It has been a big few months for eBay. Its 20th birthday comes hot on the heels of it parting company with PayPal, after it bought the payment giant in 2002.
It has been a big few months for eBay. The marketplace has just turned 20 – it sold its first item in the US back in September 1995 – and its 20th birthday comes hot on the heels of it parting company with PayPal, after it bought the payment giant in 2002.
It’s a pivotal time for the online pioneer, so where will it go next?
Until recently, eBay was focused on courting retailers into stocking their products on its site, with the aim of becoming a one-stop-shop that would rival Amazon. Its approach, however, was to do so in league with other retailers, rather than competing with them. EBay might have started out as a car-boot-style marketplace site, where customers could sell anything they liked, but now around 75% of its products are new.
Now, however, eBay is changing direction and going back to its roots. It wants to move away from customers using the search function for specific products, and instead it wants to inspire them, and encourage them to browse.
It has already redesigned its iPad app to be more inspirational and visual, and it wants its customers to think of themselves as treasure hunters. As a site, it will help them find something unique or the bargain they’ve been searching for.
EBay’s growth has not been what the company would hope for in recent years, and the etailer will be hoping that a slight shift in direction will help it stand out from aggressive competition in the shape of Amazon and Ali Baba.
Personalisation will be an important part of its strategy to help it inspire shoppers, and better use of social media will need to play a growing role.
At 20 years old eBay might not have the history of a Tesco or a Walmart, but it is no longer the young, agile disruptor it once was. The questions it needs to answer – of what makes it unique – look increasingly similar to the conundrum facing many more traditional retailers who need to evolve in a digital age.