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Five Years Later, eBay to Move Forward on Identity Management

A recent discussion by eBay of its forays into identity management may resonate with those who’ve followed the company closely over the past few years. If the current discussion of identity management seems vaguely familiar, it’s because eBay touted a major initiative 5 years ago, but it has barely been mentioned since.

In present day, eBay emphasized the importance of easy and secure access to the site’s services for its customers. eBay’s Kelly Vincent, Senior Director of Product Management, discussed some aspects of identity management on the company’s corporate blog.

There’s a focus on mobile connectivity in that discussion, unsurprising given the rise of mobile commerce in recent years. Vincent mentioned Touch ID and One Time Passwords as popular mobile device sign-on methods; eBay plans to support these for its customers.

The simplest reason for doing so would be to try and increase profitability from mobile customers. Figures from comScore showed holiday season spending via mobile ecommerce rose from 2014’s nearly $8 billion to some $12.7 billion in 2015. People have shown increasing willingness to spend from smartphones and tablets.

Another eBay project called Reclaim Email is also in the works. In the next quarter, according to Vincent, customers who can’t access an existing account tied to an email address will be able to use that same email address to register for a new eBay account. She explained:

“Today, an email address can only be associated with a single eBay account. Therefore, a customer who tries to register with an email address of an existing account will be blocked from registering a new account on eBay.

“In the next quarter we will roll out a flow that allows a customer who can’t access their account the ability to easily register for a new account with his or her existing email address.”

As mentioned earlier, this isn’t a new topic for eBay. Back in 2011, EcommerceBytes noted how eBay’s X.Commerce initiative would focus on the implementation of a “Commerce Identity” that would allow shoppers to login to eBay and non-eBay shopping sites similar to the way they do now with their Facebook logins.

At that time, the head of the initiative Neal Sample told EcommerceBytes “We think there’s room for a Commerce Identity for an individual to provide them both with safety and security and convenience of shopping that they don’t get out of other identities that are currently available on the web.” The program was to start with eBay, PayPal, and sites hosted by GSI Commerce and Magento and expand to non-eBay stores.

At the time, Sample said he believed the ability to separate commerce behavior from social behavior and social identity would be an advantage.

eBay’s latest news contains much less ambition, although focusing on making mobile ecommerce on eBay easier to initiate makes sense. EcommerceBytes did not receive a response from eBay for further comment on this topic.


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David A Utter
David A Utter
David A. Utter is a freelance writer based in Lexington, KY. He has covered technology topics from search to security to online business and has been quoted in places like ZDNet and BusinessWeek. He considers his appearance on NPR's "All Things Considered" with long-time host Robert Siegel a delightful highlight. You can find him on Twitter @davidautter and on LinkedIn.