Day 1 of the eBay Seller Forum…

January 28, 2008

Marketplaces ChannelAdvisor By ChannelAdvisor

Monday evening the eBay e-commerce forum kicked off with cocktails and a dinner from 6pm on.   It looks like there are about 350-400 people in attendance and with each top-seller bringing 2 employees I’d guess there are 200-250 of eBay’s top sellers represented. eBay does a good job at these events of mixing up the categories so that you have on the order of 5-10 sellers per major eBay category.

There are more eBay’ers here than I remember at previous seller events and pretty much the entire eBay exec team.  Rajiv, Bob Swan, etc. are all here so they are definitely treating this as a serious event and investing major time and $ in it.

Dinner was good, it was family Italian style and they played music that could have been taken from the Godfather soundtrack.  Towards dessert, Kip Knight kicked off some comments from a variety of eBayers:

  • Kip introduced Bill Cobb, President eBay North America – Bill welcomed sellers and set the  stage for the event talking about a good bit of change coming to the marketplace.  Bill then introduced Meg.
  • Meg Whitman – President and CEO, eBay Inc. (retiring in March)- Meg received a standing ovation from the crowd and said a few words about how after 10yrs it was time to leave eBay.  She then pointed out Bob Swan and Rajiv Dutta.  She then talked about how eBay was her ‘baby’ and she’s handing it over to John Donahoe.
  • John Donahoe – CEO Elect.  John was very brief and outlined the agenda for Tuesday morning (his keynote starts at 9am and appears to be the meat and potatoes of the event).  He thanked Meg for all of her hard work on eBay.  He admitted he’s filling some big shoes and said he will give every bit of heart and soul that Meg+Pierre have.  eBay is a special company and a reason why is all of you (sellers).  The single reason he joined eBay because what makes eBay unique is you, the sellers.  The entrepreneurialism, individual stories, is very inspiring and will inspire him for years.  He wrapped by saying that eBay is a learning company.  They want to hear feedback on all the changes and react.  (reading between the tea-leaves here, sounds like the tomorrow’s changes are Phase I of many based on feedback).

In the after-dinner bar-talk (that’s why this post is going up so late at night -had to do some ‘man on the street reporting’), sellers were generally pleased that Donahoe acknowledged them as a valuable partner. Several noted this is definitely a departure with the past and there is some skepticism, but most sellers believe it’s an earnest change.  Every seller is on pin and needles about the big announcements coming tomorrow and each ‘type’ of seller has different expectations and concerns.  With so many ‘types’ it’s impossible for eBay to please them all, but it’s definitely interesting to hear.  Here’s some examples:

  • The media seller – They had a bad last three years and are hoping there is some fee change that brings them back to eBay in a meaningful way.
  • The auction traditionalist – These folks are 100% auction, with low starting prices and high conversions.  They are the most freaked out because they’ve heard the ‘lower listing fees/higher fvf’ messaging and are assuming we’re heading towards 15%+ FVFs.
  • The fixed-price seller – These sellers sit in-between the media (low ASP, low conversion) and auction traditionalist (high ASP, high conversion) and have average ASP and conversion ( $50, 50%).  They aren’t sure what to expect and generally spend more time pondering the intricacies of international business, feedback, fraud and DSRs.  They’d love to see lower fees, but are also interested in the other areas, like finding, that eBay has messaged will be coming.

So there you have it folks, the stage is set for some big announcements Tuesday. Stay tuned!