eBay Thinks Global, Gets Personal

As one of the web's best known, most established eCommerce sites and original marketplaces, eBay's evolution over the last half decade has been rapid.

Having split off from PayPal in 2014, eBay has been determined to go its own way ever since, though defining its "own way" has been something of an open project. Its original designation as the internet's favorite garage sale and auction site has given way to new offerings, higher-end items and more goods that can be purchased with a click instead of waiting through a long auction.

In recent years, eBay has moved to make its service more personal. That project, notably, has been ongoing. In 2011, it bought startup Hunch for that purpose, and launched its Setify tool in 2012 so users could build personalized collections and wish lists. The site's new rollout  eBay Interests  is the latest advance in the personalization trend.

A Store Front For An Audience Of One

Interests allows eBay users to tap their way through the mobile app to tell the site what their specific areas of shopping interest are shoes, bikes, scarves, etc. Once users offer up the profile data, eBay Interests works to match one's self-described tastes to create a personalized version of its store. Here, users can browse collections related to what they wanted to see. Those suggestions are pulled from eBay's 171 million buyers.

If it works and users visit the site more, the suggestions will presumably get better as the AI behind Interests gets a clearer picture of customer preference.

An eBay spokesperson said, “When it comes to personalization at-scale, most retailers merchandise the items that they are trying to sell. As an agnostic platform, eBay Interests helps sort through the 1 billion items available from sellers on eBay to find the items that are most relevant and interesting to you.”

Currently live in the U.S. on iOS and Android, the feature is set to soon take the global stage. Though eBay is looking to go smaller in some sense, it is trying to think bigger when it comes to curation for customers.

Ambitions In India

It was less than a year ago that eBay decided to bow out in India. It sold its business in nation to Flipkart, took a minority stake in the firm, and seemed content to let Amazon and Flipkart slug it out. But things can change a lot in under a year. Walmart went on to purchase Flipkart and one of the stakes it bought up was eBay's, to the tune of about $1.1 billion.

And as it turns out, eBay is not quite done in India yet and plans to relaunch in-nation, but with a twist. eBay is not moving on domestic eCommerce in India, but to a cross-border eCommerce website focused on Indian merchants that want to sell on the world stage and global merchants that want to sell in India.

“We plan to relaunch eBay India with a differentiated offer to focus initially on the cross-border trade opportunity, which we believe is significant,” the company noted in a statement. “We believe there is huge growth potential for eCommerce in India and significant opportunity for multiple players to succeed in India’s diverse, domestic market.”

The specifics of what eBay plans to build in India have not been expounded upon much beyond that. According to an eBay spokesperson, the timeline for eBay's next project in India cannot begin until the Walmart-Flipkart deal is officially closed. The hope, he noted, is that with years of cross-border trade experience behind them, managed at a profit, they are ready to jump quickly into a market that their spokesman told PYMNTS is "obviously fast-moving."

More details, eBay notes, will be available in the next few months.

The challenge for eBay is in its past success as an auction site, second-hand good shop and go-to for all items interesting and obscure on the web. Though auctions were less than 19 percent of its business last year (and eBay is moving avidly to be a general eCommerce go-to), it is still mostly thought of in those terms. However, if it can crack India without having to step into the middle of the Amazon-Walmart showdown, maybe it can figure out curation in a more sophisticated manner than showing them something similar to the last thing they bought.

Well, associations change in consumers' minds. People used to mostly define Amazon as on online bookstore.



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