Home Market eBay has changed momentously in its 18 years in Australia

As little as five years ago eBay’s product mix was 50/50 new and second hand, mobile access was minimal, and it had about six million visits a month.

Fast forward and today the product mix is 90% new, mobile traffic is at 68% and skyrocketing, it has 11.3 million unique visitors each month and importantly 80 of Australia’s top 100 retailers have eBay stores as well. That is according to Megan English, communications manager, and Trend Watcher at eBay, who coincidentally joined eBay just over five years ago.

The occasion was a media briefing to bring us up to speed, to introduce Leanne Hannaford, director, Product and Technology Innovation, who joined eBay in January 2011, and Amber Morris, head of Communications, who joined eBay in April 2013, and to answer any questions on online shopping trends.

“What most people don’t realise is that eBay is a technology company first. It provides a secure platform for sellers and buyers to meet and conduct business. We are not a shop, don’t have warhouses or sales staff,” English said.

Hannaford continued, “Our role here is to look at what Australians need, what is unique to this market, and to stay on top of trends and technology. You may not know that eBay Australia pioneered the VR/AR platform for Myer’s world first VR department store with more than 12,500 products access via our unique eBay Sight Search. It is truly transformative.”

“We see the next driving force being artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) – after all with a billion products online it is getting harder to drill down to get exactly what you want. AI/ML will help us to personalise what is presented, to make selections more relevant to you.”

At this point, the media focused on the technology and just where was the “personalisation” data coming from.

English said that while eBay could access third-party data (like social media), it was discussing these issues with its major vendors and most likely would use their data lakes. On the AI front, it was developing its own algorithms focused on the shopping experience rather than outsourcing to established AIs – but "anything was possible in the quest to give sellers and buyers the best experience.”

There was a question on eBay and GST given the Commonwealth Government's moves to insist that GST is collected on imports from 1 July.

English responded: “The legislation is not yet mandated and we are exploring how our traders can best comply with its intent. We certainly abide by the laws of any country we work in. Around 30,000 Australian businesses rely on eBay and of those 80% export to over 150 countries as well.”

We asked about eBay’s worry free shopping guarantee – how much was it accessed?

Morris said, “As a platform, we need to offer shoppers peace of mind. The vast majority of our sellers are in business to stay and comply with our seller rules. If there is an unresolved issue eBay will fix it – it is simply a cost of doing business and providing bulletproof confidence in the platform.

“Given that 90% of our goods are now new we need to talk more to media and the public to reposition eBay from second-hand auction house to best place to buy brand new.”

We discussed many other technology topics like the use of eBay Shopbot and the response was that it is in beta testing and of most use to mobile shoppers as these devices can provide more context about the user. It has a lot to learn and the more it is used the more it learns.

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Obviously part of the media drive is to help defend its turf (and its Australian subsidiary Gumtree.com.au) against the growing popularity of other online markets like Alibaba, Amazon, Walmart, Facebook Marketplace – Department Stores 2.0 where customers (members) have their own information used “against them” to offer goods and services.

There is a list of online marketplaces trading in the US here.

eBay has the advantage of being first to market — 18 years in Australia — and it has a reputation, and it has almost become a generic term for online purchases.



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Ray Shaw

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Ray Shaw ray@im.com.au  has a passion for IT ever since building his first computer in 1980. He is a qualified journalist, hosted a consumer IT based radio program on ABC radio for 10 years, has developed world leading software for the events industry and is smart enough to no longer own a retail computer store!


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