eBay Searching For Corporate Strategy
In what will certainly come as no surprise to many sellers, it appears eBay is in need of some help finding a corporate strategy.
More specifically, there's a new job opening for Principle, Corporate Strategy, presumably reporting to eBay's Chief Business and Strategy Officer, Stefanie Jay.
The team is responsible for deeply understanding the needs of our core buyers and sellers and crafting the strategies that will differentiate eBay relative to our competitors.
Our work can be divided into 3 main topics: 1) we develop eBay Inc’s strategy together with eBay’s executives, 2) we run strategic projects to solve key strategic issues supporting select executives at eBay, 3) we closely monitor the competitive environment & trends...
...The ideal candidate has a track record of making pragmatic, concrete recommendations with real world implementation experience.
It is critical for the role that the candidate has strong analytic skills and is excellent in developing creative/ out-of-the-box and well-thought-out solutions for challenging business problems.
"Bachelors Degree required, MBA or equivalent preferred, and expertise in technology and/or in e-commerce/retail is a plus."
If eBay is serious about wanting creative, out-of-the-box thinkers with solutions to challenging business problems, I'd suggest expertise and experience in ecommerce and tech should be at least as important, if not more so, than degrees.
When I applied for a customer service position at an ecommerce company with 1.8 million products listed on Amazon in 2007, my resume consisted entirely of a high school diploma, one summer spent answering phones at my dad's law office, and 6 years as a stay at home mom.
Within a year, I was Head of Operations. A whole lot happened in between, but the short version is - a CEO that is a great mentor is priceless and never bet against someone that is passionate about learning and just keeps showing up. 😉
A big part of eBay's problem is they're disconnected from what it is the company supposedly does and appear to have no idea how to actually run their business.
Internal silos prevent teams from understanding how their work impacts the entire marketplace or how anything outside their immediate scope of work actually functions.
Externally, aloof leadership exists in an ivory tower far removed from the day to day business, only hearing the voice of the customer through very carefully curated and filtered loops designed to produce only the kind of feedback eBay actually wants to hear and promote.
Ecommerce entrepreneurs with hands-on, day to day business operations experience are some of the most creative, strategic, ready to tackle any challenge people I've ever met.
Want someone who understands the needs of buyers and sellers and can craft strategies to differentiate eBay from competitors?
Get someone who has run a successful ecommerce business on eBay, competing marketplaces and direct to consumer, stat!
Anyone with that experience would tell you eBay Corporate Strategy priority #1 should be - fix the glitches!
Ex-CEO Devin Wenig infamously said at eBay Open 2018 that technical glitches are unacceptable and really pissed him off.
Interestingly, eBay has since blocked that YouTube video from being embedded or shared on other sites, but you can still watch it here.
There've been a lot of site glitches recently on eBay. What are you guys doing to get rid of them?
Here's the simple answer - unacceptable, unacceptable. And we're making a lot of changes. When you make changes there are times that things happen but that's not an excuse and it's not ok with me and this summer in particular there have been a number of issues that directly impacted sellers like people not being able to see their view counts and a few other things and it's just not ok.
I'm extremely proud of a lot of things we've done, I'm not proud of that and in fact I hold my team accountable and it's not important, it's an internal matter but, we made changes to people and teams because shipping product that isn't ready is not ok. It's not ok with me and it's not ok with my team.
So the short answer is it's not like we don't get it. We are making a lot of changes and I want to make those changes, we need to make those changes, but making changes and then having to back up and fix things is not cool and I totally get it. Most of the issues from this summer have now been remedied but I was pissed off.
Then Chief Infrastructure and Architecture Officer Mazen Rawashdeh somehow managed to escape the wrath of a "pissed off" Wenig and was actually promoted in 2019 to Chief Technology Officer, a role he maintains today.
I've been an eBay user in one capacity or another for over 15 years and can honestly say the current technical state of the platform is the worst I've ever seen.
The most basic parts of the site that should be rock solid for a 27 year old tech company like logging in, searching, listing items for sale, messaging and completing checkout have experienced multiple sitewide breakdowns just in recent months.
Where is the accountability? Providing a site that actually works consistently and reliably should be top priority...whatever it takes.
Priority #2 - Dump the vertical focus and win back seller trust.
I'm sorry, no matter how many times CEO Jamie Iannone tells Wall Street that his vertical focus strategy is working, it's just not - and quarterly reports of plummeting active buyer and seller figures prove it.
It may have some temporary upside for those few categories, but at what cost to the overall marketplace?
Sellers are growing increasingly disillusioned and unhappy with a strategy they feel is exclusionary and puts the cost burden almost entirely on the backs of those who will benefit the least from these initiatives.
Seller morale and trust seems to be at an all time low. To reverse that trend, eBay needs to invest in all of its sellers, not just a favored few in certain categories.
Get rid of an unfair Service Metrics system that penalizes sellers financially for things outside of their control, get serious about protecting sellers from "friendly fraud" and chargebacks, actually eliminate unpaid items on the platform, create useful seller tools that go beyond either race to the bottom price discounting or pay to play advertising schemes, and then get out of their way and watch sellers take the marketplace to new heights.
Buyer trust is obviously very important too, but I firmly believe one of the best things eBay could do for buyer trust is to improve and strengthen the seller pool by incentivizing great sellers to stay on the platform and provide best in class customer experiences.
A desire to bring in more "high value buyers" is great but if sellers with high value inventory can't be confident they will be protected from scams and abuse, they're not likely to list it on eBay.
In the early days of Iannone's tenure as CEO, he said his strategy was to "focus on the core" of eBay and lean in to the importance of consumer selling on the platform. I'm not sure where that message got lost along the way, but getting back to it might be a good place to start.
Of course there are many more specific strategies eBay can and should explore, but I believe addressing these core issues is essential, foundational work needed before embarking on more detailed initiatives.
If they need help beyond that, as always Jamie, Stefanie or anyone else at eBay is welcome to reach out any time. 😉
If you were in charge of Corporate Strategy at eBay, what would be your top priority? Let us know in the comments below!