eBay Q1 2024 Pre-Earnings Countdown & Highlights

Liz Morton
Liz Morton


eBay is set to report Q1 2024 earnings May 1 at 5:00 PM Eastern. Take a look back at highlights from Q1 and what's happening so far in Q2 2024!

Leadership Changes & Corporate News

eBay announced a mass layoff of off 1,000 employees in January, as CEO Jamie Iannone proclaimed his strategy is working, while also being forced to admit "overall headcount & expenses have outpaced the growth of our business."

The layoffs brought new attention to eBay's in-house authentication initiatives, raising questions about the costs and risks associated with increasing labor-centric operations.

Chief Business Strategy Officer Stefanie Jay resigned following the layoffs, making the announcement at an all hands meeting on January 29th, but eBay waited almost 2 months to publicly confirm her departure by quietly removing her from the Our Leaders page on the corporate website.

eBay Strategy Faces Uncertain Future, As Chief Business Strategy Officer Stefanie Jay Steps Down
eBay Chief Business Strategy Officer Stefanie Jay has reportedly left the company amid mass layoffs, cost cutting pressure & uncertain Q4 financial results.

While they have yet to announce a replacement, a recent shuffling at the US General Manager level has left Adam Ireland moving on to a new, yet to be disclosed, role within with the company and it won't be surprising if he ends up in a strategy position.

eBay's Chief Legal Officer Marie Oh Huber is also stepping down after almost 9 years at the company to "pursue a new chapter in her career, while exploring personal interests and passions" - not mentioning the ongoing civil lawsuit and recent deferred criminal prosecution agreement related to the 2019 cyberstalking scandal, the historic $59 Million settlement with the DEA, litigation brought by the EPA or other legal matters that are all likely contributing factors to her departure.

eBay Chief Legal Officer Marie Oh Huber Announces Departure
Chief Legal Officer Marie Oh Huber is stepping down after almost 9 years as company faces ongoing litigation & increasing regulatory scrutiny.

eBay has a new Head of Labor and Employee Relations as Kristi Selby joins the company after almost 12 years in labor related roles at Nestle.

Selby has a lot of work ahead as eBay continues to drag out the bargaining process with the first US union in company history, established by authentication workers at subsidiary TCGPlayer last year.

Under the terms of the cyberstalking deferred prosecution agreement, eBay must undergo 3 years of enhanced independent compliance monitoring, with a particular focus on Mergers and Acquisitions due diligence and risk, resulting in compliance and ethics program changes revealed in eBay's 2024 Proxy Statement.

eBay Exec Compensation, Compliance & Ethics Changes Revealed In 2024 Proxy Statement
eBay 2024 Proxy Statement reveals executive compensation, changes to compliance & ethics programs as part of annual report.

The broad scope of compliance monitoring suggests authorities may be concerned with a variety of eBay's business practices and the TCGPlayer acquisition specifically may receive additional scrutiny - especially now that it has been discovered eBay is selling on their own site under the TCGPlayer name with no disclosure to consumers or 3rd party sellers against whom they are competing.

eBay Sets Up Shop Using TCGPlayer To Hide Conflict Of Interest While Competing With Sellers On The Platform
eBay claims not to compete with sellers while setting up shop on its own platform under subsidiary TCGPlayer brand - where’s the transparency?

eBay could face similar M&A scrutiny of their recently announced deal to acquire Goldin Auctions from Collectors while selling the eBay Vault off to PSA (owned by Collectors) - and the SEC might also be interested in the timing of hiring (now) ex-Collectors VP of Marketing Mike Nett to be eBay's next GM Trading Cards too.

eBay Acquires Goldin From Collectors, Sells eBay Vault To PSA
Big news in the collectibles world as eBay sells off their Vault to PSA and acquires Goldin Auctions from Collectors.

Consumer To Consumer & Small Business Strategy Pivot

Despite Iannone's assertions that the "high value buyer vertical focus" strategy he's pursued the last few years is working, job postings and internal promotions across the US and international markets reveal eBay is pivoting back to a wider consumer-seller focus.

Jamie also highlighted C2C success in Germany on the Q4 2023 earnings call and other recent investor conferences, while carefully trying to make it seem like this was all part of the vertical focus strategy all along rather than the sudden strategy pivot it appears to be.

eBay Q4 2023 Earnings: Leaning In On C2C Pivot, Ads Continue To Drive Revenue Growth
eBay’s Q4 2023 earnings report bolsters consumer-seller strategy shift as active buyers & GMV remain relatively flat.

eBay has been surveying buyers about C2C initiatives with a possible revival of the "eBay It Forward" campaign briefly tested in early 2021 featuring a wide range of items such as kitchen appliances, outdoor equipment, home goods and more with a theme of "Sell What Didn't Work Out To Make Room For What Does."

eBay Surveys Buyers On C2C Initiatives - Is “eBay It Forward” Making A Comeback?
eBay is surveying buyers to gauge reactions to consumer to consumer initiative “Ebay it Forward” amidst broader C2C business strategy pivot.

And in another sign that the vertical focus strategy may be "evolving", eBay shut down dedicated social media accounts for sneakers and watches, directing users back to the main eBay channels for support and announcements going forward.

The C2C strategy pivot has already started to take shape in the UK, with a new Seller Success team and initiatives to boost consumer and small business selling in what eBay is calling the "fix the fundamental aspect of UK Win back plan."

They began testing fee free selling for private consumer sellers in the UK earlier this year, mirroring changes they made to the German marketplace last year, and announced in April that selling fees have been permanently dropped for private UK clothing sales - a move clearly designed to keep up with competitors like Depop and Mercari who have announced their own no selling fee initiatives to try to win over C2C sellers.

eBay Goes Permanently Fee Free On Pre-Loved Clothing From Private Sellers In UK
Private eBay UK sellers will no longer pay listing, final value or regulatory fees on sales of pre-owned clothing as C2C strategy shift continues.

eBay's experiment with flat upfront fee ads for auctions has come to an end, with Promoted Listings Express for Auctions discontinued on April 15 to make way for adding auctions to the existing Promoted Listings Standard product.

eBay Ends Promoted Listings Express, Will Move Auctions To Promoted Listings Standard Ads
eBay ends flat upfront fee Promoted Listings Express ads April 15, will add auctions to existing Promoted Listings Standard cost per sale product.

As eBay faces pressure to grow Promoted Listings Advanced Cost Per Click ad revenue, are they resorting to predatory dark pattern design practices to trick sellers into signing up?

Is eBay Promoted Listings Advanced CPC Campaign Popup Predatory Dark Pattern Design?
As eBay grows Promoted Listings Advanced Cost Per Click ad revenue, are they using predatory dark pattern design to trick sellers into signing up?

AI Initiatives, New Features & Updates

eBay is launching eBay Live selling and AI-powered description generator to the UK market and an AI-powered background enhancement tool was announced at the Spring Seller Check In, "coming soon".

eBay Spring 2024 Seller Check In Product Updates - Terapeak, Mobile Selling, AI Enhancements & More!
eBay Spring 2024 Seller Check In - new US General Manager, Terapeak on mobile, app selling experience improvements, AI image enhancement & more!

AI tools continue to rollout on the buyer side as well, with Shop The Look being tested in the iOS app and a new eBay Explore feature for desktop that uses AI and visual search to help fashion buyers discover and create curated shopping feeds.

eBay Explore Brings AI Discoverability To Fashion Shopping
eBay has launched a new feature called Explore, using AI and visual search to help fashion buyers create curated shopping feeds.

eBay Explore seems very similar to Etsy's Gift Mode recommendation feature, but Etsy's tool provided a much wider variety of interests to choose from when it initially launched.

Many of eBay's AI initiatives fit that same pattern - similar to what competitors are also working on or have already done, but slower to roll out or with more limited functionality, continuing eBay's history of unfulfilling or less than magical AI experiences.

For example, that Magical Listing tool Iannone has been promising will allow sellers to create a listing using only a picture has still not been seen in the wild.

Just about the only AI use case eBay seems to have excelled in so far is replacing human reps with automated AI chatbots and decision making systems for critical support and trust and safety functionality.

The increasing use of AI and other automation for support has been raising seller concerns for months, most recently with changes being made to the feedback appeal process denying removal of undeserved negative feedback that in the past, human support would have very likely removed.

Longtime Seller Appeals To eBay Execs About Recent Feedback Removal Changes
eBay Motors seller Joe Demarco takes to YouTube with open appeal to CEO Jamie Iannone about recent changes to eBay’s feedback removal system.

Sellers are also concerned with other changes to feedback, as eBay is blurring the lines between peer to peer buyer and seller feedback and product reviews by requiring buyers to rate products in order to leave feedback.

Technical Issues

While eBay forges ahead with plans to stuff AI into every experience on the platform, the rest of the site infrastructure is groaning under the weight of almost 3 decades of tech debt with many major technical issues impacting both buying and selling in the last few months.

When eBay attempted to push the AI image enhancer to the Android app, it created a problem with the existing background remover that turned the shape of the main item in the image white and made the background completely black.

eBay App Background Remover Error Turns Item White With Black Background
eBay sellers report problem with app image background remover that turns shape of main item in image white & makes background completely black.

Sellers have been plagued with intermittent listing issues - from disappearing listings, to duplicate and wrong data being added, and server timeouts and errors preventing completing drafts.

eBay Sellers Can’t List From Drafts As Technical Issues Plague Platform
eBay sellers report they are unable to complete draft listings, receiving server time out & error messages when attempting to list from drafts.

eBay is also blocking some buyers from purchasing - showing a message that says "this item is only available to buyers who haven't purchased 1 or more items from this seller in the last 10 days" in error. And search continues to have problems as well.

Most disturbingly, eBay has also experienced several major snafus that are significantly impacting seller funds.

First, a "Fedex billing issue" continued to hit sellers for weeks with massive erroneous shipping charge adjustments. Despite eBay acknowledging the problem on their side, it took days and sometimes weeks for sellers to receive promised refunds.

eBay Sellers Hit With Massive FedEx Adjustments In Major Shipping Snafu
eBay sellers shocked by major FedEx adjustment snafu, speculating FedEx is back charging the difference between retail & discounted eBay rates.

Then, a glitch was discovered to be reverting shipping details for some orders to old addresses that hadn't been used in years - the problem started on April 7th but was not publicly disclosed or acknowledged by eBay until April 19th, almost two weeks later!

eBay Defaulting To Old Addresses Creates Chaos For Buyers & Sellers
eBay glitch reverts stored default addresses to old ones that are no longer valid, creating lost package chaos & business workflow disruption.

As if that wasn't bad enough, buyers and sellers suddenly had orders randomly cancelled due to an unexplained "systems issue" with no warning and no apparent recourse if orders had already shipped.

eBay Randomly Cancels Orders Due To “Systems Issue” Without Buyer Or Seller Input
eBay orders being randomly cancelled due to unexplained “systems issue” with no warning & no recourse if they’ve already shipped.

It took more than two days for eBay to even acknowledge these cancellations were connected to the address issue and sellers who had already shipped the canceled orders report refunds were taken from their available funds or payment method on file and they have not received any help or compensation from eBay.

The increasing occurrence of serious, business impacting issues brings to mind another period in eBay's history that saw sellers, media, and even activist investors take executive leadership to task for their technical misexecution.

Ex-CEO Devin Wenig infamously said at eBay Open 2018 that technical glitches are "unacceptable" and really pissed him off.

Those glitches and other executive failures caught the attention of activist investor Elliott Management, resulting in a very public letter calling for substantial changes at the company in their Enhancing eBay plan.

Current eBay Chief Technology Officer Mazen Rawashdeh, who was Chief Infrastructure and Architecture Officer at the time, somehow managed to escape the wrath of a "pissed off" Wenig.

He was then promoted to Chief Technology Officer in 2019, after a brief period where he co-led Core Product & Tech along with Mohan Patt.

Five years later and very little has changed - eBay is still plagued by technical problems and operational challenges and management is certainly not doing "all that it takes" to achieve consistent reliability of the platform.

Will current executive leadership face similar pressure from the board and investors to address these longstanding issues and legacy technical misexecution or will they continue to be blinded by magical AI hype?


Liz Morton Twitter Facebook LinkedIn

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!