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eBay Pivots Away from Big Retail, CEO Tells Wall Street

eBay sellers will get more tools while the company plans to be on the lookout for acquisitions, according to eBay CEO Devin Wenig speaking at the Goldman Sachs Technology and Media conference on Wednesday.

During his talk, Wenig used variations of the same catchphrase he has been using to sum up how eBay is different than other marketplaces: “unique inventory and incredible value.” And he plans to go after boutiques and handmade crafters to get a rich and diverse set of inventory.

eBay had been focused on retail, and the company was a mile wide and an inch deep. But Wenig said post-PayPal, he’d rather have “a million small businesses” instead of putting “three more huge retailers on to sell commodity goods where I don’t compare well.”

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In fact, Wenig said there were things that worked for PayPal that weren’t necessarily working for eBay, and now heading the company without PayPal, Wenig decided to focus on the core and get rid of everything else, and referenced the sale of eBay Enterprise.

eBay hasn’t scratched the surface of the richness of inventory “as we pivot out of big retail,” he said. “Think of every boutique and artisan, and small bookstore, and handmade crafter.”

However, eBay is complicated for shoppers, the CEO said. And that’s why the company is “replatforming,” a reference to the initiative in which it is requiring sellers to list with Product Identifiers in order for eBay to be able to create Product Pages. That initiative has been a key talking point to analysts since Wenig took over from John Donahoe as CEO.

While not naming his rival, Wenig seemed to be referring to Amazon when he said (paraphrasing): “There are other companies that have grounded their value proposition in logistics. You can’t be bad at logistics. But if you’re good enough, and then you have better choices, better prices, more versions, more variations – that’s how we win.”

“The last thing we should do is compete with Amazon or anybody else by putting concrete in the ground. There’s already a lot of concrete in the ground. What it needs is to be redeployed and organized through data. It needs better capacity and efficiency.”

He said that’s what eBay does today with warehouses – it uses partners, it does not build warehouses. That’s the way eBay does it with local delivery – “you’ve seen a few partnerships, and there are more on the way.”

“Let that war be fought on somebody else’s margins, not mine,” he said.

And lookout for eBay to acquire companies in 2016. Wenig said eBay hadn’t done much in that regard over the past year, but now that valuations have come back to earth, “expect us to be an acquisitive company.”

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Ina Steiner is co-founder and Editor of EcommerceBytes and has been reporting on ecommerce since 1999. Send news tips to

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