Four updates: eBay/Google, IRCE, a webinar and eBay’s mobile strategy

June 6, 2011

Things have been super busy in e-commerce land with the emergence of social as a potential huge new channel (coverage at sister site FacebookCommerceStrategies), the D9 conference last week and next week we have the biggest show of the year – Internet Retailer Conference and Exhibition (IRCE).

There were four items I wanted to share with readers that either directly impact eBay sellers or tangentially:

  1. Google vs. eBay – things got UGLY last week.
  2. IRCE – eBay is keynoting and we have some things going on at ChannelAdvisor
  3. We have a webinar this week around google changes that maybe of interest, although not eBay oriented.
  4. Finally, saving the best for last – last week eBay’s VP of Mobile gave a talk that was pretty under the radar that was EXCELLENT and I wanted to share some notes from that and of course thoughts.  This actually ties into number 1.

I usually embed videos, but there are so many out, I’ll just link to them to keep this post as short as possible.

1. Google vs. eBay

In June 2007, Google and eBay had the biggest public confrontation in their history when Google launched checkout and set up a Tea party event at eBay Live (the now defunct eBay tradeshow).  Things got very ugly and since then there has been no love lost between the companies.   Frequently sellers will see their eBay google results disappear, be demoted, etc. and we always chalk it up to behind the scenes fighting between these two Internet behemoths. 

Well, last week shatters the record, here’s what happened:

  • Feb 2010 – eBay Strategies friend Stephanie Tilenius leaves eBay for… Google! We covered it here.  Shortly after that move, Stephanie came to ChannelAdvisor’s 2010 Catalyst and talked about the importance of the interesection of local and mobile (hint hint)
  • May 27 2011 – Google announces google wallet and google offers.  You can watch this youtube video to get details:
  • June 2, 2011 – Eric Schmidt on stage at D9, cites what he calls the ‘Gang of Four’  which is Google for Search, Facebook for Social, Apple for mobile and Amazon for buying things.  These are the four companies that are going after a platform strategy.  A lot of the talk was about Microsoft being left off, but I can imagine eBay didn’t take this well as they view themselves as ‘in the game’ for the buying platfrom that Schmidt gave Amazon.
  • June 2, 2011 – After this dig, Stephanie does another demo of Google Wallet at D9.

Concurrent with all the gwallet excitement, eBay/Paypal filed suit against Google/Tilenius alleging that the entire gwallet was a stolen PayPal idea (NFC payments have been around in Asia for years).  The suite includes lots of torrid details – including text messages and facebook messages from Tilenius to people still on the Paypal team where she recruits them.  Also it turns out Paypal was close to a deal (or so they thought) to essentially be the android wallet when Google yanked the rug out from underneath them.  You can read a good timeline of the case here and the case is online in it’s entirety here.  If you enjoy a little high-tech payments drama, as I do,  it’s a great read!  It makes it seem like Google totally mislead Paypal they were going to be THE android payment system all while recruiting away the entire team to build gwallet.

More thoughts on what this means to Paypal/eBay mobile after topic 4.

Suffice it to say that these two are in open war with each other again and it will be interesting to see what’s the next volley. (Keep an eye on those eBay google SEM/SEO  as that’s usually where the battle plays out in round 2).

One last little dig I noticed -one of the main reasons eBay acquired GSI was the brick and ortar payments, Google wallet announced Toys-R-Us as a launch partner, GSI’s largest retailer. (ouch!)

2. IRCE – 

Next week in San Diego, eBay’s own Chris Payne, kicks things off with a keynote at 8:30am Wednesday, June 15th PST.  We’ll be live blogging that event, so stay tuned.

At IRCE, I’m speaking Wednesday at 11:45 with Colin Sebastian about Amazon and advanced Amazon strategies. 



Also at IRCE we will have a huge booth and I invite everyone to stop by – Booth 317 and we’re also hosting a huge party Tuesday night featuring old-school rapper (and inventor of the Dougie) – Doug. E. Fresh!  Email for an invite.

3. Webinar

This week, Thursday we are running a webinar around all of the Google changes that are impacting retailers.   From Panda to Google Product Search changes, and Product Listing Ads/Extensions, Google is throwing a lot at retailers to think about.  We’ll have all the news and strategies in this webinar.

4. eBay’s Mobile strategy

Last week, Wall St. Analyst Ben Schachter@Macquire, hosted eBay’s VP of Mobile, Steve Yankovich for a brief conference call.  This was a stellar call and I recommend anyone interested in the topic listen to the replay.  What was interesting is Steve somewhat was throwing out a bunch of new metrics and data around eBay’s mobile efforts that I was surprised and impressed that eBay’s IR team opened up.  This is in contrast to Amazon’s very tight lips which make it very hard to tell what’s going on.

Here are the highlights in bulleted form:

  • RedLaser – doing well and the core of the eBay mobile strategy – ‘millions’ of scans per day and they can tell from what’s being scanned that most of it is happening in retail.
  • 20-30% of iPad owners download the iPad app
  • If you took the eBay iphone app’s traffic, it would be a top 25 website in the world.
  • Mobile ASP is a LOT higher than PC (sounds double)
  • Smartphone users have 10 sessions a day (that sounds crazy high to me)
  • Most of the traffic today is SmartPhone, but Tablet/iPad is growing faster
  • On Mobile, Auctions have more traction that FP because it is always with you.
  • On Pad, it’s FP
  • They think of it as Smartphone = mobile and frantic, iPad = stationary and thoughtful
  • Donahoe has shown this screen shot and Steve talked about augmented reality and how you’ll be able to look through your camera and see what everyone is wearing/doing and buy it on eBay (I don’t shop this way, so I don’t get this one, good demo though).
  • They are also working on an iPad app that while you are co-watching,  the iPad flashes up stuff that you seen on TV to buy on eBay (again not how I shop, but an interesting demo)
  • Payments – In July, a new Paypal mobile checkout will be avail that is much better than current.
  • Gwallet – someone asked, “If gwallet becomes the standard, what does that do to eBay’s applications?” – Steve kind of dodged that one and said that paypal is superior, but did leave the door open that they would/could take CC directly and/or ‘decide whatever makes sense’.
  • GSI – someone asked how this fits in and Steve hinted they are working on apps for the GSI retailers.

Deep thoughts on mobile payments

The payment industry is very interesting and of course tangential to e-commerce, so we watch it very closely at ChannelAdvisor.

At analyst day, Paypal was talking up the growth opportunities in Mobile and Social and given what we’re seeing from Google, Apple and Facebook, I can see Paypal losing both of these strategic areas:

Mobile – We now know that Google is going with gwallet/NFC and Apple has been rumored to be going the same route with iPhone 5 (they have 225m accounts with CCs and one-click) and Amazon’s rumored Android system.  This leaves little to no room for Paypal.  This highlights what Schmidt was saying -without a platform dog in the fight, eBay doesn’t have much of a chance here.  If Paypal loses here, then it’s very possible the eBay app/marketplace will erode away quickly as well.

Social – If half the Paypal team is now at Google,the other half is at facebook. They are clearly working on something substantial there around FB credits that could not only lock Paypal out of social, other than being ‘just another funding source’.

Of course the ‘nuclear’ scenario is one of these offerings creeps into Paypal’s core business – something I’d give the Facebook credits system some viability as FB has a great record of off and on-facebook features.

It’s going to be interesting to see how Paypal navigates through this.  Maybe they have a Facebook or twitter deal up their sleeve? Maybe Gwallet pushes Apple into their hands?  Stay tuned.

What do you think?

I know that was a lot of different topics, but wanted to make sure to get it all out there and most importantly get your thoughts – sound off in comments.