eBay Bets on Personalization ... Again

New initiative aims to deliver curated homepages

Author: Jen King

May 17, 2018

For many retailers, personalization is everything—especially since consumers have come to expect curated experiences throughout the shopping journey. But getting personalization right isn't as easy as it sounds. Just ask eBay. 

The online marketplace giant has been designing and redesigning its homepage over the years to offer consumers a more personalized shopping experience based on their interests. And the company is trying once more with its latest effort, "Interests." 

Interests sounds similar to what eBay has done in the past—using data and algorithms, it shows consumers product recommendations on the homepage based on their hobbies and interests. But the difference this time, according to eBay, may be just asking consumers what they want. 

"By asking people to tell us a little bit about their interests, we're delivering a personalized store built around the things you care about most," Bradford Shellhammer, eBay's head of browse and personalization, said in a statement. 

Consumers may be willing to share some details in exchange for a more personalized experience, but recent data from digital solutions provider Avionos found that they don't want personalization to get too personal. While many don't mind sharing their name or age—information they've likely shared with many companies over the years—they aren't as willing to share other things, like their location. 

Still, many don't mind sharing information like their shopping preferences, or hobbies and interests. In the Avionos study, nearly half of respondents said they'd share those things with a brand for a shopping experience that is more tailored to their personal preferences. 

By and large, consumers want personalization, but they're not necessarily getting it. In a separate study conducted by Bazaarvoice, many US digital shoppers said they want to be able to go on a retailer's homepage and see a tailored experience, but few said they've actually experienced such a thing. 

For example, while 44% of respondents said a personalized apparel homepage is helpful, just 23% had experienced one. And there was a similar gap for all categories analyzed.

It's too early to tell if eBay's Interests will drive engagement and new product discovery, but "personalized shopping content creates a higher signal-to-noise ratio every time the user opens the app, which makes the app stickier," said eMarketer analyst Andrew Lipsman. "At the same time, it should increase the likelihood that users discover new products they didn't realize they wanted."