|Tue Mar 10 2009 09:35:28|
No Bonus for eBay Execs, Look for April Announcements
By: Ina Steiner
eBay management failed to meet performance targets set by the Board of Directors in 2008. As a result, top executives will not receive company Incentive Plan bonuses. In addition, "in light of the financial uncertainties caused by the global macroeconomic recession and credit crunch, the committee decided to freeze 2009 salaries for executive officers, including our CEO, at 2008 levels."
The information is detailed in the company's Proxy statement in advance of its annual meeting being held at the end of next month. (See today's AuctionBytes Newsflash article.) Shareholders will vote at the meeting on a program to bail out employees stuck with currently worthless ("underwater") options.
While some are expecting eBay to make announcements at its Analyst Day tomorrow, Colin Sebastian of Lazard Capital Markets expects eBay to announce a round of seller/platform changes in April to be implemented in June, with a second round of announcements coming well in advance of the key holiday selling period, perhaps in the middle of the third quarter. He issued a company note in advance of Analyst Day and wrote that he expects one or more of the following initiatives to be announced next month:
Broader rollout of product catalogs and creation of structured data sets to improve product search results, data mining capabilities and overall site merchandising. Catalogs and tracking of SKUs by UPC and other unique identifiers should also help powersellers better align their listings with buyer demand.
More detailed and robust product pages. While product pages on eBay could ultimately have more in common with Amazon's format, we believe that more detailed product pages and further blending of fixed price and auction listings should enhance the shopping experience and could drive higher conversion rates.
Improvements to search. We expect eBay to utilize technology and engineering resources obtained through its acquisition of Positronic to roll out improvements to search - building from the current algorithm that ranks recent sales (for fixed price items) and time ending soonest (for auctions) highly; followed by detailed seller ratings (DSRs); buyer satisfaction ratings; item title relevance; and item and shipping costs.
Local Marketplace opportunity. We expect management to allocate additional resources to tap the local e-commerce opportunity, and begin to integrate online classifieds within local Marketplace listings. eBay's classified ad websites operate in more than 20 countries, and we believe could integrate well with the eBay marketplace and PayPal.
Focusing on large sellers/enterprises. Continuing one of eBay's more controversial initiatives from 2008, we expect eBay to continue adding larger enterprise sellers to the platform, benefiting from the early experiences of Buy.com, Smartbargains.com (and others).
Promotions with sellers to increase sales velocity. This year, we expect eBay to continue offering promotional assistance to sellers, including homepage placements, email marketing, coupons, and the popular Daily Deals. We also expect eBay to promote the Live Cash Back program in partnership with Microsoft (currently 8% off), which increases conversion rates for high ASP items, according to our checks.
Sebastian wrote that, "While not necessarily in the first batch of platform changes this year, we also expect eBay to make changes to its pricing policies, provide new tools for sellers to improve service, and reduce the number of customer touch points (lowering customer service expenses)."
Sebastian also highlighted top questions for management at the Analyst Day and discussed eBay's valuation. Note that Lazard Capital Markets LLC makes a market in EBAY securities.