eBay exec explains the marketplace’s edge over rivals like Amazon

  • As more companies shift their focus online, eBay is equipping its sellers with the tools and analytics to maximize their profits. 
  • In line with the company’s goal to be a seller’s “partner of choice,” eBay provides detailed sales trend data to platform users via a free foundational tool called Terapeak.
  • A Wall Street Journal investigation in April found that Amazon had been using sales data from its third-party sellers to create its own competing merchandise on the platform. 
  • “We have never competed with our sellers,” said Harry Temkin, eBay’s VP seller experience, regarding the marketplace’s philosophy to support and empower its sellers. “I think it’s what makes eBay authentic and unique.”
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Like many third party marketplace platforms, eBay has experienced a surge in seller activity since the start of the pandemic. In May, Business Insider reported that eBay had seen a 50% increase in new business seller registration.

To eBay’s Harry Temkin, the company’s vice president of seller experience, empowering these sellers with the right tools to succeed is an essential part of eBay’s identity as a marketplace, especially during a time of high economic uncertainty.

“The key word for me is partner,” said Temkin, whose role at eBay puts him on the front lines of the platform’s day-to-day marketplace interactions. Temkin sees his job as establishing eBay as a reliable resource for its more than 180 million active sellers. This is accomplished, in part, by making detailed metrics and analytics available to sellers to become more efficient at converting listings into profitable sales.

“It’s our core tenant,” Temkin said, regarding eBay’s philosophy of supporting its seller community. “We have never competed with our sellers. I think it’s what makes eBay authentic and unique.”

How eBay empowers its sellers with data

An April Wall Street Journal investigation found that Amazon had been using sales data from third-party sellers to create its own competing merchandise on the platform, even after the company said otherwise in a testimony to Congress in response to antitrust probes.

The approach at eBay is entirely different, Temkin explained. In line with the company’s goal to be a seller’s “partner of choice,” eBay provides a detailed set of analytics via a free foundational tool called Terapeak. 

Terapeak’s detailed dashboard equips sellers with historical sales data for categories and specific items. The tool enables sellers to determine the most effective way to list their items online, according to key terms and past sales trends for similar items. The tool also helps sellers determine the most effective price points for specific items, also based on sales trend data.

ebay terapeak

A snapshot of a Terapeak-enabled dashboard.

eBay for Business/Youtube

To Temkin, Terapeak is just one of the ways that eBay demonstrates its strong commitment to its seller community. 

As eBay’s Senior Vice President of North America Jordan Sweetnam previously explained to Business Insider, when people started losing their jobs at the start of the pandemic, and thereby their main source of income, they turned to eBay as they suddenly became fully dependent on their side businesses to stay afloat.

eBay also launched its Up & Running acceleration program, in the early stages of the pandemic, which waived selling fees for businesses that preciously lacked an online presence in order for people to start selling online on the platform.

Now almost six months into the pandemic, Temkin said eBay’s seller-first mentality provides a distinct advantage for the platform over similar companies like Amazon.

“What makes eBay unique is the fact that our sellers know that we’re simply here to help get their product sold right,” said Temkin, adding that unlike on Amazon, sellers on eBay don’t need to fear any competition from the company. The selling process, he explained, is collaborative.

“All the tools that we build we give to our sellers. We’re not using them in competition with them,” he said. “It really is
about helping them to be more efficient, to drive conversion, and to be as profitable as possible.”

eBay’s vast catalogue of niche categories makes it one of the only places to buy and list certain rare items – another benefit for platform users. For example, Temkin said he met an eBay seller who listed over 8,000 manuals related to motor boat usage. This type of seller specialization is common on eBay. And thanks to tools like Terapeak, even sellers of rarer items can empower themselves with data instead of shooting in the dark with an atypical listing.

And while executives recognize that eBay’s model is not built for the express delivery of staple goods like Amazon or Walmart, Temkin views eBay sellers the way Amazon might view its distribution centers. That is, as the core infrastructure of the business.

“We have a very, very different mindset of the type of market that we have,” Temkin said. “Having this amazing diverse community of sellers all over the world is like having this massive global distribution network.”

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