eBay CEO John Donahoe and marketplaces president Lorrie Norrington laid out their case for why they've made the changes they did, and spelled out new changes they thought would help both buyers and sellers, at the eBay Live Keyhote 2008.
A few people I talked to said there was a resigned feeling in the air among sellers, and not as much energy in general. The crowd clapped at the appropriate places, if not overwhelmingly, and in general the execs struck a positive note with emphasis on how sellers do a good job, and the variety of items that can be found on the site.
There was, however, one moment of booing from the crowd, when Norrington talked about the feedback changes. As one of the sellers I talked to said, "that was a first" for an eBay Live Keynote, and I believe that's true.
Other sellers said they were relieved people held to a sense of decorum and that things didn't get crazy..they said they had been worried people would flare up more.
However, it was clear Donahoe and Norrington were trying to emphasize the positive efforts being made for sellers, including, what I thought very hopeful, an indication that they were "looking at a new feedback withdrawal system" [great clapping] and they hoped to address it by the holidays.
The event started out with the annual ritual of asking the audience to all stand, and then progressively sit down as they went through higher and higher feedback numbers. By the time they got to 100,000 feedbacks and above, only a handful of sellers were still standing.
"We're doing a lot to try to strengthen the future of eBay" said Donahoe, and that they knew sellers had been asked to "absorb many changes."
John Donahoe on the big screen.
I thought Donahoe did a good job of humanizing himself. He came off as more natural and funny than as I had an image of him or as I remember from hearing him on webcasts, at last year's Live, etc.
He said he wanted people to get to know him better, and talked about his childhood right here in Chicago, and that his parents (who were in the audience) had instilled good values in him.
What I thought was really wonderful and funny was that he showed pictures of himself as a young seller (he quipped that he had yet to be busted by Trust & Safety).
To do penance, he said, he spent some time as an altar boy. (That's the young John as seller in the far left photo).
Here is a pic of him as a teen -- he quipped he wasn't wearing the same pants today; he couldn't fit into them (and they don't match the couch anymore):
He said buyers want a great deal, and fast, easy experience. Sellers want buyers that keep coming back, a platform that can meet your needs; competitive pricing and more predictability.
He said he heard many stories from sellers about how other sellers were bending or breaking the rules, ruining it for everyone, and eBay should reward the good sellers.
Also they wanted a reduction in up-front fees and "better align your success with my success."
Last year $60 billion of goods was sold on eBay, and he said "we will always do what's on the collective good of the marketplace."
He thanked sellers at the end and introduced Lorrie Norrington.
Norrington opened with a video that showed Elizabeth Bennett, of Africa Direct, who sells African beads, art, and other objects.
Continued in second blog post.