Shopping is a deeply personal experience says Rob Hattrell

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David Brackin is the managing director of Stuff U Sell, the leading eBay trading assistant in the UK and a regular Tamebay contributor. This week David was at ChannelAdvisor Catalyst Europe to hear what eBay UK VP Rob Hattrell had to share:

Shopping is a deeply personal experience

Rob Hattrell has been in charge of eBay UK now for a little over a year and he gave the main keynote presentation after Channel Advisor’s CEO David Spitz at this year’s Catalyst. It’s a tribute to how important this event is in the ecommerce calendar that it attracts the most senior industry participants to attend and share their views. Rob is well known among sellers for having got out there and spoken to a huge number of businesses in his first year, and throughout the day he was to be seen around the conference patiently listening to insights and gripes from sellers. For his presentation, Rob limped on stage with a footballing injury but his enthusiasm didn’t seem to be slowed down as he expounded his views on the retail industry where he’s worked for 20 years and how it interacts with a technology landscape – in particular in the context of an industry increasingly under scrutiny for how it behaves towards consumers and their data.

Following on from David’s highly polished corporate presentation, it was almost hippy in its tone – Rob’s core message was that eBay’s belief is that humans matter more than technology, and that eBay exists solely to help humans interact and to express their individuality through commerce. And while this might sound a touch “new age”, there’s clearly room for someone to take the moral high ground in a time when Facebook is under so much pressure for its seemingly amoral handling of its users’ most personal information; or for the business to move its VAT base to the UK when other Silicon Valley giants are being revealed to have such complex tax arrangements so as to contribute very little to the societies in which they thrive. We had already heard in David’s earlier talk how Millennials have rejected traditional brands; one wonders what happens if they also bring their sense of moral outrage to the marketplace.

On eBay, Rob observed that shopping is a deeply personal experience, and that outside of “utility shopping” – which is characterised by decreasing margins, de-branding and cut-throat competition – what we buy says a lot about who we are, and this is where eBay thinks it excels. This is why he disagrees with the previous speaker about the inevitable rise of voice-commerce: ultimately while it may work for some commodity items, image search offers a much more natural way to shop for fashion, for example. By way of illustration, he showed the items which are his recent purchases on eBay and how it covers the various area of his life: his family, “fashion” choices and his love of West Ham FC – just a handful of objects painted quite a detailed picture of him as an individual – but he’s clear that personalisation of the shopping experience based on this information must always be with consent – so that it is a helpful transparent tool rather than an opaque creepy manipulative force.

For sellers, it’s the same message that it always has been: eBay has a large active audience who care about their purchases and view shopping as a mix of entertainment and self-expression. It doesn’t sell on its own platform and so won’t ever be competing with them: eBay wins only when its sellers win. But Rob went further and continuing his idea of human connectivity, said that eBay is there to allow sellers to express their businesses that they want to express and in the way that they want it: he wants sellers to be in control of their offering and sees his role to match that up with all the consumers that use eBay. If the organisation is able to deliver on this promise, then these should be very welcome words to hear for all sellers: if eBay can give sellers that freedom then it will represent a genuine lifeboat for those who are escaping other marketplaces.

14 Responses

  1. as a business what we like to express
    is whats it worth ? how much can I get for it ? how quickIy I get paid. how much tax we pay on it , where can I sell it for the best price , and where to get some more
    lifeboats are for sinking ships

  2. It’s just all so much smoke.

    There’s no substance here at all.

    Just falling sales and higher fees.

    If Rob H reads the Ebay and other boards, he will see that Ebay UK is having problems with its checkout and its apps, which are especially affecting mobile users.

    And what about the search changes that have swamped the listings with overseas items once again ????

    As he is responsible for Ebay UK, Mr H should have spent the day dealing with some of this, rather than blowing bubbles.

    Ask yourself, Mr H, whether Ebay is better now than it was when you took over a year ago. From a seller’s view point, the answer is no.

  3. “he’s clear that personalisation of the shopping experience based on this information must always be with consent…”
    Great, glad he’s on board, so where’s the button to turn off ebay’s personalisations?
    oh, there isn’t one. assuming consent where none exists is apparently fine. the hippies will be reassured.

    “so that it is a helpful transparent tool rather than an opaque creepy manipulative force.”
    Cassini? or just all of ebay? oh they’re remaining opaque, creepy and manipulative. transparency is good in theory, as long as we’re not the ones having to be transparent.

    “eBay is there to allow sellers to express their businesses that they want to express and in the way that they want it”
    which is why we’re removing personalisation, custom shops, and obliterating any sense of identity or brand you’ve tried to establish.

    I’d start putting more weight in what ebay spokesmen say, when their words start matching what they actually do in practice.
    eBay spokesmen constantly shout about how unique items are their USP, then they do everything in their power to chase anything unique off the site.
    eBay spokesmen announce its about individual sellers with tailored offerings, then introduce catalogue listings, required barcodes, and removal of customisation.
    eBay spokesmen say their focus is on SME’s and small sellers, then bend over backwards for Argos & tell SME’s if they don’t like it, here’s where to close your account.

    really it’s just mud-slinging at amazon for doing, more or less, exactly what ebay are doing too.

  4. Never mind all this arseing around, most sellers are bothered about the fact that sales are diving on Ebay.

    Just been to yet another collectables trade fair and not one seller I spoke to there had seen sales rise on Ebay in the past year.

    In fact, the main gripe amongst those who still sold on Ebay was the alarming fall in sales and the hike in anchor fees.

    Many had given up on Ebay. Mr Hatrell should worry about that – how many sellers have abandoned Ebay in the past year?

    Rob Hatrell had better get UK Ebay growing again, or more will head to the door. It seems Ebay’s only plan to increase revenue is to take more from sellers and to crowbar in their own payments system.

    Beyond that, they don’t seem to have a clue.

  5. were init for the dosh
    dont give a bugger about expression or freedom

  6. Voice-commerce will be like a 3D TV a few years ago, all the rage and hype and like myself I used it to play a game of TopSpin on the Xbox Once and put the glasses back in the box and eventually sold them on eBay.
    Picture speaks a thousand words. Still I think people like to SEE what they are buying, and exactly WHAT they are buying. Our Alexa is used for a few tunes it is a decent speaker but is unplugged most the time now.
    eBay is there to allow sellers to express their businesses that I do not think ebay let us do, they are taking away our ability to do this. This is a mistake, you become a bland catalogue marketplace and just a price, and Amazon will WIN this and also WIN the race to the bottom they have created.
    I have emailed Rob twice and twice we have seen something happen (once with the 24 large letter 2d delivery confirmation and Premium), however I think he is fighting an uphill battle against how Mr Devin Wenig sees eBay, he is to busy following Amazon.

  7. @Andy

    Excellent comments and all unfortunately all correct concerning Ebay.

    Also noticed Currys and Zavvi outlets have closed their Ebay UK stores following Target in the USA ….

  8. we agree with andy on ebay is anything but a partner
    its a master, a dictator, a bully, but your not forced to use them ,
    we disagree with andy on the sales side
    without ebay the market for collectables would be very different , even those dealers who dont sell on ebay
    will be selling at least in part to those that do sell on ebay

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