eBay 2017 Q3 financial results were released last night. eBay marketplaces delivered $20.5 billion of Gross Merchandise Volume (GMV), up 8.5% on an as-reported basis and 7% on an FX-Neutral basis. The 8.5% GMV growth was the fastest it’s been in over three years.
Interestingly for years the third quarter has been the smallest quarter in terms of GMV. Q1 and Q2 would be mostly flat, then Q3 sales would decrease, all before the best quarter Q4. This year Q3 didn’t decrease from the first half of the year, and instead increased.
Other metrics like the number of active buyers increased too, up by 2 million to 168 million, while profit forecasts for Q4 were below expectations. But the financial results are not as interesting as the long-term changes eBay is making to stay relevant.
Last week eBay started to roll out group listings - a feature which groups search results by product instead of by listing. This has been years in the making, and is powered by the structured data initiative. Searching for “iphone” on eBay returns 163,274 results, shrinking to 4,836 results when “Group Similar Listings” is clicked.
Devin Wenig, CEO of eBay, during the earnings call pointed out that structured-data-enabled pages now accounted for 12% of traffic. Considerably up from 9% in Q2, and 7% in Q1. The group listings will continue to increase this.
This feature, though being optional now, is going to upset some of the old users as it fundamentally changes how eBay functions. Yet it is key for eBay’s future. As eBay changed over time, and transitioned from auctions to selling brand new items - 81% of items sold are new, and 88% are fixed priced instead of auction - the user experience for years didn’t adapt.
New eBay functionality is closer to what Amazon is, because as much as eBay wants to be looked at as not-Amazon, it has over the years become increasingly so. The group listings have a buy-box like feature even.
Anecdotally the number of times the word “brands” got mentioned during one of the earnings calls has increased over time too. eBay is showing signs of realizing what’s important to be relevant in retail in the future.
eBay can continue to grow sales slowly, but to be around 10 years from now and beyond one of the challenges is to make brands want to be on eBay. From its inception eBay has attracted sellers, first selling used, and more recently new items. Now the challenge is how to attract sellers which are brands themselves.
This rethinking of eBay from a billion-long catalog of listings to a mindful catalog of products is strategically interesting. Last quarter Devin Weng said “listings will become a less important metric than products will.” The group listings is a first concrete example of this.
So much more left to do, but eBay transitioning the conversation to products, and brands is refreshing to hear.