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A Eulogy for eBay Express

If you follow eBay closely, you may have heard the news already. If not, I’m sure you’ll be reading more about the big eBay announcements over the next few days.

AuctionBytes has coverage, as does Business Week, but I actually think Randy Smythe has the best summary I’ve seen to date.

There are a huge number of changes, and I’m not going to cover them all. Instead, this post is dedicated to one of the smaller bullets in the announcement:

Closing eBay Express: The best features are now on eBay. We’re continuing to bring the best features of eBay Express into eBay.com including more selection in Fixed Price merchandise, improved buyer protection from PayPal, and easier, more intuitive ways for buyers to find your relevant listings. So we’re closing eBay Express and focusing our resources on improving and bringing buyers to eBay.

Since my name was so closely associated with this effort at eBay during my last two years at the company, I figured it was appropriate to post a few thoughts here for those who are either personally or professionally curious.

First off, there is no way to avoid the fact that I feel sad to see eBay Express close. When you build a team and put literally thousands of hours into something, you want to see it continue to live, grow, and flourish after you’re gone. But I’m not going to spend a lot of time on what might have been now.

Instead, I’d like to reflect on just a few key topics: why eBay launched eBay Express, what we got right, what we got wrong, and why eBay Express likely doesn’t fit with eBay’s current strategy.

Why eBay launched eBay Express. This is one is pretty simple, and was publicly discussed in several forums, but I rarely see it accurately reflected in regular press/analyst coverage. It all started in Q4 2004, which was a real wake-up call for eBay. It was the first quarter where the metrics made it clear that there were significant issues with the way buyer demand was scaling on eBay.com.

eBay Express was the culmination of three years of various forms of market and customer research that effectively argued a simple truth: as e-commerce continued to become more and more mainstream, an increasing number of buyers were looking for a different shopping experience. At the time, we called them “convenience-oriented buyers”. While buyers loved the value and selection of eBay, convenience-oriented buyers were looking for more convenience and trust in their shopping experience. They wanted good prices on fixed-price items from reputable sellers, with first-class convenience in checkout and customer service.

When we looked at the needs of both buyers and sellers to make this type of market successful, we found that they were radically different than the auction model eBay.com was based on. eBay Express was the culmination of one possible solution to that problem – a site that leveraged the tens of millions of high quality fixed price listings that eBay already had, while providing a brand-new shopping experience for buyers.

The key to this bet was that with literally zero additional work for sellers, we could boot-strap a brand new marketplace with millions of sellers and tens of millions of items from day one. Once the marketplace had traction with buyers, we would then be able to roll out new seller features and services more appropriate to a high-volume, fixed-price venue.

What we got right. Without getting into the weeds here, there were quite a few things eBay got right with eBay Express. Not all of them may be appreciated by those outside the company.

First and foremost, eBay Express represented a radical break with the way eBay designed and built products. We had volumes of research from over the years, and we literally went across every page, every flow, and asked the tough questions on why this couldn’t be simpler, easier, better for the buyer. The team had two fundamental principles:

  • Keep the site “seller agnostic”, ie, 100% backwards compatible with existing seller process. Selling on eBay Express should be so compatible, sellers shouldn’t even necessarily know that their items were selling on eBay Express.
  • Always ask, relentlessly, “What’s best for the buyer?”

With a strong, dedicated founding team, the effort drew many of the best and brightest from within eBay to assist with every area of the product and across technology, design, and product. At the time, most people at eBay worked on a large number of projects at once, with divided focus across many different features. With eBay Express, time was of the essence, so people had a chance to spend 100% of their time dedicated to the effort.

The end result was a huge leap forward in both technology, patents, user research, and design thinking for many product areas. A modern search classification engine. Relevance sorting. A full featured shopping cart. A completely rethought integration with PayPal. 24/7 Customer Service. No listing fees, with revenue coming purely from promotion and successful sales conversion. Even though the team did not win all of its feature fights to break with the old, the team asked the hard questions, and fought the hard fights.

Not as visible to end users, the groundwork was also laid for significant changes to the way eBay Express would integrate with other sites, both inside and outside of eBay. Half.com integration. Shopping.com integration. Dynamic CPC & CPA-based Featured Placement. API-based platforms to allow any e-commerce site to offer multi-vendor inventory to complete their offerings.

Most importantly to me, eBay Express was designed with extremely heavy involvement from our customers, both buyers and sellers, as well as development partners. In fact, it was reviewed so many times, that even at launch, I don’t think one “new” question came up that hadn’t been raised previously. That isn’t to say that every customer loved every decision made for the site, but it did mean that every concern, every suggestion was considered and incorporated into the design when possible.

What we got wrong. This could be a long section too. Like all 1.0 products, there were a lot of small things we missed. But there were a few big ones that seem so obvious in retrospect.

  1. Branding. It was a tough decision. If you don’t use the eBay brand, you lose any possibility of the positive affiliation and traffic that comes with a known consumer parent brand. But, if you use it, you are also stuck with the negative attributes. eBay means auctions to most people. We ended up going with eBay Express because in the end, it was eBay inventory and we expected traffic to flow from the eBay association. It didn’t, and it also didn’t generate any real unaided awareness for us.
  2. Traffic, traffic, traffic. One of the unanswered questions was how to drive sufficient traffic to the new site. We had initial stabs at this problem, but eBay was still in a phase where it believed in buying traffic. TV, Catalogs, Email, Paid Search. It doesn’t take an Internet genius to realize that buying traffic is horrendously expensive, and frankly, ineffective. Our biggest course correction post-launch was a crash course on how the rest of the e-commerce world looks at traffic generation. Figuring out how to drive traffic in volumes to the site, and build organic traffic in the long term became our 24×7 focus.
  3. Inventory and merchandising. It may be hard for most people to believe this, but eBay at the time was incredibly under-developed on many of the retail basics of merchandising, inventory selection, and promotion. Why? Well, because eBay.com isn’t actually a retailer of anything. We realized post-launch that we needed to develop that expertise, quickly, even to the point of understanding sourcing, distribution, and product selection. Having 10 million+ products is great, but it’s no good if you don’t have the right products at the right price.
  4. International. We designed and built the site, from the ground up, to meet the different needs of the US, UK, and Germany. In fact, I even spent time on concept versions for India, China, and a host of other countries. There were some fundamental disagreements about which model would be most effective, so we built a platform to handle them all. In retrospect, we should have done the US only, and only expanded internationally once we nailed the basics. The distraction, debate, and expense was counter-productive, and in the end, a mistake.
  5. Expectations. There was so much enthusiasm internally around the various aspects of the project, and it was impossible to contain expectations rationally. The reality is that building a consumer brand and a billion dollars in sales doesn’t happen overnight, and it isn’t cheap. Look at how long Amazon has been stretching to build it’s third party sales efforts. We believed we could cut that time in half, but rationally, that was still a minimum 5+ year effort. In the best of times, that kind of effort requires a company with long term focus and commitment. And as we all know now, 2006+ were not the best of times for eBay.

Why eBay Express likely doesn’t fit with eBay’s current strategy. If you’ve actually made it this far through the article, you probably already know the answer to this question.

At a high level, economics speak loudly here. eBay needs to focus on its core marketplace business, and for the most part that means that investing people, technology and dollars towards building new businesses has to take a back seat. You’ve seen other announcements from eBay about closing other businesses, and that stems from this simple truth.

More importantly, eBay has decided against the premise of eBay Express. Our entire reason for building a separate site was because we believed that the changes needed for buyers and sellers in a massive fixed-price marketplace were not compatible with the experience of the traditional eBay auction site. As I used to tell buyers and sellers, we built eBay Express so that we would not have to change the auction experience that millions of buyers and sellers loved on eBay.com.

eBay has now decided that it needs to fold the convenience and trust we identified into the core platform itself. So there is no need for a separate site to preserve the original.

How this new strategy will fair is good topic for debate, but for another time. With eBay’s new strategy, eBay Express will now live on as its feature design concepts and technology innovations become the basis for the new buyer experience on eBay. Of course, the team at eBay has made a large number of improvements and changes in the design concepts to adapt them for the needs of the core marketplace, both from a technical and user experience perspective. eBay Express also lives on as a relentless focus on building a great buyer experience, and a recognition that the needs and economics of high volume, fixed-price sellers are different.

In retrospect, I’m a little jealous of the progress Amazon has made with its FBA and API programs since then. These were all part of our long term thinking as well, so it’s nice to see the validation of their success, but it’s never as much fun to see someone else with that success. Maybe, just maybe, back in 2005 before Amazon had it’s run-up in stock price, eBay & Amazon could have merged, and the the eBay Express backend could have been used to power the Amazon marketplace. Easier said than done, of course.

For the 600+ people who had a hand in creating perhaps the greatest technology & product effort in eBay history, please do join the eBay Express Alumni group on LinkedIn. One of the great things about this industry is that we all get chances to take our lessons from each challenge, and then go and change the world again.

Go with peace, my friend.

Update (08/20/2008): Wow.  This post has been really popular.  Over 300 page views already.  Given the interest, I’m digging up some of my earlier posts on eBay Express:

42 Comments Post a comment
  1. I tried to subscribe to your feed but it didn’t show up on my homepage at yahoo.com. Is it working correctly?

    August 20, 2008
  2. :(

    August 20, 2008
  3. Adam,
    Thanks for your effort to eulogize eBay Express. It seems not many other sources has noticed the end of an era at eBay. It seems your work will not have gone on in vain as eBay of the future could be called eBay Express 2.0.
    Where do you see the Auction Marketplace going in 2009 and beyond?

    August 20, 2008
  4. sad for express #

    This is a great post. It seems to me, from reading your post and observations of ebay, that the creation of Express is a very logical and well thought out one. The key problem seems to be branding/traffic. People can’t love something if they don’t know about it. I love the express experience, but I didn’t know about it until last month.

    So my question is why not spend more money and effort in promoting it instead of shutting it down. You touched on this a little bit by saying that they would incorporate the user experience focus in the core site. This implies that it can be done, satisfying both the experience buyers and the value and selection buyers on the same interface without pushing a significant portion of the existing ebay buyers who love the current auction experience away. I am pretty skeptical of this and think that promoting Express might be a better solution. Only time can tell.

    August 20, 2008
  5. Scott:
    The big bet here for eBay right now is that they can craft a delightful customer experience for buyers, and shift the economics for sellers at same time. Very much like trying to swap out the engine of a $60B car while it’s going 100mph.

    Sad for Express:
    In 2006, we began to integrate eBay Express into the core site, with great success. However, the real issue that when the core business isn’t healthy, you have to put your efforts into the main business. Building new businesses with people, technology, and dollars is a luxury you can only afford when your core business is strong.

    We’ll see, as an eBay user since 1998, I’m hoping for great things from eBay.

    Adam

    August 20, 2008
  6. Thanks for taking the time to write this up, Adam. eBay Express was the source of most of my patents and many of my favorite memories at eBay… it’s sad to see the plug literally pulled on so much innovation. Cheers to eBay Express (f.k.a Klein Park (f.k.a. Baldwin Park)) and the amazing team you brought together!

    BTW, I think you should organize “farewell Express” drinks… I still have one of the promo posters if you’d like to burn an effigy. :-)

    August 20, 2008
  7. Kate Aronowitz #

    While I joined the Express team post-launch, it was by far one of the very top teams I’ve ever worked with. Full of passion, drive, smarts and just a lot of fun to be around.

    Goodbye Express :(

    August 20, 2008
  8. Great analysis as always Adam. I like how you even weaved in the more recent language and thinking shared by eBay exec’s today (e.g. value, selection).

    August 20, 2008
  9. Seema:
    Thanks for the kind words – we’re planning an event already. We had to wait until the formal announcement to send invitations.

    Kate:
    Couldn’t have said it better myself.

    Preston:
    I can show you the deck from March 2005 that has the “selection”, “value”, “convenience”, “trust” grid… I’m glad to hear that this thinking has made its way through eBay exec staff. I can’t take credit for it, of course.

    August 20, 2008
  10. Lara Housser #

    As always, well said. Your analysis is right on — sounds very similar to a deck we presented 12mos+ ago…though we left out mistake #4… we sure could have saved a lot of headache & heartache, huh?

    Looking forward to seeing you & the old gang at the wake :)

    August 21, 2008
  11. Mark Dooley #

    Good entry, Adam. I like reading Psychohistory periodically for subjects like this, and for your accounts of growing blueberries :)

    As for Express, yes – it was a good kernal of dedicated effort and insight for a good duration (in Internet years). I admired the team. I do agree with the previous poster that promoting the site more may have yielded some different results — had external marketing efforts been pulsed periodically, and not just one large burst awareness campaign at the outset, that Express may have remained more in the consciousness of convenience-oriented online shoppers.

    I take some solace in the fact that the learnings and best features of Express – trusted sellers, buyer protection, good fixed-price search experience, and customer support – are being brought to eBay.com.

    Later, everyone!

    August 21, 2008
  12. Jeff Wang #

    Thanks Adam for publishing this insightful eulogy. Having worked on the initial lauch, your examination brought back many fond memories and provided some closure as well.

    Farewell eBay Express. Thou shall not be forgotten.

    August 21, 2008
  13. Okay- I realize that as a spouse I have an emotional connection to the project and the end product. However, as my husband can attest I was also a big user of Express. I loved the alternative to some other traditional on-line retailers and it was always my first stop when in search of products on-line. I am sad to see it go and hope that eBay can integrate some of the “what we did right” into it’s current platform to create a bigger better shopping experience.

    Cheers to all that worked on Express and a special thanks to Adam for his gracious farewell.

    August 21, 2008
  14. Adam,

    Excellent post and great insight into how things work(ed) at eBay. I was left thinking about your prediction for the future of eBay core given what you know about EE and Amazon.

    If I take your logic and push it forward:
    * eBay brand (auctions/flea market) didn’t help, it hurt EE.
    * Amazon has put a solid 3yrs into this.

    Thus, my question is do you really think eBay’s strategy of adding a bunch of fixed-price inventory to eBay core will work? Won’t it suffer the same fate that EE did because they haven’t solved the brand problem (in fact I could argue it will be worse – at least EE had the ‘express’) AND during all this time, Amazon now has a 3yr advantage?

    Curious to hear your thoughts. From a pure “MBA case study” perspective, I think it’s very interesting to look at the position that eBay has worked themselves into (with some help from Amazon).

    Scot

    August 21, 2008
  15. Corey Chandler #

    Hear hear! Rest in Peace, eBay Express. I second the thoughts about fond memories of a top-notch team, only to add that part of what made the whole experience so great and new for eBay was that it was a chance for the teams at eBay to really stretch their legs and put out something new and different. It’s tough to bring about significant change to a site that’s so big, but Express was a means by which we were able to do so in a relatively safe environment.

    When Express first came out, I captured some of the quotes I found from buyers who were expressing their reaction to the site:

    “Ebay Express was easier to search than Amazon is.”

    “yipee!! I just went shopping on express!!! How cool..”

    “I like the new design. Especially when you’re looking through the categories. Very slick, eBay should adopt this.”

    And, as Adam knows, a true sign of success: this quote from a Pottery and Glass seller: “I’d like to know if there are any plans to include the Pottery & Glass category.” :)

    Farewell, eBay Express!

    August 21, 2008
  16. Scot:

    Actually, Amazon has nearly 10 years in this, since I truly believe they’ve been iterating on the constructs for third-party inclusion since the zShop days. It’s really been in the last three years, though, that they’ve hit the winning formula for their third party marketplace.

    If you think about it, Amazon’s play is extremely risky. They’ve cultivated a high value brand around customer service and quality, but then they are basically “lending” that brand to third party sellers. Also, they inherently compete with their sellers, creating

    Instead of retreating from that danger, they have gone headlong into programs and systems to make sure the buyer is always taken care of, and providing infrastructure that makes it both easier/cheaper for the seller AND generates a higher quality experience for the buyer.

    You are correct about the brand risk for eBay. We did focus groups in 6 cities and 3 countries, and at the time, it was very consistent. The eBay brand means a lot of very good things to people, but at it’s core, eBay means auctions & used items. Obviously, the challenge for eBay will be to shift this towards eBay meaning shopping. (Actually, the “it” campaign had a bit of this shift at it’s heart.)

    I don’t think we should understate the challenges Amazon will face here, and also I think we’re ignoring that the Amazon-system is unlikely to really allow people to build new businesses as effectively as eBay has. eBay has a lot of opportunity for success if it’s able to leverage it’s unique advantages into a great customer experience.

    Adam

    August 21, 2008
  17. Great article Adam, and I think its admirable to includes sections like “what we got wrong”. And while I give a big hats off to you and others who did so much, there is one big one missing in the list: ecommerce features.

    Simply summarized, eBay Express was released before it was ready. eBay Express was an eCommerce product without eCommerce features. Features such as product attributes (allowing customers to choose colors, sizes, etc.) had to be there. Without it, there was no way to make it a product or service that could meet the needs to convenience-oriented buyers.

    August 22, 2008
  18. Hi Matt,

    Thanks for the comment. I’m a bit confused, however, since one of the features of our new classification engine and finding experience was exactly what you describe – the ability for buyers to easily specify, either by keyword or by links, specific attributes that they were looking for. In fact, it was the first search classification technology for eBay to allow this even for sellers who did not specify the attributes on their listing, but just used keywords in their title.

    Try it today – you absolutely can pick colors and sizes (or hard drive sizes or gemstone types or over 2000 other attributes across over 800 categories of product).

    eBay Express also launched integrated catalog-based finding in categories like Books, Movies, Music & Games – allowing buyers to easily shop by attributes across products, and then to pick individual listings (like Half.com, Shopping.com, Amazon.com, etc).

    Adam

    August 22, 2008
  19. Wendy Dikes #

    Well stated Adam. Definitely a learning and life experience for all of us!

    August 22, 2008
  20. Chris Maliwat #

    R.I.P. eBay Express

    Thanks for taking the time to bring us all together once again, Adam. Looking forward to having one last war room meeting as EE is put to rest.

    August 23, 2008
  21. Interesting point of view. I’ll consider changing my mind about this but for now I still don’t see things the same way you do.

    August 23, 2008
  22. Chung Meng Cheong #

    Great post. Vintage Adam. Reminds me why I miss working with you.

    My own lookback echoes yours. In hindsight, one of the biggest strategic mis-step was to give up seller agnostic too early and too easily. Without that shield, we didn’t have the option of building the business one brick at a time. With it, we would have avoided a number of the “what killed it” issues, especially the need to scale traffic overnight, meeting irrational expectations, and the inevitable seller backlash.

    I’m proud of the team that contributed to eBay Express, and am personal humbled for having the opportunity to be part of it. It’s gratifying that eBay is incorporating so much of the original eBay Express ethos externally and internally in it’s re-invention. I wish eBay the best in doing so.

    On a personal note, don’t forget the sage’ish advice of “taste great, less filling” when faced with a difficult issue :)

    Looking forward to hanging out with the gang.

    cheers,
    Chung

    August 24, 2008
  23. Ha!

    Chung, as I remember it, you made me take the “tastes great, less filling” piece out of that review deck. :)

    Adam

    August 24, 2008
  24. Dear Adam,

    After so much confusion, I have decided to write it all. Here it is:

    From a Platinum-Powerseller: This was the worst year of ebay for a reason. They totally missed the point of ebay. eBay is openness, and like I always said: ebay is the only channel where we could sell solutions, not only products like amazon. I decided to sell accessories exactly for that reason, ebay allowed me to put together solutions for different industries (photography in this case). I was able to offer kits for realtors, kits for dentists, all by combining various products out there. Other example: If I didn’t understand about surveillance, I would visit ebay and could buy a solution that included a cheap DVR and webcams put together software and all by a random guy that obviously played with it and without the need of a UPC could sell to us the whole solution. Inside ebay we are able to talk to that guy… If you want security system for your house and installing it yourself, you could count on ebay. I could keep giving examples…

    They are destroying this experience, by focusing on the aligning all sellers to conform with their new rules. Making us upset by lowering visibility (search standing) if we get less than 4.7 stars out of 5 (makes me laugh because I don’t want to cry). Instead of attracting sellers full of ideas, they are scaring us of — leaving the few old big guys. Okay, they could have done that a few years ago when ebay was the only game in town, but now we can do our own website in less than a week. Promoting it is not as expensive as ebay and we actually keep what we build without the need of company’s like channel advisor. To summarize these are the three ebay mistakes: discourage and upset sellers (ebay’s main asset), try forcefully organize search standing (all that work for the same results — you will see), lack of understanding of their own business and the philosophy that created their own success (openness & equality — giving the same search standing to a guy in Namibia trying to sell a hand made sweater than the ceo of Ralph & Lauren — this is gone!!).

    When ebay brainless dictators started all the changes, I kept telling myself, they will never be able to compete with amazon at these prices (yes they kept increasing them instead of leveling them), but that’s okay, they could afford it, because like I said, ebay allowed the average Joe to sell solutions fast and easy!! Put them side by side with the biggest brand names. I laugh so many times, with ebay ads, one time I found this guy who imported iPod like Mp4 players (brandless -no UPC), and did his comparison chart comparing it to the beset iPod; Side by side, it was a better proposition for half the price. He sold it all! Can you imagine a little Taiwanese street vendor perhaps being able to compete with a giant like apple — yes they are not the David anymore (they still try to pretend they are:)… I also kept telling myself, their ideas are not bad, but why mess up something like ebay trying to implement them (After I dismantled my sister’s bike trying to make a bubble making machine when I was 9, i was taught by my father to never destroy something in order to make something else — logical isn’t it), that is why I applauded the previous management team when they came up with ebay express (they were listening and were willing to experiment) — the only mistake they made was the fees (yes! ebay express was about fast shopping cart, not communication with experts selling Solutions). The outcome would be completely different if they offered free listings, low closing fees following “grow fast” marketing used by amazon when they started. Instead, ebay express was the ebay Buy it now, that everyone knew were more expensive than the auction starting price in ebay (in fact: Sellers highest possible price). Where was the common sense of the guys creating it? — just give it gas, I guarantee sellers were ready.

    So you might think, sellers are happy because they finally got it, they have lower prices and introduced FP30. No my friends, this is another huge mistake my friends… We sellers price products according to the channel’s fees, so now turns out that my Buy-it-Now prices are lower than my auction starting prices. Good for me, but this is a huge strategically mistake for ebay. They are competing with themselves:AUTO-DESTRUCTION!!. Instead of doing it on another site, like ebay express, they decided to close it and put all eggs in the already fragile egg’s nest (they decided to do dismantel the bike, and I doubt their father is a mechanical engineer that will put it back together even when I had lost half the screws). So what’s going to happen with channels? First let me clarify, that ebay FP30 low starting price and same closing price as amazon is still far from achieving fees a yahoo store (1.5%) or amazon (8%) is able to offer. Please remember that amazon charges 8%, but that includes credit card processing (almost 3%) and customer service ($$$). Can you imagine? So as you can clearly see, they have given these monkeys a machete and invited them to our elevator. I loved ebay, I made a dissent living for the past 5 years and hurts watching them destroy it. Coming back to what’s going to happen with channels, the business will become more competitive. Paying 2% for channel advisor, will be a huge deal, not a drop in the bucket, yes we sellers compete with other sellers and their tool selection.

    In conclusion, closing ebay-express and introducing lower fees for fixed price, will hurt the whole multi-channel industry (service providers, not sellers). Their only hope for getting something out of their changes is gone with ebay express. They will be forced to lower prices for auctions because all sellers will do Buy it now on low price items. The confusion created for sellers and buyers has opened amazon doors wide open, where a french guy will receive you with open arms (you know who I am talking about… He is awesome!).

    I kept quiet all this time, but this month was worst than ever, so there you have it. Please, please someone forward it to the ebay management team. Tell them to treat my deserving insults as frank constructive criticism lol.

    Good bye cruel ebay!

    August 24, 2008
  25. Adam-

    Thanks for your thoughtful post. The only thing I have to add to your Inventory section is that the economics simply didn’t work for certain categories. In electronics, for example, where margins are in the 3-5% range, it’s tough to sell new, in-season products on eBay. If the economics won’t work, large sellers won’t list, and the user experience suffers from poor comprehensiveness. Try buying a new Canon Rebel Xti body on eBay today. It’s almost impossible to find a good deal from a large seller.

    The other related issue is cannibalization. EE needed to 1) generate a large base of new users (these convenience oriented shoppers you mentioned) or 2) significantly increase the conversion to sale so that the effort was ultimately accretive. It also needed a pricing model that would get inventory not offered on eBay. Without new inventory, EE would just be a giant fancy search filter on top of eBay.

    Ultimately, most of the traffic to EE came from eBay, meaning that it was essentially intercepting buyers already acquired, resulting in simply cannibalizing revenue.

    I believe the root of this problem lies in the fact that eBay’s core value proposition has always been about making inefficient markets efficient. But the new, in-season, fixed-priced hard goods market is already pretty efficient. That means there’s very little margin or value left to extract. eBay can pursue Amazonifying the experience. But to get there, it will need to mirror Amazon’s margins–which suck (relative to eBay’s).

    -jd

    August 25, 2008
  26. Hi Joe,

    Great to have you post here. Fee structure was always set up to support category-specific pricing. With no listing fees, eBay Express was already set up for CPA-based pricing, but it never had a chance to execute. It’s hard when you have eBay margins and structure as a comparable.

    The cannibalization issue was a huge debate topic, but misses the larger picture. If eBay was the only game in town, this would be the big issue, but in the end, given the churn eBay sees around buyer retention and buyer growth, the focus should be on the future market size, not the present.

    eBay Express did get a lot of traffic from eBay, but it resolved all cannibalization issues due to the higher conversion rate. It was also a conscious choice to get the marketplace to a significant size quickly (over $100M+ run-rate) to get the engine going. Over the long term, it was clear that eBay Express was demonstrating three key benefits to handle this critique: higher conversion rate, better retention, and growth in organic traffic. Unfortunately, all of those things require persistent investment and resource, and that’s not in ample supply right now.

    You are, however, correct about margins, which is why Amazon delights in moving into eBay’s space, and eBay shudders at moving into theirs. Low margins can be a strategic advantage, in a way.

    Take care,
    Adam

    August 25, 2008
  27. Fruity #

    Dear Adam,

    I always felt that if EE was on separated from the site during these rollouts that it would attract a new type of shopper. Remember when they wanted it to draw from the outside bring them to ebay. Then switched gears direct from existing user base. It never made sense, especially with BUY IT NOW available already within the site. But ohhh , time to move on!

    I love you more today than yesterday. I miss you

    August 26, 2008
  28. I would have kept using eBay Express in the beginning if eBay Express did not filter based on Condition = New. I loved the shopping cart feature and often used it to quote shipping rates to customers on multiple item numbers. But since many of the items we sell are not retail new, we stopped using eBay Express after one month. It was a great product and many things about buying experience eBay Express got right. The shopping cart is the best thing about it and I’m saddened that Core will continue make it impossible to quote shipping on multiple item numbers.

    August 26, 2008
  29. Wally Tseng #

    Hey Adam,
    I too wish to thank you for your post. I watched the launch of EE from the outside with quite a bit of interest and thought it was a great product and had real potential.

    And a +1 to low margins being somewhat of a competitive advantage. The topic has been discussed quite a bit here. Dell’s move into CE products is an interesting example.

    -w (not sure if you remember me, friend of Harry’s)

    August 28, 2008
  30. Hey Adam,

    Late to the EE RIP Party here, but I for one do not look back so fondly on eBay Express. Leading the efforts on authentication and messaging meant endless days of meetings and endless nights doing the work. I even had the pleasure of rerolling the entire train (redeploying the entire eBay codebase), a unprecedented feat never to be wished upon anybody :)

    But alas, an intense but memorable time working with the best and brightest at eBay. RIP, EE. It’s been real.

    -Mark

    September 2, 2008
  31. eBay Express was a wonderful concept that was a risk for sellers due to conflicts between what PayPal and eBay Express required us to do.

    I think if all the risk had not been dumped on sellers it would have been much more successful.

    September 19, 2008
  32. I can’t help but comment on this post since I discovered it recently. I realize this was written back in August 2008, and significant time has passed since the itemized topics of why eBay Express was launched; what they got correct; and what they got wrong, however I wanted to continue the discussion on the still apparent need for improvement at eBay.

    The question I ask myself after reading this post: “Is it more likely for eBay to successfully improve from the outside or the inside?” You already mentioned that EE did not succeed because of other internal initiatives, and probably financial strain based on the cost of the project. In my conclusion (backed up by reinforcement of the message communicated at the recent eBay developers conferences) the eBay API, and the external developers community have been targeted as the platform participants that have an opportunity to make major improvements to the buyer focused side of the eBay platform. Mark Carges talked about some great internal initiatives that he was championing at the company, but he also shared that a great opportunity exists for the eBay developer community to enhance the platform.

    So if the developer community does have this great opportunity then the next question to ask is “What is best for the buyer?” The post mentioned that eBay is a marketplace of “Value and selection buyers”. I think one problem with EE was trying to adapt to the “convenience and trust” buyers instead of educating and innovating the growth of the “value and selection” audience. The improvements required to grow or sustain growth could be as simple as improving the site experience for “value and selection” buyers. Innovate on ways to create more intuitive and informative experiences for the buyer and help them find relevant listings. I personally believe the mission should be to make the buyer experience more seller agnostic, and provide tools that address the buyer’s preferences through a deeply customizable rich internet application.

    BuyerCommand.com is an eBay API based buyer tool that I have developed to transmute a vision I have for an “alternative user interface for browsing eBay listings“. The eBay marketplace is extremely fluid because of many factors and variant attributes, and it requires a more in-depth tool for discovering and evaluating eBay listings. BuyerCommand presents an alternative workflow design to assist buyers to discover, browse, and decide on even more eBay listings. The eBay buyer interface has to address the inconsistency of incoming user generated content, variant product conditions and attributes, seller variability and quality, and even historical or external pricing comparison. Many of these factors require a human review. A website design the presents more item facts so that the buyer can make an educated decision is critical for the eBay marketplace. Efficiency is also a crucial attribute of any tool that expects to assist the intermediate to advanced eBay buyer. BuyerCommand has a mission of providing an efficient and effective solution for eBay buyers to “Take Command of Their Buying Experience”.

    I will not pitch the specifics of the application in this post, but more information is available at BuyerCommand.com. I really want to discover if I can be a participant in successfully improving eBay from the outside. I have answered the call that John Donahoe and Mark Carges communicated during the eBay developers conferences. My mission now is to incrementally enhance BuyerCommand.com, and build awareness of the application. It will be interesting to see if eBay can be successfully improved from the outside.

    February 22, 2010
  33. I have visited your site before. The more I read, the more I keep coming back! ;-)

    May 2, 2010

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