LAS VEGAS — Distinction and value.
They’re vague words in the industry and buzzy at conferences looking to tackle what the future of retail looks like, but it’s exactly what eBay’s Devin Wenig has been trying to do over the past 18 months since being tapped to run the online marketplace as chief executive officer and president.
Wenig was one of several keynotes Monday at the second annual conference taking place at the Aria in Las Vegas, which is expected to draw more than 5,000 attendees from the fields of retail, technology and finance.
“We live in a tough neighborhood, if you participate in e-commerce,” Wenig said, “but I believe eBay is a very distinctive brand.”
To that end, the company took advantage of the buzz around the conference to roll out several news announcements, including guaranteed delivery of three days or less on some 20 million items beginning this summer in the U.S.
The guaranteed shipping is not a mandatory program for sellers, but those who do participate do so in exchange for greater visibility on the site. The program is also aimed at keeping the broader marketplace competitive rather than something to be perceived as an undue burden on sellers.
“We’re not laissez faire. Selling on eBay is a privilege; it’s not a right. And you can’t deliver bad experiences because it hurts everybody in our marketplace,” Wenig said.
While service is one end of creating distinction in the marketplace, product is key at the end of the day, and eBay is a mix of vintage and used items, along with the new. In fact, about 80 percent of the product on eBay is new.
“I think what’s amazing about eBay is that it’s all of the above,” Wenig said of the merchandise mix. “We’re going to sell around $90 billion of stuff this year so this is a very big marketplace, and we sell a lot of brand-new, in-season electronics, home and garden [and] fashion brands increasingly are selling on our marketplace because we have a lot of velocity. So we do sell a lot of new in-season and what’s surprising to people is we oftentimes have the best price on a hot new item.”
Wenig chalked up that last statement to eBay’s diverse marketplace that allows for choice and competitive pricing. That same diversity is also what can be a challenge and something Wenig and the rest of the company are looking to improve upon through better organization and playing up that uniqueness at a more personalized level to the user.
EBay on Monday also said it was looking to roll out a redo of the homepage to make it more personalized, an effort it attempted to do about three-and-a-half years ago. However, improvements in technology and, more specifically, artificial intelligence, is the reason for the latest announcement.
Wenig went on to stress the importance of an AI strategy moving forward, even if some perceive the technology as something buzzy that has yet to deliver.
“Mobile was a really important platform that people didn’t see in 2007 and there are a couple more critical platforms that, if you are not fully embracing now, you’re going to be in trouble in three years,” Wenig said. “It’s really buzzy, but that doesn’t make it wrong.”
Wenig said the most hiring done at eBay has been for data analysts who are building algorithms to better understand what people want from the marketplace, which will eventually help make the home page more personalized.
“Ultimately, what I want to be is a shopping experience of one for 170 million people,” Wenig said. “What you buy and what you browse and what you look for is very different from what I do. Look, it will take time. I think the promise of personalization in our industry has kind of been a letdown…. That doesn’t mean there aren’t breakthroughs coming.”
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