The influence of social media continues to extend beyond platforms like Facebook and Twitter, and today, eBay is throwing its hat into the ring. It is unveiling a series of features in its Marketplace that will see the company making one of its biggest moves yet to bring itself up to date with today’s younger online audience — and compete more comprehensively against the likes of Amazon.
eBay is adding Curators to the site — tastemakers and well-known people who users can follow to see their latest product selections. Also new are profiles for both buyers and sellers to share more public information. And eBay Today will be a redesigned new homepage that will feature goods selected by the site’s new “chief curator and editorial director,” Michael Phillips Moskowitz, whose startup Bureau of Trade was acquired by eBay last month.
At the same time, eBay is also announcing some upgrades to how it brings goods to users: specifically it will be expanding its delivery service, eBay Now, to 25 markets by the end of 2014, with Chicago being the latest city to launch today. And it has separately acquired Shutl, a one-hour delivery service that comes out of the UK but has also been building up a business in the U.S. The news comes out of its Future of Shopping event today in New York.
Marketplace is currently eBay’s largest business. In earnings reported last week, it accounted for $2.03 billion out of $3.89 billion in sales overall. But at current growth rates, it looks like it will soon be overtaken by PayPal. That’s a significant shift at the company from its role primarily as a platform for businesses to sell goods to one that processes the financial transactions. The sale of goods, meanwhile, is getting attacked from a couple of different angles — with perhaps the biggest being Amazon — so eBay has been evolving it far beyond its original business as a site for online auctions of used items. One of the verticles it has been betting big on is fashion and design, and today’s addition of curators is specifically pushing that concept.
Adding more social features is part of a longer-term upgrade that eBay has been making to its website for a while now. That has included a Pinterest-inspired redesign to its homepage, launched one year ago. The idea, it seems, is that as sites like Pinterest become strong sources of referral traffic for eBay, eBay itself wants to create a similar environment for activity on its own site to retain users. With consumers increasingly taking signals from their friends and connections to consume content online, it makes sense that a shopping platform would want to build on that concept, too. That’s also a hat-tip to other sites like Fancy, Lyst and Fab, which have all also built in social features to help users discover goods and to potentially linger longer, even when they are not directly buying things.
The moves follow developments last month in the UK, where eBay unveiled a new locker-style service and its Marketplaces president Devin Wenig hinted at a number of other new features to come.
“The world is changing, with the lines between online and offline commerce blurring and the expectations of buyers and sellers rising rapidly,” said Devin Wenig, president of eBay Marketplaces, in a statement. “With eBay’s latest steps, we are bringing together the best of what people need from a shopping experience – speed and convenience – with things people love about shopping, like discovery and inspiration.”
The news comes also just a week after eBay announced the appointment of RJ Pittman as the new chief product officer in the Marketplace division. Pittman, who comes from running e-commerce operations for Apple, will specifically be tasked with updating, upgrading and expanding Marketplace globally when he takes up his new job in November. A large part of that will be about extending eBay into the physical world. “We don’t talk about e-commerce anymore,” he told me in an interview. “We’ve dropped the ‘e’ to talk about commerce.”
Included among the 200 new Curators on eBay is Pharrell Williams, the musician and startup investor who has also backed a fashion site out of Berlin called L’Arco Baleno. “Shopping on eBay is unlike shopping anywhere else – it’s a place to discover things you love and things you never knew you needed. Now, anyone can create their own collection on eBay and fill it with all their dream items,” he said in a statement.