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EPISODE 50

The eBay User Experience: A Love Story

With Bradford Shellhammer, VP of Buyer Experience at eBay

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Every shopping experience is unique, and every shopper has specific wants and needs. That is one of the biggest struggles brands face in the world of ecommerce. How do you create a customer experience that resonates with and meets the needs of drastically different customers?

This problem is magnified further when you run a marketplace that sells literally millions of different products to tens of millions of different users. 

eBay has 180 million active users, which, according to Bradford Shellhammer, means that there needs to be 180 million different eBays to meet each of those users’ exact needs. Bradford is the Vice President of Buyer Experience at eBay, and part of his job is to make every eBay user fall in love with their eBay experience.

On this episode of Up Next in Commerce, Bradford explains what that looks like in practical terms, including how they approached a home page redesign, the importance of testing and experimentation, and the methods they have used to build trust among users.

Main Takeaways:

  • Do You Trust Me?: Trust is an essential part of the buying experience, and these days, companies are finding more innovative ways to establish trust with users. In marketplaces, typical product reviews might not be the best way to build trust with shoppers, instead, you have to find alternative ways to connect with customers and intervene if something goes wrong. 
  • Please Rate And Review: Gathering feedback and information from users is a critical method companies use to improve their customer experience. Typically, brands will send out surveys or ask for feedback in an email, but there are better, more strategic and enticing ways to get the feedback you need. And sometimes that means utilizing channels you may not have traditionally relied on or creating brand new customer feedback channels yourself.
  • Test, Test, Test Again: Nothing should be added to your website or brand experience unless it has been thoroughly tested. Both internal and external experimentation is necessary to ensure that when you make a change, or add something to your site, you already know that it is what your customers want and it works the way it was designed to work.

For an in-depth look at this episode, check out the full transcript below. Quotes have been edited for clarity and length.

Key Quotes:

“We redesigned [the home page]. We built a lot of new algorithms to make it a science-powered hub for you. And the goal was that there’s 180 million active buyers on eBay. There should be 180 million different eBays because everybody’s eBay is different.”

“We have a very strong test and learn culture. We don’t just flip the switch on something and see how it works. We test and learn and we do hundreds and hundreds of AB tests and we’re constantly testing everything. We would never launch anything that didn’t resonate with our customers.”

“The best product managers and the best designers and the best experiences out there are ones that are really rooted in something super simple, just listening to your customer.”

“We have a myriad of surveys on different pages. We do lots of focus groups. We do tons of user research. We do tons of dogfooding internally. You weed out the things that aren’t going to work way before you even start to build them usually. And so, for us, it’s about having that real commitment to just listening to your customer through the process rather than having someone come in and just say, ‘I want to do this thing.’”

“For us, it’s about building horizontal capabilities that can benefit multiple verticals that you slice up. We’re calling them platforms, a vertical platform. You slice up a piece of that and a piece of this one, a piece of that one and suddenly you’re basically stacking. It’s like a menu. For this shopper, you need these five things. And for this one, you need these six things. And so, it’s not separate branding. It’s not like suddenly, you’re in an experience that doesn’t feel or work like eBay, but it’s just building different kinds of capability into the shopping experience.”

“eBay… is super inclusive and there’s something here for everyone….It’s on us to tell that story vocally in the press. It’s on us to tell that story in our branding and in our marketing. And it’s on us to tell our story in our product.”

“A fascinating part of our job is how do you launch global products but also respect local nuances. We have a team that takes our global product tech platform and sometimes builds newer experiences that are market-specific.”

Bio:

Bradford Shellhammer is the GM of eBay New York City and eBay’s Vice President of Buyer Experience, a leading product visionary in the company. He and his teams define the direction, design, and build of eBay’s buyer experience including: homepages, item & product pages, browse pages, global header and navigation, content, Interests, My eBay, seller and brand stores, deals platform, merchandising tools, vertical shopping experiences, computer vision shopping experiences, guest experiences, registration and identity experiences, couponing and referral programs, Watch List and saving searches, sellers, and collections. He also sets the vision of eBay’s personalized shopping algorithms and products, and the company’s mobile strategy, while providing creative direction of visual design and curation. Prior to eBay he was one of Fast Company’s ‘100 Most Creative People in Business’ and was coined the ‘King of Quirk’ by Forbes Magazine and the ‘Eames of E-Commerce’ by Wired. He was the founder of Fab.com, Bezar, and Queerty, was Chief Design Officer at Backcountry.com, and has won 3 Webbys. In his spare time, you can find Shellhammer singing in a rock band.

Up Next in Commerce is brought to you by Salesforce Commerce Cloud. Respond quickly to changing customer needs with flexible Ecommerce connected to marketing, sales, and service. Deliver intelligent commerce experiences your customers can trust, across every channel. Together, we’re ready for what’s next in commerce. Learn more at salesforce.com/commerce

Transcript:

Stephanie:

Welcome back to another episode of Up Next in Commerce. I’m your host, Stephanie Postles, co-founder of mission.org. Joining us today is Bradford Shellhammer, the Vice President of the Buyer Experience at eBay. Bradford, welcome.

Bradford:

Thank you. Thanks for having me. Excited to be here.

Stephanie:

Yeah, I’m really excited to have you on. eBay, such an awesome name brand. I’m excited to dive into all things eBay. I’ve been a long time buyer there. But first, I want to go into your background of what brought you to eBay? I see that you founded a couple companies, a couple ecommerce companies and I was hoping you can touch on that before we jump into eBay.

Bradford:

Yeah. I think it’s super cool to talk about because it’s actually super personal. For me, it’s a pretty interesting story. So, it’s a love affair, essentially, between myself and eBay. I’ve been a buyer on the platform since 1999 because we can trace back and see in our internal database how long we’ve been shopping and when we created our account.

Bradford:

So, I’ve been a customer of eBay for over 20 years. And the companies that I started, two of the three were marketplaces. And they were marketplaces that were really founded on two principles, both of them, one was for buyers, helping them find treasure, awesome stuff, unique things, feeling some passion or interest and for seller is propping up the little guy.

Bradford:

Both of the companies that I found at Fab and Bezar were both heavily in the design space, in the modern design space, so that’s furniture, graphic arts, posters, lighting, jewelry, handbags, accessories and things so fashion design, but my personal love affair with collecting.

Bradford:

I have over 400 pairs of shoes. I have a massive art collection. I have probably more chairs than most people. Most of these purchases over the last 25 years have been made on eBay. And so, for me, I’ve inspired by the hunt on eBay what we call internally the eBay a power user, a power customer.

Bradford:

And now, I have this awesome responsibility to help other people fall in love with and use eBay the way that I do. So, I was hired four and a half years ago. I met the chief product officer who had some interest in one of my companies, Bezar.

Bradford:

Turns out I sold that to another company, an Australian company, and I became a free market… was on the market and I was a free agent. And I’d never really worked at a real company before, a big company, the previous 12 years is doing my own thing.

Bradford:

And so, they said, “Well, come join eBay.” And my first role was the chief curator of eBay. And frankly, it was a made up role. And everyone thought I had great taste. And when I got to eBay, I really thought my job was going to be curating through eBay and surfacing that up to consumers.

Bradford:

And what I quickly realized is that eBay scale is so much bigger than one person’s taste. And that some people are curating parts for a vintage Mercedes on eBay. And some people like myself are collecting design, and maybe other people are just using eBay because they have six kids, and money’s tight and buying them all new iPhones is just not possible, so they’re looking for great deals.

Bradford:

And so, I really quickly just became very empathetic to the eBay customer’s journey and it said, “Wow. Bradford, this is not about you. Can you help build tools to help other people find the things that they love rather than forcing your point of view or something that you love on people?”

Bradford:

And then, I moved into our product org, my second year and the first project I took on was our homepage. We redesigned it. We built a lot of new algorithms and it became a science powered hub for you. And the goal was that there’s 180 million active buyers on eBay.

Bradford:

There should be 180 million different eBays because everybody’s eBay is different. It’s not like other big box retailers or other mass market ecommerce players where we’re buying commodity products or everybody’s buying the same thing.

Bradford:

And my team really builds the experience that should adapt and respond to customer’s interest and helping them find what they’re looking for.

Stephanie:

That’s great. So, taking on the homepage design seems like a lot of responsibility. Tell me a bit about what that looked like. I mean, what are the customer buying behavior look like before and what do they look like now and how did you get there?

Bradford:

Yeah. That’s a good question. So, I inherited an experience that was about five years old and it was called the Feed and that was the homepage. And it was a Pinterest-esque experience. And so, when customers would save things, we have this concept called saving, there’s a little heart, you click on it and it saves.

Bradford:

You can save a search. You can save a seller. You can watch a single individual item. It would populate a visual grid of like products that are related to that. The problem with that is that it required customers to groom their own experience. And so, for power customers, the feed was awesome.

Bradford:

Because like myself, I have 150 saved searches and it’s just this beautiful grid of new products populating every day of hitting all the either brands that I’m following or the sellers that I love what they’re selling. But for the normal shopper, not your power customer, they were really missing out on personalized content because we literally required them to do work to curate it themselves.

Bradford:

So, the project that we decided to do is, was there a hybrid of that? Could you still have some of that content for the power user be front and center on the homepage?

Bradford:

But could you have machine learning and science pick up behaviors patterns of just what people are clicking on or searching for or which emails they’re opening and have that be enough to curate a homepage experience without them having to do the explicit work of saying show me more of this on clicking on a heart or saying I want to save this.

Bradford:

And so, what happened was more people with as a result of that first product we launched, more people ended up having personalized content which was a win. Because previously, it was personalized content mostly just for power customers. Now, a more casual customer still gets that benefit.

Stephanie:

Got it, that’s great. So, when it comes to projects like that, internally, I’m sure there was a lot of stakeholders and a lot of people had a lot of different ideas. How did you rally everyone around getting a homepage launch without taking, I mean, I could see that project taking maybe like a year at other companies [crosstalk 00:07:10].

Bradford:

Yeah. Well, first of all, I don’t want to give away too much of the sausage making, but eBay is surprisingly entrepreneurial. We move pretty fast. And we don’t, I think, have a lot of the bureaucracy that probably a lot of companies of our scale have.

Bradford:

So, first of all, I almost felt like, “Wow, they gave me the keys to the car.” And for the most part, we have a very strong test and learn culture. So, we don’t just flip the switch on something and see how it works. We test and learn and we do lots of hundreds and hundreds of AB tests and we’re constantly testing everything.

Bradford:

So, we would never launch anything that didn’t resonate with our customers. So, there were safety, I think, baked into all of our hypotheses knowing that you have to actually prove that something that an idea you had is worthy of launch. But I think that that’s where I think my entrepreneurial background and my non tech background.

Bradford:

I’ve started companies, but I don’t have a formal technology education at all. I have a fashion design degree and a communications degree. So, this is where I think just the hitting the pavement and telling a story and crafting a vision and getting people to march along with you whether they’re marketers or engineers, or designers, or whatever I think suited me in this role in the early days.

Stephanie:

Yeah, that’s really cool. See, when you were talking about the AB testing, how you guys test everything, were there any surprises of something that you thought was really going to work and it actually failed?

Bradford:

Oh, that’s a good question. I’m trying to think of, you know what, I have to be honest, I don’t want to say this because my team is super smart. But I think that the best product managers and the best designers and the best experiences out there are ones that are really rooted in want something super simple, just listening to your customer.

Bradford:

And so, if you’re literally baking all your hypothesis and lit really listening like combing through feedback, we have myriad of surveys on different pages. We do lots of focus groups. We do tons of research, user research. We do tons of dogfooding internally.

Bradford:

You weed out the things that aren’t going to work way before you even start to build them usually. And so, for us, it’s like if you have that real commitment to just listening to your customer through the process rather than having someone come in and just say, “I want to do this thing.”

Bradford:

Because when you listen to your actual customers, there’s a real great respect for them and you actually don’t want to break their current experience, you just want to make it better. And I think a lot of times where I’ve seen products fail, and I’m not going to go into the details of what they were.

Bradford:

But I have seen maybe not so much in my team, but I have seen this happen both in and outside of eBay is usually when someone that doesn’t really have the customer’s voice in their head is just like either taking something that’s their personal preference or looking at a competitor that may look like a competitor from the outside, so a lot of companies are compared to eBay because they sell things online.

Bradford:

But if you really look at eBay and why people shop at eBay, it’s a very different customer than a lot of the big players. So, constantly comparing ourselves to, I think, other competitors who aren’t really competitors other than they compete for wallets share not with the heart and soul of our customers.

Bradford:

I think sometimes is where I’ve seen product managers go off and usually go somewhere that’s at the end of the day, it just wasn’t what our customers were asking for and that’s our job.

Bradford:

Our job is to literally listen to our customers and build experiences for them, and take the things they love, make it better, and take the things they hate and change it. And I really think that if you ground yourself and your whole organization in that just like real deep customer empathy, you don’t make too many mistakes.

Stephanie:

Yeah. I’m thinking about surveying customers right now. How do you frame questions in a way that will actually get you what you need when it comes to like how to shape an experience? Because I could see framing in a way that actually gives you maybe the wrong [crosstalk] customers tell you something that leads you down the wrong path.

Stephanie:

Or, it’s like, “Oh, someone says they want that.” But actually, no one’s going to really use that or we see that no one uses it. How do you think about framing questions in a way that will actually be successful [crosstalk 00:12:11].

Bradford:

It’s a great question. We have teams of people that focus on that at eBay. So, the feedback we get is that we actually have feedback forms on specific pages of the site. So, I’ll give you example, there’s this thing called My eBay. It’s like your profile hub thing. But because eBay, you could be a buyer or seller, so you have a place where all the things that you’ve bought live but also all the things that you’re selling or sold live.

Bradford:

It’s like the hub of the eBay customer. If you just sent an email with a survey of how do you feel about eBay or like an NPS survey, you’re not going to get the detail feedback they’ll make that product better. And so, here are some of the things that we get like very specific feedback like purchase history.

Bradford:

There are people that literally because they’re business buyers or let’s just say they’re resellers. People that are buying thousands of records a year and then reselling them and we don’t have the functionality to let them search through their purchase history.

Bradford:

So, they can’t literally search David Bowie and find the things. And this is a number one complaint of our customers and you only would find that out because then we’re literally asking very specific, what would you do differently to this exact experience or page?

Bradford:

I think that’s where you get awesome feedback. You can get that through just general feedback collecting too if you’re able to actually come through and pick up the patterns and scour through them. Because you’re right, you might get one or two people that are really vocal about something that a lot of people don’t want.

Bradford:

But the things that are like really, really asked for they rise to the top very quickly on eBay. There’s also a myriad of forums out there, seller forums, Reddit boards, where people are talking about both pain and opportunities for eBay to be better.

Bradford:

And oftentimes, those are through the lens of a vertical lens. So, you have these sneaker enthusiasts or watch enthusiasts, or who are literally talking about where eBay fails them. And it might not be something that we’d see if we’re looking at eBay just really generally.

Bradford:

But for very specific customers, there are some things that matter more than others. And so, one of the big changes in our philosophy this year has been to start thinking about what are those enthusiast groups. And oftentimes, they’re aligned with verticals or categories, so watch lovers, sneaker lovers, streetwear lovers, stamp collectors, comic book collectors.

Bradford:

And really understanding like are there unique needs that are outside of just the normal shopping experience that we have to either fix or introduce for those customers too. But it’s nonstop, just taking in feedback like we actually need more.

Bradford:

But I would say probably 10% of my team’s job is to literally spend 10% of their week is just combing through that stuff to gleam any insight into what we should be working on or what we need to focus on.

Stephanie:

Yeah, that’s a really good point about going to different sites like the Reddits of the world and looking at what different niche audiences are talking about. Because I’ve always wondered when I see or I have an issue and I see a lot of people having that issue, I’m like, “Oh, why isn’t this company just looking on this Reddit forum and seeing that there’s thousands of people all trying to figure out the same thing that’s probably like an easy product fix.”

Bradford:

It’s an easy product fix. And I’ll tell you what else is really super cool about that is that it also makes your competitive analysis because you can see the customers that are buying… your customers talking about you and you also see the customer, the other companies that they reference as competitors, so you really get to see.

Bradford:

And for eBay, as I said, it’s super verticalized. There are people that buy hundreds of thousand dollar watches on eBay there. There are literally people that spend thousands of dollars for watches left and right on eBay. And guess what, they’re not going to, I’m not going to say their names, but the big marketplaces to buy that they’re more verticalized player.

Bradford:

So, we also have hundreds of competitors. When you slice it vertically, it’s also a great place to just hear them talk about either the good or the bad of our competitors through a lens too, so you can stack, you can see the sentiment of how they feel about you versus them. And they can also see where are we winning and where do we have to be better very clearly in those forums, too.

Stephanie:

Yeah, that’s such a good point. When you’re talking about these vertical players and how to think about that, it reminds me of… I read an article about the unbundling of a lot of platforms whether it’s Reddit, or Nextdoor, Craigslist, how turning it into separate products.

Stephanie:

I don’t know if you’ve heard about this, but how do you think about that at eBay right now? Because it sounds like you’re doing that with these different niche audiences in a way like pulling them apart to give them a more personal experience.

Stephanie:

For example, like with Reddit, maybe there’s thousands of different conversations going on around different topics. And then, there’s a picture that shows, okay, this topic here is all around neighbors and things like that. Oh, what do you know, Nextdoor popped up and pulled that off the platform in a way.

Stephanie:

And then, oh, they’re talking about like gaming here. Oh, here’s a gaming platform that popped up. So, actually pulling apart a platform to give it unique experiences for the people.

Bradford:

Yeah. So, I mean, you can look and see there’s I think a lot of… we’re the original. We were [crosstalk 00:19:25]. Yeah, we really are, seriously. Before we were the gig economy. We were the niche marketplace. We were the vertical marketplace. We still are like we literally invented or we’re one of the originals.

Bradford:

And so, you can look around. And you can see even fab.com, it was a marketplace for design like some of them come some of them go. Some of them have really great staying power and a few of them have been super successful. Here’s why I think we’re uniquely positioned and why I think going back to building verticalized experiences.

Bradford:

And when I say that I want to make sure that it’s not niche. It is building horizontal capabilities that can flex and you might need the ability to have high ASP or high payments. Sometimes, you’re buying things that are $20,000, $30,000, $40,000, that’s our high-end art, that’s high-end collectibles, that’s high-end watches.

Bradford:

That’s also like business and industrial equipment. Tractors, we sell a lot of this. So, although those like shopping experiences wouldn’t be the same beginning to end, there might be a piece of that, like a payment, the ability to have some payment support for large purchases as part of your strategy.

Bradford:

So, for us, it’s about I think building horizontal capabilities that can benefit multiple verticals then you slice up, we’re calling them platforms, a vertical platform. You slice up a piece of that and a piece of this one, a piece of that one and suddenly you’re basically stacking, it’s like a menu.

Bradford:

For this shopper, you need these five things. And for this one, you need these six things. And so, it’s not separate branding. It’s not like suddenly, you’re in an experience that doesn’t feel or work like eBay, but it’s just building different kinds of capability into the shopping experience and that’s our strategy right now and it’s super cool.

Bradford:

And I think that the great thing about eBay is the scale. So, for small upstarts and small vertical players, they got to spend a ton of money to get people to come onto their platform. I mean, a ton, they have to bleed millions, hundreds of millions of dollars like eBay has an audience. We have traffic.

Bradford:

We have global reach. We have hubs of really major or an iconic brand in Germany, in Australia, in Israel, in Canada, in the UK. So, there are all these benefits to being this large platform that are mostly traffic I think and just like a giant active enthusiast customer base.

Bradford:

I think it’s on us to just crack what is the end to end product experience. And maybe there’s other things that have to change, policy, how we rate our sellers, how we rate our buyers. There’s probably other things where we’re thinking right now too that’s more than just experience. But I don’t think it’s the reinvention of eBay. I think it is the morphing of eBay for certain types of customers. Yep.

Stephanie:

Yeah, that makes sense. Have you seen over the past couple years buyer behavior is changing? Are you pretty preparing for something new over the next couple years or adjusting strategy a bit after seeing changes with COVID? I think I read that eBay did pretty well. Is there anything new that you’re preparing for now?

Bradford:

Yeah. I mean, the COVID is a horrible thing. And but what was like got a lot of us through it in the early days at eBay as supply chain was shutting down, warehouses were shutting down, it was hard to get things.

Bradford:

The one thing that was working was just how distributed the inventory of eBay was and how this sector of the country or the world may have shut down but there’s all these parts over here that can ship things around. And it was super cool to witness that eBay worked.

Bradford:

And it allowed like some people who are home to make some money, come in and sell for the first time. They allowed businesses that maybe struggled during the time, they might have closed physical retail down or something like that, it gave them another channel.

Bradford:

We have a new CEO. His name is Jamie Iannone. He was an eBay veteran that went and worked for Walmart for many years and he’s come back with such a force

Bradford:

And so, the great news about our new CEO is he is really setting a strategy that honors eBay’s past meaning going back and valuing our sellers who without, we literally don’t have a company and literally saying publicly that he’s focused on eBay being the seller’s platform of choice.

Bradford:

And on the buying side, it’s about going back and listening to our enthusiast customers. We’re like strategically positioning ourselves to be there for those buyers and sellers more than ever.

Bradford:

And so, I said in terms of this like what we’re seeing right now, we’re seeing a lot of people looking at eBay for the first time. We’re seeing a lot of people reconsidering eBay, and we’re seeing our best customers continue to shop with eBay.

Bradford:

And it’s on us right now to take advantage of this time and I think go back and really listen to our customers, as I said at the beginning of the podcast was not just like… yeah, I was talking about like listening to very specific feature feedback or page feedback in our experience or app feedback.

Bradford:

But like we as a company are just listening to our buyers and sellers in a way that we haven’t during my time and much of our strategy is just emerging from that. And it’s super cool to have new leadership that is all about customer, customer, customer.

Stephanie:

Yeah, that’s really great. When it comes to the new customers who maybe still have an old perception of what eBay is like, “Oh, it’s an auction site.” Maybe haven’t visited in a while. How are you appealing to these new people who are starting to think about you?

Stephanie:

I’m sure you have very different messaging to someone who is new versus your current customers who are sticky. And once they start buying or selling, they’re probably going to stay there for a while.

Bradford:

Yeah. I think that this is a part of what brought me to eBay. I love eBay and I feel a lot of people don’t know enough about our goodness. And I think a lot of that is because I think previous years before Jamie came on board, I think we were not really owning what we really were.

Bradford:

eBay is really an awesome place to buy non new and seasoned merchandise and that means refurbished products that means outlet products, that means used products, that means new and not in box. And so, I think that there was a lot of confusion probably for especially young consumers because I think that there wasn’t a clarity of message around what eBay was just externally, it wasn’t necessarily clear internally.

Bradford:

And so, I’m very optimistic that this clarity around where we’re going to compete and the buyers and sellers that we value. I think you will see we have to earn it. We have to earn it with every single sale. We have to earn it with every single seller that comes back onto the platform. We have to earn it with a first time buyer.

Bradford:

But I think that it’s less about how we’re going to talk to our existing customers versus our new customers, I think in my eyes, because I actually think we need to say the same thing which is there’s a lot of magic into eBay and it’s not your typical shopping experience and that’s okay. That’s cool.

Bradford:

I think about eBay when I’m thinking about comparing Airbnb to hotel chains. It’s like Airbnb, there’s a little something for everyone there. You can rent a mansion. You can rent a cot in a yurt and everything in between and it’s high and low and it’s all around the world.

Bradford:

And there’s something that’s like I think of eBay in the same way that it’s super inclusive and there’s something here for everyone. What I don’t think people realize is that eBay is full of, I say to the two things, also for buyers, awesome deals and really great treasure which is unique, hard to find or are super interesting stuff.

Bradford:

And I think that those two things probably appeal to really broad set. It’s on us to tell that story. It’s on us to tell that story vocally in the press. It’s on us to tell that story in our branding, in our marketing. And it’s on us to tell our story in our product and I don’t know if we’ve done that well enough up until recently where we’re starting to pivot towards that listening to our best customers and buyers and sellers and building things for them.

Stephanie:

Yeah. So, with marketplaces, there’s always a question around trust. How are you guys going about showcasing that and convincing especially maybe new buyers that this can be trusted and our sellers can be trusted. Because I think at least back in the day, that was something, I mean, even on Amazon, people are still worried like, “Is this a good seller?” So, what are you guys doing behind the scenes?

Bradford:

Yeah. I think that trust is probably one of the biggest things we have to work on and have worked on. I’ll just speak a little generally and then I’ll tell you about a very specific thing that we’re doing for trust, but I think will be super exciting to talk about.

Bradford:

So, one and it’s just loans. So, for trust, I think we’re aware that when the scale of eBay and just the diversity of seller of inventory of even condition that we probably have, it’s even more compounded, the trust issues at eBay, there’s just so many variables here.

Bradford:

And so, we are taking it very seriously right now through planning for next year especially and talking about all the things that we’re going to do to combat trust. So, it’s everything from doubling down on some of our policies that protects buyers.

Bradford:

So, we have money back guarantee. We essentially for most products on the site guarantee that customers are going to get what they want, get what they’re expecting. And so, I don’t think a lot of people realize that most of the things you buy on eBay are we have this baked in protection.

Bradford:

But I don’t think that’s enough. And so, I’ll give you an example of why I don’t think that’s enough. Here, I’ll give you example. I’d mentioned it earlier and it’s launched and is live now as of a couple weeks ago. If you’re buying a watch that’s over $2,000 which is a high-end luxury watch, these are like the Rolexes, the Omegas, they can go way higher than that.

Bradford:

eBay is one of the biggest places to buy these watches, it’s massive. It’s a business within a business. The biggest concern that our buyers tell us is that they’re afraid that like, “Am I really getting a Rolex? Am I getting the real thing?” Authenticity really matters.

Stephanie:

Yeah. For $3,000, we’ve got to be real.

Bradford:

$3,000, I mean, I’ve seen some of the sales $30,000, $60,000. You don’t want to take a chance of, “Am I not going to get it? Is it going to be fake? Is it going to be scratched?” So, we decided to tackle trust through a vertical lens. And it’s not just a category because it’s not all watches but watches over $2,000.

Bradford:

We have launched a new program that’s called authenticity guaranteed where eBay is guaranteeing that any watch sold on its platform domestically. So, in the United States we have plans to expand. But currently in the United States that’s over $2,000 that we will guarantee its authenticity.

Bradford:

So, what we’ve done is we’ve partnered with amazing partners who vet it that can verify and authenticate high-end luxury watches. We force an intermediate shipping. So, the buyer, when they make the purchase, they see very clearly badging program details say this watch is covered under our authenticity guarantee and you have nothing to worry about, it’s going to be authentic.

Bradford:

We have the seller ship the watch to the third party verification service. They look at it. They compare it. If it’s not in its original boxing because a lot of these watches are sold with the original boxes. If it’s not on its original visual boxing, we repackage it in eBay box and then we express ship it out to the buyer.

Bradford:

And we catch any problem with counterfeits or other kinds of issues before it gets into the hands of the buyer. And so, it’s really meant to stop buyers getting fake products or damaged products. For the seller, it’s also a really awesome thing too because oftentimes people will buy a watch and we have buyers that have scammed our sellers.

Bradford:

So, us being in the middle of both the buying and the return process, it basically is our way of just ensuring that both buyers and sellers are protected and it’s third party authentication of luxury goods.

Bradford:

And so, we rolled it out and we’re going to be expanding the program even more. And like that is very real and very different eBay, us literally getting in the middle of a transaction and protecting both our best buyers and our best sellers. And we’re going to do more of that next year.

Bradford:

And when I say more of them, I’m not just talking about more things to authenticate, but I’m also talking about just more picking apart like a very important customer base and their buying behavior and where they have concerns with eBay and a lot of it goes back to trust, frankly.

Bradford:

It’s like, I don’t trust eBay as a buyer. I don’t trust eBay as a seller because you don’t offer these protections. And we’re literally going to be bringing those protections through a vertical lens more often.

Stephanie:

Wow, that’s great. I mean, that seems really smart and strategic because, I mean, I trust eBay as a brand and I would trust whatever you guys say, but I might not trust the buyer or the sellers.

Stephanie:

So, what recommendations would you give to other ecommerce companies around developing trust? What do you think is most important? Is it reviews? Are there things that other companies right now maybe are missing out on that they should be doing?

Bradford:

Yeah, it’s interesting. You bring up reviews and I think that that is also a unique eBay opportunity too. Our catalog, we have so many listings like in every condition. From every year, from all over the globe.

Bradford:

It’s really hard to comb through it all. Reviews I think are interesting.

Bradford:

But I really love the review of the seller. So, where a lot of ecommerce companies are reviewing an individual product, like an actual item like this cooler or this microphone, or these pairs of shoes. I think that eBay has that opportunity where we have the right catalog and I think that we’re leaning in there in certain categories.

Bradford:

But I think a more interesting eBay opportunity is to really celebrate the seller and to talk about, are they trusted? Because a lot of the stuff that eBay sells, a lot of stuff on our site, you can’t actually get a review. Much of it is not that product.

Bradford:

A good example like comic books like I know I want this spider man whatever it is. The thing that I care about is, do I trust this seller that the condition that they’re saying it is as is. And so, I think a concept of reviewing a seller and trusting them, I think is super interesting to lean into. I think it’s super interesting to lean into especially where a lot of our… and eBay is a little different all over the world, so I don’t know how much you know about that too.

Bradford:

So, in the US, the business is very different than the way it looks in UK. It’s very different than in Australia. So, for some of those places in Australia like I’ll give you example. We have a lot of brands and the top brands and top retailers selling direct on eBay.

Bradford:

So, it’s like we are a channel for them. So, there, the trust opportunity is about like is this one of these iconic brands that I trust, I know their inventory. But in other parts of the country, there’s a lot of small businesses, a lot of people who have built cult followings on Instagram.

Bradford:

A lot of people that literally have brick and mortar stores and small towns and main streets. And they have been able to survive in a world of big box retailers and mega malls because they’ve had this outlet to sell things from their physical location on eBay globally.

Bradford:

And so, I think we should show that off more. I think if someone knew they were buying a record or a bunch of records from a record dealer who’s had a shop since the early ’80s in Downtown Buffalo and I’m making that up but it probably does exist. Like that would be a level of trust, right? You know that this person is the real deal.

Bradford:

And there’s something about that that I get excited about, thinking about when you say reviews is leaning in and it’s less about reviews, but more about like, “Can I trust this seller? Who are they? Where do they exist?” Like, “What is their point of view? What do they specialize in? What are they experts in? How can I communicate with them?” I get excited about that.

Stephanie:

Yup. I love that. Because I mean, even from a human perspective, it’s like what do you remember? Are you going to remember like you said the product? Or you remember the person, the face like the story behind it and then that would come top of my next, I’m like, “Oh, I want to go to Bob’s record store and get another record from him because he did a great job last time versus-”

Bradford:

[crosstalk 00:42:38]. And that’s difference between like us. I talked about Jamie and our new pivot, our new strategy like what you just said is super important. I don’t know if you’re buying diapers, or if you’re buying toilet paper, or you’re buying replacement batteries that that person to person connection matters that much.

Bradford:

It’s about price right? Is this the thing I’m looking for and who has it at the cheapest and sometimes it’s the cheapest bust the quickest. And I think a lot of times eBay just because of this, like the diversity of our inventory sources, we get to compete there too.

Bradford:

Because we have all these different sources of inventory and oftentimes, we’re the best price. But when you talk about things like collectible sneakers or vintage handbags, or coins, or antiques, or vintage camera equipment, or car parts, suddenly, who you’re buying it from matters. It not only matters from the feel of good I’m like helping the little guy community aspect of eBay, but it also matters from the trust.

Bradford:

And part of people that do have passions whether they’re collecting or enthusiasts, part of the joy of that whole thing is not just the accumulation of things, it’s the connections to people that come with the process of accumulating those things.

Bradford:

And that is where eBay, that happens just naturally because it’s our DNA, but we need to tap into that way more than we do currently, and we will. And that’s the stuff that we’re talking about internally right now.

Stephanie:

Yeah, I love that. I think that’s also just such a good point for any new like do they see companies coming out right now that like the story behind it. I mean, I know a lot of people sometimes are like, “Oh, I don’t want to talk about myself.” But I remember going to certain websites and looking at that page and seeing like, “Oh, it’s like a certain family member is behind and here’s how it was inspired. “I think like Charles Webb comes to mind and a couple other ones.

Stephanie:

But you remember that story of why they’re doing what they’re doing and that’s way more of a spot to connect on than maybe just the product. Like you start to have a good product, but I think [crosstalk] some of that story is important.

Bradford:

Yeah. You’re absolutely right. It’s not one or the other, it’s both. And when it’s both it’s like, pow, that’s where the magic happens. And again, we’re coming back to that more than we have probably in the recent history of the company.

Stephanie:

Yeah. Very cool. So, you were just mentioning earlier about international audiences, like you guys have a global presence. How do you think about developing your website and your offerings and telling the story behind different, maybe like catalogs and things like that, how do you think about approaching that from a global perspective?

Bradford:

Prior to COVID, I spent I would say a half of my time not in New York City. So, I have a global role and obviously worked for a company that’s headquartered in California. But I really, really spent a lot of the last four years on the road and really listening to customers.

Bradford:

And when I say customers, I mean, also. So, eBay is like we have global functions. So, product and technology is one of the things that are global. It’s based mostly although we have people that work on and distributed across the world, it’s headquartered in California and that’s the epicenter.

Bradford:

But we also have markets, regional teams. So, because of the scale of our business they’re like big companies within a really big company. We have an Australian headquarters. We have an Asian headquarters. We have an Israeli headquarters.

Bradford:

We have our Russian headquarters. We have German headquarters. We have an UK. And a lot of the business, merchandise, marketing like just operations, the people that are closest to the customers and market are in those countries. And you do see nuance of differences of how people use products like it’s super interesting.

Bradford:

I’ll give you an example. We launched the ability to create an account on eBay with Google, Facebook and now Apple. This is nothing revolutionary. It’s been around since 10 years, but we launched it finally in eBay a couple years ago. And we’ve seen a lot of adoption because that’s just the normal way a lot of people create accounts.

Bradford:

They don’t have to think about a username and a password remembered for individual websites. They just click a button they link to Google and it’s one click sign in. Germans don’t want to do that. And you realize that like suddenly, this product that there are parts all over the world, and then you realize that there are very real differences.

Bradford:

There are very real differences in how people want to pay for things. Germans again don’t use credit cards the way that a lot of the west does. There are very specific payments forms in China that we just don’t have in the US. And see nuance in the categories they shop globally, country to country often.

Bradford:

You see nuance and payment choices. You see nuance in privacy. Some countries care a lot less than other countries about it. It is really interesting to see the outliers where something just doesn’t make sense or doesn’t work somewhere. We test things and sometimes like something is a runaway hit in one country and it’s just the… sometimes negative and others.

Bradford:

And really a fascinating part of our job is how do you launch global product by respecting local nuance. And what we have done is we have actually a team of… it’s a pretty decent sized team. But we have a team that actually takes our global product tech platform and sometimes builds newer experiences that are market specific on top of the example is you can buy groceries in Australia on eBay.

Stephanie:

Oh, interesting.

Bradford:

Yeah, anywhere else. But because of just the size of the country and the epicenters of where people actually live and partnerships with the top grocery companies there. We actually built like a grocery shopping experience on eBay which no one would ever think of that.

Bradford:

So, we do sometimes build different things in different markets depending, but by and large, I would say 95% of what we do is global audience is shopping view eBay at the same way, so it’s not too much.

Stephanie:

That’s pretty great. I mean, are there any international trends or shifts that you see happening right now that you guys are preparing for or leaning into?

Bradford:

No. I mean, I think that the shifts that we see are, again, I think this vertical approach, looking at different verticals and really understand that customer’s journey end to end, how they landed on eBay. How they browse and shop and search for eBay.

Bradford:

How they consider what they expect in terms of protections and trust us and how they want to pay for it and what to expect, what returns and guarantees. We’re doing that everywhere. What’s different is that there may be some verticals that matter here and don’t matter there and that’s what we’re working on right now as like I mentioned the watch business in the United States and that’s definitely a global one.

Bradford:

But there might be some that are more US focused. There might be some that are more European focused. There might be some more that are more APAC focused. But other than that, I think it’s just applying the same playbook. It just might be a different vertical or a different category focus in certain countries or regions.

Stephanie:

Yeah, that is great. All right. So, we have not too much time left, but I want to jump into the lightning round unless there’s anything else you want to talk about.

Bradford:

Yeah, this was great. Thank you. I mean, it’s so funny. Like I said, I like really drink the juice of eBay and like just talking about eBay gets me excited. So, thanks for letting me just riff on how awesome place I work is.

Stephanie:

Yup. Yeah, I like that excitement. That’s what I love to talk about and have people come on the show, be passionate about where they work and what they’re excited about. So, it’s been perfect. All right. Lightning round brought to you by Salesforce commerce cloud. This is where I’m going to throw a question your way and you have a minute or less to answer. Are you ready, Bradford?

Bradford:

Yeah, okay.

Stephanie:

All right. So, this one I think you’ll have a great answer to, what is the either best or most memorable purchase you’ve ever made on eBay?

Bradford:

Oh, my God. Well, I’ll tell you what, I just found out what my first purchase was and it’s really embarrassing, it was an MC Lyte who you don’t even know who that is, I’m sure.

Stephanie:

Nope.

Bradford:

An MC Lyte cd.

Stephanie:

All right. Okay. So, what is this? Tell me a little bit more because I do not know.

Bradford:

MC Lyte is like one of the earliest female hip hop artists and was very famous in the late ’80s, early ’90s, did some rap like Queen Latifah. And that was my first purchase on eBay. But I-

Stephanie:

Well, do you still have it? I hope so.

Bradford:

I don’t still have it. [crosstalk] anymore. I have a Warhol collection and I have bought probably five or six of them on eBay. So, I’m someone that actually buys high-end art on eBay. And those are oftentimes steals.

Bradford:

I mean, they’re not inexpensive, but in terms of just the actual cost that would be out in the market of the art market through dealers and door and at auction and I got great, great, great deals.

Stephanie:

That’s awesome. Yeah, very cool. Well, I have to see some pictures of some of your art.

Bradford:

I can send [crosstalk 00:54:04].

Stephanie:

That would be cool. I’d love to see it. So, once we can travel again, what’s up next in your travel destinations?

Bradford:

It’s so funny. Right before we’re grounded, I just gotten back from a wedding of one of my best friends in South Africa. And then, I went to Rwanda and Zanzibar. And I flew 300,000 miles last year, so this is really hurting that I’m not traveling. My favorite two cities in the world are Berlin and Rio de Janeiro and I am dying to get back to both of them probably especially Rio.

Stephanie:

Okay, cool. We need to follow you on Instagram or Twitter wherever you are to keep up with where you are at in the world.

Bradford:

It used to be more interesting. I was at a beach every weekend and not anymore. [crosstalk] and I got to travel to really cool places for work. You get to go to Sydney. You get to go to Tel Aviv. You get to go to Berlin. You get to go to London, it was a really luxury. I don’t know, I’m sleeping better now, so maybe it’s not all bad.

Stephanie:

Yeah, there you go less jetlag. If you were to have a podcast, what would it be about and who would your first guest be?

Bradford:

Oh, my God, it would totally be like completely not about the covers. It would probably be about music and drag queens and gave up culture. And my first guest I think it would have to be RuPaul.

Stephanie:

That sounds awesome. Hey, I mean, not all podcasts have to be about ecommerce. I mean, we have the best one. So, [crosstalk] anymore. There you go. You don’t want to compete with us. You don’t want this. All right. And last, harder question. What one thing will have the biggest impact on ecommerce in the next year?

Bradford:

Obviously, the answer is COVID. I think it’s completely changed a lot of consumer behavior. I think it’s really changed a lot of the industry. I think a lot of people that didn’t sell or buy a line are now doing that. And I think I’m curious as we hopefully pull ourselves out of this globally.

Bradford:

And I hope get to a place sooner than later some normalcy in the world that I think that for ecommerce, just the playing field has shifted, it’s going to be a different game. And I think we have some signs, early signs of what we think that looks like for eBay.

Bradford:

And I think a lot of podcasts and article I read are pontificating on it, but I don’t think we have the answers yet. And that’s probably the answer for this life to not just ecommerce life, but definitely COVID.

Stephanie:

Yup. Yeah, completely agree. All right. Bradford, it’s been a blast talking. Where can people find out more about you and your work?

Bradford:

They can shop on eBay and see it live and flesh most of the things that a buyer touches. And you can follow me on Instagram, youngbradford, if you want. I’m boring on Twitter, I’m a more visual person.

Stephanie:

All righty. We will try and find you there then thanks so much.

Bradford:

All right. Thank you. This was a pleasure. Thank you so much.

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