A very kind reader (I’ll buy the drinks next time) has forwarded me eBay’s recent analyst day presentation (from earlier in the month). This reader’s comment: “The focus on search was VERY new…analysts were trying to figure out the significance.” Indeed, one of the slides declares: “eBay is Search!”
A couple of things come to mind when reviewing the slides (there were more than 300,covering the entire business, both US and int’l). First, eBay knows that the faster and more relevant they can make their internal search, the better their margins. They understand that they have a marketplace of people with very specific intents, looking for very specific things. The easier eBay can make it for folks to find what they want (whether it’s a bid, an item, or a comparison), the better their bottom line looks. Toward this end, eBay has built its own internal search engine called Voyager, which is optimized for eBay users. One of the slides in the analyst presentation boasts: “We are world class at analyzing our user base.”
Second and possibly more important is the role of search in customer acquisition. eBay has a world class IT solution in place to monitor tens of thousands of paid keywords across the web, each with its own P&L and analytics. I can’t confirm this, but I would not be surprised if eBay is Google’s largest customer, something that probably makes both companies uncomfortable, because each can analyze the other’s data and mine it for competitive edge. In the presentation eBay also notes the power of natural or algorithmic search (the “pure” results) – the company says it is revamping its entire site to optimize for natural search. Now that’s quite a statement. Again, major thanks to my source for this information.