Brands and retailers have swiftly amped up the online shopping experience to meet consumers’ needs during the coronavirus pandemic — and now, e-commerce is primed to enter the next frontier. But for older e-commerce brands, such as eBay, that means modernization of its platform and reevaluation of an evolving and growing customer base.

Here, Bradford Shellhammer, eBay’s global head of buyer experience, talks to WWD about modernizing eBay’s platform, consumer evolution and how the brand grew during the coronavirus pandemic.

WWD: In your opinion, what is eBay’s sudden spike in buyers attributed to? Why has the secondhand market accelerated during COVID-19?

Bradford Shellhammer: Online shopping has seen exponential growth through 2020 as households have adjusted to new ways of shopping due to COVID-19. Data shows that e-commerce sales hit a July record of $66.3 billion, which is up 55 percent year-over-year. In April and May alone, we saw approximately 6 million new buyers join the eBay platform.

We’ve also seen a huge influx of small businesses join. Since March 2020, tens of thousands of small business sellers have been added to our platform. Shoppers are bargain-hunting from home or they are looking for very specific items, and the secondhand market provides affordable options that meet shoppers’ needs. We saw significant growth in verticals, including: Home and Garden, Electronics, Fashion, Auto Parts and Collectibles.

WWD: How is eBay modernizing and personalizing its 25-year-old platform? What are some of the ways shoppers have evolved since its inception?

B.S.: Everything we do is for our customers, and as e-commerce and technology has evolved in the past 25 years, so has the shopper. Consumers now expect personalization as a standard of service, and they expect retailers to understand their personal preferences and buying habits. Experiences must be fast, easy-to-use, frictionless, and available across devices, whether it’s desktop or mobile.

Increasingly, these consumer expectations are crossing into physical stores as innovative retailers adopt new clientele and customer service technologies that empower their associates to build meaningful connections with shoppers through personally tailored services.

We know the product decisions we make have a real impact on buyers, and we strive to create the best experience. To drive customized engagement, we’ve introduced new features like Dark Mode, which eases the online viewing experience and was our top customer requested app feature of the year.

We also launched Local Pick-Up, which enables buyers to purchase items online and pick up directly from sellers in their vicinity, saving them money on shipping fees and streamlining the delivery process. Other new features of note are video integrations in our eBay Motors app, and Best Match, which is designed to show a shopper the most relevant listings.

WWD: Would you elaborate on eBay’s recent launch of “Dark Mode?” What does it entail?

B.S.: Dark Mode is designed to ease the shopping experience, honor device settings, create more accessibility and provide best-in-class service to our customers. It is one of the newest feature updates our shoppers are seeing on mobile, and eBay is now one of the first e-commerce marketplaces to launch Dark Mode on iOS and Dark Theme on Android. It is also the most requested app feature so far in 2020.

WWD: How will the next chapter of eBay’s shopping experience be redefined? Will clienteling be a component of the overall online experience?

B.S.: Our mission has always been to empower people and create economic opportunity for all. We strive to be the best global marketplace for buyers and sellers and this next chapter will be driven by technology, innovation and personalization through things like curation and shopping channels. We’re excited to continue innovating and building compelling experiences for our buyers and sellers that will cultivate lifelong trusted relationships.

WWD: What does your vision of a “symbiotic relationship” between tech, product and design look like? What can we expect to see next from eBay?

B.S.: My mission is to help people fall in love with eBay. I was originally brought on to serve as head of curation and merchandising, leveraging my entrepreneurial approach as an e-commerce founder and my design background. My role has since shifted to head of buyer experience, leading product, engineering, science, merchandising and design teams that build delightful experiences for millions of customers.

We seek to empower our buyer community by celebrating the individuality of every shopper and enabling them to discover the things they love. This human-centric perspective is what makes eBay’s marketplace so vast and diverse. In defining our direction through design, tech and product, we are able to reimagine how the world shops online.

For more Business news from WWD, see:

Outdoor Brands Talk Coronavirus Impacts

Brick-and-Mortar, Digital Retailers Adjust Strategies in Wake of Coronavirus

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