ChannelAdvisor Catalyst: Marketplace panel with eBay and others look to the future

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David Brackin of Stuff U Sell is a regular contributor to Tamebay. Here he reports the ‘Marketplace Madness’ session at Catalyst:

Following on from David Spitz’s keynote in the morning at ChannelAdvisor Catalyst in Manchester outlining the terrifying power of the “fully-oprational battlestation”, Amazon, the afternoon kicked-off with a panel of other marketplaces setting out how they aren’t Amazon.

It’s hard to know how many of the newer ones will be significant players in the future – the seasoned retailer has seen so many of these come and go – and in their introductions, it’s striking how these marketplaces describe themselves and what that reveals about how ecommerce will change and what the complaints are that they are responding to.

“The global-first marketplace” Wish presumably pokes fun at the stick-in-the-mud country-based structure of eBay and Amazon. “Just the interesting last 90 seconds of an eBay auction”, promises Tophatter, responds to the slow velocity of auction selling and the desire for excitement in purchases. SKU Cloud which powers Flubit, adds fees on top of the price, responding to seller complaints about fee levels. Fruugo looks to provide seamless global transactions with translations, currency exchange and so on. Newegg claims to be the best unknown US marketplace which is looking to become more European. Both these reflecting increased interest in cross-border trade pain. Whether these newcomers will capture share from addressing these problems or have their edge eroded by changes in the big players remains to be seen.

The obvious odd-one-out on the panel is Pierre Dunoyer because eBay is not a new entrant, but is itself huge and probably the most credible threat to Amazon’s dominance. Pierre, a thoughtful French-born eBay staffer, is Director of Advertising and Partnerships, having been at eBay for over 5 years.

So what is eBay’s response to the changing landscape? Pierre’s answer should be encouraging to us all: eBay distinguishes itself by being there entirely to support sellers. Worth reading that again. Entirely. To. Support. Sellers. It does not compete with sellers unlike Amazon, and it exists to provide solutions on its platform. Sellers, fresh from a new seller release which saw more rules and regulations put in place, and who are a little battle-weary may scoff at the suggestion that eBay is focused solely to support sellers.

But I think this skepticism is misplaced – I’ve noticed a distinct change in language coming from eBay starting from the separation from Paypal and Devin taking over, and continuing with European and new UK leadership. It seems that eBay has cast around for what makes it different from Amazon and has realised that serving its sellers is the answer.

It’s not clear that the whole organisation is yet marching to the beat of this drum, but just as the keynote this morning put every retailer on notice that Amazon is coming to eat their lunch, so I think eBay teams are starting to see which way the wind is blowing. Even the latest seller release had a softening of seller-impact, although it felt like an after-thought rather than being at the very core of eBay’s being.

Pierre finished off by reaffirming the message, saying that “we are in the business of connecting people. Our role as a platform is to help you do your job – you know how to do it – anything we do to improve this is good.”

Will this new seller-focused direction survive longer than the new challenger marketplaces? All sellers should look forward to finding out.

4 Responses

  1. eBay might not compete with sellers on the selling-field but it sure feels like a battle for every time you need to deal with eBay in a seller support sense.

    Is Pierre just saying what people want to hear rather than what actually happens on a day to day basis?

  2. I know how you feel, Tim. But I don’t think that this is just saying what people want to hear — I believe that the senior team at ebay is starting to see seller-focus as something that ebay can excel at which distinguishes it from Amazon.

    They are all about connecting buyer and seller, about being in the middle of a wonderful, rich marketplace with many players in it. To do that, they know that they need to attract the sellers just as much as the buyers.

    I don’t think everyone has got the message yet, and even when they do, I don’t think they live and breath this value in the same way that Amazon live and breath their values.

    But I do think it’s a genuine attempt to change, and I applaud that.

  3. “eBay distinguishes itself by being there entirely to support sellers. ”
    well then they fail completely and utterly.

    like a sponge that distinguishes itself by protecting you from bullets.
    it may have it’s uses, but that ain’t one of them, it fails utterly to protect
    you from bullets like ebay fails utterly to support sellers.


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