eBay Leads Mobile Commerce

For the first time, more smartphones where shipped than PCs. This important milestone helps reinforce that retailers need a strong mobile commerce strategy. IDC reported that for the 4th quarter of 2010, manufacturers shipped 100.9 million devices versus 92.1 million PCs shipped.

One early adopter for the retail industry is eBay, the popular online auction and shopping site. In July 2008 they released their first mobile app and have increased investments ever since. In 2002 they bought PayPal for use with its online channel, but its becoming a force in the mobile world as well. In June 2010 they acquired RedLaser, the popular barcode scanning mobile app. Both pieces of technology enhance the mobile experience, and are available to other retailers as well.

More recently, in December 2010 they acquired Critical Path Software, the developer of their eBay, StubHub, and Shopping.com mobile applications. Taking their mobile development in-house was a clear signal that mobile commerce is important to their strategy.

eBay Mobile Apps.PNG

Pop on over the eBay Inc's mobile commerce stats page to see just how well they are doing. You can use the animated map to see where people are using the app on any given day, and you can compare sales of the different categories.

eBay's hottest category is Cars & Trucks, garnering 16.5% of the total $2B (yes, billion) in mobile sales in 2010. To understand why that category is so large, let's look at the top 10 most expensive cars sold on eBay mobile in 2010:

$240,001 Mercedes-Benz: SLR McLaren
$209,888 Lamborghini: Gallardo
$208,500 Ferrari: 430
$199,900 Lamborghini: Gallardo
$189,000 Lamborghini: Murcielago
$185,000 Ferrari: 430
$175,000 Porsche: 911
$170,000 Ferrari: 550
$160,000 Bentley: Continental, GT
$159,900 Lamborghini: Gallardo

eBay claims they sell 3-4 Ferraris on their mobile app each month. Yes, mobile commerce is not limited to small items. While I would wait to get home and fire up the PC, the current generation that has grown up with mobile phones has no issue satisfying their impulses. Dave Sikora of Digby told me he's seen people buy furniture sets, mattresses, and diamonds via their mobile phones.

I guess mobile commerce is rapidly becoming the norm.


The problem with ebay is they have long focused on technology while being behind when it comes to the customer service.

All the mobile apps in the world will not help you when customers cannot be sure the guy selling that cool gadget or is not a scammer - and if he is indeed a scammer, cannot be sure that Ebay will take care of the situation correctly.

This will continue to plague Ebay, no matter what tools they acquire. They just dont value their customer and they have never shown in the application of technology that they prioritise this in any way.

That is the difference between them and some of their succesful competitors. Amazon for example is no less focused on technology, but really has a firm grasp on the human element and leverages technology better as a result.

Posted by Sam on February 08, 2011 at 04:59 PM PST #

Sam, I can't disagree with you as I like Amazon better than eBay as well. But there's no denying that eBay (and Amazon) has a great mobile strategy and seems to be leading the pack in that regard.

Posted by David Dorf on February 08, 2011 at 10:04 PM PST #

Hi David,

I think, you are right in saying that eBay is the leader in mobile commerce. Funny enough, though, you are only taking eBay’s mobile apps for Apple, Android and other platforms into account. What do you think about the more than 65 mobile sites that eBay runs in eight different countries worldwide using the mobile publishing technology of Netbiscuits?

eBay’s position is pretty obvious: “When discussing traffic numbers on a device basis, I think it’s important to note that we’ve actively diverted millions of users from our mobile website m.ebay.com to our iPhone, Android and BlackBerry apps”, says Han-Shen Yuan, Director Platform Business Solutions and Mobile Engineering for eBay Inc. “However, despite us proactively diverting traffic, mobile web revenue growth is increasing at the same pace as our mobile app business. Therefore, it is important to have a mobile strategy that includes both mobile sites and apps.”

The quote was taken from a press release that eBay published together with Netbiscuits when they launched their new mobile site in October 2010. For the full release, please go to http://bit.ly/dR4vnC

Posted by Lars Hartkopf on February 10, 2011 at 01:41 AM PST #

Lars, great point about the mobile web.

Posted by David Dorf on February 10, 2011 at 04:22 AM PST #

I think that saying that eBay is a leader in mobile commerce and then pointing to the fact that they sell 3-4 Ferrari's a month on their mobile apps is misleading.

Surely this is evidence of a hybrid commerce strategy, ecommerce facilitated by mobile rather than the new platform - if you dig deeper I'm sure you'll find evidence of people researching for big purchases like a car on a normal deskop and then moving to the mobile app to make their bid in a location that suits them, as the time isn't something they can manipulate.

Posted by Nick Piercy on April 20, 2011 at 10:56 PM PDT #

Nick, I agree its a hybrid commerce strategy, but eBay also sold $13M of product via mobile on a single day during the 2010 holiday season. They've also had 30M downloads of their various apps, so they are clearly quite successful in this area.


Posted by David on April 20, 2011 at 11:21 PM PDT #

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