Since 1995, when eBay first launched its search and advertising platform for the sales of goods and services between users, the company has seen unprecedented growth and success in the e-commerce industry.
It quickly became the world's leading online marketplace, a global community of individuals and businesses where practically anyone can trade anything at anytime.
On an average day, eBay's lists millions of items in over 50,000 categories, each one for sale via either an auction or fixed-price format. With over 233 million registered users worldwide, eBay has a global presence in 36 markets and is continually expanding.
The attraction for so many people is eBay's online format, which allows users to eliminate the heavy start-up and maintenance costs of a traditional business while displaying their products to a worldwide audience. The company's success has provided ample employment opportunities for people from all over the world. Locally too, eBay has achieved outstanding sales turnover on its extremely active site. Kerry Wong, managing director of eBay Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan, says that one per cent of Hong Kong's total workforce uses eBay as their primary or secondary source of income.
Another attraction is the simplicity of the platform. eBay's unique user login design allows members not only to gain access to their local website but to the company's worldwide network. For example, though a user may login to the local Hong Kong eBay website, where information is displayed in Chinese, he or she in fact has access to any product being offered worldwide.
As the number of users continues to grow, trust and safety issues are a prime concern. eBay targets these in a variety of ways. It offers buyer protection through the company's very own payment solution system PayPal, which allows members to feel safer and makes it easier for them to avoid fraudsters while completing transactions online. It has customer service centres worldwide, staffed by people who are willing to help users and prospective users with their qualms and queries.
In order to maintain all of the company's information, its top-of-the-line database warehouses are built using the latest and most advanced technology available, ensuring security and stability for members. The company also regularly works with law enforcement in order to prevent fraud and other unlawful conduct in the marketplace. "Our marketing strategy is quite simply to create a platform that is safe, trustworthy and user-friendly, making the world a smaller place," says Ms Wong.
The main attractions may be the online platform and the simplicity but the secret for success, according to Ms Wong, is the community of users. eBay has developed a self-regulatory feedback system which the user community itself maintains. Based on a fraud-modelling concept, buyers and sellers have the ability to learn about their trading partners, view their reputations, and express opinions of them by leaving feedback after each transaction. This allows trustworthy traders to prosper and hinders the actions of would-be fraudsters. The company has thus created a trust building community that monitors and regulates itself.
To continue delivering top quality services to its members, eBay aims to hire outstanding talent. Given its global reach, the presumption could be a tendency to hire staff with international experience, perhaps from the US where the company began. In fact, in line with its small-community feel, eBay focuses primarily on recruiting local talent. "Over 85 per cent of our workforce is hired here," says Ms Wong. This has many benefits including having staff who understand and are thus better prepared to tackle local challenges. It also means the company is well placed to develop and hopefully outperform local competitors.
Through an array of services, such as PayPal and Skype, eBay enables global e-commerce for an ever-growing online community. It continues to build strategic partnerships with other businesses within the industry, and to expand and launch new brands. It holds events locally and worldwide, communicating with users through a variety of channels including entertainment, fashion and corporate business events. Driven solely by its users and how they engage with each other, eBay continues to listen to its community in order to maintain its competitive edge.