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From Search to Cash Register: eBay Connects the Dots

boland-michael
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Last week I was lucky enough to speak at eBay's Innovate developer's conference in San Francisco where the company introduced and gave more definition to its x.commerce platform.

As background, x.commerce is meant to be the uber platform for small businesses to create commerce-enabled websites and apps. This broadens and builds on eBay's longstanding tools for selling goods through its auction marketplace.

Further, the whole point is that x.commerce is an open platform for the masses of developers to design cool applications that can be sold to or used by the growing ranks of commerce-based SMBs. That goes for both e-commerce and offline retail.

Nuts & Bolts

At x.commerce's core is Magento, a website creation and management tool that eBay bought in June for a rumored $180 million. Plugging into that workflow will be a number of tools that boost analytics, search marketing and social media.

For example, eBay-owned product inventory company Milo is integrated so that online stores can be more easily populated with rich product images, descriptions, and real time searchable inventory.

Adobe will plug in as the analytics engine including metrics on what items are selling and how. It also provides information on what to do with that data, such as crafting a better marketing plan to optimize revenue for top selling items.

And that's where search comes in. Kenshoo will drive traffic to these sites, as it does best. More specifically, it will be available to manage keyword optimization and other search marketing tools to establish a better presence.

"You can select the products you want to advertise, then select Google, Facebook and others," said Kenshoo Local GM Sivan Metzger. "That triggers a chain of events that leads to a Google ad or a Facebook ad, customized and optimized to those interfaces."

PayPal is also integrated through a new feature called PayPal Access. Analogous to Facebook Connect, sites can authenticate users and their billing information with a simple sign in. No more typing in credit card and shipping info (great for mobile).

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F-Commerce

Last was the grand finale: Facebook. Director of Platform Katie Mitic rehashed the virtues of the open graph – the fabric of social connections stitched together by the Like button.

At f8, Facebook broadened this into an array of buttons that capture different activities like "read" or "watched". X.commerce will now integrate buttons that are more relevant to commerce (think: "bought", "want", "recommend").

The idea is that, when pressed, these will generate updates that are bounced around the news feeds of the 130 people to which the average Facebook user is connected. That's hoped to lead to more links, traffic, and ultimately sales.

It's an interesting idea, but some skepticism lingers. The user intent of social media is generally looking at pictures or reading about a decidedly trivial but somehow serendipitous stream of activity, not necessarily buying jeans.

Search is really good at commercial intent; I'm not convinced that social media and commerce have that same chocolate and peanut butter love. But if there is a killer app, it will be found by the legions of developers to which eBay is handing the keys to the kingdom.

Connect the Dots

Another flank in this strategy is mobile, given eBay's acquisitions of Red Laser, Milo and WHERE. These are key assets to tie together mobile user engagement and ultimately commerce.

In total, eBay's mobile apps have been downloaded more than 50 million times. And it will do $5 billion in gross merchandise value and $3 billion in payments volume this year.

“Almost half of retail transactions have accessed the web at some point in the funnel,” said eBay CEO John Donahoe. “Now consumers have the mall in their pocket. They expect shopping to be brought to them. It’s being woven into their everyday lives.”

E-commerce is about 5 percent of the $10 trillion retail market, he added. But the goal is to have it collectively known as just "commerce." This goal starts to materialize when you connect the dots between online and offline.

It will happen as the tools above come together into mobile shopping and payments apps. You can also imagine Red Laser barcode scans, tied to Milo nearby inventory results; shared on Facebook, then finally paid at the register with PayPal Access. Closed loop.

“There’s enormous acceleration in the pace of change,” Donahoe said. “We’ll see more change in the way consumers shop and pay during the next three years than We’ve seen in the last 15.”

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Image Credit: Forbes


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