The Week Ahead: eBay Seller Release and Analyst Day
By Ina Steiner
eBay's first major seller release of the year will be announced next week. Among the changes - eBay will give sellers better tools to manage dispute resolution and automate the process of refunding and canceling transactions (integrated with PayPal) across multiple seller accounts. We'll cover the all the changes on the AuctionBytes Blog and get your reactions. At first blush, the changes look fairly positive, however, as always, implementation of new features tends to be the pain point.
eBay will also play host to investors and analysts next week, inviting them to a reception and dinner with management on Wednesday evening, where they'll hear eBay's vision of the Future of Shopping and Payments, followed by an Analyst Day briefing on Thursday.
It was at Analyst Day in March 2009 that eBay explained its 3-year turnaround plan and painted a rosy picture for 2011. Missing from this year's Analyst Day are top executives Lorrie Norrington and Stephanie Tilenius, who have since left eBay - and Skype (a percentage of which eBay still owns).
Analyst Days are opportunities for public companies to lay out their vision of what's ahead (not unlike pep rallies), and in eBay's case, that would be mobile, local, social, the three areas that are hot across Internet firms like Google and Facebook.
eBay will work to convince analysts that the Marketplaces business in the U.S. is improving and that it has positioned its Marketplaces and PayPal business well, and will offer up its acquisitions of RedLaser, Milo, Critical Path Software and Brands4Friends as evidence of how it is preparing to carry out its vision.
Mark Carges and Chris Payne will talk about improved search and Best Match, and how eBay is evolving its search engine into a platform where it can build multiple shopping experiences, such as Fashion.
Payne will also discuss eBay's marketing initiatives, which include tools such as the innovative - if potentially risky - Deal Finder tool, and a new strategy of developing marketing campaigns around top level fashion brands, auto makers and electronics manufacturers with the help of a new agreement with Triad Retail Media.
eBay will also reassure analysts that its programs to deal with trust and safety issues - the Top Rated Seller program and Buyer Protection initiatives - are working.
Sandeep Aggarwal, Senior Internet and Software Analyst at Caris and Company, issued a note in anticipation of eBay's Analyst Day, and commented:
"This analyst day is almost on the 3-year anniversary of the Marketplaces transformation initiative eBay started in 2008. In March 2009, one year into this Marketplace transformation, eBay did provide LT guidance for growth, margins, and cost savings. We believe that it is highly likely that eBay will provide us with newer LT guidance. Given that eBay has been largely successful in the Marketplaces transformation, PayPal has been exceeding expectations for growth, and BML (Bill Me Later) has potential to become very large and highly profitable line-item for eBay, we believe that the analyst day may serve as a catalyst for the shares of eBay."
Aggarwal wants to know how eBay is preparing as Amazon is ramping up its C2C marketplace business, payments business, and perhaps launching Amazon Rewards to compete more effectively with eBay. "Clearly the transformation of eBay.com has brought it couple of steps closer to Amazon in terms of consumer experience but what happens to eBay.com if Amazon tries to get into C2C, Payments and Rewards?"
He also wants to know how eBay management would grade itself on their attempts to turn around Marketplaces, how eBay feels about competition from multi-channel retailers, flash sale and group buying websites, and what benefits eBay is seeing from providing category-level experience to users, among other questions. He also wants to know how eBay plans to embrace more of social media, and its readiness, as social commerce business models start to expand.
About the author:
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 email@example.com.
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