September 23, 2009, 12:00 AM

eBay makes management changes as it plans to focus more on technology

EBay this week announced a major management change and two new initiatives that will place more focus on technology. The moves are an effort by eBay to improve the platform and customer experience on the marketplace, one expert says.

EBay this week announced a major management change and two new initiatives that will place more focus on technology. The moves are an effort by eBay to improve the platform and customer experience on the marketplace, one expert says.

The initiatives were revealed in conjunction with the announcement of the departure of Stephanie Tilenius, head of global product and North America for eBay. Tilenius is leaving the company after nine years to pursue her ambition to become a corporate CEO, eBay says. EBay will not fill her position. Instead, Lorrie Norrington, president, eBay Marketplace Operations, will expand her responsibilities to cover eBay North America when Tilenius leaves.

Along with Tilenius’ resignation, eBay announced two steps related to increased investment in technology. The marketplace is launching a global product and technology team to be led by Mark Carges, senior vice president and chief technology officer. Additionally, Dinesh Lathi, vice president of North American buyer and seller experience, will lead a combined seller and buyer organization, designed to improve customer experience on eBay.

EBay would not comment further on the announcement. But Colin Sebastian, who covers e-commerce stocks as senior vice president of equity research at Lazard Capital Markets, says the moves demonstrate eBay’s strategy to improve its interface for buyers by making the site easier to use and more sophisticated, a commitment he says CEO John Donahoe made clear in his keynote address today at the Shop.org Annual Summit in Las Vegas. “EBay is thinking of itself more as a technology platform, and it’s starting to act more like a technology company by investing in areas such as search,” he says.

This is a change for eBay who over the years has been more focused on policy, such as buyer and seller ratings and feedback, rather than investing in making its web site easy to use, Sebastian says. “The user experience on eBay has not changed over the years,” he says. “EBay has not redesigned its web site and it’s fallen behind on user interface. If you look at Amazon.com or Macys.com they look cleaner. Those companies have spent more time making their web sites more attractive. Optimizing the platform is the best chance eBay has to gain ground.”

Sebastain says Donahoe highlighted eBay’s focus on improving technology in his presentation this morning, noting its plans to invest in search and mobile technology. EBay and PayPal have processed more $380 million in transactions via Apple Inc.’s iPhone in the first nine months of the year.

Scot Wingo, CEO of ChannelAdvisor, which helps merchants sell on eBay, says he’s glad eBay decided to expand other managers’ roles rather than hire more staff. “It’s good that they are looking towards making things leaner and not replacing that layer,” he says. “And, we work a lot with Dinesh Lathi and he’s been great for sellers over his tenure so it will be interesting to see if he can be successful with both buyers and sellers.”

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