Retail

eBay Is Sold On Its Sellers

How does eBay’s Hal Lawton, head of North America, feel about the company’s sellers? Fondly might certainly be a word to describe it.

After a recent appearance as the keynote speaker at the Catalyst Americas 2016 conference in Las Vegas, Lawton summed up his perspective on that group — and offered insight into the future of eBay and eCommerce in general — in a guest post for the ChannelAdvisor blog. In his own words: “At eBay, sellers are our oxygen.”

There are many clues in Lawton’s post that lend insight into the future of eCommerce and none more so than that statement regarding sellers.

While so many eCommerce companies are busy chasing shoppers — trying to figure out what motivates them to buy (fear of missing out, deals, loyalty rewards), more ways to be everywhere they are (mobile, TV, online, in-store) and what they care about most now when it comes to retail (customer service, on-demand delivery, ease of payment) — eBay is looking to the sellers as the true future and innovators of the industry.

The opportunity inherent in eCommerce is clear, says Lawton — to eBay, at least. He goes on to list some impressive (if not highly motivating) statistics surrounding the future of eCommerce: 49 percent of total retail sales in the U.S. today are impacted by online activities, and by 2018, that share will rise to 53 percent. The role of mobile devices and tablets is also projected to increase, with mobile and tablet-based sales rising to $252 billion in the U.S. by 2020.

The good news for eBay, says Lawton, is the strong foundation the company has to build on. Lawton is not exaggerating when he calls eBay “one of the world’s top brands.” The online marketplace boasts 162 million global buyers and more than 800 million live listings.

Perhaps most impressively, and the crux of the matter, is the fact that eBay’s seller network spans 200 markets worldwide. That’s powerful on both the buyer and seller side of the equation. What eBay and other eCommerce marketplaces, like Amazon, Flipkart and Alibaba, have done is open up a world of commerce to sellers that, just a few decades ago, was closed to all but the very top of the retail food chain.

So, where does this democratization of digital retail go next? Will marketplaces continue to grow based largely on the backs of their sellers, or is there a threshold in sight?

According to Lawton, there’s no such ceiling on the horizon right now. He attests that eBay’s success will very likely be driven by the success of its sellers. Unlike other marketplaces, notes Lawton, eBay supports, rather than competes with, its sellers.

The company has rolled out a number of tools aimed at improving the selling experience, making it simpler to do what eBay hopes its sellers continue to do: sell lots of merchandise. While eBay has put considerable time into simplifying the merchandise catalog and making it easier for buyers to find what they’re looking for, it has also created a more frictionless listing experience for sellers, cutting down on the time it takes to get new products listed on the site.

Another seller pain point that eBay’s addressed: shipping. In the last year, eBay has introduced new shipping options, including Valet (a professional selling service) and Shyp (a shipping pilot program currently operating in select U.S. markets). The consumer interest in goods being delivered on demand is certainly not going away anytime soon; on the contrary, expectations of shoppers regarding delivery only promise to rise.

EBay is also diligently paying attention to, and expanding, its social presence — a move echoed by many savvy brands in the industry. According to Lawton, eBay has expanded its presence across 14 platforms, with a strong foothold on both Facebook and Pinterest serving as the marketplace’s social foundation. It’s not just sticking to what’s best-known in the space, however, as the company is also embracing emerging social platforms, like Imgur and We Heart It.

In the ChannelAdvisor blog post, Lawton outlines an exciting new partnership that eBay recently forged with Facebook, which allows eBay’s auction updates to be delivered to users via Facebook Messenger. The idea, says Lawton, is to help customers participate in, and win, more auctions by making bidding more convenient.

EBay is also putting considerable focus on generating engaging content. As Lawton says, content allows the brand to deepen its relationship with new and existing customers at memorable “life moments.” He expresses that the company has been happy with the outcome of its social and content efforts and will therefore continue to invest in these channels.

So, it seems that the future of eCommerce is looking decidedly social, connected, faster and seller-centric. At least, from eBay’s point of view.

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