2007 - Year of the Buyer:
- Reinvest in eBay's core by simplifying the site, improving finding, and accentuating the things that make eBay fun and unique. (Finding 2.0, Widgets, eBay Desktop, Bid Assistant etc.)
- Take a more proactive approach to Trust & Safety to protect our members from fraud. (Safeguarding Member IDs, etc.)
- Improve the buyer experience on the site by holding sellers to higher minimum standards (T&S Crackdown, Feedback 2.0)
Many of these changes greatly affected sellers who were still reeling from the fee increases of Aug. 2006. There is some evidence that a large number of sellers have left the site or moved large portions of their inventory to other sites, with Amazon getting a large share. So what does eBay do for an encore? Well, I'll help them out.
They should make 2008 "The Year of the Seller". I would look for Bill Cobb or whomever is in his position (sorry couldn't help it) to announce initiatives that benefit the top eBay sellers, category specific pricing, free gallery etc. We are already seeing movement in this direction as management tests what type of pricing will give them the most bang for their buck (three extended promos since Sept. 1st, each very different from the next)
The only question I have is: Will this new focus on the seller be "a day late and a dollar short" The seller/management relationship is tenuous at best.
I would like to add a few suggestions to their list:
- Allow sellers to link out to their own websites from Core listings. That would make the expense of CORE listings more palatable.
- Include Store listings in search (now that they supposedly can handle it with Finding 2.0)
- Provide FVF discounts for return customers.
I'm sure I can come up with about 100 other suggestions but these will suffice for now.
So what happens in 2008 for Investors? Well, IMO, much the same as happened to Sellers this year. Investors will probably not be too happy with the changes. Bob Peck of Bear Stearns has already suggested that there will be margin pressure in 08' due to the need to improve seller economics and Jeetil Patel of Deutsche Bank says the margin pressure combined with problems with demand will cause further pressure on the company's profits. I would look for real volatility with the stock in 08' but that is just a layman's opinion.
So, we can already see what these changes will bring in 2009 "The Year of the Investor" when eBay once again focuses on the bottom line and investors. (Can investors wait that long?)
In theory, these changes should right the eBay ship and make all three constituents (Buyers, Sellers and Investors) happy come 2009. IMO, 2008 is the key year for eBay management. If their efforts on improving buyer experience take hold with buyers and they can keep sellers on the site then improvement will be evident towards the end of 2008 and eBay can once again concentrate on investors. If these changes do not accomplish what management wants then by the end of 2008 Investors will be jumping ship.
Lastly, as I wrote this post I thought, "this is actually a very nice plan" and hope that it works out for each group involved. Sellers will come back to eBay when it once again becomes a viable marketplace for their business. Investors may sell their shares as margins are pressured but will come back when things improve. The jury is still out whether buyers will come back. Let's hope they do for everybody's sake.
Just my 5 cents!