“UK SMBs are thriving despite the economic uncertainty,” is how Neil McLauchlan of eBay described the agility of eBay merchants to adapt to the change.
Speaking at TDCGlobal, The Delivery Conference for his 10th year, Neil McLauchlan, director of seller delivery experience of eBay said that eBay understands that people come first. With this new reality and opportunities, businesses and small businesses are leading the way. Neil said that eBay’s strength lies in helping SMBs get online and access new markets and help them grow. This model isn’t restrictive, said Neil, we believe that the high street retailers should also enjoy the same benefits that our 200,000 SMBs enjoy today. He said that unlike any other platforms, eBay wants to foster an environment that would enable retail sector as a whole to thrive.
As you heard this morning from Steve at musicMagpie, said Neil, what we see from SMBs is incredible agility, speed to act, entrepreneurial spirit and much more.
When Neil began his speech, he summarised the uniqueness of the marketplace. He said that no other business is quite like eBay, no other website has the level of its personal connection, showcasing inventory, with a massive range from new to the used product offering.
Neil looks back in time to describe how the business was founded. He said that eBay was founded about 25 years ago by Pierre Omidyar as a social experiment in America. His belief was that the marketplace would find a true price for an item. His beliefs were that people are good and you can trust a complete stranger. Pierre’s fundamental belief was to trust the diligence of people.
Neil said that eBay have always believed in the positive role of the technology, which can empower people. It represents what people can do best – invent, thrive, build and serve. He states that eBay don’t compete with businesses but empower local businesses on a global scale. He said that this belief has helped eBay to grow their business in the UK to today where a makeup product is sold every three seconds, a car part sold every second, a house appliance every eight seconds and the same with a video game. That’s over 130,000 items sold a day in four sub-categories alone. There are now 660 millionaires, eBay define this as businesses who registered on the platform and generated a turnover of £1m since they started. eBay have added 250 businesses to this list in the last five years.
Neil McLauchlan of eBay on uncertain environment in retail
Now, looking at the retail, Neil said, as we heard this also morning we’re facing challenging times for the environment of retail. Every week there is a story in a press about a failing or struggling business, leading to closures, consolidation or uncertainty. He said that the retail landscape in the UK has changed to no recognition and this change continues to happen at a fast pace. Retailers face a challenge of driving sales against a backdrop of declining footfall on the high street and increasing competition. Discounting [products] has become the norm. Neil adds that a revolution is facing high street, these are clear challenges for the high street and for retailers but also great opportunities. He said that retailers can combine the convenience of online with a tangible experience physical stores can offer, boosting brand loyalty whilst accelerating and accessing the global customer base.
As you also heard this morning, Neil said, consumer confidence is an all-time low and going forward this year they will continue to be because of the political uncertainty that’s impacting the microeconomics of this country. He points to the Trump-China trade war that’s going on in the background. In parallel to this consumers are also changing their behaviours, different things are now playing on their minds. He said that reusable clothing and the cost of fast-fashion is now being talked about, pressing on people’s time and thoughts. There is a greater focus on the environment and how businesses can reduce plastic waste – all this will impact the way consumers spend their money going forward. Right now tech companies are also under the fire, there is a global debate about the responsibility of technology and how they use their data and how they interact with their customers.
Neil McLauchlan of eBay on retail standards
Neil’s team is currently focused on driving efforts to improve retail standards. He said that this means offering free shipping as standard, improving the speed of fast shipping, improving customer convenience for delivery options and buyer trust by increased tracking. It is all about choice and getting that choice to the buyer. Neil said that this is particularly challenging for eBay being a pureplay marketplace, as they don’t have distribution centres. He said eBay have to come up with the ways to prove that buyers get the same thing every time they shop on eBay. (We totally agree with Neil, but currently think that eBay are not doing enough and recently published a piece with our thoughts).
In closing, Neil believes that consolidation across the retail landscape is driven by the uncertainty in the market. But what will emerge, he said, will be a few large destinations that are customer-centric focused and global in nature. Neil said that eBay will be one of these destinations as they continue to embrace the technology, continue to innovate on behalf of customers and drive the growth for their businesses around the world.