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eBay boss declares era of e-commerce is over

Consumers don’t care, it’s all just shopping

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Open Mobile Summit John Donahoe, CEO of eBay, has said that the concept of e-commerce is dead and buried, since consumers really don’t care about where they buy, so long as they get the cheapest price.

Speaking at the Open Mobile Summit in San Francisco, Donahoe said that the increasing use of mobile technology had blurred the barrier between e-commerce and regular retail to such an extent that the former term was essentially meaningless. Now consumers are walking into retail stores, and using their phones to identify better prices for goods they like, and will use either online or offline purchasing to get the price they want.

“Over the last 12-18 months we at eBay have changed our view on e-commerce,” he explained. “We’re now seeing a profound change in how consumers are behaving, and we’re going to see more changes in the next three years than we’re seen in the previous 20 in terms of shopping and payments. Mobile devices are blurring the lines between online and offline at a rate no one would have predicted.”

Retailers now face a choice, he said – they can either get on board, or face losing out on sales. High street retailers know very little about their customers unless they buy something, in comparison to companies such as Amazon which know pretty much everything, he explained. If companies fail to pick up on the information on consumer behavior that's out there, then sales will be negatively impacted.

These problems will get even more acute in the future, as social networking begins to play a much larger role in buying decisions. Social media’s potential to make or break products can’t be ignored, he said, but we're still in the early days of the medium.

“Social commerce today is where mobile commerce was three years ago, right at the starting point,” he opined. “Over the next 12-24 months we’re going to see an explosion of experimentation, and no one knows what's going to take off and what's not.”

As for eBay’s strategy, Donahoe said the company is presenting itself as a retailer-agnostic platform. Price comparison applications on the site will show a broad range of suppliers, all displayed on a level playing field with the competition. eBay will simply process the sale. ®

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