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EBay’s Michael Phillips Moskowitz Discusses Shopping Behavior

The commerce platform wants consumers to check its site every day, even if they’re not interested in making a purchase.

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Special Issue
Men'sWeek issue 04/03/2014

Commerce platform eBay Inc. wants consumers to check its site every day, even if they’re not interested in making a purchase.

This story first appeared in the April 3, 2014 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

How to make that happen was addressed by Michael Phillips Moskowitz, eBay’s chief curator and editorial director. Joining him on “Beyond ‘Discovery’: How Men Shop in an Omnichannel World” was Marcelle Parrish, general manager of eBay Fashion.

Parrish, who conducted the question-and-answer session with Moskowitz, noted at the outset that eBay’s thinking involves incremental evolution. She noted how change has moved from search to discovery, with a bit of serendipity added to the mix. In addition, two-day delivery has shifted to overnight, and in some cities same-day service has evolved toward within the hour.

In her introduction, Parrish also spoke about eBay’s investment in technology between 2010 and 2013, and how that has shifted the company’s framework from the “old image of a flea market to a new vision of the world’s most dynamic commerce platform, one that is pushing eBay to a mobile commerce leader.”

According to Moskowitz, “We’ve gone from a world of a brand monogamy paradigm to brand polygamist — one that’s more promiscuous.”

He explained that shopping between cities used to be very different, whether from New York, Paris or Milan. “The differences are becoming less distinct,” Moskowitz said, noting too that all those differences are now becoming “eerily similar.”

Moskowitz provided an answer as to why that’s so, pointing to the “digital prism” that governs our shopping behavior and how consumers are “voting with our pocketbook.”

His conclusion is that we are all “living in an era of unprecedented choice,” and with more things to choose from comes a certain democratization of the shopping process.

The chief curator noted that men shop primarily in one of two ways: Either they know what they want, or they know what they are willing to pay for something and are willing to wait. Moskowitz likened the latter to “lying in a bush for a single kill for weeks at a time.”

Knowing those behavioral patterns also necessitates the need to create or weave a rich narrative — which could entail the organization of different pieces that seemingly have little in common — that is able to drive desire or a deliberate decision to buy. That’s a necessity, Moskowitz said, because it is very difficult to replicate the store experience online.

But how do you make something meaningful and memorable?

For Moskowitz, that means a site where design is paramount, and one that’s intuitive and incorporates services that consumers can’t get anywhere else.

When discussing omnichannel, Moskowitz said we’re at a point where we have convergence and divergence at the same time. A consumer can discover an item on a smartphone and then make a purchase in the store, but if that purchase is through the store’s mobile platform using cloud technology, the lines between channels are becoming more blurred.

That’s in part due to the personal connection between shopper and salesperson, Moskowitz said. According to Parrish, this is where storytelling becomes key online because that’s what gets consumers engaged, and if you can get them to spend more time on your site, eventually conversion “will happen.”

Based on current data, Parrish said the eBay male shopper on average is between the ages of 25 to 54, and has had a progressive increase in income level over the past five years. She also said that he has a tendency to shop in the early morning, and then again on a mobile device in the early evening.