Executive Insights: Jody Ford of eBay

Elisabeth A. Sullivan
Marketing News
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Key Takeaways
  • Many marketers are still trying to get over the hurdle of considering mobile an add-on to fully integrate it into their marketing strategies, but Jody Ford of eBay approaches his CRM and loyalty marketing efforts from a mobile-oriented mindset.

  • "From a marketing point of view, we focused on being able to deliver mobile marketing in a seamless way. It is no easy undertaking to reach more than 100 million people the way they wish. We used our test-and-learn approach to understand how customers want us to communicate with them."

  • "Engaging with customers from their very earliest interest—and even after they leave the site—is key to the loyalty cycle."

Background

Many marketers are still trying to get over the hurdle of considering mobile an add-on to fully integrate it into their marketing strategies, but Jody Ford, vice president of marketing in North America for eBay Marketplaces, a family of brands owned by San Jose, Calif.-based eBay Inc., approaches his CRM and loyalty marketing efforts from a mobile-oriented mindset.

Early in his career, Ford worked at Orange, the U.K.-based phone company. The economics and politics major then spent six years in consulting at McKinsey and PriceWaterhouseCoopers. He joined eBay in 2006 as the head of eBay Motors in the U.K., moving on to helm the development of eBay’s worldwide mobile business strategy before assuming his current role. He now focuses on merchandising and personalization across multiple platforms, including mobile, Web and e-mail.

Q: Having started your career in mobile, and also led the mobile business strategy early in your tenure at eBay, how do those experiences influence your approach to your current marketing tasks?

A: At eBay, a few years back, we made a big bet on mobile and it’s really paying off.  It’s not just about the site experience. It’s about a seamless experience. We lead with mobile, whether entering a new market like Brazil or enhancing our site experience. We design for all screens and the bet has paid off, as we went from about zero to $22 billion in mobile commerce in 2013.

It’s fascinating because when I was at Orange, the large European phone networking company, more than 10 years ago, we talked about how the phone would become your remote control for life. About 18 months ago, it felt like that moment arrived. A person can use a phone to engage in almost any activity: order a taxi, research ingredients for a recipe, share photos with friends, read a newspaper from virtually any country or have a video call with grandparents. And, of course, there is the utility of it all: move money between accounts, pay for a purchase and buy things. It is a real challenge to understand how customers want to bring shopping into that world, but we find that after communicating and keeping up to date with the news, shopping is normally the next thing customers want to do.

Q: What has eBay learned about its customers’ behaviors across multiple devices? Are they more apt to browse on smartphones and tablets, say, and then pull the trigger via desktops? And how do such behaviors influence your marketing efforts?

A: Customers tend to ‘snack,’ to use their phones and tablets at short, regular intervals throughout the day—more than 40 times a day, in fact. Our research shows that customers often start their day checking their mobiles and then use their computers in the middle of the day, and then at night, they use a tablet—often along with their phones—while watching TV or relaxing. Customers want all of those moments to be engaging.

Last fall, eBay launched ‘Collections, Follow and Share,’ a way for people to find and share with others the things they need and love. Customers do engage significantly more via mobile. From a marketing point of view, we focused on being able to deliver mobile marketing in a seamless way. It is no easy undertaking to reach more than 100 million people the way they wish. We used our test-and-learn approach to understand how customers want us to communicate with them. When should a customer be notified that there is a new deal they might be interested in or a saved search they have been following, or that the hat Pharrell Williams wore at the Grammys is now been auctioned on eBay?

Q: Given eBay’s vast and eclectic portfolio, can predictive analytics help a company like yours, when your inventory fluctuates constantly and people come to you to make diverse and often impulsive purchases?

A: Ebay’s real advantage is having a massive, closed-loop data set, which allows us to understand customers on a very deep level. For instance, we can see where they enter the site and begin to browse, at what point they make the purchase and even their shipping preference or how they like to pay. Engaging with customers from their very earliest interest—and even after they leave the site—is key to the loyalty cycle. 


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Author Bio:

 
Elisabeth A. Sullivan
Elisabeth A. Sullivan is the editor in chief of Marketing News and director of publishing for the AMA's magazines and e-newsletters. Contact her at esullivan@ama.org.
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