eBay’s Plans for Taking on Amazon

Cast your mind back to 1999; the Australian population was just shy of 19 million, John Howard was Prime Minister, The Matrix and The Sixth Sense were stunning cinema audiences, the GST bill passed, and the Reserve Bank announced the first interest rate hike in five years. Ancient history, right?

Well, it’s also the year that eBay kicked off in Australia. From its origin as a humble online auction site to the self-described ‘retail powerhouse,’ it is today, eBay has continued to evolve and influence the way Australians shop.

eBay Australia has continued to evolve over time. Image source: tumblr.com.

There are no signs of a slowdown either, with over 40,000 small Australian businesses currently selling on eBay, servicing over 11 million unique home-grown visitors each month, according to the company’s website. In fact, there are more active listings on eBay.com.au than there are people in Australia and the site has also helped create nearly 3,000 local self-made millionaires — that’s not a bad result for a business model that didn’t exist twenty years ago.

How eBay Does it

I think the key to eBay’s success has been a focus on progression — not only in predicting future trends, but continually investing in emerging technologies that subsequently reshape the retail landscape. The other huge — and potentially more important — factor is a solid understanding of the local environment and a willingness to develop solutions specifically for Australian business.

Aside from extensively mining its own data to uncover crucial insights, eBay stays at the forefront of the industry through strategic partnerships and other initiatives that deliver benefits to both sides of the online sales equation – programs and relationships that establish a better end-user experience while also assisting sellers.

The most recent of these was announced in May — the impending launch of its answer to Amazon Prime, eBay Plus. Membership will give users free delivery and returns on over 15 million products, along with other deals and discounts, plus access to a dedicated customer service team. eBay knows that delivery charges and unmet shipping estimates have always been customer pain points in Australia, so it’s remodelling its offering to address that. Its Guaranteed Delivery promise will compensate shoppers if deliveries aren’t delivered in the promised timeframe.

Having a dedicated local customer service team is a smart move. I know from my own experience that Australians love dealing with Australian companies — it’s something we hear time and again when speaking with our customers.

Germany is the only region other than Australia where eBay Plus access is offered and it’s been possible here through a partnership with home-grown company, Sendle. From the sellers’ perspective, shipping is streamlined through integration of the two platforms, offering instant label generation, order management and detailed tracking. Everyone wins — the customer gets a better experience and the seller saves time and money (Sendle believes it’s about 40 percent less than traditional shipping methods).

In another recent move, eBay has also partnered with Flybuys, Australia’s largest loyalty program. By linking accounts, shoppers earn a point for every $2 spent on eligible items and can redeem them for eBay vouchers. This gives small retailers immediate access to an established loyalty program, without the expense of developing and running their own. It’s another initiative designed to delight the customer, while also benefitting the seller — another win/win.

Aussie Innovation…Global Domination; What’s Next for eBay?

Everything in the pipeline at eBay Australia is established with a view to taking it worldwide. They’ve employed a local development team and work closely with sellers to ensure their efforts address the needs of Aussie retailers, but also see value in sending those enhancements to other markets.

Up next, a new price comparison feature that will allow sellers the option of matching or beating other advertised prices. In keeping with a customer-focused philosophy, the eBay Australia sellers’ hub will allow sellers to see their products, learn how to increase traffic to their store and provide competitor pricing data so store-owners can react accordingly.

Plus, the numbers are growing every day. What was once the home of second-hand and pre-loved items, is now a key channel for an increasing number of Australian-based retailers. Ninety per cent of local businesses on eBay export their products, whereas just five percent of registered Australian businesses do. Eighty of the top 100 retail businesses in Australia have eBay stores. Those days of auction-based pricing are well and truly over, with 88 percent of products being sold at a fixed price.

There’s no denying that the numbers stack up. If access to an international marketplace, driven by a forward-thinking company that values relationships with Australian business and fosters innovation sounds like a fit for your retail strategy, it’s time to get on board.

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