The CEO of eBay began his letter to shareholders with some dire warnings, advising them of increased scrutiny and regulation of tech companies and warning of a pending battle between robots and humans. He also promised eBay would speak out on issues around trade, taxes, and immigration.
“As I write this, a global debate about the role and responsibility of technology companies is playing out around the world. Facebook is under intense scrutiny for its handling of customer data; the President of the United States is tweeting about Amazon; and authorities in almost every jurisdiction globally are looking to impose punitive and novel new taxes on tech companies or the business they enable.”
He warned of a pending battle “with algorithms and robots pitted against a more humanistic vision of the future.”
In light of those challenges, he said eBay would defend the role and benefits of technology, and the necessity of innovation and competition.
“In particular, we will continue to take public positions in support of free and fair trade, tax structures that do not penalize small businesses, and responsible immigration that allows us to foster innovation by attracting the best and brightest talent from around the world.”
eBay Will Continue to Innovate
Wenig said he spends the majority of his time on product and customer experience. “We are restless and love to experiment,” he said. “At any given time, we have thousands of tests underway, and we are always looking for ways to increase our capacity to test and learn.”
eBay Ad Campaign Focuses on Company rather than Products
He also addressed eBay’s latest marketing initiatives and promised to continue them through the rest of the year. “Historically, we focused on marketing the products that customers purchase on eBay. In 2017, we began marketing eBay itself – through digital, outdoor and TV channels. This campaign differentiates eBay, addresses consumer misperceptions and brings to life the eBay we are building for the future. We will sustain this brand campaign through 2018.”
eBay Marketplace Listings on Classifieds Platform
Wenig said eBay would continue to integrate inventory between its Marketplace and Classifieds platforms, a practice with which sellers may be unfamiliar. “By sharing the broad selection of eBay Marketplace inventory with our Classifieds sites, our Classifieds buyers have access to more selection, and our Marketplace sellers have access to more buyers, thereby increasing sales velocity. I was encouraged to see our Classifieds and core eBay platforms adding significant value by working closely together in 2017.”
eBay Will Survive Retail Consolidation
Even though he ended his letter with another warning – he predicts retail consolidation – Wenig said eBay would be one of the survivors.
“As technology platforms like AI, augmented and virtual reality and blockchain rapidly advance, they will continue to upend the way commerce is conducted across the globe. I believe there will be further consolidation across the retail landscape, and what will emerge are a few large shopping destinations that are customer-centric, technology-forward and global in nature. eBay will be one of those destinations as we continue to embrace disruptive technology, innovate on behalf of our customers and drive the growth of our business around the world.”
You can read Devin Wenig’s full letter to shareholders on the eBay corporate blog.