Ebay announced two new product features today to help better position itself as a competitor to ecommerce sites like Amazon and Etsy. With Ebay Now, an iPhone app, customers are able to order things from their mobile devices and have them delivered anywhere they choose, usually within an hour. Ebay Now has been tested in San Francisco. An Ebay rep declined to elaborate on when the feature would be available in New York.
The site also announced an interface redesign to make search and browsing easier, as well as a new Pinterest-like feature called “Feed” that, as Ebay CTO Mark Carges said, “is a little like creating a newsfeed, but instead of search it offers visual shopping inspiration.” Users can follow brands, styles, bands–basically any topic aggregated on Ebay–and streamline it into a visual shopping board, a lot like Pinterest, where they can easily click through and purchase items with a seamlessly integrated Ebay-Paypal account.
Even though Ebay is essentially working to compete directly with powerhouse Amazon, by positioning itself as a partner with brands and not a competitor, it strives to be seen as a much more appealing option for sellers. In this way, the new Ebay is almost competing with seller-friendly platforms like Etsy.
The news was announced at the Highline Stages on the Western edge of Manhattan, where journalists and brand representatives gathered to listen to Ebay reps launch a new mission to help shape the future of the booming ecommerce market. The normally spacious Highline Stages were decorated to look like a high-tech space pod, about 15 large screens surrounding attendees in a 360-degree ring. When Betabeat first arrived, it was clear we would need to take advantage of the free Blue Bottle Coffee and breakfast foods set up on a fancily decorated table in order to withstand whatever it was we were about to experience.
In the presentation room, low-slung leather white chairs that Captain Picard would be comfortable in were positioned throughout the space. Soon after slurping down our coffee, the presentation began with a series of customer testimonials. As the videos played, attendees had to swivel in their futuristic chairs and crane their necks to watch them, projected onto different screens in the 360-degree display.
Soon Devin Wenig, Ebay’s president, took center stage. Betabeat does not know if Mr. Wenig went to Penn but he looks like someone who went to Penn.
“Today is about the future of commerce, the future of retail and the future of how consumers shop,” Mr. Wenig opened, without being grandiose at all.
“Our model and our 17 years of experience set us apart, uniquely positioning us to enable commerce globally and locally, but not to compete and not to disrupt traditional players.”
At this point, Mr. Wenig continued to ask awkward questions like “How many of you use Ebay?” while the audience half-heartedly played along, a smattering of diehards wiggling their fingers in the air in agreement with his statements.
“Consumers want insight,” Mr. Wenig continued. “They want personal curated experiences relevant for them controlled by them. Consumers want experiences that are not intrusive but inspiring. Search results are not enough. We want to make moments of inspiration instantly shoppable. That is what Ebay intends to deliver.”
Ebay CMO Richelle Parham was up next to explain how Ebay intends to use insights and statistics collected from its customers to offer this personalized, Pinterest-like experience.
“It’s all about getting a better understanding of what our customers need and want,” Ms. Parham said. “What we have is closed loop data, insights into the entire customer decision journey for more than 100M active users. Insights into more than $2,000 worth of transactions every second every day.”
“The information we have about our community is the equivalent to what a brand and retailer has,” she continued. “And we have the same amount of data that credit card companies have. We have the power of these two datasets combined. We’re practically the only player in the world who has access to this type of information about our customers.”
At this point, Betabeat began to feel slightly creeped out, looking around to make sure no one was coming to tap us on the shoulder and offer us a swig of Kool Aid.
Next came Ebay CTO Mark Carges, who walked us through Ebay’s new UI as well as how the Feed will work. It looks almost identical to a Pinterest page, but only curates Ebay products and allows users to easily click through to purchase them.
It’s clear from all of Ebay’s updates that it intends to position itself as a direct competitor to other online marketplaces. Considering consumers still think of Ebay primarily as a janky-looking auction site, pivoting to take on Amazon will take some convincing. Perhaps the new, prettier logo, which also officially launched today, will help.