eBay to roll out made-in-India solutions in other markets

US-based online marketplace eBay Inc. plans to launch solutions developed at its technology centre in Bengaluru in other geographies. The company is working on launching its India payment service PaisaPay to some of its other markets.

PaisaPay helps customers transfer money to a temporary account until they receive the item and releases the money to the seller once the receipt is confirmed.

“PaisaPay is the trust infrastructure that we built for the India market,” eBay chief technology officer Steve Fisher said. “There are other countries in the world which have similar needs, so we are starting to examine how we can take those kinds of inventions to other countries.

“This is particularly interesting because until very recently, we had PayPal and so payments was kind of what PayPal did. Now, we don’t have PayPal anymore. We are still obviously huge supporters of PayPal, but there are opportunities to do more,” he said.

PayPal Holdings Inc., founded by Elon Musk, Peter Thiel and others, was acquired by eBay in 2002 and spun off last year into an independent publicly traded company listed on the Nasdaq.

eBay is also going to roll out a registration process developed entirely in India, and is testing a new, easier way of signing up users on smartphones.

“You don’t think of identity and passwords as an area for innovation, but actually it is. We are moving into the era of mobile phones, so do we even need a password anymore? So, we are experimenting with ideas like that and that’s happening here in India,” said Fisher.

Unlike bigger rival Amazon.com Inc., eBay has been slow to customize its product and other offerings to Indian customers despite launching its India operations several years before Amazon. Even now, eBay’s India app mostly resembles its app in the US.

eBay’s first development centre in India was set up in 2007, but it entered India back in 2004 by acquiring Bazee.com, an auction site. Amazon launched its India operations in 2013.

eBay is now overhauling its underlying search technology in all of its markets to make better, data-driven recommendations for its users and give them a better search experience.

Typically, items are catalogued according to specific terms that make it easier for a search engine on a website to show relevant results. However, because eBay is a marketplace with thousands of sellers and hundreds of millions of users, often an item can get indexed with several different names.

This prevents users from getting accurate results and makes it difficult for the company to understand what is being sold on its site. eBay, which offers 800 million items, is using machine learning to give structure to all the data it has.

“If you want to buy anything, you can probably find it on eBay, and we probably answer that better than anyone else. That’s kind of our core strength. The core challenge we have is, we mostly don’t know what we have. That’s because of the lack of structured data, and given that we don’t really know what we have, it makes it very difficult to give a great experience,” said Fisher.

eBay is incrementally rolling out modules, like specific pages for specific categories, that make this experience better in the US, UK and Australia. More countries will get to see these new features soon. The new browsing experience will also allow eBay to gain visibility on search engines such as Google.

“If most of the way people interact with us is through search, that means that other websites can’t really point to persistent pages, URLs on eBay and that, particularly, is difficult because there are search engines that don’t really send you any traffic if they don’t really have anything persistent to index. This is not the core reason we are doing this, but this is a pretty big deal,” said Fisher.

Personalization, effective search and user experience are core areas for an e-commerce company, said Ashvin Vellody, partner, e-commerce and start-ups, at consultancy firm KPMG India.

“Making search more relevant and improving the browsing experience are key to getting customers to come back to your website. Companies should also focus on keeping their search engine up to date and constantly make improvements to the search experience,” he said.