eBay makes omni-channel retail a reality for other brands

CMO of the ecommerce giant's Enterprise division reveals how it's helping other retailers to bring online and offline shopper experiences together

Chief marketing officer and vice-president for eBay Enterprise, Mark Kirschner
Chief marketing officer and vice-president for eBay Enterprise, Mark Kirschner

While many Australians know eBay as an ecommerce powerhouse, fewer know that the company also supplies the technology powering many other online retail experiences – and increasingly, a number of offline experiences as well.

Chief marketing officer and vice-president for eBay Enterprise, Mark Kirschner, oversees a division running ecommerce for many of the world’s largest brands and retailers including Nike and Converse, and local players, Dick Smith and Harvey Norman.

“What’s unique and different is the product,” Kirschner tells CMO. “We have incredible amounts of expertise across not only in how to run a Web store and optimise it, but all of the middleware too. So order management, store-based fulfilment, as well as the back-end operations of shipping, logistics and customer service.

“We wrap it all with marketing solutions that are all about acquisition and retention of new and existing customers.”

Nestled amid that capability is Magento, the open source ecommerce platform estimated to be used by 30 per cent of the world’s online retailers – and in as many as 50 per cent of online retailers in Australia. Magento was acquired by eBay in 2011.

While many of eBay Enterprise’s clients sell through the eBay marketplace, Kirschner says his business also helps them sell goods through other markets. At the same time, his group will also integrate clients running systems such as Hybris.

“Everybody competes, everybody cooperates – it’s the Internet,” Kirschner says.

Harvey Norman finds value in omni-channel retailing

Perhaps most intriguing, however, is the work eBay Enterprise is doing in offline environments, such as for the New York concept store opened by women’s fashion designer, Rebecca Minkoff, in November.

The store features a 122-inch touchscreen display showing recent runway shows. Shoppers are notified that a fitting room is available via a smartphone app, which they can also use to call sales staff for assistance, or even control the lighting in the fitting room to deliver their preferred look.

“The whole store is RFID enabled, so if you take something into the fitting room, the fitting room mirrors light up and show you different options or configurations of that item with other outfits,” Kirschner explains.

“The online and offline experiences are merging. Creating those connections from online to offline is what Magento is able to do. The reduction of friction in the brick-and-mortar shopping experience is a really interesting area for us.”

According to Kirschner, it is becoming more common to find managers within his clients with a dedicated omni-channel role that can join the dots between online and offline retail.

“This is a transformation moment, and the likelihood is that in very short order the term ‘online’ is going to go away,” he says. “It is just not going to feel that separated, because they are coming together so quickly. “

The connection to eBay’s retail operation also gives eBay Enterprise a unique insight into shopper buying behaviour, which it is distilling to help its clients make better decisions about what to put in front of customers. This culminated in the launch of the Commerce Marketing Platform earlier this year, combining commerce and analytics.

“We’ve created a platform that connects all of your addressable media with a DMP [data management platform] that allows you to make real-time decisioning about where to make an offer and when, and which offer to make,” Kirschner says.

“If you are managing to margin goals and managing to sales goals, you can have the levers to make those trade-offs. You are able to leverage those insights in a very, very meaningful way.”

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