from, but that’s it.

    As has been said many times, they need to add an ‘Arrive by’ date search, also available quantity and tick the damn box that makes UK the default location (or wherever you happen to be). Best match used to work great, with a combination of price, seller level/service, but its all gone to pot these days.

    I struggle to see a way back for it if it follows Wenig’s chosen path.

  • Alex
    1 month ago

    I looked up discovery shopping on Wikipedia, it was the trend for 2007 apparently.

    No wonder people are calling ebay a dinosaur.

    I can see it now. You type in I want to buy a smart tv, eBay offer you a second hand Betamax or VHS recorder the millennium special edition, as their recommended purchase.

  • Toby
    1 month ago

    “I want us to stand for something fundamentally different”
    Yet they do….. As a buyer you can experience pages and pages of chinese sellers with terrible feedback, yet all at the top of search results. If you want to filter them out you are out of luck as many are apparantly in Manchester…. with 14 to 28 day shipping times!
    You can pick up loads of stuff cheaply by buying from the pretty damn obvious business sellers pretending to be private sellers (sorry no returns as they dont pay tax or most fees… so must be very poor)
    You can experience the quirks of the search system that when looking for say, accounting software…. brings up a doormat as the top item!
    It doesn’t stop there…. as seller it is even better!
    you can give your stock away for free under the ‘ebay doesn’t give two monkeys’ seller protection scheme. You can have cases opened against you and sit and wait while the buyer totally ignores everything you say, so they can close the case and get it for free. Not up for that? Just sit back and wait for a chargeback instead, no need to use ebay!
    You can enjoy regular abusive messages from buyers who’s opening line is something like ‘where the hell is my item? Get of your arse and send it or else i will report you to ebay you @~@@….’ . If you are lukcy they failed to read the deleivery estimate and are bitching because the item that had a due date of the 16th / 17th hasn’t arrived… and it’s already the 15th!
    I could go on.
    However I think i have demonstated clearly that the ebay platform is already offering something that you wont find in such abundance anywhere else.
    Why do we need more?!!!
    Ebay know where they need to go, they know how to go there…. they simply just wont do it.

  • Harvey
    1 month ago

    The discovery shopping is a way that eBay will promote the sponsored listings more and more. They will ignore the specific make and model people type in and push similar sponsored listings first.

    At the moment some of our previously best selling items are not selling too well. I noticed yesterday that is because of Chinese sellers saying they are in Portsmouth, who are coming up first in the search results, their feedback is terrible saying the goods are arriving later than the estimate from China but ebay are ok pushing them first because they pay sponsorship money.

    We also struggle to compete with sellers evading taxes and duties. Some overseas sellers even say in their listings they will claim the item value is lower so the buyer doesn’t pay duty and eBay are ok with that on the listing. If ebay cared they could run a sweep to pick up key words on listings to pick out listing stating they will evade duties for the buyer.

    Buyers would be happier if ebay UK filtered sellers were actual UK based sellers.

  • Emily
    1 month ago

    Mr Wenig should start by looking at the many comments made by business sellers over the last few months about the negative effect the return penalty charge is having on them. Ebay is a very negative place to sell at the moment and is getting more and more expensive too.

    • 1 month ago

      It sure is. Has anyone ever had an appeal upheld when the buyer sends back a load of rubbish instead of the £200 Blu-ray player for example? Auto accept, auto refund, auto theft. Brill…. This mornings latest one:

      Hello Dave,

      Thank you for contacting eBay Customer Service regarding the item “Samsung Player (202107122903)”. My name is Diksha and I understand that you want to appeal the decision of this case, allow me to assist you.

      I understand how incredibly frustrating it must be when a buyer doesn’t return an item in the exact condition it was sent out. I can assure you that situations like these are very few and far between on eBay. I totally understand that you have not received the item returned completely back to you.

      Please understand we did not see the condition of the item went it was received by the buyer vs how it was returned, we must remain impartial and having the buyer return the item in exchange for a full refund was the best resolution from our point of view.

      Although we can’t reverse this decision, there are still a couple of things you could do: 

      Block the buyer
      If you wish to block this particular buyer from purchasing your items in the future, you can find instructions on how to do so by following the steps below:

      1. From the eBay Homepage, click Help & Contact.
      2. Enter ‘block a buyer’ into the search bar.

      Speak to Citizen’s Advice/Small Claims Court
      • If you’ve been unable to come to a resolution with the Seller, you can choose to contact Citizen’s Advice or the Small Claims court, depending on the amount of the item.
      http://www.citizensadvice.org.uk

      Small Claims or Money Claim online
      • Depending on the value of the transaction, you may want to take the matter further and file an official complaint against the buyer.
      http://www.moneyclaim.gov.uk

      I realise this may not be the answer you had hoped for but I hope you understand why we cannot grant your appeal.

      Kind Regards,

      Diksha M.
      eBay Customer Service

    • Janet
      1 month ago

      @ Dave.

      We had rice returned instead of a £400 item from an eBay buyer in 2017. We used moneyclaim.gov.uk sued the buyer and won the case.

  • Lucy
    1 month ago

    Discovery shopping………I discovered on Friday that eBay automatically accept returns on items that haven’t been delivered yet.

    What sense it that! Are they so keen to get the return penalty fees on return requests.

  • james
    1 month ago

    “we don’t want to compete with our main competitor”.
    given the standard of competition you offer, that’s fairly obvious.

    what ebay say and what ebay do are often the exact opposite.
    say you want to get as far away from amazon as you can, while doing everything you possibly can to imitate amazon.
    say you want to be fundamentally different, strive to be homogenous in all regards.
    say you don’t want to compete, then in the same breath say you want to be a winner.
    say trust is important while lying through your teeth.
    say you need to be impartial while being outragously biased.

  • Emily
    1 month ago

    Mr Wenig says “we’re making shopping on eBay all about you, instead of a one-size-fits-all approach.”

    It’s a shame the return request metric penalty charge is not like his image of shopping on eBay, with return request penalties a one-size fits-all approach is pushed to the limit. No appeals, all SNAD cases count regardless of the outcome of the case, all requests count, even if they are closed or timeout and no return happens. And in this case it’s all about ebay and their fee increases.

  • Jay
    1 month ago

    What seems to come from horses mouth is not quite what seems to happen in eventual reality.

    Who actually pays a blindest bit of attention to this corporate nonsense!? It’s not aimed at you and I (real sellers) but purely at clueless investors who only have the insight of a software algorithm and these pathetic press statements.

    What’s actually going on internally is of no interest to the corporate side of the business, as much as they like to tell us otherwise.

  • Jeff
    1 month ago

    I can’t even look at the clowns picture, he has done more to destroy eBay than any other nepotite that was installed previously. Every time he opens his mouth it’s just complete €$ that’s uttered.

    • SAM
      1 month ago

      Is this the only picture that exists of this guy….have you seen his salary it is just obscene, the man just opens his mouth and nothing comes out…..all he wants to be a Amazon lite, and his obscene salary…

  • Roman Michael Evans
    1 month ago

    Devin you dont u derstand big business and you need to move on. You dont understand the ebay platform and where it was when it started and where it is today. Its worse than its ever been and i am one of the original sellers from the beginning. No young people want to shop ebay anf all the ebay sellers get are reject problem buyers out to scam you. Amazon get the top professional people and we get the garbage. Bring Meg Whitman back.

  • Terry
    1 month ago

    I thought this sort of stuff was supposed to come out of the other end of the horse !

  • 1 month ago

    Ever wondered where Wenig gets his “ideas” ? Just search online for bullshitgenerator

    You can generate your own bullshit and be like Wenig.

    You too will be able to speak his language – here are some examples:

    maximize efficient networks
    leverage value-added ROI
    synthesize front-end supply-chains
    monetize proactive markets
    cultivate turn-key platforms
    envisioneer virtual web services

    Once you speak the language of the business elite, you will easily get onto boards and earn mega salaries, as well.

    There’s no such thing as failure, you just haven’t learnt to redefine plug-and-play paradigms yet.