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eBay bullish on its international sites

June 23, 2005

A lot has been said about the dynamic eBay market in the United States, with some forty million-plus registered users, buyers and sellers in all walks of life. However, according to some eBay representatives, the really big opportunities for sellers are not on eBay.com, but on ebay.ca, ebay.de and ebay.cn. The foreign markets are growing very rapidly and buyers are really hungry for new products and services.

Michele Don Durbin, Senior Manager of International Platforms for eBay, said eBay international sites have immediate needs that can easily be filled if developers and sellers go about it the right way.

During a session at eBay Developers Conference in San Jose today, Durbin said Canadians are hungry for supply on eBay.ca. "Canadian sellers use eBay.com, but not vice versa. Supply is lacking in Canada. For instance, only 17 U.S. users used third party tools to list items on the Canadian site in Q1 2005," she said.

She suggested sellers follow a few key approaches when entering the Canadian market, including using Canadian-friendly language, spelling and color, cross-border selling and shipping expertise and, most importantly, transaction safety.

She added that there is 77 percent PayPal penetration in Canada, but foreign buyers need to feel secure when sending money for auction items. Providing a good supply of items is also key.

Germany, according to Durbin, is one of the most popular sites for eBay. "They took what eBay wanted and made it their own. It's a fun community and a fun site," she said. Again, the opportunities there are ripe for U.S. sellers as ebay.de is growing at a rapid rate.

Surprisingly, Durbin said eBay UK site is experiencing 105 percent year-over-year growth, with more than $1.4 billion in Gross Market Volume in Q1 2005. "There is strong listing penetration in the UK," she said.

eBay France, one of Durbin personal favorite site, is one of the fastest growing eBay sites in the world with a 160 percent year-over-year growth rate. Currently, she said, there are 24 million Internet users in France and 10.2 million online buyers. eBay Australia and Italy are also seeing growth rats approaching 200 percent.

Durbin advice for breaking into these markets: "They really want to see you're interested in their country. For example, if you include flyers in your packages, use a local supplier to print them out. And emphasize safety. Anything you can do to promote safety online is worthwhile," she said.

Among the steps sellers can take to build trust with foreign buyers is to be upfront about insurance, payment options and some sort of seller verification.

China, of course, is a market that is taking off for eBay. With nearly 500 million Internet users, according to Durbin, eBay China saw a record 1.8 million new users in Q1 2005 alone.

"If you are even thinking of China, you need to think about it now," she said.

One attendee asked Durbin why Russia was not a target market of eBay at this point. She said due to the large amount of fraud generated from that country and the small market, eBay made a strategic decision not to focus its efforts there for the time being. She added that while security concerns are also high in China, it "represents a much larger market, so the company made a decision to let it grow."

Durbin offered developers and sellers some tips on how to break into the various foreign markets.

"You need to ask 'What strengths can you offer to international customers? Which markets make the most sense for your company and its mission? How can you get your ties wet without committing a lot of resources? Where will your company be in five years?'" she said.

Another tip she gave was for sellers and developers to not start from scratch. "Go for eBay English-speaking users" in a particular region, she said.

Source: eCommerce Guide



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