Tuesday, April 24, 2007

eBay 2.0 - Coming Soon to a Computer Screen Near You!

I spend a lot of time surfing the nooks and crannies of the Internet trying to gleam some insights into the future of ecommerce. During my recent digital travels I came across a blog called Hitchhikers Guide 650 by Will Hsu a former Product Manager at eBay. Will, had an excellent post on eBay Motors 2.0 and the eventual changes coming to eBay.com. Rather than muck up his post with my comments please read it and add your comments.

Based on what I read in Will's post:
I will say this, with the number of "glitches" that have been occurring on the .com site over the past year or so this move to A/B testing (not everyone gets it when they login) is having some impact on the buyer/seller experience. In fact "glitch" in eBay speak appears to mean, "we tested it, the test was a failure - so we are calling it a glitch". So, while Adam did say the problem with search, I posted about this weekend, was a "glitch" that is because he was told that by the "finding" team. From my cynical perspective the more likely scenario was they were testing an approach that had a major impact on sales so they rolled it back and called it a "glitch". Adam just relayed what the finding team told him. I just think eBay has a different definition for "glitch" then the rest of us do.

Update: I had asked Adam to respond to my "theory" and his response did clear this up for me. I really do want to fair with my assertions. Here is Adam's response.

Hi Randy,

It’s a thoughtful post, but I assure you, we never describe a test as a glitch, even when it doesn’t go well. In fact, part of the expectation with testing is that some tests won’t go well – if every test went well, there wouldn’t be much need for testing, right?

Glitch & bug are the same thing – eBay is a very large site with literally millions of lines of code. The site is made up of thousands of features, and sometimes, when we change one feature, we introduce bugs in another. This actually happens relatively rarely given the size of eBay, but obviously, we work as quickly as possible to fix them when they occur.

In this case, the missing items from the Store expansion was a bug, not a test.

You can usually tell when we’re testing something because you won’t be able to get anyone else to see it. Most of our tests are done on a small percentage of users (like 1%).

So chances are, if you can see it, and everyone else can see it, it’s not a test.

Take care,

I also gleaned some perspective into why eBay is A/B testing on the .com site.

Here is a comment from Will's blog.

"As I always said, “better” doesn’t always mean “better” . . . users are creatures of habit, and an “implied social contracts” drives the interaction between a company’s website and its users. For example, conversion rate goes up when Google simplifies its homepage but down when Amazon simplifies theirs; given huge overlap in user based, there is no way to predict actual user behavior by blindly following any mantra (2.0 or not). And thus, the only way is to test repeatedly and slowly roll out any changes. Make no doubts about it, any small percentage change in conversion rate will impact the bottom line. This revamp is a necessary and inevitable for eBay (in search of growth and fending off new competition), but it is a gamble nonetheless . . .

eBay is(I know it really should be "eBay are" but I write the way I speak, so deal with it) testing eBay 2.0 a little bit at a time.

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