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EBay UK has been announcing some new features this week, including a new Listing Analytics application for sellers. 

I've been speaking to Patrick Munden, eBay's Head of Seller Communications for the UK and Ireland, about the changes, and also about the company's mobile commerce strategy; the eBay mobile app was responsible for £64m of sales in the UK last year. 

Why make changes?

With business sellers in the UK, we have changed the way we package and announce the changes we make to the site. 

In the past we had the situation where we used to announce changes and new policies and implement them whenever they were ready. This perhaps led to a kind of change fatigue amongst sellers. 

In 2009, we came up with a new approach and we now introduce changes in one package and provide some advance notice. We had two of these in 2009, and this will be the third this year. Sellers are given 60 days’ notice to give them time to adapt to the changes. 

The changes are all designed to make selling on eBay more efficient for our big sellers, and increase sales for them. If sellers do well on eBay, they can grow very quickly thanks to the 18m UK users we have, and this can bring its own challenges. For instance, making changes to multiple listings can be very time-consuming.

We have introduced listings analytics, which will allow sellers to view data on their listings to see how well they rank, how they perform in terms of page views, click through, and sales. 

Sellers can also benchmark their items against the top five listings for a give product search and use this information to improve their future performance. We also provide best practice tips for sellers to increase their conversion rates. 

Have any analytics tools been available to sellers before? 

Some data has been available before for sellers, and they have a seller dashboard, but not in this way, and not as much detail. This is a development that medium to large eBay sellers should benefit from. 

How many business sellers do you have on eBay? 

There are 140,000 registers businesses on eBay this year, and we push top rated sellers up the rankings as they outperform other sellers and provide an excellent customer experience, returns policies etc. 

We are gradually moving away from auctions to fixed price listings. Buyers are now more impatient and want to get items straight away. Over 50% of our listings are now on a buy now basis. 

Mobile has been a successful sales channel for eBay worldwide, is this the case in the UK? 

Through the various buying apps and mobile sites, we had a total of £64m sales in the UK last year, and mobile is the fastest growth area for us.

The UK is leading the way in terms of mobile commerce adoption, and are responsible for 65% of the app's sales across Europe. On average, UK consumers make a purchase from the app every 12 seconds. 

We’ve just introduced a new iPhone app for sellers, which allows them to list items quickly and should appeal to the more casual seller. BY using the barcode technology (from RedLaser) sellers can point their phone’s camera at a barcode and list products very quickly. 

People are shifting their habits and want to communicate here and now on Twitter and Facebook from their mobiles. There is no reason why these same habits can’t apply to mobile commerce. 

M-commerce is definitely going to be massive, as more people adopt these shopping habits. For instance, when I’ve been shopping offline I’ve used the eBay app to check prices, find them cheaper than in store and save some money. 

We have nearly very item on the site that people will want to buy offline, so this kind of offline research suits us well.

We will be providing apps for other mobile platforms as well, not just iPhones. The number of smartphones and mobile shoppers is expected to grow and grow and we want to establish ourselves at the heart of this. 

Mobile is always going to be a percentage of total sales, but this will grow and grow over the next few years. 

What further developments are planned for eBay UK over the next six months?

We will be testing a shopping cart function soon which we hope will enable shoppers to add items to the cart from multiple sellers and checkout at once, providing a better customer experience. 

This is something that sellers have been keen on, as they think they’ll sell more this way. We’ll be testing this on around 1% of buyers on the site. There are a few issues to get around, so we’ll see how it works in practice.

We’re also planning a big push for the Christmas market this year. There will be campaigns to show eBay as a great shopping destination. 

We have more developments, such as the fashion outlet where brands sell reduced items, which we didn’t have this time last year. This is a very popular market for gifts at Christmas time, and we hope this part of the site will attract more people to the site. 

We also want to send the message to sellers that they need to be planning now, getting their stock in, and thinking about delivery options that will be attractive to Christmas shoppers, especially express delivery. 

People used to stop buying online at the start of December but now the cut off point is getting much closer to the 25th. Sellers using express shipping options will be able to capitalise from these late shoppers. 

Graham Charlton

Published 15 July, 2010 by Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton is the former Editor-in-Chief at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter or connect via Linkedin or Google+

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