eBay Goes Social with Commerce

Steve Rubel’s recent post expands on an Auction Bytes report that eBay will launch blog and wiki publishing tools into its platform during the eBay Live conference next week. He writes,

“By launching blogs and wikis, eBay is taking a big step to push into the social commerce arena. Conversation drives commerce so integrating blogs, wikis and tags into the eBay toolkit is a natural extension to their core platform, which has long included discussion boards. I would not be surprised to see the company take this a step further and build eBay into a giant social network that lets like-minded buyers and sellers find each other.”

Back last December, I suggested that 2006 would bring developments in social commerce, and it’s natural to see that eBay has realized and started to pursue this opportunity to provide consumers with richer social context and relevancy to the purchases which they are making. It’s still a bit too early to tell if these specific features eBay is launching will be successful, as the execution of them is the key factor here. After all, Amazon added wikis and tagging to their product pages back in November, and in my own experience shopping as a heavy Amazon user, I can’t recall seeing anyone using them (though perhaps my own pageviews aren’t representative).

Both beauty and the challenge of blogs and wikis, as opposed to other types of user-generated content, is that they are a clean slate. Without set stricture and rules, users have the freedom to contribute anything. Yet without direction and guidance, general consumers often don’t know what to write. Product reviews and seller feedback make sense; an open forum to literally contribute anything may not.

Regardless of whether or not this step by eBay works initially, it places the company on a road to using social software tools to more easily facilitate connections between buyers and sellers. It further enhances eBay as a place not just to transact commerce, but to also learn about the products themselves within a social framework.

And it’s notable that new startups have emerged in the social commerce category since my December post, like MyPickList and GiftTagging. I think that while these and other services are onto something, there’s still some heavy experimentation that needs to happen before the right social commerce model is discovered. But it is clear that increasingly you won’t be alone when you’re shopping online.

David Beisel

David Beisel is a co-founder and Partner at NextView Ventures. He has been focused on early stage Internet startups his entire career, both as an entrepreneur and venture capitalist. As an investor in the digital media space, David was most recently a Vice President at Venrock and previously a Principal at Masthead Venture Partners. Prior to becoming a venture capitalist, David co-founded Sombasa Media, an e-mail marketing company best known for its flagship product BargainDog. Sombasa was successfully acquired by where David served as Vice President of Marketing. David holds an MBA from the Stanford Graduate School of Business and an AB in Economics, magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa, from Duke University. He also founded and leads the Boston Innovators Group, an organization which holds quarterly entrepreneur events drawing a thousand attendees.