CMO50 #11: Steven Brennen, EBay Australia

  • Name Steve Brennen
  • Title Senior director marketing and retail innovation
  • Company eBay Australia
  • Commenced role
  • Reporting Line CEO
  • Member of the Executive Team Yes
  • Marketing Function 35 staff, 5 direct reports
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    Steve Brennen is the senior director of marketing and retail innovation at eBay Australia, and is responsible for defining the online marketplace’s marketing and advertising strategy as well as leading all marketing activity across the business. He has been tasked with the challenge of changing consumer perception of eBay to mirror the site’s new direction and service offering – new products from leading Australian and International retailers.

    He boasts of nearly 20 years of marketing and sales management experience gained across the telecommunications, financial services and logistics industries, with a particular focus on digital commerce. Prior to joining eBay, Brennen spent four years with digital payments company, PayPal, and more than a decade with Virgin Mobile in the UK and Australia.

    Brennen is also chair of ADMA, and passionate about data-driven marketing and the role it plays in helping Australian businesses of all sizes drive growth, build customer advocacy, and develop stronger brands in a digital world.

    Empowered and long-term thinking

    Repositioning the eBay brand is the main focus for the marketing team over the next 1-2 years.

    “We are moving from the best place for second-hand goods to Australia’s favourite place to buy absolutely anything online, from new branded products from leading retailers to all of the unique offerings that made Australians fall in love with eBay in the first place,” Brennen says.

    “At the same time, we will continue to improve customer engagement leveraging data and insights to deliver personalisation, inspiration and relevance at scale - basically connecting the right customer with the right product at the right time, on and off our platform.”

    Top marketing attributes

    For Brennen, being a CMO requires a never-ending curiosity about people and the broader world around them; an ability to lead and build great teams; and a healthy respect for data and machines, especially in the online space.

    “But we should never underestimate the importance of finding ways to form relationships or create touchpoints with our customers in the real world too,” he says.

    Driving innovation

    According to Brennen, innovation is about “delivering products or solutions that are so perfect you almost can’t believe you have managed to live a whole lifetime without them”.

    “These perfect products or solutions are created more often than not when businesses or individuals take focused risks that are informed by an exceptionally intimate understanding of their customer or community,” he comments.

    From the CMO50 submission

    Business contribution and innovation

    One of the recent initiatives Brennen has contributed to within the wide eBay business is around helping reinvent the way Australians shop – digitally and physically. In February 2015, the online seller launched a strategic partnership with Woolworths, which allows consumers to buy from 1000s of sellers on eBay and then pick up items in Woolworths or Big W stores across Australia.

    Brennen pointed to industry research, which revealed one in five online shoppers in Australia buys online at least once a week, yet almost half (47 per cent) are not permitted to receive personal deliveries at work. A quarter (23 per cent) have taken holiday or worked from home, in order to receive an online delivery. Half (49 per cent) re-direct personal online deliveries because they are at work.

    “With this in mind, eBay and Woolworths launched a partnership to provide the most convenient delivery network for online shopping in Australia, giving consumers the chance to buy on eBay and choose a local Woolworths or Big W collection point to pick up their parcel,” he explained in his CMO50 submission.

    Today, more than 4000 eBay sellers are offering the service and collection is available at Woolworths and Big W stores in Sydney, Melbourne and Tasmania, capturing more than 60 per cent of the eBay buyer community.

    “Consumer take-up has been strong and feedback from eBay sellers and Woolworths stores has been extremely positive with further launches targeting major metro areas expected before the end of this year,” Brennen said .

    Brennen’s role was to be initially responsible for the go-to-market planning and execution. He’s also the business executive sponsor responsible for overall partnership and national rollout and scaling of the program.

    Modern marketing and customer engagement

    Another area of focus for eBay is disrupting itself and re-positioning the business as the go-to retailer for all consumers as the worlds of online and offline rapidly blur.

    “We need to get customers to reconsider eBay and move brand perception from the best place for second-hand goods to the best place to buy new products - basically a one-stop shop for online purchases,” Brennen said in his submission.

    Initiatives to achieve this have included acquiring and on-boarding 35 of Australia’s top 50 retailers to boost product selection, and a multi-year, integrated brand campaign focusing on eBay’s key value proposition of selection and value.

    Brennen has also been working on the company’s CRM capabilities in order to leverage real-time data to drive relevant channel messages and personalisation.

    Recent data shows consumers are embracing the new eBay, with 88 per cent of all goods sold on eBay now being brand new. Brand perception measures have also risen by 45 per cent in last two years and recently eBay jumped from fifth to second place in the IPSOS most influential brand in Australia, behind Google and ahead of Facebook, Microsoft and Woolworths.

    Data and/or technology driven approach

    One of the ways Brennen looked to improve eBay’s use of data for customer engagement and growth was work on delving into eBay customer shopping data. The online group had seen a shift in consumer behaviour driven by increased smartphone and tablet penetration, with customers shopping in shorter bursts, later in the day and Sunday evenings.

    The goal was to complement the evolving ‘couch commerce’ trend and accelerate mobile penetration, Brennen said in his CMO50 submission. Activities included an integrated nine-month campaign called ‘Big Sundays - find out why Sundays are eBay’s biggest day of the week’, with all media targeted by time of day and day of the week to maximise cut-through. Five-minute ‘Mega Deals’ were also launched on Sunday evenings to entice consumer sales.

    Brennen said the hand-picked products were leaked early via Facebook and the campaign targeted second-screen mobile and tablet shoppers. Since then,. eBay mobile penetration has continued to rise and nowmore than 60 per cent of all traffic.


    As an example of creativity’s role at eBay, Brennen pointed to work around the end-of-financial year to encourage new product sales on its site.

    To do this, eBay launched the ‘eBay Hump Month Sale’ celebrating the fact that June was halfway through the year. Creative included an original music video featuring an interactive ‘soul man’ character, who then interacted with fans on Facebook.

    The work saw eBay Australia achieve its biggest month of sales in 16 years, exceeding sales target by 14 per cent. The group also saw the average value of user shopping carts up 1220 per cent. The Hump Month digital video has more than 8 million views to date and 1.9 million social interactions.

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