eBay plans a marketing push this fall to overcome a “consumer perception gap” about the kind of inventory eBay offers, and in part from the data breach the company experienced earlier this year, according to Devin Wenig, President of eBay Marketplaces. But sellers who are hoping for a major television ad campaign shouldn’t hold their breath.
Wenig acknowledged to attendees at the Citi 2014 Global Technology Conference where he spoke on Thursday that eBay is still experiencing “a bit of a headwind” from the security breach, which required 150 million customers to reset their passwords and resulted in the theft of users’ personal information. See today’s story, “Impact of eBay Data Breach Continues, Says Marketplaces VP.” (He did not mention the severe technical issues that left buyers and sellers unable to login or access their accounts on Wednesday.)
eBay waited until this fall to make an advertising push because the company wanted to focus on improving its user experience and diversifying its product line. When asked for details about the publicity push, he said: “With this brand campaign, we will do some innovative things. Brand, to me, doesn’t mean television. It means a combination of all sorts of touch points. We will be really careful about the way we do it.”
While people still think eBay as a place where they can find auctions, used goods and “consumer-sold” goods, that “is not the reality of our business any more,” he said early on. “It is largely new goods – over 70 percent.”
Wenig cited the growth in eBay’s seller base among large retailers. “We have brought over 140 big retailers or brands into the marketplace in the past three years,” he said, mentioning Best Buy and Target.
He also cited improvements in eBay’s mobile experience, which has helped drive user growth in the mid-teens over the past three years. “Now that the product experience is ready for prime time we can talk about that experience more frequently.” Last year eBay reported $22 billion in sales on mobile devices, he added.
Asked to comment on speculation that PayPal and eBay would split into two businesses, Wenig said only that its board would “think about the best way to create shareholder value.”
Asked about how eBay plans to capitalize on emerging markets overseas, Wenig said eBay is about to launch a local selling site in Russia. He also mentioned that eBay plans to “take our business into domestic China. It is our plan to be relevant in China over the next three to five years…there are other potential partners and ways we can enter that market.”
Improvements to the site’s mobile platform has brought new, younger buyers who are growing at double-digit rates but who don’t spend as much as older consumers, he said.
Regarding the site’s search engine Cassini, Wenig said 250 to 300 million searches are being made on eBay each day, and Cassini has proven to be “a very robust platform. It is fully deployed but user experience changes are constantly being made. I see this as a 10-year effort.”
Asked about price changes and “take rates,” Wenig said that rather than change pricing in marketplace sales, eBay has focused on changes to get sellers to follow the consumer trends. For instance, to get Top Rated Seller status, you have to ship quicker and offer better service. That’s the way a marketplace controls the customer experience without actually controlling the inventory. eBay changes the incentives every year and that does redistribute the take rate among sellers, but in the aggregate our take rate has been level in the last 18-month period, he said.
eBay is “experimenting and testing a number of different things” to take advantage of the popularity of event-based commerce. “Now we’re beginning to do highly personalized deals. We may have 20 deals going at one time, but you may only get electronics deals, not fashion, because you’ve bought a preponderance of electronics in the past.”
Wenig said that in October or November, shoppers may see a very different eBay home page based on their shopping habits. When you’re the world’s biggest store, which we are, he said, making it approachable and personal is a key part of our growth.
With more than 600 million items for sale, eBay is the world’s largest marketplace, and the number 28 brand in the world, he said.
Note from the editor: Greg Holden listened to the webcast of Devin Wenig’s presentation. For a full transcript, visit the SeekingAlpha website.