Ina Steiner EcommerceBytes Blog
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by Ina Steiner, Editor of
Wed June 11 2014 10:18:31

Meeting eBay CEO John Donahoe at the Internet Retailer Conference

By: Ina Steiner and Greg Holden

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EcommerceBytes Contributing Editor Greg Holden covered today's keynote by eBay CEO John Donahoe at the 2014 Internet Retailer Conference on Wednesday morning. Greg and I are covering the conference here in Chicago.

I ran into John before the keynote - he reminded me he grew up in the Chicago area. I asked if he could speak about the new seller defect rates going into effect in August, and about the departure of David Marcus, who is stepping down as President of PayPal and joining Facebook.

John's handler said he's not doing media interviews today (I told John I'd love to interview him by phone at some point after the conference). He did say that consumer expectations continue to rise, the reason behind Seller Releases. He wasn't sure there would be a Seller Release in July, and said eBay tries to group the changes together as much as possible.

It was a disappointment that John didn't take questions, but one could certainly see there are lots of questions he would not have wanted to be asked, from eBay's recent security breach, to losing the president of its PayPal payments unit, and of course, the impact of Google's manual action on eBay exposure in search.

Now on to Greg's coverage of John's keynote address to online retailers, in which he said eBay enabled $212 billion of commerce in 2013, and talked about a "Commerce Revolution."

What I want to talk about is the commerce revolution that we're right in the midst of. I think we're in the early days of this. I believe we're going to see more change in how consumers shop and pay over the next 3 to 5 years than we have seen over the last 20 years.

You may say that's a bold statement. Analogy: the media world. (Asks how many use ipads and tablets. Many hands. Five years ago I never thought I would give up my physical newspapers or magazines, but now, I want my information where I want it and how I want it. It transforms consumer behavior. Tech enabled it, it put the consumer in charge.

Not all the incumbents were losers. Some new startups won, some lost. What's happened in the media industry is now beginning to happen in the world of commerce and payments. In this case the technology is mobile payments and smartphones. It's blurring the lines between ecommerce and retail. In the world of today, the consumer wants a seamless experience. In over 60 percent of transactions that closed in a retail store last year, the consumer accessed the web at some point during the shopping experience. The connected consumer is clearly in charge during this commerce revolution.

I want to share our experience at eBay. Our company is blessed to be at the epicenter of what is going on. Magento, etc.: those platforms enabled $212 billion of commerce last year.

Here is what we're seeing. We talk about 4 competitive battlefields: mobile, global local, data.

Mobile: increasingly we are using multiple screens when we shop. The ability to connect with consumers through multiple screens is essential. Data about how consumers are shopping during the day

(Shows chart) Green line: behavior at work. Look at red line: the smartphone. Consumers through the day are checking their smartphones and shopping. In over half those sessions less than 2 minutes per session: we call it snacking. Throughout the day.

Blue line: tablets. At home at night, consumers are buying on their tablets. Whether in front of TV or lying in bed. Consumers will often access several different devices during the day. We have to provide seamless experience.

Local: 80 percent of ecommerce happens within 15 miles of consumer's house. Every morning I walk into Starbucks. Smartphone in pocket. I don't take it out. At barista, that person sees my picture on sales system. Hey John, would you like the usual? He or she hands it to me, she presses a button, I walk out, I get a text saying I've paid. I get personalized service. Paying was taken out of the equation. Technology is offering a chance to reimagine the experience or local consumers and local retailers.

Global: Tech is also enabling global commerce. Gives merchants of all sizes greater opportunity. BHFO, Cedar Rapids, 2003. Sell fashion design apparel in eBay. 30% sold to consumers outside the U.S. Jack Sheng, here, one of the original eBay sellers, built a global business. eBay allows businesses to reach consumers all over the world.

Data: How merchants can engage those consumers where they want and how they want. Think about the personalization. Lot of talk about it. But still in early days. Wisdom of crowds information: people who bought this tend to buy this. Recently a lot of effort in curation. Curated content. Now you can customize the eBay feed. The things you are interested in that is relevant to you. Noteworthy; consumers that engage with this buy 22 percent more. The more personal you make it, the more consumers tend to buy.
Mobile is creating a whole new set of companies shaping experiences. What's gone slower is how consumer behavior occurs inside a physical store. It's still likely to change, but it will take more time.

As we look at our experience I want to suggest four themes that suggest how this commerce rev is occurring:

1. Consumer In. Many of us were merchants. We talk about "omni channel, multi channel." We talk in merchant terms. We were really interested in why some consumers were using smartphones while others use laptop. Did consumer research. We asked. "I don't know, I was just shopping." We think in merchant terms, but consumers just want to shop. They don't think in channel terms. How do we think through the eyes of the consumer ad provide seamless experience? Our job to make it easy as possible for them.

2. Consumer Choice. We want to see buyers who buy online and have it shipped home. Or pick up in store. Or have it delivered today. eBay Now. Offline buyers. Trying to understand, who are these buyers? They are the same buyer, the same consumer. Argos, in UK. Online retailers are looking for ways to connect with consumers through mobile tech. Storefront - touchscreen technology to buy something in store.

3. Consumer Service. Early days, it was self-help. Then offline, you get service. But consumers love the value and selection they get online but they love the service offline. They often want and need help and want to get that resolved, often by a human being. Consumers like returns. 25% get returned in one form or another. Growing trend to return to a physical location. Being able to have a service offering that goes beyond just good prices is a winner. We are seeing online partnering with offline company to provide great service.

4. Personalization. You have an enormous data about your consumers. We are still in early days about how we leverage that data. Wisdom of crowds: most popular item selling today, etc. That is not yet true personalization. There is a lot of experimentation and no one has cracked the nut about how to provide consumers with the best experience possible. This is going to be one of the biggest sources of innovation over the next 3 to 5 years. Good thing about personalization is it doesn't matter if you are a big company or small one. You build relationships leveraging data.

These are insights we are seeing. Commercial for eBay: we will partner with you.
We're in the midst of a commerce revolution. I would argue we are still in the early days of this commerce revolution.

I wouldn't believe the conventional wisdoms you read in the media that "Offline is dead. Mobile is the only thing." I assert over next 3 to 5 there will be opportunitiess for multiple winners and users. Some offline retailers will deliver great online experiences. There will be online companies that thrive, and others that struggle. Some mobile commerce companies some will be winners and some won't.

Here is the lesson from the media revolution: instead of focusing whether you are online, mobile, or offline, the winners will be the one that put consumers in the middle. Not always easy to do. Looking at everything through consumers eyes, understanding that they like choice, and if you can't provide it, partner with others to provide it. Service. and Leveraging your data to provide stronger relationships. Those who can embrace those four themes will be the difference between winners and losers in this revolution.

About the Author
Greg Holden is EcommerceBytes Contributing Editor. He is a journalist and the author of many books, including "Starting an Online Business For Dummies," "Go Google: 20 Ways to Reach More Customers and Build Revenue with Google Business Tools," and several books about eBay, including "How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business," second edition, and "Secrets of the eBay Millionaires, both published by Osborne-McGraw Hill. Find out more on Greg's website,, which includes his blog, a list of his books, and his fiction and biographical writing.

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Readers Comments

Perminate Link for Meeting eBay CEO John Donahoe at the Internet Retailer Conference   Meeting eBay CEO John Donahoe at the Internet Retailer Conference

by: E-pins This user has validated their user name.

Thu Jun 12 22:01:39 2014

"by: tony bonn
Wed Jun 11 21:16:45 2014
those folks, particularly an early poster on this thread, who think that ebay is in dire straits, on the edge of a cliff, or in deep doodoo, are delusional. eBay's gross profit, according to yahoo's reports, is up 34% in 2 years although net profits are down 11.5% but still very healthy. it has almost 2.5 years of net income in cash. it is financially rock solid.

anyone a hopin' and a wishin' that ebay will disintegrate before his eyes is drinking a powerful batch of Kool-Aid."


09:55 PM
Junior Member

for collectibles auctions try eTiqueMarket

having suffered my own frustrations with ebay and after reading many disappointed blogs, letters, and various posts about the inadequacy of that faded star, i decided to launch my own website offering auctions, stores, and classified ads for those interested in collectibles or what i call etiques. the site eTiqueMarket at is open for business.

as mentioned the website is dedicated to etiques and only etiques - meaning online commerce in antiques, collectibles, art, jewelry, books, stamps, coins, replacements and allied collectibles. the site supports informational articles which could be authored by merchants as a way of promoting both education and business.

in addition a companion online community site eTiqueCommunity is open for subject-specific forums such as glass, orientalia, or whatever forum anyone wanted. those wanting their own special interest groups could start one. if you have informative and valuable information to share, blogs are also available. experts are avidly sought for such communication.

the pricing structure is similar but lower than you-know-who-bay with subscription services available to provide substantial discounts to listing/commission fees. sellers may choose among auctions, stores, classified ads, or fixed price selling options.

as this is a start-up operation there are mistakes to be made and learnings to be understood. but on the other hand, this represents an opportunity to work with enterprising persons and businesses to create a winning formula catering to the needs of the online collectibles industry. rome wasn't built in a day but once it reached critical mass it became major and so it is my vision with this effort.

some of the bells and whistles you may expect from large sites are missing but we believe that the basics are there. and what you lose in fanciness is made up for in the lack of restrictions. in other words ivory, firearms, and other taboo categories are welcome here.

sellers who want only etiques (online collectibles as described above) and who want to avoid the clutter of used tennis shoes, dollar store truck load lots, concert tickets and all that distracts from etiques may find this to be the alternative which they have been seeking for many months or years.

i have an extensive background in technology and technology management which is an important aspect of running a successful online site. i also have my own etiques online dealership so my interests in the success of such a site run deep.

expectations for sellers are high in that quality merchandise professionally displayed and sterling ethics are expected. reproductions and fakes are expressly forbidden.

thanks for reading."

talks about the enormous traffic of ebay being its feature attraction for sellers and while it certainly is notable it is also not all that it is cracked up to be. i list collectible / antique items from time to time and am totally underwhelmed by the traffic for my items….ebay may have large raw traffic but when it comes to how much of it comes the way of any particular item it can be very small to miniscule….in fact the cost of traffic on ebay auctions is enormous on a per visit basis compared adwords….
because of the high ebay costs i decided to launch my own niche site ( and focus on my interests than trying to fight through all of the clutter.

Posted by tony bonn on March 24th, 2009."

Ebay needs PR and BAMM it appears.

Bonn, eTiqueMarket

Holy banned ebayisajoke-Dickerson Tony. Calling posters "delusional" and "drinking a powerful batch of Kool-Aid" and forgetting the thing about glass houses.

Perminate Link for Meeting eBay CEO John Donahoe at the Internet Retailer Conference   Meeting eBay CEO John Donahoe at the Internet Retailer Conference

by: comet This user has validated their user name.

Thu Jun 12 22:27:51 2014

I suspect that the "Handler" had a small cattle prod and gave him a lil "Zitz" every time he slowed down the flow of bu!!$hit.  

No one with more than a 5th grade education could be this stupid sounding when they are on stage---esp with the amount of time he has spent performing in public and the boardroom.

A couple years in  a jail cell oughtta give him plenty of "Thinking Time".  

Perminate Link for Meeting eBay CEO John Donahoe at the Internet Retailer Conference   Meeting eBay CEO John Donahoe at the Internet Retailer Conference

by: fancypants This user has validated their user name.

Thu Jun 12 22:58:10 2014

but solid, concrete data proving that eBay doesn't care about or has deliberately and intentionally hurt large, significant numbers of their sellers.
Erika Garnica  "theauctionguru"
 Might I suggest you take a look at the "2014 Spring Seller Updates".  I believe you will see plenty of proof that eBay is, indeed, trying to hurt their customers, us TRS sellers.  

Perminate Link for Meeting eBay CEO John Donahoe at the Internet Retailer Conference   Meeting eBay CEO John Donahoe at the Internet Retailer Conference

by: used2luv2sell This user has validated their user name.

Fri Jun 13 01:00:05 2014

Regarding Erika,
Surely she jests; Ebay cares - two completely incompatible words when speaking about small sellers.
Erika, I think YOU should take a thinking day & tell US exactly how Ebay shows small sellers they ''care''.
You can read this blog and see the many many ways Ebay shows us they could care LESS about small sellers.
Are you still back in 2008 when sellers loved Ebay?  Yes, that was fun, but those days are gone.  In fact, if you've been gone since 2008, many things have changed, and back then, Ebay did care about their sellers.  But that is no longer true & perhaps you haven't kept up with the changes.  You seem to still be having the love affair with Ebay that we all had back in the day before the Gestapo took over.
How many small sellers do you hear saying Ebay is a great place to be these days?  
As someone already mentioned, go stand in the post office one day and listen to the people talk.  When Ebay comes up, it is NEVER good!
No small seller these days will recommend selling on Ebay to a friend - why do you think they offered to pay us $15 for references?  I wonder if ANYONE took them up on that offer!
I'm a bit disappointed because I thought that article was going to actually tell us something we didn't already know, except the part about them caring, which I hadn't realized.  I feel so much better knowing that!  LOL

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by: frustrated This user has validated their user name.

Fri Jun 13 07:05:56 2014

Lemme tell ya the TRUTH:

The ''problem'' with this ingenious plan:

2) Segmentation - How eBay Cracked Down on Sellers - In about 2005-06, eBay conducted a huge study to try and figure out why almost half of their buyers had left the site. To no one's surprise, buyers spoke up and revealed how sick they were of getting ripped off, getting sent the wrong item or a poorly-counterfeited one, and after all of that, getting retaliatory negative feedback for their trouble. One of the surveys eBay conducted found that over half of all eBay sellers (52%, to be exact) admitted to leaving retaliatory negative feedback for buyers on a regular basis, while only 6% of buyers did so.

As a result, eBay decided they needed to act quickly and severely, and oh boy, did they ever. They proudly introduced ''segmentation'', in which sellers would be grouped into different groups, or segments, based primarily on their feedback scores, disputes, and DSRs (Detailed Seller Ratings), in proportion to their overall transactions, to see who the worst offenders were and get rid of them while putting the fear of God into all the others.

Well, the main problem with this ''ingenious'' plan was that it left little wiggle room for common sense or understanding. Some sellers were so large that they remained safe from suspension, even though they had dozens of negative feedback comments, low DSRs and buyer disputes on their accounts all the time.

Yet other sellers were getting taken down for having just 2-3 negative feedback comments within a 6-month period, due to their overall sales numbers being smaller than other sellers.

During that time, I dreaded coming into work and finding out which of my sellers had been placed into Segments C or D, the ''worst offenders'' among sellers, since that meant I would have to call them and warn them how close they were to being suspended.

The problem???

The problem is that ebay was NEVER willing to do any actual WORK.

They think that they can get a computer program (and we KNOW how well their programs usually function, if at ALL) to fix everything.



Do THE ACTUAL WORK IT TAKES to weed out the problem children.

Good sellers DO NOT WANT (repeat DO NOT WANT) bad sellers on the site. It ruins the perception of the site and drives away potential customers.  We never DID want bad sellers. They also steal perfectly good sales from US, who actually have legitimate product to sell.

WE NEVER wanted bad sellers ebay, NEVER. We are not a group of 9 year olds who are simply trying to ''get away'' with anything we can get away with. 98% of us are TRYING to run a business.

A seller gets 4 negs in a week, (from DIFFERENT BUYERS EBAY DIFFERENT BUYERS, with different IDs and addresses)  have a report every morning, call them (MA Bell didn't go out of business yet did she??)Send follow up e-mail. 24 hours, no response? They are suspended temporarily until they work out whatever it is.

Buyer reports non-receipt?

HOLD that money. YOU OWN PAY-PAL. What is the problem here anyhow??

Oh yeah, that's right, we can't ''program'' a BOT to take care of this, it would take actual WORK.

If they had done that, instead of trying to get the buyer to only see 10% of the actual listings, etc, the site would have tripled or quadrupled sales by now.

All this DATA you say you have? TELL US ABOUT IT. Let us run reports on what they are looking at, trending etc. So we know what to buy to sell??  I can list an item and 8 minutes later it's UP THERE. I can run out and look in my warehouse and put up whatever you say. But will they tell me that? NO it's a secret.

To do that program would take more ACTUAL work. If they can't push 3 buttons to get it done, it doesn't get done over there. Everybody over there should go on welfare, and let people who actually ENJOY working ... WORK.

If they had to run an ebay business for 2 months before they could work there,the whole system would change.   And I mean RUN to make a profit, and pay their HOUSE NOTE, employees salaries, rent, and buy food. Too hard to do this now, unless you start with 10 grand in capital. That was the whole secret to their success, you could start your business with maybe $500 dollars.


They ruined it for everyone because they are


Perminate Link for Meeting eBay CEO John Donahoe at the Internet Retailer Conference   Meeting eBay CEO John Donahoe at the Internet Retailer Conference

by: Eric Saeger This user has validated their user name.

Fri Jun 13 09:38:14 2014

The man is hypnotized by the whole concept of paying for a latte with a cell phone.  It's like watching a squirrel marveling at a Roomba.

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by: Patricia This user has validated their user name.

Fri Jun 13 11:29:00 2014

Why am I so unimpressed?  :-(

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This user has validated their user name. by: The End

Fri Jun 13 12:19:29 2014

THIS is why Ebay is almost over :
founder is Royally distracted.

Perminate Link for Meeting eBay CEO John Donahoe at the Internet Retailer Conference   Meeting eBay CEO John Donahoe at the Internet Retailer Conference

by: JustTheFacts This user has validated their user name.

Sun Jun 15 23:53:58 2014

@Erika Garnica post..TOTAL SPIN!

Yes she admits some things but that is only to try and give the rest of her nonsense credibility.

Her demand of "solid evidence" I say provide us with the memos from the CEO and higher management and you will have your "solid evidence".

Besides, circumstantial evidence can also be just as valid.

It does not matter what people SAY, it matters what they DO!

I hear people claiming to be "good people" all of the time but then you see these same "good people" lying, cheating and stealing in ever way imaginable.

When people lie no matter how small the lie, it still makes them a a LIAR!

When ebay makes unfair and hurtful policies it makes them an UNFAIR and HURTFUL company.  It does not matter what their "intentions" are.

It is their DUTY to make sure they are FAIR, HONEST and do NOT hurt their buyers and sellers.

Making a one size fit all policy  PROVES they do NOT care about their sellers because they know the impact it is having on people who do not deserve it, yet they continue it and even make it worse by punishing those sellers unfairly impacted by it.

So THERE is some "solid evidence" Erika Garnica!

Instead of making blanket policies in which they KNOW does NOT fix the problem and hurts smaller sellers as a result, they need to just deal with those that are the problem because it is clear they are NOT fixing it they are just eliminating smaller sellers, and leaving the large sellers to continue the problems.

So again, Erika Garnica comments do NO help anything they just reinforce the fact that ebay CANNOT figure out how to FIX anything correctly, fairly and honestly.

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