CMO interview: Building the brand customer proposition at eBay

Recently installed marketing chief and former AMEX customer and consumer marketer, Julie Nestor, shares her views on brand building, consumer insights and Australia's retail landscape

Julie Nestor
Julie Nestor

The Amazon effect

With Amazon’s entrance into the Australian market last December, eBay is arguably on a burning platform to address a major new competitor challenging the status quo. Nestor says one benefit of Amazon’s arrival is more online purchasing broadly, and recent research from agency player, Mindshare, into the Amazon effect certainly indicates this is the case.

She says eBay is also confident of holding its market position in certain areas, one of which is its longevity in the local market. “We’ve been here 19 years and brought small businesses into ecommerce, and there’s a lot of love and heart for our brand locally,” she says. “There are some fundamentals of our brand we need to dial up more to reflect that.  

“EBay is still a beautiful place for the quirky and long-tail item you’re searching for, but it should be a place you think about for everything. Leading into Christmas, I really want to try and get that message across in a new brand campaign. It should be a one-stop shop. “

Retaining long-term success has been be about being aware of what the consumer barriers are to thinking about eBay, Nestor adds. “If people don’t know we sell new product or that we have 80 of the top 100 retailers and a money-back guarantee and best-price promise, why wouldn’t they go to Amazon?

“We’re not changing everything, because a lot of what we do is working very effectively and we have continued to stay in that number one position. And we feel very confident with increased delivery propositions and moving towards a more customer-centric proposition, that we will stay there. But we need to be clear as a brand on what we are and what we have.”

This won’t stop eBay being at the forefront of innovation, and Nestor points to the recent launch of its voice-based interaction partnership with Google. The next step is full end-to-end commerce experiences via voice.

“But also the years of 2018 and 2019 are getting that core shopping experience as good as we can make it, and fixing the problems customers are asking us to fix,” she says. 

CMO tenure

Having built up 20 years’ experience in marketing, Nestor has certainly seen the role, remit and reputation change over her career.

It was while at retail-based agency, Ideaworks, that she worked on Westfield’s direct marketing efforts and gained her first taste of data-driven marketing. From there, Nestor went to Saatchi to work on NRMA’s loyalty program, followed by George Patterson, working for Douglas Nicol on Optus. This led her to a role within Optus as customer retention manager, where Nestor spent five years in various marketing roles as well as an operations role working on large-scale capital projects.

Most recently, Nestor completed a 13-year stint at AMEX, initially in customer management, followed by a series of positions across Australia and Asia covering marketing, partnerships and general management running the financial services provider’s Asian insurance business. A highlight was working on the David Jones/AMEX joint venture, the first retail co-brand AMEX had done globally. Returning to Australia, Nestor spent the last four years as the consumer marketing CMO, sitting on Amex’s Australian leadership team.

Nestor suggests marketing’s strategic input is somewhat dependent on the organisation’s focus, with customer-centred organisations more highly valuing marketing and all it brings. At eBay, she sees a business in transition.

“In terms of marketing changing more broadly, it’s relentless the pace and knowledge marketers need to have now across so many different elements – you’re expected to be fluent in financials, need to know everything about the customer and prospect, you need to know about media, digital – it’s really intense,” she comments.

A further pressure point is short-term expectations CEOs often have of CMOs. Nestor agrees the buck often stops with the CMO to deliver results. The interviewing process is therefore critical in discovering any such unaligned expectations, she claims.

“I had the right experience to make it happen at eBay but I also needed to manage expectations as well,” Nestor says of eBay’s CEO, Tim MacKinnon. “Tim is centred in data; I believe as much in the art as science. If we both hadn’t gone deep during the interview process to ensure our views aligned, it could have been quite disheartening.”

Nevertheless, Nestor recognises the pressure CMOs feel they to make a big mark really early in their tenure.

“My first six months have been focused on building the relationships necessary for me to influence people over time and to understand a really complicated business and build a good team. This is basic but important stuff for any leadership position,” Nestor says.

In the face of such change, resilience has to be the top attribute CMOs must possess to stick it out, Nestor says. Inspiration an important trait, too.

“People think CMOs are fortune tellers half the time. You have to be competent and be able to inspire a team and lead them in the right direction,” she says.  

Finally, Nestor’ third CMO attribute is “scrappiness”. “Not being too wedded to everything and being able to react and be scrappy is really important.”  

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