October 9, 2012, 1:02 PM

Thumb-only: That should be your spec for mobile

That means a consumer can buy while walking through her office.

Lead Photo

It takes an average of 46 seconds for an eBay Inc. marketplace seller to list an item for sale via her mobile device, and she can do it with a few taps and swipes of her thumb. It’s something she can do while sitting at a stoplight or while walking in between meetings at the office, said Steve Yankovich, vice president of mobile for eBay, during his keynote address at Internet Retailer’s Mobile Marketing & Commerce Forum in San Diego. Satisfying sellers in these in-between times has contributed to shoppers listing more than 100 million products for sale on eBay via mobile.

Yankovich this morning detailed insights culled from the mountains of data eBay collects from consumer interactions with its sites and apps, and explained eBay’s approach to mobile. It’s a blend of experimentation and refinement, with the goal of making interactions easier for consumers, he said. “Mobile is a platform where you have to experiment and be willing to fail and reset and makes huge shifts in what you do,” he said. He advised doing things fast, even if that means something isn’t perfect from day one.

Yankovich pointed to eBay’s Watch with eBay mobile app, which lets consumers shop for products related to what they are watching on TV in real time. The consumer, via the app, tells eBay what he is watching and eBay shows him related products. Yankovich said eBay could have included an audio fingerprint within the app that would use scan the TV’s audio and match it to a program, but that would have taken months to do. “Our approach is not to do it all, you’ve got to crawl, then walk, then run,” he said.

He said eBay data negates the argument that sales made via mobile devices come at the expense of other channels, such as stores or web sites. For eBay at least, Yankovich said that mobile is a customer acquisition channel. “We turned on a million customers through mobile who had gone dormant for over a year,” he said. He also said eBay added nearly a million new eBay users as a result of existing customers spreading the word about eBay's mobile apps to their friends. This kind of data has helped keep eBay all-in on mobile, but Yankovich warned against relying only on data to drive decision-making. “You have to innovate in front of the data, too,” he said. “It’s not about looking only at what’s already happened.”

He says the future of eBay and mobile is to continue to find ways to satisfy the shopping needs of consumers as they go about their daily lives, and not only via the web. EBay’s making a big push to drive consumers to physical stores and is working with retailers like Best Buy to improve the experience consumers have in stores. He envisions a day, sometime soon, where a consumer will be able to request help from a store clerk via a mobile app and have a clerk with an answer find him in the store, and recognize the shopper from the photo on his Facebook page. “Our idea is not just to be online,” he said. “EBay is not about just e-commerce anymore. We want to connect hundreds of millions of consumers to stores.”

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