Will eBay Open 2019 disappoint again by not addressing fulfillment?

eBay Open

eBay Open starts today in Las Vegas. This is the company’s annual seller conference where the marketplace holds selling workshops, discusses its direction, makes tech announcements, presents awards, and offers a bit of fun too.

The 2017 edition of eBay Open was interesting as it was the first time the new eBay leadership had an opportunity to present their vision of eBay without PayPal.

eBay showed off exciting new features such as Image Search and laid out a desperately needed brand marketing strategy to bring new buyers to the platform.

There was a positive vibe to the 2017 conference that the company would be run differently.

The days of tone-deaf technocratic management so prevalent under former eBay CEO John Donahoe appeared gone. Or so it seemed!

2018 it all comes crashing down

Yet for 2018 the vibe around eBay changed.

The most anticipated news going into the 2018 conference was eBay’s new payments solution as the company decided to develop a competing platform to PayPal.

How will it work? What would make it different from PayPal? What benefits would sellers and buyers get from this payment program?

Yet, the only thing many sellers would remember from 2018 is that eBay Payments would not support PayPal during the phase-in period. In other words, sellers that opted into the program would lose access to PayPal.

Was eBay serious? What seller that relies on eBay as its main source of income would even consider this? Did eBay CEO Devin Wenig just turn into John Donahoe 2.0?

This kind of nonsensical decision is exactly what made the Donahoe era of not understanding how sellers operate such a nightmare for many sellers.

Gone was the hope eBay would be different under Wenig.

To further highlight how much has changed since 2017, eBay has been putting a lot of makeup on that pig “eBay Managed Payments” it introduced in 2018.

One year later and the program has 6,000 sellers and the company appears proud of this “achievement!” Really?

Even in the quarterly earnings calls to investors Wenig sounds more like Donahoe now.

And it seems some Wall Street types are not buying this stick anymore either.

“In my view, eBay is at a transformational crossroads in its lifecycle, when most consumers have already fled the auction-based e-commerce model in favor of sites like Amazon.com…”

Gary Alexander, Seeking Alpha columnist (eBay: Higher Profitability Doesn’t Make Me Any More Comfortable Investing)

eBay Open 2019 needs a reboot with a big announcement!

eBay management needs a big positive announcement at eBay Open to regain its credibility with sellers and investors.

While the company is (still) profitable, it cannot keep growing GMV at anemic rates when the rest of eCommerce is exploding. And the little growth of GMV is mostly from international operations, so eBay is actually falling behind in the US.

Is it really this hard to figure out what is needed to regain seller confidence in eBay?

Beating on sellers to offer fast and free shipping without providing a solution to offer this service to better compete with Amazon and other ecommerce companies is not the answer to growing GMV.

Free and fast shipping is a necessity for many sellers in most categories.

There could be exceptions, but too many sellers are blaming eBay for their insistence on fast and free shipping when in reality the fault lies with Amazon.

But eBay is not mitigating this problem by continuing to ignore developing a solution for sellers that allows them to better compete with Amazon.

Fulfillment is THE PAIN POINT for small sellers!

eBay needs fulfillment that is tightly integrated into the marketplace at a price point that directly competes with Amazon FBA.

How many Amazon sellers are frustrated by the fact they have to share sales data with Amazon?

eBay keeps pointing out that they are not competing with their sellers (although some could argue their Chinese investment is… but that is another topic).

Therefore, introducing a fulfillment solution is genuine opportunity to gain back sellers that left the eBay platform.

This could even be a chance to give eBay Managed Payments a boost by making the in-house payments solution an integral part of the fulfillment program.

In other words, eBay could require that only orders processed through eBay Payments can be fulfilled through their fulfillment network.

Shopify gets it

Last month Shopify said they would start a fulfillment network for its US merchants.

READ MORE: Shopify launches US fulfillment network for its merchants

While the company didn’t provide any real details yet, at least they are addressing the issue.

That is far more than what can be said about eBay, who have avoided the “fulfillment question” to date.

So, what are the chances eBay will address fulfillment at eBay Open 2019?

It’s not looking good when one considers the recent hires and the 2019 conference agenda.

READ MORE: eBay hires key personnel in apparent move to boost its core marketplace

Is there hope?

None of it points to a major announcement of “eBay Fulfillment”, but there is still hope that it could the best kept secret at eBay.

Unfortunately, more likely is that management will try to razzle and dazzle sellers with “innovations”, “better experiences”, and add another layer of makeup on “eBay Managed Payments”.

“If you can’t dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with bullshit.”

W.C. Fields

They will also highlight programs like Promoted Listings that extract more money from sellers on the marketplace.

None of these “solutions” are going to help the eBay GMV problem.

The “features” will only increase the “take rate” by eBay that helps keep bringing in revenue and make the bottom line look palatable. But for how much longer?

“Similar to the past few quarters, a big piece driving eBay’s revenue growth is a higher transaction take rate. In Q2, in fact, eBay notched a multi-quarter high in take rates at 9.4%. But this type of “growth” can only go so far. eBay has been bashed in the past by its sellers for exorbitant fees, and without raising its fees in any visible way that can spark seller outrage, the gains from transaction take rate growth has its limits.”

Gary Alexander, Seeking Alpha columnist (eBay: Higher Profitability Doesn’t Make Me Any More Comfortable Investing)

Devin Wenig legacy?

With the sale of StubHub and its classifieds business even more likely today, the question is what does Wenig want his eBay legacy to be?

READ MORE: Report – eBay has multiple interested buyers for StubHub

Will Wenig be the eBay CEO that just followed Donahoe and broke up the company further?

Or will he be the CEO that lead eBay to a new future with real solutions to seller pain points in today’s ecommerce landscape?

The 2019 edition of eBay Open could be a legacy defining moment for Wenig and his leadership team.


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