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eBay CEO Devin Wenig Emphasizes User Growth, Product Reviews, VR and More in Keynote

eBay CEO Devin Wenig Emphasizes User Growth, Product Reviews, VR and More in Keynote

EBay CEO Devin Wenig kicked off the eBay Open 2016 conference in Las Vegas yesterday with a speech that introduced himself to the eBay community in general and laid out a positive, seller-inclusive vision for the future. A few of the key areas he touched on included his desire to grow eBay at least 100,000 new customers, continuing to improve their growing stash of product reviews, and looking to the next platforms of the future; of which two he mentioned are AI and Virtual reality.

Wenig was received warmly by the sellers in the crowd, at one point with someone yelling out "I love you Devin!"  He said he'd been at the company by now a few years, and "I had seen the good, the bad, and the ugly, and I love this company. And I care deeply that eBay is going to be set up for huge future success.  And I care deeply that we win."

But he emphasized that "You can't run the company in 90-day, or even one-year increments; we are playing a game that is a long-term game."

He said that sometimes "I think a valid criticism of the business historically is that we may have been trying to be like other people, adding, "I don't want to be like anybody else.  I think our company is awesome the way it is. And actually, I want it to be more awesome."

A graphic came up behind him and he said he was showing you something every employee in eBay sees. "Our ambition is to have the world shop first on eBay.  Not second, not last resort, not when I can't find it somewhere else...But go to eBay because it is the world's greatest store."

He mentioned the new branding, which he said was "this idea that everyone gets their version of perfect."  Not everybody wants the same thing.  Some people want a brand new item in season that's shipped quickly, and some people don't.  Some people want last year's.  And some people want a white label, and some people want a manufacturer refurb.   And some people want a used version.  "And there's some of us here that sell everything I just said," he said. "And that's great, because that's somebody's version of perfect.

He went on to emphasize eBay's adding of many product reviews in the last year, and said it began with adding/ structuring product data.

"We ask you to go on this journey with us to structure our data.  The reality is that asking in 2016, asking a billion people who should be shopping on ebay, to sort through 100,000 separate iPhones to find the one that they want is a bit rough. We should do better than that," he said.  We've got to understand the products being sold, so we asked you to give us that data and we went on that journey, he added.

"People asked, people like product reviews, how come we don't have product reviews? And my answer was we don't have product reviews because we don't understand products.  And that's not an answer anybody wanted to hear, but that was the truth," he said.

"We had listings, not products.  And now, 12 months later, there are 12 million product reviews on eBay.  "And by the way, you haven't seen anything yet on product reviews; wait 'til you see what's coming."

Addressing sellers' concerns and sense of fairness with policies, Wenig said, "And I actually think we got way out of balance. And I listened to sellers who said you know, you're jamming policies down our throats that we cannot live with. We cannot  rely on those policies." So he said we've got to adjust this.  "We have to have policies, because buyers' standards matter. But if it's not fair to you as a seller, we lose our greatest advantage."  [And here someone called out "thank you" or such.]

Addressing his desire for new users, Wenig said, "I want 100 million new customers.   I've got 164 million active customers. What I think about is there are 4 billion people on the Internet.  Facebook has a billion." They show pictures, they don't open their wallets, I get that; he added.

But, he said, "The market is moving towards us, and  100,000 new customers "ought to be a layup"   As we move from building and emphasize acceleration, you will see us launch some new categories.

He said eBay had already launched the new category of Wine in the US. "That's pretty cool. I like to drink wine...Apparently I did drink some wine last night," he quipped.

He emphasized that eBay was going to  launch other new categories; "they are going to come really soon."

There's new, there's unique...it's the bringing together of those things..around the world, said Wenig, adding, "We are going to build the world's best comparison shopping experience.  This ability to show choice, spectrum...to simplify the billion items that are now for sale on eBay and make it consumable by the next 100 million is something I'm really excited about."

He did say you will see product reviews "evolve quickly to something you won't see anywhere else on any other ecommerce site. Stay tuned for that."

He said you will see eBay tell more stories about unique items, and "by the way, I want you to tell more stories."

Wenig also touched on eBay's plans for social media and its Seller Hub.

"We're the most aggressive commerce company pushing out into social," he said. "I want to meet them there. I want your inventory and eBay's inventory to be showing up in these places.

[A graphic showed "eBay everywhere," with the logos for Facebook, Snapchat, Pihterest and Instagram. ]

"We have big plans for Seller Hub.  This should be the way you really get insight into your business and manage your inventory.

Lastly, he touched on the future and the next big technology platforms eBay was looking into.  "There are a couple more platforms that are going to be really important," he said.  AI [artificial intelligence] is coming, it's going to be important.  The ability to take big data sets and create a highly personal experience is going to be the future of commerce. We're going to make big bets on it," he said.

So is the Internet of Everywhere, he said.  There are going to be a trillion devices connected in the cloud. Those two are going to be commerce touchmarks. "eBay should be everywhere, and be in those connected places."

And finally, virtual and assisted reality.   "I sat down with StubHub and built a virtual reality view from your seat," he said.  Ninety days later, 20% of all tickets sold use that app --  one out of every 5 tickets, he said.  People strapped on headgear "to get that inside view before they bought tickets."

Wenig assured the crowd that eBay will be there, eBay will be a leader, and "we will be your partner in taking you into that new order."