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Roeland Loof

Online giant eBay has recently updated its iPhone app, rolling all the buying and selling functionality into one app, and adding a barcode scanner. 

I interviewed Senior Manager of eBay Mobile Europe Roeland Loof about eBay's approach to mobile commerce, and the opportunity presented by the iPad and other tablets... 

How important is mobile commerce for eBay? 

Very. Mobile commerce growth rates are phenomenal and eBay is part of that as a leading platform.

Mobile will give rise to opportunities in online retail that we have not been able to benefit from before, like using the phone’s camera to see how clothes look on you before you purchase. What we learn in mobile, we bring across the rest of our business.

I’ve seen some impressive mobile sales figures for eBay – how many mobile sales has eBay Europe had this year? 

We’ve definitely seen the growth of our m-commerce offering in the last year, especially in the UK where up to 340,000 visits are made to eBay.co.uk via a mobile app every day.

Interestingly, Brits are more like to shop through an eBay app than anywhere else in Europe, with one purchase being made every two seconds on a daily basis via eBay’s mobile applications.

In terms of actual sales figures, it’s not something we’re able to disclose, however we can share that purchases via mobile this year are growing by nearly 400% year on year and the average sales price is $50, with Fashion and technology being our two most popular categories.

How many users are actually listing items via mobile? 

Again we cannot give out exact numbers, but we are seeing an average of 36,000 downloads of the eBay app each week in the UK alone.

Is the iPhone the most significant mobile platform for eBay ? Are you seeing greater engagement via Apple devices? 

Yes, not surprisingly, iPhone is the largest platform for us. We are seeing very solid engagement across all mobile platforms; the Apple platform is no exception.

You launched an iPad app very soon after the device was launched – what patterns of usage are you seeing and how important will the iPad become? 

Tablets represent a new category, which we think will be large. They are truly portable (to a greater extent than most laptops) and tablets are bringing the mobile phone user experience to a larger screen.

In particular, the iPhone platform has brought many innovations in user experience, which have taught developers how consumers actually want to interact with information/entertainment. Tablets also enable users to consume traditional web content in an enjoyable way.

Today the iPad is the category leader, but the introduction of different tablets will further grow the market and stimulate innovation. Both consumer and enterprise users are benefiting from this. They will offer choice in both price point and functionality.

At eBay, we want to enable consumers to buy where and how they want; tablets will be part of that.

One of the biggest obstacles for mobile purchases in checkout – how has eBay approached this issue? 

We are leveraging the strength of PayPal as our checkout method. PayPal delivers a safe and secure experience for consumers, in the same way it does on a desktop computer.

How do you see mobile commerce developing over the next 12 months? Have we reached (or are we close to) a tipping point for mobile commerce?

I believe that in 2010, Mobile commerce went from proof of concept to mainstream. For 2011 I would not be surprised if the overall m-retail market in the UK reached over 10% of all online retail.

How important are features like barcode scanners for mobile commerce? 

The Barcode scanner from RedLaser is one of the features that really takes advantage of the additional functionality a phone offers.

Features like RedLaser, using the camera for augmented reality applications or utilising location data to make shopping results more relevant make it possible for mobile retail to deliver a better customer experience than through a desktop computer.

This will increase in popularity in the next year.

Graham Charlton

Published 30 November, 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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