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eBay Managed Marketplace is Devin Wenig’s aim

By Chris Dawson August 1, 2019 - 2:05 pm

Devin Wenig landed the top job at eBay when John Donahoe bowed out and jumped ship with PayPal after overseeing the split. Since then eBay hasn’t seen the ultimate results of the promised multi-year turnaround, some projects have stalled and had to have a rethink and others are still in their infancy and yet to be rolled out world wide, but Devin’s ultimate desire is to end up with an eBay Managed Marketplace.

In an exclusive interview with Wortfilter at eBay Open, Devin set up the three pillars of the eBay Managed Marketplace of the future – Product Catalogue, Payments and Fulfilment.

The 3 Pillars of the eBay Managed Marketplace of tomorrow

Product Catalogue

The product catalogue started to be rolled out with eBay’s insistence on the use of GTINs (EANs/UPCs), but this hasn’t played out as hoped. The goal was to roll similar listing up into a single listing where the buyer could select from different versions of the same product as well as different item conditions (New, Used, Refurbished etc).

The eBay product catalogue mandate was rolled back, but not binned entirely. eBay are now aiming to use Item Specifics and artificial intelligence to match similar products to present them to buyers in an easier to browse format.

eBay started out providing sellers very few tools. Many will remember the days when eBay listings didn’t even have pictures unless you embedded images into your listings – and when gallery images were introduced you had to pay for them. Today eBay have free images and places for shipping information, business policies, returns policy, item condition and attributes (Item Specifics) and a host of other non product description information. The next step is to address more of the functions sellers have had to undertake themselves, stream line them and in doing so improve the buyer experience.

Payments

Way back in their history, eBay made two fundamental errors with payments and aren’t about to make the same mistake again. Mistake number one was to pass on buying PayPal the first time around and end up paying an absolute fortune for it a few years later. eBay failed to see that eBay buyers and sellers needed a global payment solution and were using PayPal rather than Billpoint (eBay’s inhouse payment solution).

eBay’s second error was not to fully integrate PayPal into the marketplace platform and make it a single sign on. PayPal should never have remained a standalone solution and, if it had been integrated, eBay would have had significantly more protection against activist investors as an inextricably linked payment solution wouldn’t have been such an easy spin-off target. (For instance we’re not seeing calls for Amazon Payments to be spun off to create shareholder value).

Now, eBay are building an integrated single sign in payments solution. It’s live in the US and due to be launched in Germany later this year.

Fulfilment

eBay have announced Fulfillment for eBay is coming in the US in a programme called eBay Managed Delivery. Fulfillment for eBay has already been running in countries such as Germany and Australia and it’s long been a surprise on Tamebay that eBay haven’t up until now managed to negotiate shipping rates for sellers cheaper than they could negotiate themselves.

Now, eBay want to add eBay Managed Delivery to the mix and fulfil orders on behalf of their sellers. Yes, the smacks of what Amazon do, but it’s also critical that eBay start getting products to buyers faster and the only way they can do this for small businesses is by providing the service themselves.

Currently neither eBay Payments and fulfilment services haven’t made it to the UK – we’re expecting payments to come to the UK in the second half of 2020 and have every expectation that at some point Fulfillment for eBay will be announced.

Do you like the prospect of a Managed Marketplace?

There is no doubt that eBay have made sellers’ lives easier over the years with the introduction of new features such as images, a space for business and returns policies, space for shipping options and a myriad of other features.

Catalogue and Item Specifics have been an ongoing pain point for many years – there are too many updates, new item specifics, new mandatory Item Specifics and, having done all the hard work implementing Item Specifics category changes that mean they need to be all redone. Not to mention eBay changing the default values rendering old Item Specifics useless. eBay don’t have the tools to manage Item Specifics – that’s why they’ve made Optiseller free for their merchants in recent times. Lesson number one – if you don’t have a tool to say here’s a product tell me the GTIN don’t make them mandatory and if you don’t have a tool to manage Item Specifics don’t make them mandatory either.

Payments have to happen whether merchants like them or not, but eBay are looking at this as a $1 billion profit centre. Sellers, especially those who frequently see multiple item orders of relatively low value items, are going to hate the $0.25 per listing (not per payment) fee. Sell ten items on one order and eBay will charge £2.50 instead of $0.25 – that’s crippling.

Finally Fufillment for eBay… this will only work for merchants with deep inventory of repeatable stock. If you sell one off items it’s simply not going to be suitable.

What merchants really want is a marketplace where it’s easy to list and that means keeping Item Specifics to a minimum. Then they want a marketplace where their stock is discoverable and sometimes (perhaps often) this means not finding 1,000 generic iPhones rolled up into a single listing but finding the one iPhone which is on the Sprint network because they’re about to spend three months in the US! (Currently you can’t list an iPhone tied to Sprint on eBay UK).

eBay’s one aim should be a marketplace where everything is listed, all of a merchants inventory and not just the part that is easy to list. Buyers should be able to find the random one off oddity and that is what has always been the appeal of eBay. Sure, make it easy to buy the humdrum consumer electronics that do attract many buyers, but make it easy to find the really weird and strange stuff that can only ever be found on eBay. And to do that make it easy to list.

  • Jason
    3 months ago

    So his aim is to copy Amazon?

    No chance of competing with Amazon, especially when they allow sellers local to them in Ireland to break eBay policy.

    Seller luzerntech is in Ireland but item location is Ireland, UK (which is not a town in the UK) in order to trick customers. eBay have been informed on numerous occasions but are seemingly allowing this seller to break policy.

    Interesting that this seller is located across the road from eBay in Dublin in the same business park (look it up).

  • Dav
    3 months ago

    Any Wenig statements/interviews should be interpreted more like this, more like the truth:

    “I have been a huge failure as CEO. We continue to lose sellers and buyers because of our own incompetence. So our plan is to continue concocting more programs, policies, and changes attempting to squeeze as much money out of our remaining customers as we can. We will do it by every means possible. Underhanded trickery or not, it doesn’t matter. We need more sellers and listings so we can use them for our own profit. We don’t really care about actual sales any longer. Our only concern is to produce “numbers” for Wall Street. If things don’t improve, I guess we’ll just have to keep fabricating our “numbers” and hope everyone believes it.”

  • 3 months ago

    If Amazon are the marketplace leader then should ebay copy more from Amazon as in most businesses the competition copy/follow the leader, thus sometimes it can pay to fly under the radar i.e. do not sell a top selling product as others will copy quickly.

    There has been a lot of item specific updates and some of them IMHO do not even apply to the category the item is listed in. eBay tell us to update the specifics to improve buyer experience and performance however often we see other similar good ranking items with high volumes of sales without detailed item specifics. In my experience the item specifics are good as a buyer when shopping on the eBay app.

    eBay delivery could be good providing they do not count it as an ultra important exposure metric like FBA as like you stated in the article, many one off items or personalised items would probably not be able to participate.

    What we like about FBA and potentially eBay managed delivery is that the actual delivery responsibility is passed to the 3PL company, not the seller. I think eBay should have their own delivery company which comes and collects eligible items from the seller location or designated drop-off and once the item has been accepted by eBay delivery company then they take responsibility for the safe delivery of the item. Very similar to the global shipping programme.

    The buyer, the seller, eBay and paypal would know where the item is and this would assist with item not received, late despatch metrics alternate courier issues etc.

    Amazon will have drones but eBay could have motorbikes, cars, vans and planes worldwide providing a unique and positive delivery experience for both sellers and buyers!

  • 3 months ago

    I honestly feel Ebay managed delivery will be the final nail ion the coffin for small UK sellers.
    This will allow Chinese sellers to flood the warehouse with there stock which is sneaked in the back door with NO Vat, Income Tax or national insurance being paid on any of the items…..Exactly whats happened to Amazon

  • Markp
    3 months ago

    A view from luddite towers……….

    Whenever ebay tell us they are going to ‘manage’ something it translates into increased income for them and rising costs for sellers – Dav’s comments (above) sum up the suspicion that I feel whenever I get a ‘seller update’……

    I sell one off collectables so a managed market, particularly ‘fulfillment’ would be yet another intrusion on my business systems and my attempts to offer good service to my customers.

    Not for the first time on these pages I have to challenge the assertion that:

    “it’s also critical that eBay start getting products to buyers faster”

    In the second hand market (on which dear old ebay was originally based) customers may have waited many many years to add that special item to their collection…..a couple more days is neither here nor there.

    There are also serious implications for Royal Mail

  • Chas
    3 months ago

    Ebay doesn’t know what it wants to be, that is it’s problem, and it’s leaders don’t seem to have any clue where they are going, past trying to keep pulling results out of the hat. Our last website write was in magento at a premium cost specifically so it could dovetail with ebay, the site now needs a rewrite again to get to Magento 2, but after recent dismal sales on ebay which lead us to communications with an ebay manager, we have decided to split away from ebay and go with a shopify product. I know many people write about this and find ‘excuses’ but In short, for no reason, and not for the first time, our 3500 listings stopped selling, almost overnight. We have used ebay for 20 years, we sell very specific parts, we adhere completely to all the item specific details etc etc, we do not pay for premium exposure because there is no point, we don’t particularly have any competition, a buyer is either looking for and needing what we have or they are not. There was no logical known reason for our sales to dive, just as there was no logical known reason why after our communications with the manager, sales immediately within 24 hours went back to where they had been previously. Any company using Ebay as a serious channel cannot have this unexplainable ‘meddling’ in its sales, We have 50k lines of inventory we could upload to ebay if it were in anyway serious and settled, but it’s not, it chops and changes it’s vision every few years introducing new fees along the way. I really do think it’s days now as what it was are numbered, and there is no room in Amazons house for the competitor that Ebay seem to think they would like to be. Shame really, incoherent leadership has killed what was a bluechip brand.

    • Lianne
      3 months ago

      Hi Chas, it’s so concerning to read what you have experienced with eBay! We were doing well with our eBay shop a couple of years ago, sales were increasing year on year, but at the start of 2018 our sales started to drop and we are now down less than 50% of the turnover we were doing 2 years ago. We are seriously having to consider closing the business down if things don’t improve.
      Can I ask how you got in touch with the manager who seemed to resolve the issue with your sales? If you are able to give me any contact details I would appreciate it so much as something certainly isn’t right at our end but the normal customer service advisors have been no help!
      Many thanks, Lianne

  • Mark Hetherington
    3 months ago

    My personal opinion of Item Specifics (IS )is that they actually work in reverse to the way they’re intended to and put buyers off as a result.

    We have almost 10k, 100% feedback and listed a small but generally popular item, with all the correct IS, professional template, lots of high quality photos and information and so on. We sell around 8-10 a month.

    Another seller comes along, more or less copies our title, a few words on a plain template, one photo, 380, 98.3% feedback, sells over 200 in the first month. Apart from his crappy listing the only other difference is he has ignored all the item specifics. I’ve seen this happen with other items time and time again. Even ebay can’t explain why.

    I don’t think most people (buyers) bother filling in the items specifics because they know many sellers don’t bother filling them in. Instead of narrowing down the buyer’s search you might actually end up getting your items filtered out.

    For example, if they’re looking for a blue item and you put in the colour red as a filter, but they only search for blue ones they’re filtering out your item. But they might be happy with a red one if they spot it, especially if it’s cheaper or can be delivered quicker or whatever. But you’ve ensured yours isn’t seen by them, it will only be seen if they search for red in the filter.

    Hope that makes sense, but we’re experimenting with removing as many IS as possible to see if it makes any difference. It couldn’t be much worse.

  • Chas
    3 months ago

    I think the idea behind item specifics is to aid in external search engine search, not particularly within ebay, and with less and less product on ebay people will eventually stop using it as an all in one search engine / shop and revert to the traditional search engines, that’s when it may become more important if your goods are only listed on ebay. But I’d guess that’s 2 years away yet at present deterioration rate.

  • Mark Hetherington
    3 months ago

    I’m not sure. I know part of it is to comply with Google Shopping’s rules but I still think that the vast majority of eBay sales will come from people using eBay directly. Even now there are still tens of millions of products that people don’t know about and only find when they’re browsing, rather than specifically searching for something. Impulse buys.

    I would like to know the percentage of sales from people who are just browsing against those who are specifically searching and using filters. I think impulse buys are largely ignored and the general consensus of opinion seems to be that everybody online specifically searches for exactly what they need, but I think it’s a fallacy. I believe that most people don’t know exactly what they need and often just impulse buy when they spot something.

    Earlier this year we started selling accessories related to the main items we sell, something we’ve never bothered with in 16 years prior, always concentrating on the main market but some of those items are things I would never have thought of until we spotted them when buying in ourselves, and some have gone extremely well. Obviously I’m not going to name the items but they’re things I can’t imagine many people specifically searching for.

    I think they concentrate far too much on search and forget what brought people to eBay in the first place, not just that they sold what people wanted but everything inbetween as well. The obsession with search suggests to me that they’re concentrating on “what people want” but forgetting about all the stuff inbetween.

  • Dav
    3 months ago

    @Markp You are correct, eBay doesn’t do “seller updates”. In reality they are “Screw The Sellers Even Harder, More Money For eBay Updates”.

    And it’s not only updates. EVERYTHING they say and do is in that same direction.

    • Alan Paterson
      3 months ago

      @ dav, I would certainly quite Dav if thats your experience / conclusion.

  • Alan Paterson
    3 months ago

    sorry dav, that was meant to read “quit”

  • 3 months ago

    Product Catalogue just does not work and is a complete, like many things eBay.

    5 X Mains Powered FireAngel Sw1-r Optical Smoke Alarm With 9v Back-up Battery.

    Brand new: lowest price £25.99 Free postage

    https://www.ebay.co.uk/p/5-X-Mains-Powered-FireAngel-Sw1-r-Optical-Smoke-Alarm-With-9v-Back-up-Battery/11022033357

    When I use the quick and easy Buy it now button and then Review item and postage, I see that I am actually only getting two, not such a bargain after all. And a good job I did review the item, many people do not.

    The problem with this is that had I not spotted that the item was only for two I would struggle to have complained as the listing is for 2, not 5.

    Off to my local Tool Station to buy one for £12.00

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