eBay Open Day 2 Review

eBay Open – Day 2 – Too Much Emphasis on Its Enthusiast Buyer Strategy, and a Slip Up?


The second day of eBay Open included more valuable breakout sessions and two keynote segments. One of which may have included a slip-up about its enthusiast buyer strategy. I explain at the end.

However, before getting into what eBay dished up today, one area that I didn’t discuss yesterday was the virtual Expo Booths, where sponsors have ‘booths’ for attendees to hang out and ask questions or engage with the sponsor via webinars.

This year, eBay Open is supported by ten sponsors: Asendia USAList PerfectlyChannelAdvisorEasyShipLinnworksNeatoscan & Upright Labs (Combined room), AvalaraBOSS Reseller RemixCedCommerce, and Vendoo.

In addition to the sponsor Expo Booths, there are also eBay booths with specific topics, where eBay staff monitor chats and answer questions. Of course, sellers also offer live advice in those chats.

While again, not the same experience as one would get if eBay Open was an in-person event, it’s a good way for newer sellers to learn more about specific topics as well as get more details from the services sponsors offer to the selling community.

So, let’s get into Day 2 keynotes and what eBay’s leaders discussed today.

Stef Jay, SVP, Chief Business and Strategy Officer, eBay

The first keynote was kicked off by Stef Jay, SVP, Chief Business and Strategy Officer, eBay, who recapped select information from yesterday’s sessions before heading into her presentation.

Today’s keynotes were about buyers, specifically enthusiast buyers, and she provided an overview of the opportunity this strategy provides to sellers. In short, Jay said this is the heart of eBay’s growth strategy today, focusing on attracting more of these high-value buyers to the platform.

She said that the company conducted a study asking them why they came to eBay. The key takeaway from that study was that eBay is about trust, selection, and community, and that became a focus for all keynote speakers in some way.

Jay said eBay defines an enthusiast buyer to be one that makes at least 6 purchases per year, spending $800 or more on the marketplace. In total, she said, there are currently about 16 million such active buyers on eBay, and they are important to eBay because this group represents about 70% of General Merchandise Volume (GMV).

She added that 90% of enthusiast buyers shop in focus categories.

This was an interesting tidbit of information. If you recall yesterday, Jamie Iannone said that enthusiast buyers shop on average in 9 categories. On its face, this sounded like enthusiast buyers are straying into a broader set of categories, meaning bringing this group to the platform helps sellers across all categories. Actually, that had been pointed out a couple of times during eBay Open.

But with Jay now stating that 90% of enthusiast buyers stay within focus categories, it drastically narrows down their purchase interests on eBay.

If you are not in one of the focus categories, then the “flywheel” effect the company keeps talking about is not really helping sellers in non-focus categories because the category expansion is likely more in sub-categories of the core category.

Thomas Walker, VP, Global Consumer Insights, eBay

Next up was Thomas Walker, VP, Global Consumer Insights, eBay, who dove into additional consumer insights, again, highlighting the importance of enthusiast buyers.

He said that while the basic definition of an enthusiast buyer is six plus purchases and $800+ per year, the ‘average’ enthusiast buyer on eBay supposedly buys more than 30 times per year, spending at least $3,000 annually on the platform.

Walker also said an important cohort among eBay enthusiast buyers is an 18 to 34 year old female who ‘entered’ eBay seeking home decor, fashion, or sneakers.

Adrian Fung, CMO, eBay

Next up was Adrian Fung, CMO, eBay, who started off his segment by saying, “We empower the world’s largest community of enthusiasts to do more of what they love.”

In addition to repeating much of what Jay and Walker had already said in their own words, he did add another interesting piece of information. Among P&A buyers, he said that nearly 50% will go outside this category to make purchases on eBay.

Still, considering that 90% of all enthusiast buyers purchase in other focus categories, it just means they are mostly staying within those higher-value categories as well.

In fashion, he said, eBay is targeting 50+ million consumers on eBay, many being female and younger.

Fung said brand marketing is working to bring shoppers to eBay. He highlighted a collaboration with Vogue and partnerships with 7,000 internet brands to drive traffic to eBay.

In addition, eBay is using AI to further drive sales once on the platform with personalized communications to connect the right buyer to the right listing.

He said eBay has invested hundreds of millions of dollars into marketing in the U.S. alone. The company first put a lot of emphasis on car parts over the past year, but has expanded its brand marketing mix to target fashion buyers.

Early results show the fashion category with a small uptick in brand awareness (2%), while also growing new and re-activated buyers in double digits, with an 80% satisfaction rate.

Blair Ethington, VP, Focus Categories, eBay

Blair Ethington, VP, Focus Categories, eBay followed up with more of the same. I noticed that some folks in the eBay live chat were starting to get frustrated with this emphasis on focus buyers.

She discussed some updates and upgrades the company has released to bring ‘seamless’ experiences to buyers. This included a new listing page design, more AI upgrades to help buyers find the right products through images, and the introduction of a ‘Shop by Upgrade’ feature to help P&A buyers seek new projects.

Ethington discussed the Vault and how they have expanded access to the program by allowing buyers to store cards in the Vault that were not purchased on eBay. She said that eBay has hosted more than 700 live shopping events on eBay Live, reaching about one million views.

Gen Z Panel

Throughout the event, Gen Z had been mentioned more than just in passing. Lamont Jones, Manager, Consumer Engagement, eBay, and Rachel Chen, Corporate Communications Specialist, eBay held a panel with three eBay employees that fit into this demographic.

I think the purpose was to show sellers how this growing demographic is the future of ecommerce. But I think it fell a bit short because of the pre-recorded format and time constraints.

If there were two key takeaways from this brief discussion, Gen Zers are concerned about economics, including buying dups (knockoff fashion), and they as a group like it when sellers showcase their products in different ways or situations.

When the video is released next week by eBay, judge for yourself. But I think this segment suffered because it was way too short, involved only a small select group of eBay staff (who all had significant college degrees; and now can afford more), and just didn’t seem to represent the typical Gen Z consumer in many ways.

A broader range of ‘guests’ and a live Q&A from eBay Open attendees (sellers) could have turned this lackluster exercise into an excellent segment.

After the Gen Z Panel, Adam Ireland, VP, U.S. General Manager, eBay, concluded the first keynote of the day summarizing most of what had been discussed yesterday and today.

Second Keynote of Day 2

The second keynote of the day emphasized the company’s Up and Running program and also featured the best pre-recorded segments of the event so far.

Jamie Iannone sat down with Liz O’Kane about how she got started on eBay and what it meant for her to receive one of the first Up and Running grants. She has been a seller since 2002, and she loves connecting with other sellers, as she said that is what kept her going when she started.

O’Kane suggests new sellers try to find a local meetup group and use the community pages to speak with other sellers. Her big piece of advice is to remain flexible when selling on eBay.

You can learn more about her and her business here.

The second standout segment was with Beric Alleyne, Sr. Director, Diversity and Inclusion, eBay, and Mari Corella, General Manager, Home & Hard Goods, eBay, speaking with Sandra Gustard, another Up and Running Grant winner.

Gustard has a fascinating life story about how she started selling on eBay. Some of this you can see in a feature eBay has available here. Her key to success is to be passionate about your products and sell items you care about.

At the conclusion of the Q&A with Gustard, Adam Ireland, VP, US General Manager, eBay entered the stage, congratulating this year’s winners, and thanking all sellers for being on eBay.

Engage With Social Media

But there was one final Q&A segment hosted before this second keynote segment ended. Rebecca Michals, Director, Community & Engagement, eBay, introduced Malena Martinez, an eBay seller since 2003, discussing how she uses social media to drive sales.

Martinez talked about how she leverages Instagram and TikTok in her business and uses organic content from her physical store to create interesting posts and reels.

Clearly, having a physical location in addition to an online business can bring more intriguing content. Still, online-only sellers can come up with creative ways to share their business on video-focused social channels.

Martinez also said she uses her younger staff to engage with Gen Z, and she utilizes teasers on social media to introduce new products, weeks ahead of their release (think drops).

When asked about three key strategies she follows on social media, Martinez said that it’s important to stay authentic, to vary the content, and to realize you are talking to your customer base, so engage with them.

However, the one item she mentioned earlier in the segment that I believe may have the highest value is that she uses a social media calendar where she plans her posts and engagements strategy 30 to 60 days out.

Ask any professional social media manager, and they will tell you planning out a cohesive strategy is really essential.

While eBay has been promoting a social media direct link tie-in from your listings, there was no mention of that during this segment. Frankly, that is static content, and in ecommerce, your audience wants dynamic content.

Martinez clearly understands this and while her segment may have been short, it highlighted how dynamic content can help drive business to your listings.

Scavenger Hunt

Rebecca Michals and Lamont Jones concluded this second keynote segment with a scavenger hunt, a creative means to get sellers online to engage with them to find specific topics on eBay.

They also previewed segments still to come today and tomorrow.

eBay Open Day 2 – My View

The information kept flowing today and while I think the first keynote segment was okay, the second one of the day is worth watching on replay.

I get it that eBay wants to promote its enthusiast buyer strategy, and most sellers don’t pay attention to the quarterly earnings reports or calls.

Much of what was presented today about enthusiast buyers, the company has already discussed numerous times during those earnings calls. Actually, that is where one has to wonder about this strategy moving forward.

For those sellers who heard those numbers today for the first time, they sound good, and eBay presenters kept saying, it’s working. But let’s take a look back just about one year.

In the second quarter of 2022, eBay reported 17 million enthusiast buyers using the same metric of at least 6 purchased per year, spending at least $800 annually. One year later, during this eBay Open, the company touts 16 million enthusiast buyers, one million less enthusiast buyers! How is this improvement?

I am not against the focus strategy per se. However, I am concerned that the marketplace has continued to lose active buyers and only recently steadied that trend a bit. And now, apparently, the company may have slipped up with its messaging and also conceded that its active enthusiast buyer base has shrunk as well.

In addition, I noticed some sellers in the chat windows during this event grew tired of the focus category strategy, potentially turning off new sellers.

The first keynote today was just repetitive. I think one segment to highlight this focus category strategy to attract enthusiast buyers would have been enough. As I already mentioned, the Gen Z panel during this keynote was a good idea that was executed badly.

In that regard, the second keynote today was the best keynote segment over the two days. It had the most engaging conversations (even if pre-recorded) and should have been given more time to explore the topics.

As I mentioned yesterday, eBay Open is a great resource for new sellers. While I believe this enthusiast buyer strategy has flaws that the company ‘accidentally’ revealed today, it’s what they keep focusing on.

Fundamentally, sellers should concentrate on products or categories they know and are passionate about, a point that Sandra Gustard emphasized in her Q&A. Passion is always a big motivator to keep driving any business.

If you have missed the first two days, you can still register for the last day, and some session videos are already available on the eBay Open platform after registration. They will be uploaded next week on eBay for Business to be accessible without registration.

Here is what is in store for tomorrow (including registration link).

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