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EBay Plans to Share Its Users' Data With Brands

Faces perception issues

EBay will soon start letting brands build out audience segments using its wealth of shopping data so they can target ads to consumers on non-eBay sites, following a similar move by Amazon. While information has been scarce, a buyer who’s been pitched by the e-commerce giant was able to share some details about the service.

Dave Martin, svp of media at Los Angeles-based agency Ignited, said that eBay has compiled shopper segments like people looking for or buying auto, clothing, music or books that advertisers can target by working directly with eBay’s sales teams.

“EBay is relatively new to this, so they don’t have the audience segments organized yet,” Martin said. “They haven’t optimized the process. EBay will have to work harder…but their data is as robust [as Amazon’s].”

Martin has used Amazon’s ad targeting platform for a couple of clients, but he hasn’t tested the eBay service yet, explaining he doesn’t have a campaign that would make sense for it.

As with its consumer-facing business, eBay’s advertising business faces some perception issues, with even some eBay executives questioning the company’s move into ad tech, according to one industry executive. But the move has been a long time coming.

The engineering-rich company has been building its advertising business for years—a spokesperson pointed to the 2005 acquisition of Shopping.com (recently rebranded as the eBay Commerce Network) and the 2011 deal for GSI Commerce—while soliciting advice from the industry.

Along those lines, eBay has made a key hire, according to one ad tech executive, in former demand-side platform Turn’s sales exec Glenn Fishback. Fishback became svp of digital media services and strategy at GSI Commerce last August. EBay previously used enigmatic ad exchange AppNexus for its own real-time display buys but recently has inquired with some ad tech firms about licensing their technology, per the ad tech exec.

EBay executives were unavailable for comment, but a company spokesperson emailed the following statement: “We’ve recently introduced new capabilities to deliver more relevant, highly targeted digital advertising content to buyers both on and off the eBay platform on behalf of third parties, consistent with our privacy policy.”

Like Amazon’s ad platform, eBay’s potential is in the product browsing and purchase data it’s able to collect from users. IgnitionOne CEO Will Margiloff, who hasn’t seen the pitch, described eBay’s data “as close to first party data [as] you can get for performance, [but] the devil is in the details. Will it be broken out into deep enough segments with full e-commerce and demographic segmentation?”

One potential sticking point with eBay is whether the stereotypical bargain-hunting eBay shopper is as valuable to an advertiser as someone who pays full price at Amazon. In some cases, however, eBay’s data may be unique enough to be more valuable than Amazon’s. “If I want an autographed baseball card from a 1952 [Boston Red Sox] player, I can’t get that from Amazon,” Martin said. 

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