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October 10, 2012

The New eBay: Serendipity+faster transactions=win for sellers

We've moved our blog! EbayStrategies.blogs.com will eventually be shut down, however the posts will live on. To access this blog post at its new location, click here.

Today, eBay unveiled some pretty significant improvements to the user experience (UX) that we wanted to highlight because we think they will have serious ramifications for sellers, both now and as they progress.

Today at a press event in NY, eBay unveiled not only the new eBay logo, but a sweeping set of changes that are the start of a new wave of innovation at eBay.  You can read a letter from eBay marketplace's President Devin Wenig at www.ebay.com/new - I think the best quote from that is: "We want to make moments of inspiration instantly shoppable.".  

My take on that quote is that over the years, eBay has worked on the the basics of trust, search, seller quality, etc. but it kind of has lost that serendipitous "I was on eBay to get X and I found Y!" kind of experience.  Sure we live in a world that is transactional and if you want X, eBay shouldn't get in the way, but there's a whole new crop of e-commerce startups like Gilt, Fab, Pinterest and Etsy that have been somewhat taking over that non-transactional space/experience that eBay used to dominate - surfacing products you didn't realize you needed and driving impulse purchases.

We've been able to preview the eBay changes and I can say that eBay looks to be very serious about not only accelerating the pace of UX innovation, but also reclaiming that throne.

Overview of changes

In this blog post we have a major section for each of the five big UX changes and in each we give an overview of the changes and what we think the impact will be for sellers. 

From a 30,000-ft view, these changes should help eBay accelerate buyer activity and acquisition.  If you recall, in Q2, eBay added 2m buyers - 600k of which were from mobile.  I'd say the biggest impact from these UX changes is that if they work they should result in more buyers and more buyer activity - all great things for the seller community of course.

Here are the top five new features we focus on in this post.

  1. New homepage feed 
  2. Progressive Registration
  3. Search
  4. Item page
  5. Turbo checkout

This is an image-heavy post so to keep it readable, I have put in smaller size images -you can click on any of them (feed readers should come on through to the site for that to work) if you want to see the larger version.

The executive summary is that I think eBay has really nailed these changes - they simultaneously will make transactions faster/easier and have added some really cool new ways of discovering products you didn't even know you needed.

Homepage feed

eBay has added a Pinterest-esque feed to the home page.  Don't dismiss this as a Pinterest knock-off though, because eBay has added some pretty cool eBay-centric features.

New UX Experience

Here's what a feed looks like.  In this example, I customized the feed to have some star wars and NC State items surfaced that I am interested in.  Think of this aspect as saved searches on steroids.

Homepage_feed

Note that you have a four tabbed navigation where you can change the view to:

  • My feed - Where you can customize what's in the feed (personal favorite)
  • Featured - eBay will make curated recommendations in this section.
  • Recently viewed - A feed of items you have looked at on eBay recently.
  • Watching - A feed-view of items on your eBay watch list vs. the old school list in My eBay

As you are shopping, the feed alerts you if there are updates (called discoveries) as seen here:

Homepage_feed2

Of course, eBay has millions and millions of listings, so the discoveries roll in very fast and furious which is good because it encourages you to optimize your feed to get pretty specific.  In my experience, it's kind of like Twitter - when you first signed up, you followed anything and everything, then you realized it was like drinking through the fire hose, so you trimmed that back.  Customizing your feed is pretty similar.

All of these new eBay UX innovations have what I would call nice polish or gold plating.  For example, as I scroll through my feed, instead of having to scroll back to the top to search eBay, customize my feed, etc. a persistent banner comes with me that includes the most important navigation items:


Homepage_feed3

 

Customizing your feed is pretty slick.  Here's an example of what that looks like.  I start a 'star wars' search and immediately I'm given some refinements/filters as well as a preview.  Every time you tweak a filter (e.g. I want to only see items that are in the toy category) then the preview changes.  More polish, more gold plating.  Also notice over on the right  (see the screen shot below) that based on what I'm creating, eBay is suggesting some other generic interests I can 'follow' into my feed.  You can imagine this going in all kinds of neat directions:

  • As a user, could I publish my custom star wars interests?
  • What if I want to follow a seller?
  • What if I want to follow another eBay'er's interests?
  • Maybe I want some alerts on my mobile phone - alert me when new interests found
  • Perhaps sellers could create interests and publish things they want followers to see or that the seller wants to highlight.  This is how retailers are using Pinterest today.  

Feed_create

Once you have either created an interest or found a suggested interest to follow, you can look at your interests.  In this example, I have four.  I can then manage them (delete, add more, etc.) from this spot.  This is the equivalent to the Pinterest board metaphor.

Feed_create2

Finally, you can opt-in to the new eBay feed UX by going to ebay.com/feed - I strongly recommend sellers do this so they can get a feel for this new experience and how to leverage it in their business.

Seller Implications

Right now there are no direct seller implications, but eBay feeds definitely highlight the importance of high quality images.  As you can see from the screen shots, the buyer's first experience with your products in this format is the image.  

Also, I do expect buyers to filter and if you aren't giving eBay the right data to filter on, then your items won't be included.  Today the filters are pretty high-level (condition, etc.), but I imagine as a fashion buyer I'd want size and color and category specifics, so down the road I can see those coming to the feed creation process which would double the importance of data quality.

Progressive Registration

Most of us don't think about it because we've been on the site for years, but registering as a new user on eBay is very 'heavy' - especially in today's world where you can pretty much login everywhere with your Facebook credentials.  As part of today's announcement, eBay is making it much easier for new users to start the registration process.  Let's say you want to watch an item or create a feed or something non-transactional, you now only have to enter the beginning part of the process (name, pwd, etc.) and not all the gritty shipping details and what-not.  As you do more on the site (bid/buy/etc.) you then complete the rest of that.  

This makes sense as the bounce rates on any sites registration process are huge and you even seen most modern ecommerce sites allowing guest checkouts and FB logins.

The seller implications are two-fold:

  • Hopefully the new user friction is low and they can buy from us.
  • Some sellers may be concerned this could introduce a whole bunch of fraudulent buyers into the marketplace.  Personally I think as long as eBay is policing it on the back-end (e.g. a fraudster registers, is caught and tries to register again and is not allowed to), it is a fair trade-off.
  • Also some traditional auction sellers maybe concerned with Unpaid Items from newbies, or deadbeat bidders as we used to say back in the day and that's something we'll have to watch, but I do think again this is a fair trade-off.

Search changes

eBay has tweaked the visual appearance of the search results page (SERPS), but is not changing the algorithm (aside from the changes we mentioned here last week).

New UX Experience

In the example below, you see the new SERP UX.  

Search_experience

The biggest change here is the images are much larger - so much larger that it looks like the default number of results has decreased from 50 to 25 items per page.  I don't have a shot of it here, but eBay is also layering some image banners across the bottom of these giant images.  Banners like: "20% off", "newly listed", "ending soon" that should help drive conversions.  

Seller Implications

I said it in the feed section and will say it again - images are super-important.  There are also more filters throughout the site.  For example, in a fashion search, I was presented with a color palette, size and inseam filters and more. 

Item page changes

The eBay Item page has undergone a huge re-vamp that we'll cover here.  Sometimes I hear eBay'ers call this the 'view item' page.

New UX experience

Before we get to the Item page, if you are on the feed, and click through you get this little interstitial page, which is kind of like the mobile experience, that eBay calls a sneak peek:

Sneakpeek

Once you click on an item, you are taken to the new item page:

Item_page1

So much has changed here, I'll just point out some of the highlights:

  • Bigger image!
  • There is now a tabbed UX that lets the buyer zoom to parts of the listing such as description, shipping and handling, seller info, Q+A
  • I'm still getting my head around the upper right part of the page. Some of the key attributes have been promoted/raised, but I do think sellers maybe concerned that their brand/feedback/TRS badge have been demoted/lowered on the page.

As we scroll down, just like feed, a dynamic banner is created that floats down with the listing.  You can see that here:

Item_page2

 

If I click in the banner on, say, 'seller information', that part of the page zips to the top and I can now see the seller information.


Item_page3

Seller implications

  • Have I mentioned that images are pretty dang important in this new UX?
  • I haven't been a huge fan of the ad on the item page and for some reason it feels like it's sticking out more to me on this new page.
  • I'd love to hear everyone's feedback on the upper right of the page - I'm concerned that the seller info is bumped down, but I do like the addition of a seller information section 'in the listing'.

Turbo Checkout

One thing I've never understood is why I constantly have to remember two user IDs and passwords (eBay and PayPal) to buy from eBay. Can you imagine going to Amazon and being asked for your Amazon password and your other checkout password?  It obviously adds friction to the buying process.

Today eBay is introducing Turbo Checkout that allows you to essentially one-time 'link' your eBay and PayPal accounts and never have to enter both to buy something again.  Once linked, you get a substantially lower friction checkout experience.

New UX Experience

Here's an example of Turbo Checkout at work.  The black boxes are to anonymize and the red box was added to highlight the eBay/PayPal linkage UX. When you first are invited to the Turbo Checkout, that linkage logo is presented and appears again here for consistency.

Tubocheckout

Prior to this, I was on an item page and selected buy it now.  I imagine if I was in my cart and checked out, I would be taken here as well.  I haven't counted, but it feels like this eliminates at least 3 if not 5-ish steps from the old process and definitely is a huge win.

 

Seller Implications

Buyers can buy stuff faster and pay for it immediately - what's not to love about this.  Maybe you could argue that it is so fast that there may be a bit more returns due to buyer's remorse, but that's a high-class problem we'll all have to live with.

 

Conclusion

This is a great set of UX enhancements and hopefully sets a new pace of innovation coming out of eBay. Unlike some past UX enhancements that felt 80% done and/or untested, as I pointed out through our tour, these are very polished and feel like very solid starts to great new features.  Let us know if you have any feedback, questions or other concerns about seller impact in comments.

 This blog post was written by Scot Wingo, CEO and co-founder of ChannelAdvisor.

 

 

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