eBay has been leaning heavily on their "vertical strategy" approach to growing the marketplace.  Initially they've focused on sneakers, luxury watches and trading cards - introducing Authenticity Guarantee, escrow services, scan to list, and other vertical specific tools and experiences.

This week's eBay For Business Podcast reveals that eBay Motors Parts & Accessories may be next in line for the special vertical treatment.

Excerpt:

Griff: Starting a year ago, eBay kind of switched directions in a major way when it comes to how we market specific categories on eBay and so far to great success with buyers, but also to great success with sellers as well. Jesse Kieffer is eBay Senior Director of eBay Motors. He joins us now to talk about a new category strategy, welcome to the show, Jesse.

Jesse: Great to be here Griff.

Griff: Remind everyone, Jesse, what your role is at eBay and how long you've been here.

Jesse: I'm really lucky to have been a longtime eBay employee. I've been working with eBay for almost 12 years. Recently I've been managing a company that eBay bought back in 2012 called WHI Solutions, which serves as a B2B business to business, car parts business, and also supports eBay's P & A business. And so I've now expanded my focus and I'm co-leading eBay's Parts & Accessories business, which is part of eBay Motors.

Griff: Jesse, could you expand a little bit on what I was talking about in the introduction of eBay's current marketing strategy with regards to specific individual categories?

Jesse: What's happened in the last few years is a number of vertical competitors have emerged that are changing customer expectations in specific verticals. So for example, Stock X comes to mind as a company that has been involved in the sneakers category or Kronos 24 and the watches category. And so as a result, eBay has had to really step up its game to build out experiences that light buyers and delight sellers in those specific verticals. For example, eBay's rolled out a post-sale authentication program in sneakers to both protect buyers and protect sellers and make the customer experience fantastic. This is working, the company has been doing quite well. And those categories where eBay has been able to build a differentiated experience are really, really growing. Now eBay's looking to expand and build out more of those experiences.

Griff: So this vertical plan seems to be working. What's the next vertical in eBay's marketing plan?

Jesse: eBay Motors is a new focus for eBay. eBay Motors of course includes both vehicles and parts and accessories. And about a year ago, eBay launched an eBay Motors app that's focused on vehicles. And so that was really the first major new investment that eBay made in motors. And now eBay is expanding that to also include eBay Parts & Accessories, which of course has all the parts to go with those vehicles. And it's mostly car parts, but also includes boat parts and plane parts and truck parts and the rest. That is the investment that eBay is now making. Historically parts and accessories has been one of eBay's largest verticals. And it's done very well over the years. You know, eBay really excels when we can bring together a large group of sellers of all sizes and present a great assortment to a national buyer base. And that's really what eBay's been able to do in Parts & Accessories, but much like in other verticals over the years, customer expectations have evolved. And part of that has been driven by an expansion of some competitors that have really upped the game in Parts & Accessories and eBay, while still the best marketplace in terms of selection is in a position where we need to make investments to make sure that the selling and the buying experience is differentiated and is best in class. Now is a great time for eBay to be making these investments.

Griff: I remember when we talked about Parts & Accessories years ago, and the challenge is for example, compatibility has to be the biggest issue because so many parts fit so many cars. And in the old days, I remember as sellers trying to put as many cars a part would fit in the title or the description. And that just became unwieldy. And over time, I know we built out a P & A engine that allows for compatibility to be built in depending on a part number. I want to be able to call that out as something that is really good about the eBay Parts & Accessories category that's existed and still exist today.

Jesse: Yeah. We call that Fitment.

Griff: Fitment. Yes. That's the word.

Jesse: And a little factoid. So if you're searching for a brake pad for your, I don't know Ford F-150 pickup truck or whatever it is, you drive Griff. I know you're into the big trucks.

Griff: No I'm not. I have a Smart Car.

Jesse: I know I'm just teasing. But only about 0.2% of the brake pads in our P & A category are going to fit your Smart Car. And that's why it's so important on the sell side to have that information clearly taxonomize. And then on the buy side, we have something called a finder where you can basically just select your year, make ,model, engine trim, and then only the parts that fit your Smart Car are the ones that are going to be shown to you.

Griff: What types of buyers do we actually target when we're marketing the P & A category?

Jesse: One thing we found is that over the years, we have lost a little bit of the mojo on the marketing side, around buyers, thinking of eBay Motors, specifically and eBay specifically as a place to buy car parts. So what we've done is we've identified three main buying segments that make up the market for car parts in the U S. If you're buying brake pads or hubs for your Smart Car, we might call you a maintainer.

Griff: That is me. Yeah.

Jesse: What a maintainer is, is they basically just want to keep their car on the road and running well. The next type of buyer we're targeting is an enhancer and what an enhancer wants to do is maybe they want to put really fancy hubcaps and wheels on that Smart Car. They want to put a big rack on it, maybe a spoiler, can you turbocharge a Smart Car Griff? That would be an enhancer.

Griff: I have no idea.

Jesse: Well, if you wanted to turbocharge it and put a big spoiler on it, you'd be an enhancer.

Griff: Yeah. It's not like it draws enough attention to itself already, but go on.

Jesse: And then the third group, we call them aficionado . We have a gentleman that is on our team here. He has a blue, 1950s pickup that it was his first car out of high school. And he loves the thing. He's put only original parts on it. And he's an aficionado. He lives and breathes this car, and really identifies with it. The other way we thought about buyers, which is around buying occasions. So you might be in an aficionado much of the time, but you could be working to restore your car. And so that would be a buying occasion. You could be working to improve your car. So putting the big spoiler on your Smart Car, or you could just be fixing your car, you know, even a car that has a souped up engine, might also need a new set of tires. So maybe you'd just be fixing it. We've looked at these three buying groups and these three buying occasions, and we are trying to build out an experience and a set of inventory that works for all of them.

Griff: Part of this, when it comes to a new marketing strategy or a campaign is awareness. That's what marketing's all about. What are we doing to increase that awareness?

Jesse: Most of our buyers want to do some research before they actually commit to a purchase. What a lot of buyers do is they'll go online and they'll go to a search engine, or they'll go to a video sharing platform and they'll try to figure out what part they need and how to install it. The first area of awareness, where we're focused on is partnering with those content providers, be it influencers or online forums, to make sure that we're putting eBay Motors and we're putting our sellers inventory front and center to buyers while they're going through that research process.

Griff: That's what I did when I needed to find what part I needed. I actually found a YouTube video that explained the part and how to put it in.

Jesse: Right, so we're actually partnering with some YouTube content providers so that when a buyer comes to do that research, what do you know? You know, they, they're learning about how to install that part, but they're also learning that eBay Motors is a good place to go buy that part. And then what we're also doing is then we're working, we call this lower in the funnel. The research we would call upper funnel or high in that purchase journey early in that purchase journey. And then as the buyer gets farther down their purchase journey closer to actually making the purchase, what they might be doing is they might sometimes be going to Google say and keying in a specific part. And so we want to make sure that it's our eBay seller part that shows up where they can buy it in that instance off Google or off another platform where they might be searching.

Griff: And that's why it's so important for sellers to make sure they're following the listing best practices so that their item shows up in Google Shopping.

Jesse: Indeed, it is.

Griff: So for example, if using text overlays in your image, which is a violation of eBay policy, but you know, it gets through your item, isn't going to show up on Google Shopping. That alone should be the incentive you need to make sure at least your first image is a clean image on a white background.

Jesse: That's absolutely right Griff.

Griff: What about a recommendation for those sellers who are actually considering that the Parts & Accessories business might be something that they want to explore? They can actually make a business in it?

Jesse: I think a couple of points there. One is, you know, I mentioned earlier that eBay Motors strategy is to have the most abundant supply in the market for parts and accessories. And buyers, they know that, and they're learning that. And even that used side mirror, maybe, maybe you're doing a restoration project on your own car and you're replacing your mirror. And as long as it's not broken that used mirror or that body panel or that tire actually is potentially quite valuable. And so I would encourage a seller even if they haven't normally sold in the parts and accessories category to consider that. Another thing that I would encourage folks to do is to check out our eBay Motors homepage, just go to ebay.com and click Motors at the top of the page or on mobile, just click the Motors button. And check out what we have going on. Check out the inventory. You can add your car to My Garage, which is a great feature we have linked to on the Motors homepage where eBay will be able to basically capture the type of car you have, which will make finding parts for that car much easier. And then lastly, we have a seller resource page for parts and accessories and maybe Griff you could link to that in the show notes.

Griff: Oh, we always do in the transcript and I'll put a link to the My Garage link as well as the seller resource for Parts & Accessories and how to sell an eBay Motors. Those are three pages that we'll put in the transcript.

Jesse: Fantastic. Thank you,

Griff: Jesse. This has been great. I'm glad you've been back on the podcast. We missed you and hopefully you'll come back. Your role changes so much at eBay.

Jesse: I've been very fortunate, Griff. I love the company. I love eBay, and it's been great to work on some different parts of eBay's business. And I'm super excited about our new focus here with Parts & Accessories.

Griff: We've been speaking with Jesse Kieffer. Jesse is eBay's Senior Director of eBay Motors. He's been with eBay for 12 years and we will stop in and check out how it's going in the months ahead.

Full Episode available here:

Episode 140 || Up and Running Grant Recipient Yinka Ogunsunlade and a Motors P and A Update
This week we get an update on the Parts & Accessories category with eBay’s Jesse Kieffer and Griff talks with Up and Running Grant recipient, Yinka Ogunsunlade about how passion and energy drive his eBay business. Rebecca and Griff answer three seller questions about eBay Payments, how much a seller…

What is WHI Solutions?

For those who are unfamiliar with WHI Solutions, they provide ecommerce catalog integration tools as well as search and fitment solutions to some of the biggest names in auto parts like AutoZone, O'Reilly, Tire Kingdom, NAPA and even Walmart.

Home - WHI Solutions
This is an example page. It’s different from a blog post because it will stay in one place and will show up in your site navigation (in most themes). Most people start with an About page that introduces them to potential site visitors. It might say something like this: Hi there! I’m a bike messenger…

Chris Prill, VP eBay Motors North America made a short appearance in the April Seller Check In where he revealed that Parts and Accessories is the largest category on eBay with over 120 million live listings.

Giving a category of this size and importance the "vertical strategy" treatment is sure to be a challenge - the key to success will be strong execution and hopefully plenty of QA testing to avoid more embarrassing and costly technical problems.