Scot Wingo on the future of eBay

ebay logoAnyone with an interest in eBay could do worse than make some time to work through Scot Wingo’s post on what he terms ‘eBay 2.0’: a future, flourishing eBay. Scot is the CEO of ChannelAdvisor and an all round ecommerce sage. His thoughtful post on a possible path for eBay is the most comprehensive analysis of the current situation I’ve seen in a long a while.

Here are some of my own reflections on Scot’s piece:

– He’s right to articulate the loss of the eBay magic. It’s ethereal, subjective and doesn’t have in-quarter ROI but those of us who have loved eBay, know that it’s a critical part of the brand and are saddened to see it diminished. It’s so vital but I don’t think eBay really realize that. They’re in denial. I sometimes imagine John Donohoe stalking the halls of eBay HQ in San Jose in a Meg Whitman wig, with lipstick smeared across his face, drink in hand protesting (rather like Norma Desmond) that eBay hasn’t lost the gloss: ‘eBay is big! It’s ecommerce that got small!’

eBay at its best engendered uncommon loyalty and affection. I agree with Scot that it must and can find it again. And if it doesn’t, all other efforts are wasted.

– Scot wants to say farewell to ads on eBay. I agree. They’re a distraction. And if eBay has to rely on banner ads to be profitable, it really is screwed.

– Auctions. Scot throws down the gauntlet for auctions. Yes. Yes. Yes. eBay seems to sniff at them but they are vital to the brand and rather than be embarrassed, eBay needs to learn to love auctions again. Auctions have worked very hard for eBay over the years. Don’t fight it: embrace them once more.

– I’m not sure I agree with Scot on his suggestion to split the marketplace into three: a pure-play auction site he dubs ‘eBay Classic’, a fixed price/CSE hybrid he terms and a third local division. There can, and should, be a way of making a single eBay Marketplace host both auctions and BIN. Scot correctly, I think, identifies search as the critical factor: it must be easy, transparent and buyer-centric. I can see the logic of search defaulted to lowest price first but it must be noted that there are also pitfalls with that approach.

– PayPal is front and centre. Quite right too. I just can’t even conceive a reason why eBay would ditch this most synergistic, profitable and potentially most future-proof asset.

– Scot favours ditching DSRs. I’m more ambivalent. I do think that an issue of buyer trust has been alleviated. That said, sellers can also rightly feel aggrieved at the huge power a single buyer can wield. Feedback is about trust and trust is critical to eBay so it does need constant coddling and care. Many sellers feel a sense of inequality (in not being able to leave negs and neutrals esp for NPBs) so I’d try to fix that. Ditch DSRs. Dunno. Bright ideas? Not really.

– I adore Scot’s comments on the eBay culture favouring Ivy League MBAs who don’t, as I’d characterise ‘feel the business’. I’ve been out of eBay two and a half years but was in the thick of it from 1999 – 2006. He’s 100% correct in his assessment and it’s a serious point well made.

– Scot falls short of saying ‘Sack John Donohoe’. I’m not so sanguine. It’s not that he himself is bad but he represents a side of eBay that is both dislikeable and ineffective. Being a management consultant isn’t the same as being a manager. I also find him a little too cold to lead a ‘warm’ company like eBay.

Scot’s essential conclusion is (and we know Wall St, pundits, customers and others broadly agree) is that the current path is the wrong one. Wholesale strategic review, internal cultural revolution and major course changes are required. That’s his major point: eBay isn’t working. I appreciate his efforts to offer a direction.

2 thoughts on “Scot Wingo on the future of eBay”

  1. Pingback: TameBay Morsels 11/03/09 : TameBay : eBay news blog and forum

  2. Putting the ‘magic’ back in auctions would not be that difficult.

    Reverse the hidden bidder thing and that will put the fun/competition element back, trust me I would rather try and beat Betty1234 than bidder1 any day.

    Do away with SCO’s completely.

    Scrap the ability to Watch an item.

    As for this :-

    “Scott’s essential conclusion is (and we know Wall St, pundits, customers and others broadly agree) is that the current path is the wrong one.”

    The baffling thing is that it appears that no one at ebay seems to think so, and that is worrying.

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