Arguably, the internet’s premier destination for auctions is eBay, which is not an unfair statement, given the sheer volume of said auctions going on via its website at any given moment. But as massive and instantly associable as auctions are, eBay has spent the last several years growing up, and growing past its old model.
In fact, eBay is one of the web’s largest online marketplaces — with an estimated 168 million buyers in total — Customers eBay has spent much of 2017 trying to convince not to “shop like everyone else.”
For those who can’t watch, it’s a video of various people offering weak explanations for the presumably terrible gifts they bought.
“I bought it in one click” was our personal favorite bit of shade thrown.
The commercial — aside from some light ribbing of Amazon — is also meant, according to eBay’s Head of Personalization and Engagement Bradford Shellhammer, to remind customers that eBay has much more to offer when it comes to finding the perfect gift.
“There’s a world of things on eBay you don’t even realize we have,” Shellhammer said.
Connecting Consumers to that Unseen World
According to Shellhammer, eBay isn’t home to a select type of product or seller — the way many other online marketplaces are. Instead, it’s a marketplace for basically anything one could want.
“The diversity of our catalog makes us like no other retailer in the world,” Shellhammer said. “The hard part has been, where do you start? And how do you find things?”
In the past, product diversity on eBay was as much a curse as it was a blessing: Lots of items on offer translates into lots of time online for a customer, who can easily become overwhelmed by the process of finding just the right thing.
Which means as eBay has been trying to lure customers back to its site, the user experience (UX), and its ability to guide customers througout the site, has become essential. The site was redesigned, made more easily navigable with what eBay calls a “Netflix-style” curation scheme. As of November, eBay began rolling “Grouped Listings,” so that shoppers have a better way to find condensed listings by product type, instead of by seller.
Shellhammer noted that the future focus of the marketplace will move beyond monitoring purchases toward connecting shoppers with more specific preferences. The company is also pushing its guaranteed delivery program, ensuring more than 20 million items will arrive within three days.
The online shopping marketplace has also put price-matching into place for more than 50,000 deals.
Investing in Better Search
To make discovery easier, eBay has been upping its technology game. It bought out Sweden-based Expertmaker — a startup which specializes in providing intelligent solutions powered by artificial intelligence, machine learning and Big Data analytics.
As of yesterday, eBay announced its intentions to acquire Terapeak, a Toronto-based business that crunches data about supply, demand and pricing to help guide companies on what to sell and how to price it. The terms of the deal are unknown; Terapeak is very small and has raised around $5 million in funding.
The move represents eBay’s 60th acquisition in a three-year timespan. Its most recent run of investments and purchases, however, indicate that eBay is on the hunt for ways to bring better data to the eBay shopping experience.
Other than Terapeak and Expertmaker, eBay also picked up SalesPredict (acquired in 2016), which provides data points to sellers to help them figure out what to sell and when to sell it. Corrigon was secured last year for around $30 million and is designed to make third-party products more discoverable on eBay.
Whether it will work remains to be seen, but eBay’s move to up the level of its game is no surprise, given that the firm will pull in approximately one-quarter of its revenue during Q4, according to analysts at SunTrust Robinson Humphrey.
And eBay is trying hard to make a comeback: The marketplace’s share of online dollars in the U.S. slipped 6.5 percent in the fourth quarter of last year, compared with 7.5 percent the previous year.
Which means that eBay is hoping to use the magic of data to make its holiday shopping season both sparkle and shine.