2008 was a big year for eBay.
John Donohue replaced Meg Whitman as CEO, with a remit to extend the company's reach beyond its stagnating auctions business and reinvent it as a full-service e-commerce operation.
It was also the year eBay started encouraging its international subsidiaries to play a major role in the company's development (which were previously centralised in the US). And, like everyone else, eBay started absorbing the impact of Apple's App Store which opened in June.
With such big plans, 2008 became a big year for us too.
Designing fashion retail for the future
We started work on retail and mobile projects at the heart of the company's new strategy. eBay wanted to use its four strongest verticals — automotive, fashion, electronics and gaming – as the building blocks to diversifying beyond auctions. The aim was to leverage eBay's technology to build a retail platform that attracts established high street to mid-market retailers and aspirational brands. To kick off proceedings, we built the user experience for eBay's fashion business.
What are the basic tools you need to sell clothes? What do users search for? What visual information do they need? Should skirts and tops be displayed together? How should eBay provide sizing information? We tackled these questions and more as part of the comprehensive e-commerce rethink.
Our findings have manifested changes to eBay's site from 2009 onwards. As Dan Morris, one of our managing partners, notes, “we've been involved with their fashion business since 2009. We've worked on many offshoots of that original project.”
“ eBay use us for projects of all scales because we understand their needs and we're not just a UX house, not just a tech agency. We're both.”
Dan Morris, Managing Partner
Improving the experience for buyers and sellers
Our successes for eBay also include Carts, a multi-year project that enables retailers to extend their reach through 3rd-party e-commerce applications and sell through eBay just as easily as their own website. Our solution helps retailers smoothly integrate their workflow into eBay through smart attribute mapping. Carts is just the latest chapter in eBay's ongoing transformation into a retail powerhouse.
Since 2009 we've been involved with eBay Anywhere. Initially we integrated the company's native apps and browser extensions, and normalised the Daily Deals XML feed for eBay's mobile sites and their iPhone, iPad, Android, Windows Phone and Blackberry apps. This massive global feed generates around 60 million unique requests every day. We're proud to still manage the Daily Deals feed and eBay Anywhere to this day.
Other projects include a Windows phone app for RedLaser, the barcode/QR scanning software and price comparison engine eBay acquired in 2010. To coincide with the launch of Windows 8 in 2012, we developed a Metro-style Windows app for eBay.com. This became one of the first apps featured in Microsoft's new Windows Store.
“Both these projects”, says Dan, “are good examples of how we work very quickly to get a product to market, but then continue to work on extending it over time.” Today, we continue to oversee development of both apps.
The recipe for long-term success
“Because of that, we tend not to work in isolation. We have a meaningful relationship with eBay's development, insights and marketing teams. eBay's advantage is scale: they're incredibly good at handling very large volumes of complex transactions. We have a deep understanding of that technology stack and eBay's APIs.”
The scale of eBay's transformation is easy to underestimate. Retail has overtaken auctions, with fixed price sales now accounting for around 70% of transactions. From a standing start in 2009, the company's apps have been downloaded 240million times, and 20% of the company's sales come via mobile. As one analyst puts it, eBay has been transformed “into a high-growth, innovative, mobile-focused technology leader.”
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