eBay Faces Amazon Obstacles, Sets Sights On Generating $1 Billion In Ad Revenue

Advertisers are turning to Amazon, eBay, Reddit, Yelp and other platforms to put their search budgets into, rather than focusing only on Google and Microsoft.

Scott Schenkel, interim eBay CEO, said the company's revenue from advertising gained momentum in the third quarter of 2019, with Promoted Listings driving $103 million of revenue -- up more than 120% from a year ago.

More than one million sellers promoted about 300 million listings in the quarter.

Schenkel attributed the increase to an "integrated mobile experience, which gives sellers a quick and easy way to opt in, review revenue recommendations, and manage Promoted Listing performance."

He said that during the quarter, eBay improved the ability to vary the number of ads serving up in search results. This provides an opportunity to grow Promoted Listings through adoption and conversion gains, where company executives see untapped growth in ad rates and product formats.

eBay is looking to generate $800 million in 2020, followed by a larger number at least by the following year. “All of these levers give us confidence in achieving our goal of $1 billion in total advertising revenue,” Schenkel said.

In the third quarter, eBay underwent major changes. In September 2019, Devin Wenig resigned as CEO amid an ongoing review of the company’s business, and the board of directors appointed Schenkel, who previously served as CFO, to interim CEO.

The ability to process payments also contributed to quarterly revenue. eBay began intermediating payments about a year ago, processing more than $1.1 billion in payments for 20,000 sellers.

In September, numbers for the U.S. reached more than 9% of volume, accelerating to nearly reach the limit of its operating agreement.

StubHub, eBay’s online ticket exchange company, could become a stand-alone business in 2020. The company sees it as a valuable asset "that we will continue to grow," Schenkel said, with "tons of opportunities, as a stand-alone or as a part of our portfolio and we will update you within the next 3 to 4 months [of] the plans,” he said.

Despite eBay’s growth plans, Ben Schachter, analyst at MacQuarie, believes eBay will “likely” sell Stubhub in 2020.

“The bottom line is that while the stock is relatively cheap, we never hear management discussing what we think is the core issue, Amazon,’ Schachter wrote in a research note. “Without an answer to how to compete against Amazon, we don’t see how the core reaccelerates meaningfully enough to drive the stock higher.”

On Thursday Amazon reported third-quarter 2019 sales of $69.98 billion of which its “other” business, mostly made up of ad sales, totaled $3.6 billion for the quarter -- up 44% compared with the prior year. Profits fell, however, 26% based on higher shipping costs for its one-day delivery service.

Brian Olsavsky, Amazon CFO, during the earnings call said the company is very happy with the progress. “It’s still early and what we’re focused on really at this point is relevancy, making sure that the ads are relevant to our customers, helpful to our customers, and to do that, we use machine learning and that’s helping us to drive better, better and better relevancy,” he said.

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