In late 2013, eBay unveiled a new homepage design meant to surface different goods based on the interests of each individual site visitor — but it required some work on the part of the shopper.
Three-plus years later, eBay wants a do-over — one that doesn’t require visitors to do anything but browse and shop like they always do.
The new design features horizontal image carousels stacked one on top of the other. Rows are organized by items you’ve recently viewed, items you’ve added to a list of products you are “watching,” and rows set aside for products and eBay shops recommended for you by an eBay algorithm.
What you won’t see is a requirement for shoppers to “save” products or “follow” sellers that the last attempt at “personalization” necessitated.
“That was a lot to ask of a casual customer: to curate their own feed,” said Bradford Shellhammer, the one-time Fab.com co-founder who is now eBay’s head of personalization and engagement.
This latest attempt at personalization is built atop a recent initiative that organizes eBay’s vast catalogue of goods by product type rather than by individual listing. If you’re a close follower of eBay, this is what management has been referring to as its “structured data” initiative.
While recommendations and personalization seem like table stakes for a large e-commerce site today, it is absolutely crucial that eBay gets this right. That’s because the main advantages eBay has over everyone else — including Amazon — are rare items you can’t find anywhere else.
This differentiator for eBay is useless, however, if the right customer can’t easily find the right item for them — or have it appear in front of them serendipitously. Shellhammer said eBay is looking to Netflix as a model for personalization and recommendation done right. But close observers of e-commerce will see a resemblance between this layout and the one Amazon introduced two years ago, too.
The new design will spread to other parts of the website in the future, too. That’ll be key, because the majority of visits to eBay don’t start on the homepage. On Cyber Monday, for example, just 17 percent of visits in the U.S. started at the front door of the shopping site.
The desktop rollout of this redesign should reach all customers before the midway point of the year, while the mobile version will be fully launched by the end of 2017.