Rob Hattrell: The first 100 days at eBay

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Earlier this year, Rob Hattrell became UK Vice President of eBay and the point man for the UK. The buck now stops with him regardless of whether things go well or not, so today I went to eBay Towers in Richmond to meet Rob, find out what he’s been up to and discover his vision for the future shape of eBay.

It may have been a couple of months since Rob took up the reins at eBay UK, but we’ve only just managed to find space in our diaries to meet – Rob’s been busy travelling up and down the country and has met some 70 odd eBay sellers so far, mainly visiting them in their homes, warehouses and lock ups – wherever they happen to work from.

I was a bit naughty and asked Rob who his favourite seller so far was, but he (rightly!) dodged the question and instead explained how he finds eBay businesses fascinating. He told of two sellers who both sell a refurbished product, but although the end results may be the same the way they run their businesses was totally different. Rob’s favourite type of seller is a business which no matter how small it may have started is growing and prospering. And he’s met a ton of them.

Who is Rob Hattrell?

Rob is a friendly approachable guy, a family man with children but acutely sharp and I’m glad to report he brings fresh ideas and a renewed sense of purpose to eBay. He was wearing a shirt which I’m pleased to say he purchased on eBay and appears to be very in tune with the uniqueness of eBay and it’s heritage rather than being obsessed with building a box shifting marketplace.

Coming from a large UK supermarket, Rob has big ideas for the UK. He’s not revealing what these will be yet, but he’s used to working in a company with somewhere in the region of 2,500 stores and hundreds of thousands of product lines to promote to customers both on and offline. He’s thinking big and exploring what can be done for the 150,000-200,000 professional sellers and the millions of consumer buyers and seller that use eBay. We’ll be watching with interest to see developments over the months and years.

What has Rob learnt from sellers he’s visited

Rob was very clear that he’s learnt sellers want more sales, his number one job (and the one that doubtless he’ll be measured on) is how he delivers on that goal. Speaking to Rob he’s forthright and recognises that eBay doesn’t have enough sales growth and the numbers need to increase. That’s not to say eBay isn’t doing pretty well, it’s just that it could do even better.

eBay sellers have also been clear that they want eBay to grow and succeed. Rob tells me that the message has come through loud and clear that they don’t want eBay to turn into another Amazon. Sellers are embracing Amazon because the site generates sales but eBay don’t compete with sellers and it’s a very different platform. Rob wants to stand back a little and provide the tools for sellers to enable them to run their own businesses in the way that works best for them, not to chase competitor marketplaces but to do what eBay does best.

“The world doesn’t need another Amazon, it needs a better eBay”
– Rob Hattrell, UK Vice President, eBay

What about the constant change and glitches sellers face?

It would have been remiss of me not to bring up the problems that sellers face on a daily basis when trading on eBay. Things like the current £2.50 gallery fee glitch, the issues that sellers of custom made items face, the fee changes that mean it’s sometimes cheaper to sell as a private eBay seller rather than as a legitimate business and what often appears to be a deluge of changes sprung upon sellers each time there’s a new Seller Update.

Rob was very clear that he knows eBay needs to do a better job, to be transparent from a communications perspective and also to deliver on things that they promise. He said “Execution needs to improve”.

Rob explained about how eBay obsess over details when making changes to attract buyers with constant tests to ensure that they’re positive and increase sales. However Rob would like more focus on seller changes. It’s not intended, but often one team will be working on something like Trust & Safety (leading to measures such as Active Content removal and banning contact information in listings) and what might seem like the perfect solution has some unintended consequences which aren’t seen until the changes are live. Rob wants to work across the company to reduce negative impacts and leave sellers able to get on with the day job of selling and serving eBay buyers.

Home or away?

In recent years, eBay has heavily focused on cross border trade, which Rob points out that with the current relatively low value of Sterling is a quick short term win. That’s not guaranteed to always be the case however and Rob brings a new home turf focus to eBay.

Yes the UK already has the highest online spend per head of population in the world, but there’s plenty of room for growth and Rob wants to see home sales accelerating. Cross border trade won’t be ignored and will definitely be encouraged, but not to the detriment of growing the domestic business.

What can you expect to see in the short term?

TV Advertising in the UK. Look out this coming Autumn for new eBay UK TV adverts and don’t worry – it won’t be quite the same as the TV campaign that’s recently gone live but will be tailored for the UK audience.

eBay have been remarkably successful with vertical advertising campaigns such as their Curve Fashion, Car Challenge, Men’s Grooming hub and countless other initiatives. They speak to a specific sector of the UK population and Rob tells me that they can see the success with sales generated in the categories as the campaigns go live.

Now Rob wants to step things up a gear with a bold advertising campaign to appeal to the mass population and re-engage them with eBay. The aim is to drive awareness of the eBay brand, increase the frequency of buying and connect the best group sellers in the world with buyers who are ready to purchase.

Rob showed me some of the early drafts for the adverts on his laptop as I was leaving and they’re looking superb – eBay will definitely be making an impact in the run up to Christmas so watch this space and we’ll bring you more information as the campaigns go live.

The future

Meeting Rob has made it clear that eBay in the UK is now headed by someone just as passionate about buying and selling on the site as he is about running the business side of the company. Whilst just about every senior eBay employee has been happy to talk to eBay users, Rob is without a doubt obsessed with finding out what goes on in a grass roots eBay business… From talking to eBay staff I get the impression that for his first few weeks he was out with eBay sellers more than he was actually in the office!

Rob is also a practical guy who wants end the impenetrable barrier between the average eBay seller and imposition of new edicts thrown out from eBay Towers. He’s definitely engaging with sellers on an unprecedented scale and he’s not just listening, he intends to bring his retail and big business experience to bear and get eBay UK firmly cemented in place as the UK’s favourite marketplace.

33 Responses

  1. Did you ask why all the the shopping carts have never been fixed since they were introduced apart from Germany? has a fully working multi currency shopping cart which means only German buyers can see/apply seller discounts.

  2. I have been on the concierge programme since October and as a consequence my sales have increased due to little tweaks made to my adverts etc.

    The main problem I have had over the last 2 years is Chinese VAT evaders. These are being removed by eBay and in the last 3 months my sales have doubled (coincidence?).

    With removal of active content and also 50 million duplicates have been removed in the last week eBay is really cleaning up their catalogue.

    It’s going from strength to strength so congratulations (from a seller with 300k+ positive feedbacks.

  3. Shame he didn’t come up with a solution for sellers of customised photo items or get his “teams” to check UK legislation regarding contact information and distance /online selling before they announced the policy changes. Hiding it away on app under legal information doesn’t comply with current legislation.

  4. How about him allowing those of us who invest in featured shops have permanent access to CS reps who speak English as a first language?

    How about setting the resolution centre so you can click to see your order and find info like buyer name, expected date, buyer feedback etc, instead of a useless print ready screen shot.

    How about a point of contact to report glitches that should be an easy simple fix rather than normal CS reps who say they have never heard that one before?

  5. we would list and sell more if we did not have to spend a lifetime clicking and ticking
    some item specifics are idiotic , many categories are from the stone age

    simplify things and find someone that understands the category not some silly bugger that shouts the loudest at a seller council

  6. Interesting piece, I think we have to give Rob a chance before hanging him for the eBay woes of the past. I’ve heard good things so far so lets see what the future holds.

    On that note, the site problems do seem to be getting worse and as far as communicating the £2.50 gallery plus glitch that doesn’t take much to announce. I’ve now had two refunds for these and will be asking for another too.

    I’ve not had eBay message alerts or sold items emails now for months either and I think CS has just given up telling me they’re still working on it. Thank goodness for the eBay app, although no good from a seller point of view on Android, it has helped me see what’s going on at least.

    The personalised products issue is a nightmare for a few of my eBay clients and needs urgent attention. Again, an eBay form and chance to upload high quality photographs isn’t too difficult to add surely.

    It’s the A&E thing again, that’s ass & elbow as the saying goes. There are enough sellers around the UK in different categories who would be willing to test these things before launch, me included. The Seller Council was good but I don’t think there are enough sellers on it and a wider cyber audience regularly in addition to the once a year may go towards an eBay that really does listen and more importantly act on the experienced advice of it’s sellers.

    Happy sellers, happy buyers it can be done.

  7. near 20 years we have been trying to get ebay to understand things like not every thing from 1915 to 1930 is art deco
    art deco is a style not an age group no one will die from it
    its just shows the lack of understanding

  8. We had a visit from Rob a couple of months ago to our antique shop. He was very approachable and genuinely interested to hear our story and listened to the issues we highlighted. I think he is going to shake things up and bring a fresh and more energised approach which can only be a good thing for both sellers and buyers.

  9. he will be ground down by the machine ebays to big for one man to make much difference

  10. Well our eBay sales have been in decline since Oct 2016, the volume has fell off a cliff. Amazon themselves are a massive factor in this and we have to complete with a lot of LVCR Vat avoiders.
    We really have had to concentrate on so many other platforms to meet the shortfall and a lot of business has to go to Amazon which is just a battle to the bottom. The main issue I think is a total lack of traffic these days, as we are selling on other platforms. We still get the same issues as 10 years ago nothing ever changes with eBay, the buyer fraud a very high risk site still , RMG, lack of communication, the site issues.
    The Amazon proposition for the average consumer is just so much more attractive these days with the “whole package” eBay can “spin” it as much as they want but they have fell way behind. All the tools involve is more fees for eBay and less margin for the sellers.
    The cross border trade is of major concern far too many add ons eating into margins now to make it effective and we have found better “options” mainly by going direct to source countries. All I have seen is a site recently increase sellers costs and lost traffic.

  11. Ever since I have been on Ebay (4 years) there has been an address issue with new buyers where part of the address is missing.This still continues today.
    Given Ebay can not or will not fix this very basic issue I don`t hold much hope for improvement in other areas.

  12. I would say to Rob that most of ebay’s changes have been bad news for me, any chance of some good news?

    Traffic to both my ebay stores has been on a long downward trajectory. I’ve closed one store and am concentrating my efforts on the one. Soon to launch a website, I probably should have done this before.

  13. Great that Tamebay raised the constant technical problems – 99% of the time it just gets ignored.

    Hugely disappointing not get a resounding response to actually deal with them – just the weak and wishy washy “must do better”.

    We are only keeping sales alive on Ebay by using every trick we’ve learned over 16 years on the site.

    At the same time, though, we are increasing our focus on other sites, to reduce the impact of current and future problems on Ebay.

    Ebay has gone backwards in so many ways in the past year or so. Too many posts on these boards about problems, falling sales, lack of communication and ill-thought-out changes.

    If Rob is serious about his role, he needs to get strong input from sellers, listen to what they say and then take action.

    Obviously he wants Ebay UK’s profit graph to be going up, but does that necessarily mean sellers will be better off?

    Worrying to see the increase in fixed fees this year, as opposed to fees on actual sales.

    Ebay will be making more money as a result, even if sellers’ sales are falling.

  14. What he says sounds good, but I’m filing this one under ‘I’ll believe when I see it’.

    I am looking to grow but I’m currently expanding on Amazon and Etsy because I’m just so sick of constant technical glitches and totally bizarre policy changes. I’m sick of having to revise my listings every few months to comply with a nonsense change.

    I’m sick of being told ‘your selections have caused errors’ when trying to list and revise listings.

    Nearly every day on the eBay forums there’s a seller who’s had a warning or a selling restriction because of some bonkers new rule regarding seller addresses. Even buyers are getting told off for asking innocent questions.

    The madness has to stop. eBay seems to be doing everything in its power to alienate sellers and stifle sales, it’s like eBay is currently in some kind of self destruct mode.

    Rob, if you read this, take a look at the new Technical Issues board on the eBay forums. Great idea but already proving pointless because we have no idea if it’s being read, never mind acted on.

  15. Hi, Rob if you are reading this…don’t you think it’s a little bit mad to enforce immidiate payment when the shopping carts do not function as they should? Yes something needed to be done about non payment… but not at the expense of losing multiple purchases. I know eBay like their 10% fees on postage cost but 10% of 4 purchases & one postal cost is better than no sale at all. My sales dropped off a cliff when immediate payment was introduced. It beggars belief that any businessman would see this as a good move. Any potential buyers of multiple items are scared off by the multiple postage cost for additional items & no way to ask for a combined invoice. It is also quite ridiculous to ask sellers to create sales that can not be seen overseas. They put up the price on my eBay store then gave us FREE? listings that we can not use because eBay can’t or won’t create an app to import listings from one site to another so we have to pay a third party in order to benefit from the free listings that are not really free because of the last price increase. I’m taking 50% less since immediate payment was enforced & I have periods of several days whan nothing sells at all. It’s like having my store switched off. I have 4000+ positive feedback score with no low DSR ratings & every agent I have spoken to says they are amazed that I have such a squeaky clean top rated seller status. Never had one neg but none of this has been of any benefit. Why does eBay make sellers shops invisible or what is it that stops sales dead then start up again a few days later? This is not mass hallucination…it is really happening.

  16. my advice would be, stop treating us like idiots.
    dont pee on my back and tell me it’s raining.

  17. Over the last 18months I have been looking to sell on other platforms so I have spoken to lots of third party companies who deal with eBay and many believe that eBay’s entire network is very old and needs redesigining from the bottom up as it was not built to work the way it needs to work nowadays and they can’t fix the many problems without closing the site for a week or maybe more which would be very embarrassing for them and cost millions in revenue.

    I reckon this is why they are unable to fix most of the ongoing issues that they never acknowledge in writing anywhere. It makes more sense if this is the case. No way would they tell us if this is the case but all the evidence would suggest it’s more likely than intentionally commiting slow commercial suicide!

  18. They’d need more than a week. Taking what is in effect a 20 year old system, riddled with bugs and conflicting policies, it could take forever.

    Better to start completely over with a state of the art site, with a fully functioning, bug free system. Carry over NOTHING from the old system, just leave it behind like a soiled nappy.

    The problem is not for Ebay, for whom I would not shed a single tear, over their short term loss of income and share price drop.

    It would mean every seller having to start from scratch again with new listings, unless you have got them hosted or stored off ebay for re-use.

    But I agree they will never be bug free again now as it stands.

    Constant “internal error to the application” errors when listing. Buyers unable to search / buy / pay, depending on what browser, device, or isp they’re using.

    They’ve made the whole thing so overly-complex it has imploded.

    Tried to import items from Ebay via a csv file to our website. Impossible! The reason is there are over 300 data columns, most of which is Ebay’s policy garbage, and the transfers fail as the files have too many columns.

  19. have to say recent interaction with ebays customer service
    is so much different these days
    the concierge service really do want to help
    the agents are so pleasant even when telling you off for policy indiscretions

  20. Great to hear Northumbrian, concierge is super for the anointed select band of glitterati eBay sellers. However for the rest of us like my account, that shovels tens of thousands of pounds into eBay coffers a year, the customer service stinks.

  21. Ebay is simply a subscription scam these days, journalists need to infiltrate this company and expose the biggest online scam in ecommerce history.

  22. Nobody with any clout has the balls to risk exposing eBay. Too busy back slapping back biters.


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