eBay Reorganizes Its Mobile Group and Releases New Apps

With a reorganization of its mobile team complete, eBay released a number of updates to its iPhone and iPad apps today.

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When the company posts its Q4 results next week, we’ll know exactly how much mobile contributed to eBay’s revenue in 2012, but based on the new moves, it’s clear the online shopping giant is preparing for another banner year for mobile.

As part of the reorganization, which took place at the end of last year, mobile is now reporting into the company’s main marketplace division, rather than being a standalone product group.

The restructuring is similar to moves that other companies are making now that smartphones and tablets are becoming a main part of the user experience, and not just a second or third screen.

Steve Yankovich, eBay’s former VP of mobile and main spokesperson on the subject, has been appointed VP of innovation and new ventures. In his new role, he will focus on the company’s Red Laser application, which allows users to find product information by scanning a bar code. He is also working on developing new mobile experiences.

Additionally, Kevin Hurst, who was previously VP of product management at eBay Mobile, is now VP of mobile products. Instead of reporting to Yankovich, as he previously did, Hurst is now reporting to Dane Glasgow, the VP who heads up the company’s marketplace division.

Hurst will be based out of Portland, Ore., where eBay operates an office with 100-plus employees focused on mobile.

In an interview with AllThingsD, Hurst said it’s clear “we’ve gone through our incubation phase. We are pretty much going mainstream [with mobile].”

I’ve written about eBay’s mobile momentum before, mostly because it’s impressive. As of the end of September 2012, its apps had been downloaded 100 million times, and users have listed 100 million items to its marketplace using the app. It also forecast mobile revenue to hit $10 billion in 2012. Based on that estimate, I’ve calculated that mobile will make up about 16 percent of its total revenue.

That’s roughly double the percentage I reported last week based on one analyst’s recent estimate for Amazon’s mobile revenue.

The new apps being released today on iPhone and iPad are designed to decrease friction for both buyers and sellers in the marketplace.

For example, shoppers will find that the search bar now features auto-complete to anticipate what they are typing. The apps also provide an improved check-out experience, by allowing guests to make purchases without registering for an eBay or PayPal account, which was required in the past.

“It was a huge hurdle,” Hurst admits. “We’ll be working in 2013 on reducing that friction more.”

Selling has also become easier for those who like using their camera phone to take pictures of the item they are selling.

Now when listing items from the iPhone or iPad app, eBay will complete many of the fields for the user, especially in electronics, which have common characteristics. For instance, when attempting to sell a Kindle Fire, the app automatically fills in all the tablet’s specifications and provides a standard photo. It even makes suggestions for a sale price based on eBay’s current inventory.

Posting an item could literally take just a couple of minutes.

Additionally, the listing process can be started on the mobile phone and completed later on the tablet or PC.

“It’s very common for people to use their iPhones to access eBay and then later on iPads and then the PC. This multi-device world allows people to switch from one device to the other,” Hurst said.

Currently, eBay does not allow users to list items on eBay through the mobile browser because of technical limitations, like lack of access to the phone’s camera from inside the browser. “For the foreseeable future, we won’t offer it on the mobile Web,” Hurst said. “When it’s ready, we’ll add that.”

Both the iPad and iPhone apps are free and are available in iTunes. The Android application has already been updated with some of the new features, but a fully functional version will be available soon.


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