Two Become One: eBay Sees Shoppers Blending eCommerce and Retail

At the Open Mobile Summit in San Francisco last week, eBay’s president/CEO, John Donahoe, said that we are seeing “the blurring of the lines between e-commerce, m-commerce and retail. Retail and e-commerce are becoming one. Consumers don’t make a distinction between the two.”

Donahoe’s comments further validate what John Stephenson of JPMorgan Chase said recently about the way in which traditional retail stores are changing, as I reported in my previous post. Both Donahoe and Stephenson attribute much of the change to the mobile consumer who, more and more, relies on a smartphone for shopping.

Donahoe said, “The mobile phone blurring the line between online and offline commerce has profound implications for retailers and merchants around the world.” eBay, for one, recognizes the impact of m-commerce on its own ecommerce business and that of its subsidiary, PayPal. Donahoe says mobile phones and tablets will be the conduit for more than $5 billion worth of merchandise purchased on eBay this year, and PayPal will process mobile payments of more than $3.5 billion in 2011.

PayPal Goes Retail

PayPal, arguably eBay’s brightest hope for the future, is already making aggressive moves into traditional retail. It just opened a “Shopping Showcase” in New York, “a special invitation-only installation where we’re giving a behind-the-scenes look at our newest products,” says PayPal.

One of the first products it unveiled is the PayPal Card. According to PayPal President Scott Thompson:

“Customers will be able to swipe with one card to pay in-store from any of the financial instruments already saved in their PayPal wallet — whether that’s a bank account, credit card, or stored money, or they’ll be able to enter a mobile phone number and a four digit pin to pay.”

Wait a minute: Wasn’t PayPal an online payment service? Apparently not anymore. Clearly it wants a piece of the in-store action as well.

eBay on the iPad

eBay isn’t overlooking the rise of the tablet, either. According to Internet Retailer, eBay is testing a version of its website for iPad, re-designing its ecommerce site just for iPad users. iPad users can get a look at the beta test by going to touch.eBay.com/tablet. By the end of this year, eBay expects to have the site ready to go live.

The need for an iPad version became clear when eBay realized a lot of iPad users were coming to eBay and leaving because the site wasn’t optimized for the iPad. Steve Yankovich, eBay’s VP of Platform Business Solutions and Mobile, told Internet Retailer:

“The vast majority of tablet owners are using the tablets in a lean-back mode in a more relaxed position and at a time of day when they are doing shopping more as an entertainment. People were expecting the experience to be optimized for touchscreen so they can interact with it casually.”

Donahoe sees the iPad as one more piece of evidence that consumers are changing their habits. He said they are not only consuming content differently, they are also demonstrating by their actions that they will want to use iPads and mobile phones to make purchases.

eBay Pitches a Mobile Fashion App

Bill Siwicki, the Managing Editor of Mobile Commerce at Internet Retailer, reports that he was driving along and saw a billboard with the headline, “Fashion wherever you are. eBay.” It included a smartphone displaying a fashion photo. Siwicki writes:

“When eBay Inc. is advertising its Fashion App on Ashland Avenue in Chicago, you know mobile commerce has gone mainstream. There are no instructions on what to do or where to go. It is presumed the savvy consumer will know to go to their app store, search eBay fashion, download the app, and begin shopping anywhere, anytime.”

Maybe you’ve seen the latest television ad for Amazon’s Kindle Fire. Consider this part of the same phenomenon as the eBay fashion app example referenced above in two respects.

First, it demonstrates another visionary ecommerce company, Amazon, who like eBay, knows where the future is headed. Amazon was bold enough to bring a snazzy low-priced tablet to market, both extending its Kindle product line and creating a device that is a shrewd entry point into Amazon’s online world. Second, the television ad is indicative of Amazon’s media-agnostic approach. Sure it’s an online company, but it recognizes the need to reach a broad swatch of consumers with its Kindle Fire message, so it used TV. Similarly, eBay broke out of the e-mold and used a billboard to promote a mobile app.

It’s a Mobile World

eBay says its apps have been downloaded more than 50 million times globally. It’s RedLaser bar code scanning app has been downloaded more than 14 million times globally. RedLaser allows consumers to scan a product bar code and obtain search results from not just eBay, but also from local stores and even other online retailers like Amazon. Donahoe said eBay included search results for competitors because that’s what consumers wanted from the application; with only eBay results showing up, they were not interested in using the app.

Clearly, eBay, like Amazon, is readying itself to be a strong competitor in a world that increasingly will blur the lines of offline and online retail largely because of mobile-enabled consumers. It’s a good lesson for all of us.

About Barry Silverstein

Barry Silverstein is a freelance writer/marketing consultant. In addition to writing for ReveNews, he is a contributing writer to Brandchannel.com, the world’s leading online branding forum. He is the author of three marketing books, The Breakaway Brand (co-author, McGraw-Hill, 2005), Business-to-Business Internet Marketing (Maximum Press, 2003) and Internet Marketing for Technology Companies (Maximum Press, 2003). Barry ran his own Internet and direct marketing agency for twenty years. You can find Barry on Twitter @bdsilv.

4 Responses to Two Become One: eBay Sees Shoppers Blending eCommerce and Retail

  1. […] Two Become One: eBay Sees Shoppers Blending eCommerce and Retail (revenews.com) […]

  2. Pat Grady says:

    as i visit sites on my iPad… seeing some Silky O’Smooove, others Clunky McClunkerson… it makes me wish some stock market dude would put together an index fund based on which web stores get the mobile upheaval we’re all (mostly) witnessing.  yo, Clunky, buy your site QA staff some iPads and other mobile tablets, maybe even a few mobile phones.

    • Pat Grady says:

      the obliteration of the wall that separates the brick&mortar and online worlds, will also return us to being nomads.  see you in Anguilla.

  3. […] shopping online, particularly via a mobile device, stores need to offer a seamless experience. As Barry Silverstein reported a few weeks ago, consumers already expect their online and offline experience to merge. […]