Many companies are excited about the revenue possibilities in mobile these days. But auctions powerhouse Ebay has adapted quickly to new mobile devices and features, increasing its bottom line while experimenting in the new space.
According to analysts, Ebay has now become the top mobile retailer in the U.S. That position is in no means secure, but the company's mobile focus proves that paying attention to new device innovations can expand a business in more ways than may at first seem obvious.
Over the past few years, Ebay has spent a lot of energy bringing more reliable and professional content into its store. Like many user generated sites, Ebay has issues with trust and quality. But mobile has provided the company with multiple consumer touch points to show its aptitude in different verticals.
Ebay has 14 mobile apps, including ones for the iPad, Android, Blackberry, and various different verticals geared toward the iPhone.
According to BusinessWeek:
"While mobile is still a small part of eBay's $8.7 billion in total revenue, it's a booming market. By 2015, mobile commerce will grow into a $119 billion global industry, up from $18.3 billion last year, according to analyst Mark Beccue of ABI Research."
Furthermore, Ebay expects to sell $1.5 billion worth of goods through its mobile apps. That's more than double last year's $600 million.
In a world where digital devices can go with consumers anywhere, time sensitive transactions are perfectly suited toward mobile. And Ebay took note. According to BusinessWeek:
"We pick and choose what will move the needle, and then we do it fast," he says. Last year, for example, [Steve Yankovich, eBay's vice-president for mobile] and his team added the feature that alerts mobile shoppers as to the status of auctions. "Sales shot up," he says. "It was instant money."
Ebay is also using mobile to streamline and categorize its many features for users. Meanwhile, the company just purchased RedLaser, a technology that uses the iPhone camera to scan barcodes and find products online, that will soon let users connect any barcode to the Ebay store.
But not everyone is buying Ebay's mobile strategy. According to BNET:
"In the long-term the trends in mobility may ill serve eBay’s purposes. Like arch-competitor Amazon , the auction site boomed in the 90s when the purpose of the Web was to connect far-flung parties and initiate trusted transactions. But the purpose of the mobile Web these days is much different: it’s more about exploiting relationships that you have in real life — especially those with people and markets nearby."
While hyperlocal may be a popular mobile initiative going forward, it's not the only one. The beauty of Ebay's multipronged mobile strategy is this: not every piece of it has to work. By moving quickly into the mobile retail space, Ebay is both gaining footing and positioning itself to profit from its early experimentation, as other retailers watch and learn from the sidelines.