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EBay exec: We take a mobile-first approach for brands

NEW YORK – An eBay executive speaking at the 2011 Mobile Marketing Forum said mobile is a jumping-off point for the brand.

During the “Creating a Mobile Show Stopper: How Brands Deliver Mobile Web and Apps that Drive Customer Engagement,” panel, the executive said that eBay Classifieds digs deep to figure out what is essential for a mobile experience. The session was moderated by Ted Verani, vice president of sales and marketing at Trilibis Mobile.

“When we launch a new brand these days, we take a mobile-first approach,” said Deepak Thomas, general manager of eBay Classifieds, San Jose, CA.

“We try to get a sense for what is absolutely essential then take everything else and put it in a place where users can get to it but it doesn’t obscure the experience,” he said.

Mr. Thomas pointed to eBay’s efforts to integrate recent acquisitions as its mobile commerce volume continues to grow.

“There are several new acquisitions that have come on board and what we are doing in mobile is bringing all that to the core experience as well,” Mr. Thomas said.

“We are on track to double gross merchandise volume,” he said.

EBay acquired ecommerce services provider GSI Commerce and location media firm Where earlier this year.

The other speakers on the panel were JP Bedoya, director of products at Citysearch and Craig Kirkland, director of mobile products at CNN. The panel was moderated by Ted Verani, vice president of sales and marketing at Trilibis Mobile.

Device fragmentation
Talking about the considerations that go into creating content for mobile, Mr. Thomas said applications are the company’s first consideration when it launches a new property in mobile.

“We take the most popular Web site features and try to grind that in,” he said. “You have to be very judicious about what those features are, then take them and make them work on mobile.”

The mobile Web is also an important consideration.

“The reason mobile Web is important is that there are these long-tail devices,” Mr. Thomas said. “The fact that there are so many devices and new ones everyday is a tough problem to tackle.

“Getting to customers on all of these devices is crucial to us,” he said.

eBay has backend capabilities to help it provide a seamless experience across devices on the front end. It also keeps a close eye on how device usage is shifting over times.

When it comes to apps, the big benefit comes from the level of engagement they provide.

“Once you find a user you can engage with the user,” Mr. Thomas said. “However, many brands are also using apps for acquiring new customers.”

CNN’s Mr. Kirkland said the media company sees mobile as great driver for information.

“We view mobile as a great way to bring news information to a much wider audience,” Mr. Kirkland said.

“Mobile is a great way to communicate the news and provide engagement opportunities for consumers,” he said. “We are looking at ways to have mobile products be more socially enabled for sharing and commenting.

“There is a recognition that people on the go want the news and we try to make it easy for them to digest.”

Mobile also has capabilities as a news gathering tool for journalists, per Mr. Kirkland.

The late show
CNN has seen that while PC traffic patterns tend to be tied a typical workday, mobile traffic spikes at different times during the day and into the night.

The company saw a good example of this when the news was released that Osama Bin Laden was dead. The news was announced in the late evening and CNN observed that many people received the news via a mobile device and then turned on the TV to get more information.

“Mobile provides opportunities to provide breaking news during different times in the day,” Mr. Kirkland said.

It is important to see tablets as a separate category.

“It is its own unique animal,” Mr. Kirkland said. “Trying to classify tablets as one of the other available platforms is a mistake.

“Tablets are a great opportunity to provide a different experience and it’s important to spend time and money to build a differentiated experience,” he said.

HTML5 provides a good example of the evolving technologies that are out there.

“For us, whatever HTML5 brings, it is about how it is going to make the experience better,” Mr. Kirkland said.

Consumers, however, do not differentiate between platforms.

“As long as they get a great experience out of it, I don’t think they care which platform it is,” Mr. Kirkland said.

CNN will invest in html5 and integrate it with what the brand is doing.

“HTML5 is exciting but it’s not the end all,” Mr. Kirkland said. “The trick about mobile is that there are always new technologies and new areas to invest in.