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EBay Launches New Retail Platform

New technology looks to drive revenue growth by enabling sales associates to build in-depth databases on their individual consumers.

A mock-up of eBay's Retail Associate Platform.

NEW YORK — EBay wants to help retailers get even closer to their customers.

This story first appeared in the August 8, 2013 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

The Web giant today will unveil a new technology, the Retail Associate Platform, which is a tablet solution that looks to drive revenue growth by enabling sales associates to build in-depth databases on their individual consumers — from their purchase history to their contact information. There are also analytical tools that help retailers measure store performance and incremental revenue through consumer engagement, putting sales associates on an even playing field with an increasingly all-informed consumer.

According to David Geisinger, eBay Inc. head of retail business strategy and innovation, eBay projects $300 billion in enabled commerce volume by 2015 (an aggregate of sales across the organization’s portfolio companies, including eBay Marketplaces, PayPal merchant services and eBay Enterprise, formerly known as GSI Commerce). The new tool is an integral part of getting there. Following last month’s news that the Web giant’s local shopping service, eBay Now, will expand its presence, the new tool will provide the ability to have inventory available in locations where eBay Now operates.

With the holiday shopping season just a few months away, the new platform could be an opportunity for traditional retailers to significantly improve the omnichannel experience and drive sales — both online and in-store — during the fourth quarter. Many technology solutions exist with respect to providing retailers with things such as connecting with consumers, mobile POS or even the ability to pick up orders in-store that were placed online — but few have combined these into one platform, and have the reach and technological prowess of eBay.

“Retailers are merchandisers not technologists. They use technology and are huge consumers of technology but that’s the business that we’re in,” Geisinger, told WWD, adding that mobile commerce sales, combined, on the PayPal and eBay mobile apps are projected to hit $40 billion by yearend. “I can’t emphasize the importance of technology for retailers and designers enough, [and] our focus is to provide and enable them with solutions that allow them to compete in an extremely challenging and cluttered environment.”

While the introduction of the new platform doesn’t deviate from the company’s mission of supporting retail (“We’ve always been a supporter of retail, specifically offline,” Geisinger maintained), he calls the Retail Associate Platform a “game changer.”

The “clienteling” aspect of the solution is the foundation of the Retail Associate Platform, as it allows sales associates to manage their relationships with consumers from a contact manager perspective via e-mail or text. It will also bring a real-time recommendation engine — using the benefits of eBay’s Web analytic gathering capabilities — to the brick-and-mortar world. Customer data is essential to this, and users will be able to get a 360-degree view of their shopper, including all previous transactions that have been made and in which locations they’ve made them. There is also a reporting and analytics feature that can produce store performance reports, as well as training and education for employees. “Endless aisles” will give associates the power to access all products brand-wide, and the platform is compatible with existing POS systems that might already be in place. Additionally, retailers can allow customers to buy online and pick up in store or buy online and ship from a store.

“We see the store as a distribution center. EBay is not competing with the retailer from a distribution standpoint. We aren’t a retailer. We partner with retailers and we’re partnering with them in terms of technology to help them drive more sales,” Geisinger said.

In terms of pricing, there are several different subscription models based on the success of the potential client or the number of doors they operate. Depending on which features they opt to use, pricing can range from a fee per transaction to a licensing model.

As for how eBay Now fits into the equation, Geisinger addressed the company’s substantial local push.

“One of items we are building into this is the ability to have retailers publish inventory directly to [eBay’s] marketplaces, giving them another channel to distribute goods on a global scale,” he explained, adding that eBay Now is just another mechanism to connect the seller and buyer on a larger scale, especially for local or medium-sized businesses with a significant local footprint.

“There is a significant evolution — almost a revolution — in retail. Consumers are demanding more and more, and retailers need to adapt to accommodate those needs,” said Geisinger.