eBay

There have been many so-called lockdown winners. Flour was one. For those with a new-found taste to bake, the summer shelves were bare. Barren. Puppies also saw a surge in demand, with pukka labs trading on valuation multiples that would shock even a Crufts going regular. E-commerce was another, as we all know. Indeed, it’s been a game changer. New habits have been formed that will last long after the pandemic is over. The all-knowing consultancy McKinsey & Co say three out of four people have tried a new way to shop, and more than half have decided that it’s easier to buy the dog biscuits online. And they intend to continue. In the groove of this online love-in is eBay. Until Covid landed in its lap, though, eBay had been a bit of a mess, with persistently sluggish growth metrics and a strategy that promised much, but consistently failed to deliver the goods. Indeed, even in this perfect storm, the company only managed to pick up relatively few new active buyers, something of a disappointment. Investors huffed and puffed even more. The original eBay business, selling stuff in the attic to someone else to put in their own attic, is now big but given the growth of e-commerce, should really be bigger and the failed strategy of recent years has left the shares looking cheap. In steps a new CEO, Jamie Iannone, who took office in the thick fur of April this year. Iannone’s CV is blue chip: Princeton, Stanford and Booz Allen Hamilton. Of late he was COO for e-commerce at Walmart. He’s also ex-eBay. In recent conversations, analysts have been given a strong steer on how he is going to grip the business as there is, in his eyes, a massive opportunity. It’s the reason he came back. His plan is to protect the key marketplace business, by improving the experience for both buyers and sellers, and pivot into and grow in new verticals. For buyers, think better search functionality, deeper engagement, cheaper shipping costs and package tracking. There is also a new authenticity guarantee for some high-end goods, and a warranty for refurbished goods. For sellers, it’s about simplicity. The past is just that, the past. It is why the shares are cheap. Bears may continue to grumble but listen to Iannone, there is a massive opportunity, and they may not stay cheap for long; not when demand for structural, long-term ‘e-commerce winners’ is as hot as it is.