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[Guest Blog] eBay Reflects on Catalyst 2018 and the Future of E-Commerce

Another fantastic Catalyst event has come and gone. We were so inspired by the thoughtful workshops, keynotes, and networking opportunities. Before we begin thinking about next year, we wanted to pause and reflect on some e-commerce themes identified at the event last week.

The past few years, eBay has evolved into a thriving, modern retail marketplace in the hopes of attracting more global buyers, providing a shopping experience they’re accustomed to, and ultimately bringing our sellers more sales.

The topics of conversation that came up at Catalyst this year are the very themes we’ve been addressing as part of this journey.  Here’s how we’re thinking about them.

Artificial Intelligence

Right away, the buzz at Catalyst showed that artificial intelligence isn’t just for chess matches or science labs anymore. Instead, AI is fast becoming the next frontier in e-commerce — one that promises to revolutionize how our customers buy and sell.

At eBay, we’re rapidly deploying AI across the board at an unprecedented scale, building a new kind of e-commerce experience that brings shopping seamlessly into everyday life.

At its heart is our structured data effort, which provides insights into 1.1 billion items on our marketplace.  From brand new to vintage, if it exists in the world, it is probably for sale on eBay.  When paired with decades of data on the buying preferences of millions of shoppers, it enables us to explore new paths of personalization and inspiration.

Our goal is to deliver relevant and personalized experiences to our consumers like never before so that every person who shops on our platform can find their version of perfect.

Innovative Shopping Methods

You couldn’t ignore “voice” at this year’s Catalyst!  Google Express, Google Home, and Amazon Echo got plenty of acknowledgement at this year’s event, and we’re equally as excited.  We’ve been making inroads in this space, too, evolving the experience on eBay by innovating and launching new features to make shopping personalized and intuitive.

In a recent blog post, our VP of Buyer Experiences, Mohan Patt, went into more detail about how we’re reimagining shopping on eBay.  Recent launches like Find It On eBay and Image Search on the eBay app, and conversational commerce with Google assistant, are allowing us to provide seamless voice or text assistance when needed.  We’re also meeting our consumers on their social networks with eBay ShopBot, our AI powered personal shopping concierge on Facebook Messenger.

To really underscore the shopping experience we’re building, we will begin to intermediate payments on our platform, so that we can further innovate on behalf of our customers.

Rapid Fulfillment

We also heard this year that online shoppers are expecting even shorter fulfillment times with fewer delays, pushing the boundaries of what sellers and carriers can achieve.

The modern buyer wants instant gratification, and offers like “fast and free” are getting products to consumers faster than ever before.

Our next answer to this buyer expectation is eBay Guaranteed Delivery. This new program guarantees handling times of a day or less, so that customer delivery is three days or less. For listings in the program, eBay guarantees this delivery. This means that eBay makes it right if it doesn’t arrive in time. Either the shipping costs are reimbursed or they can return their purchase at no cost with a pre-paid label.

Shoppers love it, and the huge number of eBay sellers that offer this service are rewarded with increased visibility and sales. It’s a win-win that flips fulfillment expectations around, turning them into a net positive for everyone.

To top that off, in March we launched an augmented reality tool for sellers that helps determine the right packaging and shipping options for your sales.  Whether sending automotive parts, a children’s backpack, or assorted kitchenware, this feature helps with accurate sizing and real-time shipping cost calculations.  This is just another demonstration on how we are innovating on behalf of our customers, to help save time and remove barriers.

Marketplace Strategies for Brands

The other notable theme this year was that brands are looking for ways to turn an increasingly marketplace-centric e-commerce world to their advantage.

Did you know that one Sony product is sold every seven seconds on eBay? One Chanel product is sold every minute, and 320 Dysons are sold every day.  Brands thrive on eBay; they manage their own stories and end-to-end customer experience, and they leverage a powerful mobile app, all while reaching 168 million global buyers. Creating the right channel strategy, reflective of your product lifecycle, is critical to marketplace success and to expanding your brand to new customers.

We’re Excited About the Future

Catalyst showed us that the cutting edge technology we’re investing in will redefine ecommerce.  Shopping will be more conversational and personal.  When you come to eBay.com, you’ll see a simpler, more intuitive way to shop and sell.

In 2018 we’re going to continue to enhance our shopping experience, including search, delivery and returns, customer service, and payments.  We’ll focus our AI capabilities on computer vision, personalization, search, and dynamic pricing capabilities for our sellers.  Using AR, VR and mixed reality, we’ll deliver immersive and engaging buying and selling experiences.

So join us as we forge a new path, not just for our company, but for the industry at large.  At this rapid pace of evolutionary change, we can only imagine what next year’s event will explore.

Blog post by eBay

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