EBay's overall fourth quarter revenue rose 3.1% to $2.4 billion and its marketplace revenue was up 4% in the quarter on a currency-neutral basis and flat on an as-reported basis, driven by a strong holiday season, the company reported Wednesday. Gross merchandise volume in the quarter (the total value of goods sold on its sites), rose 2.2% to $22.34 billion and its marketplace growth fell “well below” general e-commerce growth in the quarter, according to retail research and consulting agency Conlumino.
The strong holiday season helped bring two million additional active buyers across eBay's platforms in the quarter, for a total of 167 million global active buyers. Its StubHub unit had a record quarter with gross merchandise volume of $1.2 billion, up 5%, and revenue of $279 million, up 20%, with strengths in baseball and theater. The Classifieds platforms saw double digit growth in the quarter with revenue of $201 million, up 13% on a currency-neutral basis, with strong performance in Germany.
EBay expects Q1 net revenue to land between $2.17 billion and $2.21 billion, representing currency-neutral growth of 4% to 6%. For the full year 2017, the company expects net revenue between $9.3 billion and $9.5 billion, representing currency-neutral growth of 6% to 8%.
EBay’s improvements to its marketplace operations aren’t yet paying off, but in a conference call with analysts, CEO Devin Wenig said the company’s “strategy remains unchanged” and he called for patience.
“We intend to drive even more progress against our key objectives and this is reflected in our guidance, which implies meaningful growth acceleration in our marketplace platform,” he told analysts on Wednesday, according to a transcript from Seeking Alpha. “As we stated previously, repositioning our business is a significant undertaking and it will take time and it is not without risk, but we do believe we are on the right path.”
The marketplace leader has “adopted a retail focused mindset,” according to Wenig, which he said includes steps to enable smaller sellers to scale their businesses through its platform and improved search. “Sellers are responding to our efforts by bringing more relevant inventory into our marketplace, and we’ve seen accelerating growth in the number of business sellers on eBay throughout 2016,” he said.
But those improvements aren't moving the needle much for eBay, according to Conlumino CEO Neil Saunders.
“As sensible as these steps are, they are really about correcting deficiencies rather than putting eBay on an innovative footing,” Saunders said in a note emailed to Retail Dive. “In our view, eBay needs to go much further in revamping the whole online experience in order to allow it to compete more effectively with rivals. This includes trying to create some stickiness around the brand and proposition, in the way that Amazon has done by creating a whole ecosystem of products and services. Admittedly, this is a very tough ask, but we maintain it is the direction in which eBay needs to travel if it is to win back market share.”
The company isn't gaining much traction with consumers, especially younger ones, according to Saunders. “In this regard, eBay has lost out to players like Etsy which these consumers believe to be more authentic, and more likely to offer innovative and interesting products,” Saunders said, adding that while eBay is making steady progress, it is one of the "slower players in the fast paced digital arena and we, to date, see very few signs that it will move into the fast lane in its new fiscal year.”