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How eBay's fashion chief connects shoppers with 1 billion items

EBay’s director of fashion retail, Rhian Bartlett, talks to Drapers about collaborating with Patrick Grant, the growth of mobile and connecting millions of buyers and sellers worldwide

Patrick Grant Community Clothing

Patrick Grant Community Clothing

British designer Patrick Grant’s not-for-profit fashion brand Community Clothing will officially launch via eBay on 7 September. How did the partnership come about?

Patrick is an avid eBayer – he has worked with the business over a number of years as a buyer and a seller himself. The partnership came about as there is such a natural fit with what he was trying to do and the founding philosophy of eBay. It’s a project that’s based on doing good and enabling trade, and they were the founding principles of eBay. This initiative had a natural fit between the two businesses. It gives Patrick direct access to customers and that has helped allow very accessible price points for some high-quality designed capsule range.

ebay's Rhian Bartlett

EBay’s Rhian Bartlett

EBay’s Rhian Bartlett

Shoppers have never had so much power

Why was it an important initiative for you to get involved with?

We’re really supportive of what he’s trying to achieve by working with British factories. We’ve got 200,000 business sellers on eBay in the UK and part of what we do is supporting British businesses to be successful. We’re only successful if the business sellers on our platform are successful. Patrick’s endeavour to support local factories very much chimes with what eBay is all about. There is a real community feel to this and that’s what we do – we give communities of people an opportunity to trade.

How long will the collaboration last?

We will wait and see how the initial capsule collection works. The concept of using factory downtime has lots of mileage and in the future this has a potential global reach. This range is for UK buyers only but we’ve got the capability to see around the world so that might happen further down the line.

How important is fashion for eBay?

It’s a very significant category for eBay in the UK. We don’t split out figures for it but in the last 90 days in the UK we sold 1.9 million pairs of jeans, 970,000 pairs of trainers and 300,000 dresses.

How has the shift to mobile changed eBay?

Globally 57% of our purchases are touched by mobile – the UK is slightly up on that. We were one of the first platforms in the mobile space and we still take it seriously. We’ve seen fairly quick ramp-up from zero to approaching 60% of purchases touched by mobile over a short number of years. We’re seeing people browsing on mobiles then making the final purchase on desktop. What buyers are looking for is the flexibility to shop when they want, where they want and how they want. The challenge with mobile is a small amount of screen to get across a good clean product image and description. We see the mobile trajectory touching more and more of those customer purchases. It won’t slow down.

Is the move to mobile one of the biggest changes in the market since eBay was established 21 years ago?

The market has changed structurally – it has become more digital and it’s more mobile focused. There are more specialists and generalists in the online fashion space but we don’t see signs of that slowing down or stopping. We haven’t reached a static state where the market will be “x” online and “x” in stores. I think there is still a lot of potential out there and the quality of the shopping experience remains vital.

The market has changed structurally – it has become more digital and it’s more mobile focused

Are you using any new technology to improve your shopping experience?

Quality of images and having video online are vital. We have also just launched a “Shop the Look” tool that uses image recognition technology. We have a large bank of images, and this tool allows you to hover over an image and it then searches through all of our 1 billion listings worldwide and it pulls back inventory that either matches or is a close match to that image. These sorts of tools are coming online to support buyers in terms of finding exactly what they want at the exact price they are looking for and giving them the confidence to buy it. That’s how I see things continuing to change in the months and years ahead. Shoppers have never had so much power, and it’s our job to make sure they have the best experience possible and the easiest.

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