comScore just released their 3Q ecommerce numbers for the US and they paint a completely different picture about ecommerce than what I would have expected after looking at eBay’s business over the last year. (Thanks to Sandy from the stores board for bringing this up)Online retail spending in the third quarter grew 23% over last year’s third quarter to $28.44 billion from $23.05 billion, comScore Inc. reports. In the first three quarters of the year, online sales grew 21% to $83.58 billion from $69.12 billion.
“Online retail spending continues to grow at rates in excess of 20% year-over-year, which suggests that the market is still far from maturity,” says Gian Fulgoni, chairman of comScore Obviously online sales continue to grow and are far from mature. The comScore numbers do not include auctions, so an apples-to-apples comparison with eBay is not going to be very accurate but we can compare growth rate of ecommerce to auctions to see which of the two is the mature market and which is the young buck that’s still growing. (Obviously you know where I’m going with this but lets look at the numbers).
eBay is the largest auction business online and its US GMV grew 10% Y/Y in the 3rd quarter (3% of that growth came from StubHub which is a FP (fixed price) business). Some estimates put eBay’s GMV from FP and BIN in CORE at 35% so if we just look at where the growth in eBay’s business is coming from, it's not auctions. Meg Whitman recently said during the Q&A section of eBay 3rd Q earnings call; you're going to see a higher percentage of our GMV in fixed-price. I think it's the fastest-growing part of the market.
eCommerce in the US (excluding auctions) on the other hand grew 23% from a much larger base $23.05 billion than eBay’s $6.1 billion. Heck, Amazon’s Y/Y GMV, admittedly from a much smaller base, grew by 42% according to Amazon’s 3Q earnings call; In the North America segment, revenue grew 42% to $1.79 billion. This is the highest growth rate in seven years. So it appears that ecommerce continues to grow unabated while eBay continues to just muddle through. If Fixed Price is the fastest-growing part of the market as Meg said then wouldn't you think that management would concentrate on that type of product rather than coming out with a "Shop Victoriously" campaign or "Windorphins"? Auctions have lost their mojo.
It is clear to me that eBay has bet on the wrong horse. Auctions are eBay’s mature business while Fixed Price is where their future growth will come from. Management needs to champion Fixed Price and Stores in CORE while managing the auction business as a mature business. There needs to be a complete shift in thinking.
It is not all doom and gloom. Half the battle with change is admitting that the old way doesn’t work any longer. Maybe there is a 12-step program for eBay management. If eBay will admit auctions are no longer the Holy Grail, eBay is uniquely suited to begin growing as fast as ecommerce. Most Sellers don’t want to leave eBay but they are being forced to look at multi-channel selling to save their businesses just help them sell product and they won't even complain about fees. Multi-channel selling will not go away, that train left the station a couple of years ago but if eBay embraces their sellers and changes their focus the future can be bright again.
In some ways they are already addressing some of these issues. The new “finding” should help eBay add Store items back to CORE without hurting the “buyer experience” (hopefully this is their intention) and the new semi-persistent BIN will help drive up ASP’s and conversions.
Auctions have their place but the growth is in Fixed Price.
Just my 5 cents!