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EBay Wants to Make Online Shopping More Fun

February 13, 2018, 8:48 PM UTC
Jasper Sanidad Photography

EBay Inc. will roll out new augmented reality features this year to make buying and selling goods on the website more engaging, and is exploring a credit program for sellers to encourage them to keep their money on the platform.

The San Jose, California-based marketplace said it’s working on an AR kit that, for example, will let car enthusiasts see how the images of new wheels would look on their vehicles before making a purchase. Another feature will help sellers select the correct box size for an item by overlaying an image of the box on the merchandise.

EBay had a strong holiday quarter with 170 million buyers on the platform and a 10 percent increase in gross merchandise volume to $24.4 billion. That is a key metric of the value of all goods and tickets sold on the company’s marketplaces.

Shoppers look to EBay for unique items at good prices and quick delivery is not the only factor that influences their spending decisions, Chief Executive Officer Devin Wenig said Tuesday in San Francisco at a technology conference sponsored by Goldman Sachs Group Inc. Wenig sought to convince investors there is room for EBay in a market dominated by Inc., which offers delivery of some items in as little as an hour.

“A lot of people say e-commerce is about one thing: logistics. That’s not true,” Wenig said. “Cost, convenience and the inventory itself matters a lot as well.”

Wenig predicted retail consolidation and brick-and-mortar store closures will continue due to overcapacity created before the internet connected buyers with the merchandise they want. This trend will open new opportunities for EBay to become partners with physical retailers looking to enhance their online presence, he said.

The marketplace plans to add more apparel and home goods, which is helping to balance its customer base by attracting younger shoppers and women, Wenig said. EBay has traditionally skewed toward older men, he said.

“Moving a brand takes years. It doesn’t take quarters,’ Wenig said.

EBay’s key strategies to maintain growth include improving the way artificial intelligence and data are used to personalize what visitors see on the home page and introducing features such as the AR tools to make online shopping more fun, Mohan Patt, EBay’s vice president of buyer experiences, said in an interview. The goal is to expand EBay’s customer reach beyond mission-shoppers who know precisely what they want to enthusiasts in different categories seeking inspiration, Patt said.

“Personalization is all about getting you to buy things you didn’t know you wanted,” he said.

EBay announced Tuesday that it hired data scientist Jan Pedersen to run its artificial intelligence efforts that will bring new shopping experiences to the marketplace. Pedersen most recently worked as vice president of data science at social media platform Twitter Inc.

The company also is considering a program to give sellers credits to entice them to use the money they make on EBay to buy additional items on the marketplace, Patt said. That feature will become possible as EBay transitions to a new payment provider after its relationship with long-time partner PayPal Holdings Inc., he said.