eBay Sees its Japan Business as Having a Lot More Room to Grow

By Yasuhiro Yamada : Reporter of Toyokeizai
November 26,2015
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(Photo by Koichi Imai)
It has been almost five months since e-commerce giant eBay spun off PayPal, the online electronic payment service—its largest business in terms of sales. The loss of PayPal was evident in eBay’s latest financial results: revenue for the third quarter of 2015 (July–September) was $2.1 billion, down 2% on the same period last year, with operating profit at $578 million, down 3% from a year earlier.
How will eBay make up the loss of PayPal and grow its business even further? One of the key components to revamping business is international business, which already makes up 57% of eBay’s revenue. Recently, we caught up with eBay’s new CEO, Devin Wenig, who assumed the position in July, and he shared his view on eBay’s business opportunities in Japan.


You became CEO of eBay in July [the former CEO John Donahoe stepped down after eBay spun off PayPal] and I heard you’ve been traveling a lot since then.

Well, I always travel. I spend a lot of time in Asia. We have a big Korea, Australia, and Indian business—but this is my first trip to Tokyo for eBay. I brought my whole team here. We are really excited to explore the opportunities here in Japan.

So, what brought to you Japan this time?

We are here to see a number of merchants and brands. I’m here to convince them that they should be selling on eBay because I can bring them global business.

Are Japanese merchants and brands interested in using eBay to sell their products overseas?

I think there is willingness. Many brands and retailers are realizing that the future is digital. If you don’t have an e-commerce strategy you don’t have a strategy. I think they look at eBay as a great global platform of pure marketplace. We don’t compete with some of the brands that are on our platform, unlike some of our competitors.

How do you see the current eBay business in Japan?

I think we have a great opportunity here in Japan. We have a really healthy Japanese business right now. We are seeing really strong growth—20% plus in our Japanese business. Our value preposition is to open up the world’s market to Japanese brands and merchants.

Right now, we serve many different industries and we look at where Japanese merchants and brands are successful. It’s really across the spectrum. It may be photography or watches or fashion or small appliances, but we are seeing really strong growth because Japanese brands are so competitive around the world. We make our 160 million buyers available to brands here in Japan. That’s really why we are here, to grow that further.

Asia is strong and growing fast

Although there are many Japanese merchants utilizing eBay, we don’t see many Japanese consumers using eBay.

For consumers, eBay is relatively underpenetrated. In the sense of market with incredible wealth, high usage of technology, particularly mobile technology, and a great desire to shop the world’s inventories—that feels to me like our opportunity.

A lot of Japanese people are not necessarily good with foreign languages. Do you have any plans to offer language support to businesses trying to sell items to foreign countries or even the consumer trying to use eBay to buy things?

I think the two things that can make eBay easier to use for the Japanese consumer are language and shipment. Over time we are working on both across the world. We are working on using technology to translate language and take eBay’s inventory and make it locally available in a language and currency sense.

Also, we are using some of the international carriers to make shipping easier. There is no doubt that over time we can make eBay more accessible to millions of Japanese consumers.

Currently, 57% of your revenue comes from your international operations. Within that 57%, is European business still bigger than Asian business?

Today Europe is bigger than Asia, but Asia is strong and growing fast.

Within Asia, where do you see your business growing fast?

We are seeing great growth in China and India and South East Asia. Korea, Australia, and India are growing very fast, too. We also have partnerships in joint ventures in Taiwan, Vietnam, and the Philippines, which are also doing very, very well.