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eBay CEO Lays Out Vision during Seller Event Keynote

eBay CEO Devin Wenig inherited a flawed marketplace, and he has begun to fix it. That was a major part of his message delivered in a keynote address at the eBay OPEN seller event in Las Vegas on Wednesday.

After becoming CEO a year ago, he had the option of keeping things the same. That’s not happening. He also had the option of going back to the way eBay used to be. That’s not happening either. If you come away with anything after listening to his presentation, it’s that he has his own vision for what eBay should be.

Advocates of the long-held “level playing field” approach will likely be disappointed – and it’s too early to tell if the small sellers of quirky, rare, unusual, knick-knacky, and liquidated types of goods will survive alongside the commodity items – new or used – that appear to be the priority at eBay.

Compared to his predecessor John Donahoe, Wenig appeared much more comfortable speaking to the audience of sellers and eBay enthusiasts. Coming off a quarterly earnings report that satisfied Wall Street investors, Wenig was upbeat and energized.

He’s proud of his first year at the helm, he said, but open-eyed about the work that remains. eBay is a technology company and he is obsessed with product and technology.

In fact, eBay’s product and tech people get notes from Wenig 24 hours a day, at 2 in the morning, saying “why isn’t this fixed, and why isn’t this working, and how come this looks like somebody else’s screen when it should look like ours, how come our apps aren’t faster.”

He said a year ago he decided, “let’s get back and love our entrepreneurs and seller community, and let’s obsess about building the best ecommerce product in the world. Uniquely eBay.”

“It drives me crazy when a seller says they want to leave eBay,” he said. “We should be a platform everyone can embrace. It drives me crazy when our products don’t work right.”

In talking about what made eBay special, he said, “Uniqueness does not necessarily mean a rare teapot of which there is one in the world. Uniqueness might mean last year’s iPhone, new.”

Several times Wenig seemed to criticize the way his former boss John Donahoe, a former management consultant at Bain, ran the company, such as when he referenced management consultants and their love of change. “If we’re running a company for the long term, strategy shouldn’t change every day. We shouldn’t be trying to be these guys one year, and these guys the next year, and we’re going left, and we’re going right. We know who we are. We know what we have to get done.”

And in talking about the new shopping experiences and product pages made possible by structured data, he said, “this should have been done 20 years ago.”

Regarding seller standards, he said, “I actually think we got way out of balance,” relaying conversations he had with sellers who said they couldn’t live with them.

Wenig said when he started, people asked, “why don’t we have product reviews?” He said the answer was that eBay didn’t understand product – “we had listings, not products.” Thanks to the Structured Data initiative, eBay now has 12 million product reviews.

“And you haven’t seen anything yet,” he said with regard to product reviews – “wait til you see what’s coming.”

Wenig said he reorganized eBay into verticals the way retailers work. “We’re starting to think a bit more like merchants.”

eBay will launch new categories and will be focusing on millennials. And eBay will be ready early for new platforms, referring to Artificial Intelligence and Virtual Reality.

The eBay OPEN event continued, with news coming out later in the day including the revelation that eBay would add sourcing insights to the eBay Seller Hub. And, what may be music to sellers’ ears: eBay will begin a national television advertising campaign on August 1st.

A video of Devin Wenig’s presentation is available on his Facebook page.

Learn more about the event, which is being webcast, in Monday’s Newsflash.

eBay OPEN continues on Thursday, you can register to attend virtually on openvirtual.ebay.com. And eBay spokesperson Ryan Moore told us all of the general sessions will be available for viewing early next week as well.

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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/.