Replatforming eBay: How We Are Delivering the Shopping Destination of Choice

By: Steve Fisher, Chief Technology Officer

"One of the biggest opportunities we have is to organize, catalogue, curate, and present our vast inventory in ways that enable every person who shops on eBay to find their version of perfect, no matter what it is. That’s why we have embarked on an ambitious, multi-year evolution of our shopping platform at eBay that aims to deliver relevant, persistent and personalized experiences for consumers."

What is our truest advantage at eBay? The answer is simple: Our selection and value are unmatched.

Over 20 years, we’ve built one of the very best search engines optimized for ecommerce -- we pretty much find you what you want to buy almost all of the time. And, we’ll keep investing in search science innovation. 

But one of the biggest opportunities we have is to organize, catalogue, curate, and present our vast inventory in ways that enable every person who shops on eBay to find their version of perfect, no matter what it is.

That’s why we have embarked on an ambitious, multi-year evolution of our shopping platform at eBay that aims to deliver relevant, persistent and personalized experiences for consumers.

This replatforming will manifest itself in the form of powerful, new ways for consumers to shop, moving well beyond the listing-based approaches that have typified the past. And, this new approach will reduce reliance on search as the only path to discovery.

eBay is a pioneer in ecommerce, and our marketplace has more than 900 million listings. Our selection ranges from new and in-season to new last-season, used, refurbished or unique one-of-a-kind items. We even have things you don’t know yet that you may want to buy.

Having hundreds of millions of items to choose from is compelling, but absent an architecture and tools to enable discovery, it also means the burden is on buyers to search through all those listings to find what they’re looking for.

With that in mind, we have set strategic product initiatives to better guide and serve our customers.

Focusing on Key Strategic Initiatives:

A year-ago as we set eBay’s overall strategy, the next step was turning that strategy into action on the product end. And to do that, we are targeting these specific initiatives:

  • Knowing Our Own Inventory: The Power of Structured Data

We have solved the hardest problem of delivering ecommerce at scale, which is to have robust and vast inventory. Millions of items are listed on our marketplace on any given month, and millions go away. Knowing that inventory is the most important component to deliver on eBay’s brand promise.  

For the last 20 years, our primary site experience has been powered by the ubiquitous “listing,” individual item offerings created by sellers using their own words and images. The challenge with the listings model is that no two listings are exactly alike – even when the products they feature are identical.

Herein lies the opportunity to leverage structured data to catalog our inventory -- a transformative step that will drive discoverability, insights into supply and demand, pricing trends, among other things. This long-term initiative will help surface deals, seasonality, and more, and allow us to build a great shopping journey based on deep inventory insights.  

This is an important change we have embarked on that will eventually extend across our inventory.

  • Building Relevant, Persistent and Personalized Experiences Through Machine Learning

Structured data is at the core of how we will build out new, incredible shopping flows that are truly relevant, persistent and personalized.  

However, structured data by itself doesn’t deliver the ultimate promise to consumers. It’s an enabler. It’s a platform.  What it does is unlock insights into the millions of items on our site. By utilizing machine learning, by working with 20 years worth of data on the buying preferences of millions of users, we now have the opportunity to build the best shopping journey in ecommerce.

This is exactly what we are doing.

We are moving from a single experience, to having a multi-pronged approach emphasizing enhanced browsing and searching, and better personalization.

We’re creating new browsing flows and persistent product pages, allowing users to see relevant and tailored items, specifically based on their shopping behavior.

You can already see this rolling across the marketplace in some categories.

Whether consumers are shopping for doghouses or iPads or toasters or magnet wires, these new pages will bring together many elements already available on eBay separately -- editorial content such as buying guides, best-selling items, special promotions, shop-by-brand opportunities, deals, and more.

The best part? These pages are curated algorithmically through machine learning, and can be scaled across all categories and products. Also, the most popular pages can be further manually curated by experts to deliver the ultimate shopping experiences.

Consider the example of a shopper looking for a digital camera. She will see a page where digital cameras are served to her at different price points, arranged by brand, condition or by generation. She’ll discover the latest deals and the best selling digital cameras. She’ll be able to do research using our editorial content guides, product reviews, question and answers -- everything she needs to identify the right listing for her, at the best price. She’ll also get intelligent recommendations on whatever she might want to buy next -- a camera bag, or a better lens perhaps. 

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These kinds of experiences are now going live on eBay. These pages also have the added advantage of having persistent URLs, making it easier for search engines, social networks, messaging platforms, communities of interest, etc., to latch onto.

This helps shoppers who arrive on our platform to immediately move into a relevant shopping flow with richer guidance.

 

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Delivering the Selling Platform That Best Serves Buyers

The next part of our strategy is to offer powerful insights to sellers so that they can quickly react to buyer demand.

Our marketplace has items from both business and consumer sellers at scale. But that is not something we take for granted. We need to empower consumer sellers with new tools to help them identify real-time opportunities to list fast-moving products. We are in the process of equipping our business-to-consumer sellers to figure out buyer demand gaps that need to be addressed and help them re-configure inventory accordingly.

New tools, like our Seller Hub -- which was launched with a sample of our sellers earlier this year and is beginning to roll out across our markets -- will support this. And, beginning later this year, we’ll be making major enhancements to the consumer selling experience.

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The benefit to the consumer is clear: The more the sellers are aware of the supply, demand and price fluctuations across the categories they are in, the more they are able to tailor their items to demand.

This is Only the Beginning

We are instituting sweeping changes on the platform this year which will become more and more visible across the site.

Ultimately, each and every one of these changes is being made to enable every person around the world to find their version of perfect on our marketplace.

Stay tuned for much more to come.

This article contains forward-looking statements that are based on our current expectations, forecasts and assumptions and involve risks and uncertainties. These statements include, but are not limited to, statements regarding the future performance and product initiatives of eBay Inc. and its consolidated subsidiaries. Our actual results could differ materially from those predicted or implied. More information about factors that could affect our actual results is included under the captions “Risk Factors” and “Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations” in our most recent Annual Report on Form 10-K and subsequent quarterly reports on Form 10-Q, copies of which may be obtained by visiting our Investor Relations website at https://investors.ebayinc.com or the SEC's website at www.sec.gov.  All information in this article is as of July 15, 2016. Undue reliance should not be placed on the forward-looking statements in this article, which are based on information available to us on the date hereof. We assume no obligation to update such statements.