Thursday, June 14, 2007

eBay Shareholders Meeting Kicks off eBay Live 2007

eBay's annual shareholders meeting took place as scheduled this morning  at 8.a.m, just before the start of the eBay Live  2007 convention later in the morning. I was there with Ina Steiner of AuctionBytes and Phil Davies of TIAS, who is taking photos and video for AB at the convention.

After a very rote series of votes of four proposals including elections to the board (including Meg Whitman),  an IRC code matter, and an ESPP (employee stock purchase plan) extension, Meg Whitman got started with a presentation.

She joked it was a little early in the morning, especially for folks from the west coast (such as her), for whom it was really 5 a.m.

eBay's new mission statement is (you know you were wondering): "eBay's vision is to help people connect, discover and interact through commerce."

The three pillars of the system now are "Buy - Pay - Communicate."

Under the "Buy" umbrella, you have things like eBay, Kijiji, Marketplaatz, and Loquo. "Pay" is "PayPal." (duh). "Communicate" is "Skype."

Of course there are the stats: eBay's "large and growing" core biz:

- 37 global markets
- $1800 GMV per second
- 6.4 million daily new listings
- 80,000 API developers

If eBay were a retailer, they would be the 9th largest retailer in the world. In Q1 07, $14 billion was traded.

She acknowledged, however, there were some things they could do better. One of them was search. E.g., if you type "Madonna" currently, you can find some 60,000 listings.

That's why eBay is working on new search features, including:

- new search results
- new search landing page
- new relevancy-based listings sort - best match

Also they have some things coming to improve the shopping experience. When I heard about this one it reminded me  of the "bid  groups" you could set up with auctionsniper. the sniping service I use.

What they're doing is "bid assistance" -- "what if you bid on 3 items but you only want one?" In other words, I think, let's say you're chasing down a certain thing like an iPod and hedging your bets by bidding on multiple iPods of the model you want, but you only want to win one auction.

Feedback 2.0 - another thing they've introduced. "Feedback was one of the key innovations" said Meg and "sellers jealously guarded their feedback ratings." With 2.0, buyers can rate sellers on a number of different areas such as shipping time, etc.

Whitman said they have 70% adoption of this  -- "I think buyers find it useful." She did acknowledge she'd had some feedback from sellers that "this is an extra burden, but I think this is the right thing to do."

They plan to streamline checkout --- I think she said something like from about 15 steps to 6, but don't quote me on that.

eBay Motors 2.0: this category has the most GMV -- sellers sold over 1 million cars, mostly used. An overhaul of the experience is coming.

Trust & Safety: they're doing things like safeguarding member id's, setting limits on the numbers of the types of items that can be sold which are favored by counterfeiters. "The bad guys are becoming more sophisticated," she said.

"We're only letting a small number of luxury brands [be] sold at a time because that probably weeds out the counterfeiters," she said.

She said when you pay with PayPal you're covered up to $2000.

Other things: with eBay Express, there are new search engines and shopping cart for the convenience-oriented buyer.

eBay acquired StubHub -- they wanted to augment the ticket experience; a best in class buyer-selling experience.

Growing beyond GMV - is the leading comparison shopping engine in the US, with 60 million products.

She also touched on eBay's growing Classifieds empire, including its stake in Craigslist, Marketplaatz (in the Netherlands), Kijiji, and Loquo. These are the #1 or #2 classifieds players in about 400 cities -- "this strategy pays off over time," she said.

She wrapped things up talking more about PayPal and Skype, and Skype growth statistics like it's in 28 languages and nearly every country (not North Korea, she said, quipping "that may be a while," to laughter from the audience.

Overall it struck me as a fairly sedate, rote annual meeting, with no big surprises. Even the couple of tough questions from the audience are the kind that come up every year...a lady from Peta got up and protested eBay's continued tolerance of the sale of animals on the eBay China site-- animals who are abused horribly ("beaten, strangled, or boiled") -- yikes!  Meg said they would continue to engage in a dialogue and they did go by the laws of each country.

Another guy, with the Parents Television Council,  complained about eBay advertising on tv shows with "foul language and graphic violence." He used CSI as an example.

The unflappabe Meg gave her usual calm response -- saying they would think about it and engage in a dialogue, and she'd be interested in what other companies of their size, such as Disney,  do.

Well that's it for now. I'll post more soon.



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