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eBay Psychologist Works on Human Aspects of Ecommerce

eBay hired a psychologist and research scientist 2 years ago to work in the eBay Research Labs to bring a human face to projects. Elizabeth Churchill, previously a Research Scientist at Yahoo, said eBay hired her to put a sharper focus on the human, experiential aspects of the emerging commerce landscape.

As Director of Human-Computer Interaction research at eBay Research Labs, she seeks to optimize user experiences. And in a post on the eBay blog on Tuesday, Churchill revealed her team does this not only by studying data, but by interviewing users – and even going on shopping trips with them.

Her research confirms everyday intuition that, “when people feel good, they linger way longer than it takes to efficiently get something done.”

Churchill discussed a program she recently started called, Putting the Person into Personalization. “You might not want to offer the same user experience to someone who is new to eBay that you offer to die-hard experienced users. Tailored process personalization involves focusing not just on what you give to people, but how you give it to them.”

In a project called Vintage Values, she’s looking at which fashion and accessory brands hold value over time and more deeply understand people’s values around conservation and preservation as part of their passion for vintage fashion and accessories.

“We’ve been going shopping with people in vintage and thrift stores, and interviewing them about buying and selling vintage fashion items on eBay.”

Her conclusion: “There is a bigger sense of value here, they have a strong sense of personal identity that rubs off in how they value eBay as an enabler for their passion. We are carrying out analyses right now to identify the processes and patterns in how people attach value to items and give them new life.”

Another area of research centers on the psychology found in gaming. “We are asking: can we identify who, when and why a game-like experience will engage people more versus when it is a turn-off, an irritation and a negative experience.”

Churchill said eBay needs to get better at designing for and understanding passion and feeling to complement what it has already achieved when it comes to designing for efficient commerce experiences.

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Ina Steiner
Ina Steiner
Ina Steiner is co-founder and Editor of EcommerceBytes and has been reporting on ecommerce since 1999. She's a widely cited authority on marketplace selling and is author of "Turn eBay Data Into Dollars" (McGraw-Hill 2006). Her blog was featured in the book, "Blogging Heroes" (Wiley 2008). She is a member of the Online News Association (Sep 2005 - present) and Investigative Reporters and Editors (Mar 2006 - present). Follow her on Twitter at @ecommercebytes and send news tips to ina@ecommercebytes.com. See disclosure at EcommerceBytes.com/disclosure/.