EBay (NASDAQ: EBAY) is facing an avalanche of competition from larger retailers who are building up dominant e-commerce sales channels. Wal-Mart Stores has built a $15 billion e-commerce business which posted 69% growth in gross merchandise volume (GMV) in its most recent quarter. Amazon.com has already well exceeded $100 billion in annual sales and is still growing like a start-up. Meanwhile, eBay's $85 billion in trailing 12 month GMV has only barely nudged from $83 billion in 2013.
As these large retailers continue to invest heavily in their online business, eBay has been attempting to redefine itself as another mainstream retailer, as opposed to its traditional image as an auction site. For the second quarter, eBay didn't post any meaningful improvement over its typical mid-single digit growth trend (excluding the negative impact of currency headwinds). Nonetheless, results were at least consistent, which shows eBay is holding its ground for the time being.
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Here's what management had to say around three key areas where eBay is trying to improve its competitive position.
Structured data initiative
As online shopping becomes more mainstream in today's world, eBay has been focused on reshaping its marketplace business to look more like an online retailer rather than an auction site. To do this, management has been incorporating the use of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to organize the one billion listings on eBay's marketplace so as to showcase items as products as opposed to listings.
The end goal is a more personalized shopping experience, and a simpler and more modern website that makes it easy for buyers to find what they are looking for. CEO Devin Wenig likes the early results (courtesy of S&P Global Market Intelligence):
New marketing campaign
Along with structured data, eBay is also reshaping its brand image with more aggressive marketing centered around its new "Fill Your Cart with Color" campaign, which launched across television, digital, and social channels. Wenig had this to say about the campaign:
Sales and marketing expense dropped to 26.2% of revenue in the 2017 second quarter from 26.7% in the year ago quarter. Essentially, eBay is enjoying the increase in traffic from the new brand platform without cutting into margins or earnings. This was achieved by reallocations of spending and productivity gains within sales and marketing, which offset the increase in spending for marketplace brand advertising.
Business seller growth accelerated
Last but not least, growth in the number of business sellers worldwide accelerated for the second straight quarter. Why is this important? It's just one data point, but it does show eBay is still a relevant place for businesses to find buyers. What's more, eBay found a powerful new partner in Shopify:
The end goal with structured data, marketing, and attracting business sellers is to build more choice for buyers when they visit eBay's marketplace. The new advertising campaign is helping to increase traffic, structured data is helping those visitors navigate the site more easily, and more business sellers bring more selection. These are three critical elements eBay has to continue to build on if it wants to stay relevant in an Amazonian competitive landscape.
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