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STUDY: eBay celebrates 15th UK anniversary

By Retail Technology | Tuesday August 26 2014

The online marketplace giant celebrates 15 years of e-commerce activities, hitting three billion sales worth £65bn

1999 was the year that Posh and Becks tied the knot, the year the euro made its currency debut and when one in five UK homes surfed the net to the tune of dial-up. It was also the year that eBay arrived in the UK.
The first item sold on was a three track CD from German rock outfit, The Scorpions, going for the princely sum of £2.89. Today, over 200,000 businesses large and small sell on eBay in the UK and over 140 UK brands and retailers can be found on eBay.

Evolution of e-commerce

The evolution of eBay illustrates the rise of e-commerce in the UK. Up until 2007 online accounted for less than 4% of all retail sales. Today, the amount spent online accounts for 11% of all retail spending.

In 2008, eBay launched the first e-commerce apps on iTunes at a time when online shopping was starting to make a big impact. By 2010, more Brits were shopping through the eBay mobile app than any other country in Europe. In the UK an item is bought every second via the eBay app

Going mobile
Mobile sales tripled to nearly £1.2bn that year and accounted for 10% of all purchases on eBay by 2011. Today, 34% of all e-retail sales (not just on eBay) are through a mobile device, with mobile also driving 43% of all retail site traffic. It’s understood that 9pm is the peak time for tablet shopping

“Shoppers expectations have changed dramatically in recent years,” explained Tanya Lawler, vice president of eBay in the UK. “Now on eBay in the UK a pair of shoes sells every 10 seconds, a handbag every 23 seconds and a tablet every two minutes via mobile.”

“The best retailers have adapted to keep pace and today, more than 140 UK brands and retailers – from fashion to homeware, toys to electricals - are using eBay as part of their omnichannel approach to ensure customers can shop anytime, anywhere on any connected device,” she added.

From auction site to retail powerhouse

In 2009, 170 of the 123,000 British businesses trading on eBay in the UK hit the landmark £1m a year turnover through eBay sales alone.
This growth of SME sellers was a catalyst in eBay reaching a tipping point in 2010 when buy-it-now sales overtook auctions for the first time - accounting for almost two thirds of listings - and over 100 big high street brands could now be found on eBay.
Sellers without borders

The strong contribution of SMEs to the UK’s e-commerce sector continued in 2010 as eBay’s small business sellers bucked the economic downturn by clocking up £446m in export sales - an increase of 128% since 2007 compared to a 20.5% increase in exports in the wider economy over the same period.
Today, 81% of small businesses operating on eBay in the UK sell internationally to four or more countries.
Back to the high street

In 2013, eBay and Argos launched a Click & Collect trial with 50 eBay retailers and Argos stores nationwide. Following the trial, the two brands announced the roll out of the scheme to 65,000 sellers across 650 Argos stores by the end of 2014
Last year 79% of people in the UK used a click and collect service and 40% of Christmas shoppers used clicked and collected their festive gifts5.
“The UK will spend an unprecedented £45 billion shopping online this year and the evolution of eBay over the past 15 years is a good illustration of the transformation of the nation’s retail sector,” said Lawler.

Adopting graph database technology

In March of 2014, eBay announced it was using Neo4j to speed, streamline and improve its same day delivery service to end customers globally.

The technology plays a role in eBay’s vision to redefine local commerce, as approximately 75% of commerce happens within 15 miles of the consumer’s home.  While e-commerce is quick and convenient, delivery is not. But eBay believes the advent of same day delivery will disrupt the local shopping experience. 

“We found Neo4j to be literally thousands of times faster than our prior MySQL solution, with queries that require 10-100 times less code. Today, Neo4j provides eBay with functionality that was previously impossible,” said Volker Pacher, senior developer at eBay.
Security concerns

Earlier this year, eBay began asking its users to change their passwords because of a cyber attack that compromised a database containing encrypted passwords and other non-financial data.

The company issued a statement in May 2014 saying that it was requesting users change their passwords as "best practice" to help enhance security for eBay users," even though "it has no evidence of the compromise resulting in unauthorised activity for eBay users".

It added that, after conducting extensive tests on its networks, it found no evidence of any unauthorised access to financial or credit card information, which is stored separately in encrypted formats. 

The statement added that cyber attackers had compromised a small number of employee log-in credentials, allowing unauthorised access to eBay's corporate network. "Working with law enforcement and leading security experts, the company is aggressively investigating the matter and applying the best forensics tools and practices to protect customers," it said.

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