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After Troubling Q4, eBay CEO Says Things Will Get Better – In 2020

eBay
eBay has tough fourth quarter 2018

eBay spent more on marketing in the fourth quarter, but sales were nearly flat at a paltry 2% growth in GMV compared to a year ago. US sellers took the biggest hit – eBay reported GMV decreased in the US by 1% in the fourth quarter year-over-year – this despite the fact eBay effectively “paid” shoppers to buy through the use of sitewide flash sales that eBay subsidized.

eBay CEO Devin Wenig told analysts during a post-earnings conference call on Tuesday:

“Non-structured data SEO pages are delivering less traffic and lower conversion compared to a year ago, and while we increased our marketing spend in Q4, we experienced lower returns than expected.

“As we entered 2019 we’ve aligned our tactics to directly address these issues and to capitalize on the opportunities ahead of us as we transition to a different eBay in 2020 with a comprehensive catalog, intermediated payments and a robust and high contribution advertising business.”

In outlining some of the steps eBay planned to take to address its GMV growth problem, Wenig said eBay would make some substantial changes to its marketing strategy and spend “as part of our continuous effort to maximize efficiency across the business.”

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He said eBay would reduce certain marketing that showed lower return and would refocus its efforts on acquiring new buyers to drive growth.

That looks like bad news for sellers who rely on the eBay platform: Wenig acknowledged the impact that reining in marketing would have on sales: “While this will likely put pressure on GMV for a period of time, it will enable more profitability and a stronger foundation over the long term. We will continue to increase awareness around our brand, focusing on the value and uniqueness that differentiates the eBay experience.”

At least one Wall Street analyst wasn’t too upset at the prospect of eBay “optimizing” marketing spend, as he put it. Mark May of Citi said he believes that while GMV guidance could be at risk due to the reduction in marketing, “revenue guidance (take-rate) appears to be sufficiently conservative.”

In other words, more of the same – in the fourth quarter, eBay was able to handily meet its revenue targets despite the lackluster GMV growth. As the Wall Street Journal wrote, “On the positive side, (eBay) delivered solid revenue of $2.9 billion, in line with consensus estimates and toward the high end of the company’s guidance.” It’s proof that Wall Street looks at performance differently than customers (sellers).

Not that anyone was happy to see GMV stutter yet again.

Susquehanna International Group (SIG)’s Shyam Patil advocated selling off StubHub and Classifieds in his research note with the creative title, “eBay Inc.: Breaking Up Is Hard To Do…But Capital Returns Just Aren’t Good Enough Anymore.”

The analyst pointed out that eBay CEO Devin Wenig refused to address the pressure being applied by activist investor Elliott Management during the earnings call with analysts, and he predicted some contention over eBay’s stance against further breaking up the company.

“eBay continues to stress that it believes that Classifieds and StubHub are important to the overall business strategy, but struggled to provide specifics when talking about synergies between core eBay and the two assets,” Patil wrote. “For what it’s worth, eBay did state that it continuously evaluates the overall portfolio and is focused on creating value for shareholders.”

Patil himself went further, suggesting eBay sell not only Classifieds and StubHub, but optimize the core Marketplace business – perhaps by selling that business as well. “The more aggressive capital returns were good to see, but not good enough, especially as fundamentals continue to weaken.”

With the clock running out, Wenig outlined some key moves from his playbook. Among his plans:

  • Focus on improving conversion and frequency rates for existing customers, including providing ways to compare values and surface unique inventory.
  • Provide sellers with more data and tools with enhanced protections.
  • Grow new users, including delivering new experiences and messaging to encourage first purchases.
  • Provide new and existing customers with enhanced delivery and returns.
  • Move more SEO pages to a catalog structured-data foundation, using Artificial Intelligence to opt in millions of listings.
  • Continue to invest aggressively in advertising and payments.

eBay released full earnings and announced it would issue a dividend for the first time ever, you can read more and leave a comment on the EcommerceBytes Blog.

Ina Steiner on EmailIna Steiner on LinkedinIna Steiner on Twitter
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). Follow her on Twitter at @ecommercebytes and send news tips to ina@ecommercebytes.com.

8 thoughts on “After Troubling Q4, eBay CEO Says Things Will Get Better – In 2020”

  1. “different eBay in 2020 with a comprehensive catalog, intermediated payments and a robust and high contribution advertising business.”
    and
    ” focusing on the value and uniqueness that differentiates the eBay experience.”

    Sorry, mutually exclusive goals here.

    My fourth quarter year-over-year was down 27%. Ebay is a tailspinning plane crash into a dumpster fire.

  2. In lieu of all his polysyllabic, rambling, self-serving rhetoric, I’s suggest 3 simple words: sliding fee scale.

    Why is 10% such a sacred number? Why not 8% at $200? 5% at $300?

    How many sellers refuse to list anything over a certain amount because they hate the fees…and hate to pay Wenig a premium?

  3. Despite lowering my prices for Q4, the results were NOT good. Of the 285 items in my store, 76 of them had errors triggered by the New software change for Global Shipping sales, stated by eBay CS? Meanwhile another 145 ads had “PayPal.com” in the description, triggering more reasons for the ads NOT being in the search system? Many of the ads were missing 11 photos of the 12 I submitted due to eBay’s ;”photo Lost” when their servers had a meltdown? I simply dont have the time to fix those ads I made over the last five years? The manpower hours would be ridiculous! CS helped fix some problems and I said; ” if I have this many problems”, what about those who have stores much larger and older than mine? you see eBay idiots changed the software in India, and literally put eBay out of business with so many glitches in 2018, it was shocking how much money Sellers and eBay lost, all for the lowest bidder programmers of India! Penny wise; pound foolish is how eBay management thinks!

  4. You need new buyers because you lost so many. I used to buy alot on ebay. Its now too difficult to tell what is real, vs. fake, or domestic vs. china, actual good deal vs. drop shipped. Rope in all the new buyers you want, but unless the core buying experience stops ending in disappointment, no amount of freebies or advertising will bring people back.

  5. Most of Derpy’s talking points are meaningless lies.

    Lies: Focus on improving conversion and frequency rates for existing customers, including providing ways to compare values and surface unique inventory.
    Fact: eBay has no way to compare values, at least not the way sites like Newegg have been doing for years. eBay also works hard to surface Chinese inventory which is far from unique while suppressing inventory of local sellers with many tricks.

    Lies: Provide sellers with more data and tools with enhanced protections.
    Fact: eBay takes away tools, takes away data, and has no protections to enhance.

    Lies: Grow new users, including delivering new experiences and messaging to encourage first purchases.
    Fact: Buying and selling are not new experiences. Buying and selling on a decrepit platform that falls apart a little more each day aren’t either. Hiding listings does not encourage purchases.

    Lies: Provide new and existing customers with enhanced delivery and returns.
    Fact: eBay does not deliver and so cannot enhance delivery. All the carriers, who do deliver, have enhanced are the costs. Returns are something eBay should avoid rather than enhance. Nobody in their right mind wants to have to return anything. Enhancing returns sounds like enhancing gun shot wounds.

    Lies: Move more SEO pages to a catalog structured-data foundation, using Artificial Intelligence to opt in millions of listings.
    Fact: eBay knows nothing about SEO. Its artificial intelligence isn’t intelligent because eBay’s feeding it with the mush in Devin’s head and the fifth-rate skills of India’s slums.

    Lies: Continue to invest aggressively in advertising and payments.
    Fact: Payments provide zero value to sellers. Even in the case of the initial Paypal push, which may have provided marginal value over cash for a subset of sellers, this is a 1:1 replacement at best. It creates no additional value and likely _subtracts_ a great deal in the form of eBay’s trademark lousy security and incompetent design. Advertising likewise provides zero value when listings are actively hidden and actually subtracts value when it’s used to lure customers away.

    The only people dumber than Derpy Wenig are the imbecile that hired him and the Board of Duhrectors that won’t fire him.

  6. Things will never be better unless they revamp search to be fair and actually help sales instead of hinder them.

    Investors should all sell sell sell this crappy stock in such a crappy company.

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