Is eBay Exploring Cryptocurrency?

Liz Morton
Liz Morton


According to TheStreet, eBay CEO Jamie Iannone has hinted at a possible announcement of adding cryptocurrency to Managed Payments at the upcoming Investor Day on March 10th.

EBay Might Take Crypto Payments, Already Accepts NFTs - TheStreet
CEO says the e-commerce platform wants to be the marketplace for Gen-Z and millennials.

However, a look past the headline shows Iannone was very non-committal on the subject.

"We're just completing our transition to manage payments where we're now managing $85 billion of volume on our platform directly," Iannone told TheStreet. "This gives us the ability to open up new forms of payment."

"We opened up Google Pay and Apple Pay. We have a partnership with Afterpay in Australia, which is a platform that appeals to Gen Z, and that is a buy now pay later platform on the marketplace," Iannone continued.

"And so we continue to evaluate other forms of payments that we should take on the platform. We don't currently accept cryptocurrency on the platform."

When pressed for a more direct answer on digital currency, Iannone said:

"We're not accepting crypto currently," Iannone replied. But "on March 10, we're going to go deeper on all of these things, payments, advertising, our focus categories."

Oddly enough, you can find almost identical headlines from interviews Iannone gave shortly after the Q1 2021 earnings call. Is crypto just Jamie's post-earnings Hail Mary pass?

EBay CEO Hints at Crypto Payments, NFT Sales
But don’t hold your breath: “We have no immediate plans,” a spokesperson said of crypto payments following Jamie Iannone’s appearance on CNBC.
EBay says open to accepting to cryptocurrencies in future, exploring NFTs
EBay Inc (EBAY.O) is open to the possibility of accepting cryptocurrency as a form of payment in the future and is looking at ways to get non-fungible tokens (NFTs) on its platform, the company said on Monday.

Before anyone gets their hopes up too high, it's worth noting eBay has been "looking at digital currencies" since at least as far back as 2014 when the CEO John Donahoe expressed an interest in Bitcoin.

eBay CEO John Donahoe Is Bullish On Digital Currency, And He’s Keeping Tabs On Bitcoin – TechCrunch
There’s no doubt that Bitcoin is getting plenty of attention these days -- we’ve seen folks like the Winklevoss Twins and Chamath Palihapitiya throw their financial weight behind Bitcoin in a big way -- but despite all that it hasn’t been embraced by the teeming millions. Arguably, all it woul…

Also worth noting eBay was "all in" on Facebook's Libra initiative in June 2019, but reversed course and backed out by October 2019.

Exploring the Opportunities of Blockchain and Cryptocurrency
At eBay, we’re excited to be at the forefront of payments innovation, focusing on the potential for opportunities in blockchain and cryptocurrency.
Facebook’s libra cryptocurrency coalition is falling apart as eBay, Visa, Mastercard and Stripe jump ship
The news comes one week after PayPal announced its withdrawal as government regulators continue to scrutinize the plans.

I'm sorry to disappoint, but I do not believe eBay will be accepting crypto any time soon.

Iannone has been promising new and exciting opportunities for payments since he took the reins in 2020.

CEO Jamie Iannone on eBay’s Managed Payments - Q2 2020 Earnings Conference Call
In case anyone missed it, here’s an excerpt from CEO Jamie Iannone’s statements on the Q2 2020 Earnings Conference Call. (full transcript available here) “Managed payments is a great example of a tech-led reimagination of our marketplace. It provides a simpler and seamless experience for buyers an…

Back in August 2021 at eBay Open Online, he promised there would be changes to payments that would provide sellers more flexibility and control over their funds.

Changes will include options to get paid out faster, more payout schedule choices, and expanding the ways you can spend your balance for shipping labels and purchases on eBay.

You’ll be hearing more from us about these changes over the coming weeks.

It's been quite a few weeks since then and those options haven't materialized. So here are a couple suggestions for Jamie to tackle before getting to crypto.

Expand options for sellers to use processing, available, and on-hold funds to purchase shipping labels to all eBay sites.

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US sellers have had this option for some time now, but UK and other countries do not - instead those sellers must front the shipping costs themselves or delay shipping until after the funds have been transferred to their bank account.

This option is extremely important for new/casual sellers who may have their funds held for up to 21 days - that's an awfully long time to leave them on the hook for those up front shipping costs.

Enable use of Managed Payments funds for making purchases on the platform.

eBay historically had seen a strong trend of people who sell on the platform also buying on the platform - a trend that was accelerated by the ease of PayPal payments being available for immediate use to make purchases without having to wait days for funds to transfer to a bank account first.

One of eBay's biggest losses from the split with PayPal was this "flywheel effect". If eBay were to enable to use of sale proceeds for purchasing on the platform by adding available Managed Payments funds as an option in a payment "wallet", that would be a huge step toward re-engaging that flywheel.

Would you use cryptocurrency on eBay if it were an option? What other improvements to Managed Payments would you like see? Let us know in the comments below!

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Liz Morton is a seasoned ecommerce pro with 17 years of online marketplace sales experience, providing commentary, analysis & news about eBay, Etsy, Amazon, Shopify & more at Value Added Resource!