When Tamebay broke the story with details of eBay European streamlining and, specifically, the abolition of a UK-based team in the UK solely focussing on eBay.co.uk, I certainly didn’t expect weeping and mourning. Customers shouldn’t really, quite rightly, care about the staff of a multi-national corporation. That said, I was quite shocked by some of the comments I did read. Here are a few choice cuts:
“Can’t see what benefit the UK Office has been to UK Sellers.”
“In my opinion, they (eBay staff) are brain-washed muppets.”
“I cannot bring myself to muster up much sympathy for those affected, they never seemed to give much of a damn about us.”
“Good riddance to rubbish!”
If nothing else, it’s testament to eBay’s failure to communicate what it offers effectively and also a reminder of the general animosity that some sellers hold towards the eBay God. On the other hand, it shows an unmovable wilful, blinkered negativity.
I’m sympathetic to the view that eBay’s members, and sellers in particular, do the bulk of the work when it comes to making the transactions on eBay happen. I can also easily imagine a ascenario where eBay didn’t have a team in the UK at all and ran operations exclusively from San Jose. And in that situation, I’d suggest, eBay.co.uk would have been much less vibrant and diverse. (If you think it’s hard pleading your edge case to someone in Britain, imagine if the company was centralised in California.)
eBay is the third most visited site in Britain and the UK’s biggest ecommerce destination. If nothing else, the scale is impressive. But for those people who think that eBay’s local staff have done nothing for them over the past 9 years or so, as a helpful service, I’ve taken the liberty of scribbling down some of the things I think the Richmond team have done. It’s not exhaustive. And pretty translatable for any local team of a global web businessâ€¦ so, here goesâ€¦
Attract Buyers and Generate Demand
eBay.co.uk is a disciplined, scientific and formidable marketing machine. It hasn’t prospered since 1999 and built a membership of 20m by luck or accident (although there was a mass market web that was surfed). Massive SEO efforts, PPC keyword marketing, TV. press, radio and outdoor marketing campaigns (to name but a few initiatives) were all critical to eBay’s successful rise to dominance in the UK and eBay staff in the UK were central to making that happen.
And once those people were signed up, eBay kept them interested with onsite marketing (those are the ‘merchandising’ ads you see about the site advertising certain products for sale on eBay) and highly targeted email marketing coaxing them back. There isn’t a single seller on eBay.co.uk who hasn’t benefited from those efforts. Not one.
Administering the Marketplace
Just keeping the site up and running takes people and expertise in London and elsewhere. Content managers, designers, product managers and QA folks don’t spend their days sipping bolly in the Jacuzzi. Are there bugs and issues and glitches that affect buyers and sellers? Sure (and everyone has a pet peeve). But eBay.co.uk would be worse, more American and less reliable without eBay.co.uk doing what they do. Anyone who has bought or sold on eBay.co.uk has benefited.
Lawyers, PR people, Trust and Safety experts, and plenty more, ensure eBay has a good name. The recent Watchdog programme is a great example. For many corporations, the PR people are purely judged by what they keep out of the papers. At eBay they do all that and also generate amazing positive coverage. There isn’t an eBay sellers who hasn’t benefited for that great publicity.