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Facebook Offers Advice to eBay Sellers

Facebook has a message for eBay sellers, and it sent a top executive to deliver it during the recent eBay OPEN event for sellers held in Las Vegas.

Simon Whitcombe, head of global marketing solutions at Facebook, oversees the work of several verticals at the company. Ecommerce is one of those, and at eBay Open he discussed the intersection of mobile with online selling.

“People are obsessed with their mobile devices,” he said. “15 years ago we were walking around quite happily without mobile devices.” Whitcombe mentioned there’s even a proposed word for being afraid of not having one’s mobile on hand – nomophobia.

The numbers on this fixation find people interact about 76 times a day with those mobiles, occupying about 2 and a half hours of time each day. It’s a figure that’s even higher for millennials, Whitcombe said, and further noted 100 million hours of video consumed on Facebook each day.

“Live video is becoming a huge part of the content appearing on the platform,” he said, and observed that small businesses are starting to leverage video.

Importantly for online sellers, Whitcombe said “People are buying based off video as well.” As to mobile’s role, Whitcombe called it “an absolutely intrinsic part of the shopping journey.” He further cited how 45 percent of online and offline purchases include a mobile component.

Ecommerce pros looking for younger shoppers for their niche need to realize the importance of portable devices like smartphones and tablets. Whitcombe noted how for millennials, desktops aren’t part of many of their everyday lives.

“What we’re finding on mobile is it’s much more of an open landscape,” he said. The millennial audience expectation is for changes in content when they check mobiles.

But how should sellers optimize their experience for the mobile audience? Whitcombe said the biggest obstacle for shopping on mobile is friction, which online sellers need to remove. Entering addresses, payment information, looking for ways to make it easier to enter that data, like prepopulating fields, all help, he noted.

“What we’ve seen with partners who have a credit card credential attached to their mobile app, or have one click PayPal purchase activated, is we can see this driving people from Facebook into a mobile app, and the kind of conversion rates you would expect and in some instances much better than what you would see on desktop.”

Whitcombe gave a personal example of how structured data (an increasingly important focus for eBay), combined with the opportunity for discovery on Facebook based on user data, nudged him into a t-shirt purchase. His personal interests in both Star Wars and the animated, virtual English band Gorillaz, turned up in his Facebook feed in the form of an ad for a t-shirt that combined Star Wars with the Gorillaz’s artistic look.

Mobile opens up this opportunity time 24/7. Interestingly, on Facebook, people are using “add to cart” on mobile as a wish list to look at later on the desktop, when they might do some comparison shopping but where they ultimately pull the trigger. As Whitcombe noted “desktop is intent-driven.”

Whitcombe said consumers expect this kind of movement from platform to platform to be fluid, with eBay doing a lot of work to remove friction and allow people to easily navigate their shopping experience from device to device.

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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.