How eBay Fashion is maintaining relevance in a crowded e-commerce space

Though Amazon and Walmart are quickly emerging as retail’s dubious duopoly, eBay is continuing to assert itself as a fashion destination after 20 years of selling products on its e-commerce platform.

While eBay is most commonly known as a resale site — a place to wage bidding wars over a pre-owned stereo set or “mint condition” iPod — the platform has also helped figures like Sophia Amoruso make a name in the fashion industry. Amoruso, founder of the now defunct Nasty Gal, found her footing by flipping vintage products on her eBay store, paving the way for her erstwhile fashion company, which in its heyday raked in $300 million annually.

Now eBay wants to remind consumers that it’s more than an online auctioning site — it’s also a platform for finding luxury products. Despite its reputation for thrift, 81 percent of items on eBay are new and 87 percent are available to buy immediately, at a fixed price, no bidding required, according to Jill Ramsey, vp of soft goods at eBay. What’s more, a pair of women’s shoes is purchased every eight seconds on the site; a handbag, every 13 seconds.

The platform has also become the destination for finding and purchasing limited-edition resale items, particularly exclusive collaborations like Victoria Beckham’s highly anticipated line for Target, which launched last month. In the U.K., all 150 styles sold out both in stores and online within a few hours, prompting empty-handed Beckham fans to shell out upwards of four times the original price for a product on eBay. H&M’s partnerships with Balmain and Isabel Marant have sparked similar frenzies.

“Oftentimes, eBay is the only place to find must-have items that are sold out everywhere else, from Yeezy sneakers to a Mansur Gavriel handbag,” said Ramsey.

However, much like Amazon Fashion, wooing luxury consumers to buy high-end products on the same site where shoppers also purchase toiletries like deodorant and toothpaste is difficult. A major challenge is that these sites don’t provide a particularly alluring aesthetic that lends itself to fashion, Nathalie Huni, creative director at Huge, told Glossy in a previous story. “It just feels very dry. There should be an editorial point of view,” she said.

eBay has taken a stab at storytelling, with its eBay Style Stories blog, where contributing writers share content about emerging trends and styles that include shoppable links to products on the site. Recent posts shared festival styles in honor of Coachella, ways to incorporate fishnets into daily style and a recurring feature called “Shoe of the Week.”

Regardless of its foray into editorial content, Jason Goldberg, vp of commerce and content at SapientRazorfish, echoed Huni and said its weak user experience and poor search functionality make it a difficult place to lure shoppers.

“eBay is certainly losing ground, particularly with mass produced new merchandise, and considering the marketplace is a two-horse race between Walmart and Amazon,” he said. “What eBay has really struggled with in comparison to other platforms is it can be very difficult to find items and create a great customer experience.”

Goldberg said eBay has, however, maintained its edge in resale content, though as a result, that has lessened its status as a possible competitor of Amazon.

“eBay is one of the few remaining places to sell previously owned goods,” he said. “Though Amazon has some support for that, eBay is still the marketplace for one-of-a-kind items. In some ways, eBay has devolved from a true competitor of Amazon to a true competitor of Etsy.”

In an effort to amp up its luxury resale offerings, eBay enhanced its authentication protocols to model luxury resale startups like Vestiaire Collective, The RealReal and ThredUp. Earlier this year the company launched eBay Authenticate, a team of professional authenticators that inspect items to ensure they aren’t counterfeit.

Sellers can also opt in to access the program for a fee, and in turn receive a seal approval before offering items to the market. The program began with handbags and will expand to other products in an attempt “to boost consumer confidence in making higher-end transactions,” said Ramsey. If for any reason the team discovers an item is in fact counterfeit, eBay refunds two times the original purchase price, an attempt to increase the ease of spending.

Photo courtesy of eBay Fashion. 

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