January 27, 2016, 3:44 PM

eBay ends the year with Q4 declines in sales and revenue

The value of goods sold on eBay’s U.S. marketplace grew 3.6% in the fourth quarter over the prior year. Excluding the impact of the strong dollar, global sales grew 1% in Q4.

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The gross value of goods sold on eBay Inc.’s global marketplaces fell 1.0% to $20.68 billion in the fourth quarter that ended Dec. 31 compared with $20.88 billion in the same period a year ago, the online marketplace reported Wednesday. Excluding the impact of the strong dollar, global sales increased 1%.

In the United States, where the strong dollar does not muddy growth figures, the gross value of merchandise sold on eBay marketplaces grew 3.6% to $8.895 billion in Q4 from $8.584 billion in the same quarter a year ago. 

Net revenue for eBay’s global marketplaces fell 2.4% to $8.582 billion from $8.79 billion a year ago. Fluctuations in the value of foreign currencies affected gross merchandise value, as nearly 60% of eBay’s revenue is international, the company says. On a neutral currency basis, eBay says GMV increased 5% for the year. 

The number of active buyers—those who have made a purchase on eBay in the past year—increased 5% year over year in Q4 to 162 million from 154 million in the same period a year ago. EBay had more than 265 million transactions over the 2015 holiday shopping season, the company says.

It was eBay’s first holiday season without payments services firm PayPal, which in July spun off as a separate company. While eBay remained profitable in the fourth quarter, with net income of $477 million, that decline from $1.023 billion in the fourth quarter of 2014 reflects the loss of its highly profitable PayPal unit.

EBay improved the rate at which it converted traffic to active buyers, Devin Wenig, eBay’s president and CEO, said on an earnings call with investors. The addition of product reviews and search result pages that are “more elegant and easier to navigate” are improving conversion rates, Wenig says. The company did not specify conversion rates on its marketplaces.

“We delivered solid fourth quarter results and continued to make progress against our key priorities," Wenig says. “The quarter also marked the end of an extraordinary year during which we completed the spinoff of PayPal. We continue to grow our business and customer base while executing our plan to reposition eBay for long-term success."

The company made progress towards its goal of having sellers define their products using structured data, which makes it easier for eBay to show relevant search results on its marketplaces. 37% of items listed on eBay in Q4 conformed to eBay’s structured data rules, up from 28% in Q3. “EBay’s structured data, or product pages, drove a 20x increase in user-generated product reviews, which should help improve discoverability and conversion long term,” Colin Sebastian, analyst at Robert W. Baird & Co., wrote in a note to investors.

Another key focus for eBay is making it easier for consumers to shop on mobile devices, Wenig said.  The value of purchases from smartphones and tablets grew 21% in Q4 year over year. “We’re aggressively iterating it to enhance the user experience and to drive adoption and usage, and our new platform is enabling us to get new releases in front of our users more rapidly and efficiently than we have in the past,” Wenig said.

 The Q4 results suggest eBay’s U.S. sales gain of 3.6% year over year fell well short of overall holiday online sales growth in the U.S., which various companies estimate at 12-13%. That was not unexpected after ChannelAdvisor Corp., which facilitates sales on eBay and other marketplaces for its retailer clients reported its clients sales on eBay grew 4.8% in November and December, while their overall sales increased 13.3% year over year and their sales on the Amazon.com marketplace increased 16.8%.

“EBay’s core marketplace (which doesn’t include classifieds or StubHub) faces strong competition from Amazon, which is growing at a faster rate. However eBay does have a different model and the customer base does not entirely overlap with Amazon,” Sebastian wrote. “EBay also competes with Google, as its paid search business provides an alternative model for eBay sellers. Sellers on eBay can choose to either sell on eBay or set up their own sites and pay to acquire search traffic, or do both. EBay also competes with a variety of e-commerce sites.”

For the first time, eBay reported financial results for its concert and sports ticketing marketplace StubHub. In the fourth quarter, StubHub’s gross merchandise volume fell 1% year over year to $1.184 billion from $911 million. Net revenue for StubHub increased 34% to $232 million from $174 million a year ago. 

For the fourth quarter ended Dec. 31, eBay reports:

  • The value of merchandise sold worldwide on eBay, was $20.883 billion, down 1% from $20.676 billion a year earlier.
  • The value of merchandise sold in the United States on eBay marketplaces was $8.895 billion in Q4, up 3.6% from $8.584 billion in the same quarter a year ago. 
  • Net revenue for eBay marketplaces was flat year over year at $2.3 billion.
  • Net income of $477 million from $1.023 billion a year earlier.
  • EBay marketplaces had 162 million active buyers in the fourth quarter compared with 159 million in Q3 2015 and 154 million in Q4 2014.
  • In Q4, global fixed prices grew 12% year over year and auction sales declined 22% year over year.

For the 12 months ended Dec. 31, eBay reports:

  • Global GMV for eBay's marketplaces fell 1.3% to $81.7 billion from $82.8 billion in 2014. Not counting currency fluctuations, GMV grew 5% year over year, eBay says. 
  • U.S. GMV for eBay's marketplaces increased 2.6% to $33.44 billion from $32.59 billion in 2014. 
  • Net revenue for eBay’s marketplaces fell 2.4% to $8.582 billion from $8.79 billion a year ago.
  • Net income for eBay’s marketplaces grew 97% to $1.725 billion compared with $46 million a year earlier. 
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