|Thu Aug 2 2012 21:19:12|
Behind the Article, 'Behind eBay's Comeback'
By: Ina Steiner
A New York Times columnist has heralded eBay's "comeback" in a piece that has online sellers buzzing. Several readers told me it clarified for them the direction in which eBay is headed.
The author of the piece, Pulitzer Prize winner James B. Stewart, says eBay's comeback has little to do with core ecommerce operations. "Most of its growth came from mobile retailing and its PayPal online payments division, a business it acquired in 2002 for what now looks like a bargain $1.5 billion."
eBay CEO John Donahoe tells Stewart that eBay is "focused on delivering for our customers and continuing to innovate." But is he referring to the traditional eBay buyers and sellers? That's an area that could have been explored in greater detail.
As for innovation, has eBay's listing page really changed that much over the years aside from elements on the page being moved around? The biggest innovation on the page is a new space for ads so eBay can further monetize the marketplace.
eBay has introduced a catalog in commodity categories and has been experimenting with various features in the Fashion category. And there is a Daily Deals feature on eBay's home page. But curation and social sharing are not to be found, and eBay has actually removed much of the community elements from its site.
It's disappointing the author quoted only four sources when he assessed the company, all of whom have a vested interest in eBay:
- Ken Sena, an analyst at Wall Street firm Evercore;
- David Spitz, CEO of ChannelAdvisor, a company in which eBay has invested;
- Gerald L. Storch, CEO of ToysRUs, a large "diamond seller" on eBay that sued its rival Amazon in 2004 (Stewart quotes him, "eBay helps us succeed. Amazon is the competition");
- eBay's own CEO John Donahoe.
What's more telling is whom Stewart does not appear to have talked to - buyers and sellers on eBay. Stewart gets it right when he said sellers were complaining in 2007 about fees and support. Those complaints are still heard, and joining them this year are complaints about poor search exposure and dismal sales.
The article is well worth reading to get a sense of where eBay is headed, and it certainly highlights what a very different company eBay Inc., which runs the marketplace business, is today than in 2007 - find it on the New York Times website.