eBay and the Future of eCommerce

Josh GordonIt was a pleasure hearing John Donahoe, President and CEO of eBay, speak at’s Annual Summit this year. He is a dynamic speaker who has interesting information to share about eBay – and other entities like PayPal – and how they fit into the unique world of digital selling.
One of the first statistics Donahoe shared was how eCommerce is maturing. Attending a show like can easily make a person feel like eCommerce is the biggest, most important thing happening in retail. Donahoe interjected an interesting stat that online retail is still equivalent to just 5% of offline sales. What does that mean? Growth and potential are still real for eCommerce. As eCommerce continues to emerge, Donahoe was quick to acknowledge how fragmented eCommerce still is. He argues that the upside of the fragmentation is that there will be no one, true “winner” for the online space. While that may be true, fragmentation still causes consumers many problems and companies brand confusion. It is good to appreciate the silver lining, but solving the fragmentation issue may help expedite the maturation of eCommerce.

Another interesting point from Donahoe was his contention that the future of commerce online is focused on creating a multi-dimensional platform capable of doing many things and engaging consumers in a valuable way. Donahoe gave his idea more than just lip service, too. He announced that PayPal is opening up its platform to accelerate innovation in how consumers exchange money online.

One last interesting note from Donahoe revolved around how eBay is actually making sales through the mobile device. He admits that eBay’s mobile app for the iPhone is not what it should be despite the several iterations it has undergone. However, millions of dollars of sales have been processed through the iPhone app, too. He mentioned that in the last six weeks one person purchased a $350,000 Lamborghini and another person purchased a $150,000 boat via the mobile app.

There has been a great deal of talk about’s Annual Summit revolving around the idea and promise of M-Commerce. Certainly, marketers are trying to solve the mobility equation. Empowering consumers to purchase anywhere and everywhere is a powerful tool. However, marketers must remember two important truths about the promise of mobile. One, the medium is not the message. That is, don’t “do mobile” because you feel like you need to “do mobile.” Develop brand and company objectives first, then judge if mobile is the right communications channel to achieve those objectives. Two, remember that consumers also want service, not just purchasing power. SMS, with its reach and significant adoption, is a great way to add value to a consumer’s experience – no matter where they are.

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