eBay Shutters Dedicated Social Media For Sneakers & Watches Amid Strategy Pivot

Liz Morton
Liz Morton


In yet another sign that eBay is shaking up their business strategy, activity on dedicated social media pages for focus verticals like sneakers and watches was discontinued yesterday, redirecting users to eBay's main social channels instead.

eBay Sneakers on Twitter and Facebook both have a "we've moved" banner directing users to @eBay and posts saying they are "still officially here for the sneakerheads, just not here specifically."

eBay Watches on Instagram and Reddit also posted similar messages on the same day.

So what's behind the move and what does it possibly mean for sellers in these verticals as well as other categories on eBay?

eBay has been undertaking a major business strategy shift since mass layoffs and the resignation of Chief Business Strategy Officer Stefanie Jay in January.

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The layoffs included some staff at eBay's sneaker authentication center in Las Vegas, raising questions about the "high value vertical focus" strategy eBay undertook during Jays' tenure and concerns about the costs and risks of eBay's increasingly labor-centric warehouse operations with multiple authentication centers across the globe as well as the acquisition of collectible card game marketplace TCGPlayer.

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Clawing back market share in the sneaker space that ex-CEO Devin Wenig allowed to slip through his fingers to competitors like StockX was priority number one when Iannone took the helm and eBay massively increased their investment in these services throughout 2023, disclosing over $38 million in additional expenses related to authentication just in the first three quarters of the year.

Despite pouring money into expanding authentication, eBay has struggled to gain traction with newly introduced categories like streetwear and to keep the momentum going with sneakers, while trying to find ways to monetize the service to cover some of the ever increasing costs.

Analyst Chris Burns at ARCH-USA recently revealed troubling reports that several sneaker industry consultants were ghosted by eBay Sneakers leadership and that eBay does not appear to have a great understanding of the concepts that were pitched to them to help ramp up their involvement in sneaker culture.

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eBay purchased SneakerCon and attempted to ramp up their involvement in sneaker culture. Speaking with several sneaker industry consultants who all found themselves ghosted by eBay’s sneaker GM and team it is clear that sneaker resale of premium and extremely limited footwear dominated the business plans of eBay.

Outside consultants with eBay attempted to move eBay towards a more controlled form of sneaker resale rooted in a combination of what the site owned, arbitrage and the ability to mimic retail. The pitches to eBay Sneakers were taken and placed in action with various websites and influencers, but eBay never understood the concept.

The struggling sneaker business is just one reason I believe eBay is pivoting back to a broader consumer-seller focus in a belated effort to turn the ship around.

When CEO Jamie Iannone took the helm in 2020, his initial "tech-led reimagination" strategy specifically called out the need to capitalize on eBay's robust C2C platform, seeing consumer to consumer selling as the foundation of the company's success.

But consumer selling quickly faded to the background in 2021 as eBay instead pursued a very narrow focused vertical, "high value, enthusiast buyer" strategy that left many of the non-new in season, one of a kind, vintage, antiques and other collectibles C2C sellers that were the "foundational roots of eBay's success" feeling excluded and abandoned.

With Stefanie Jay's departure, new open job positions in February signaled a possible return to those historically successful C2C roots.

Iannone also heavily "leaned in" on C2C success in Germany during the Q4 2023 earnings call and other recent investor conferences.

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eBay has been testing fee free selling for private consumer sellers in the UK as well, mirroring changes they made to the German marketplace last year, and surveying buyers about a C2C initiative they are calling "eBay It Forward."

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Interestingly, the eBay It Forward campaign came out in March 2021, and while some spots did highlight luxury handbags and watches (which would later become staples in the high value buyer vertical focus strategy), there was one focused on vintage clothing and another featuring a wide range of items you can find on eBay 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 shutting down dedicated social media channels for some of the top verticals they have focused on so much in the last 3 years could at least in part be due to staffing needs, as the recent downsizing may have made it less feasible to operate multiple social profiles effectively.

However, in the context of the wider C2C pivot we are seeing, the closures are particularly noteworthy since a core selling point of the vertical focus strategy was supposed to be that eBay was creating dedicated experiences tailored specifically to enthusiast buyers in those key verticals, with influencer partnerships and category specific events and marketing.

Could moving everything back under the broader, unified eBay banner mean eBay is abandoning the dedicated enthusiast buyer vertical focus all together? Let us know what you think 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!

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