EBay Inc.’s marketplace growth slowed in the third quarter, worrying investors that an online shopping boost from the COVID-19 pandemic isn’t sustainable.
The gross value of goods sold on eBay’s U.S. marketplace grew 33.4% to $9.79 billion in the third quarter ended Sept. 30, up from $7.33 billion in Q3 2019. Global GMV, which includes its U.S. and international marketplaces, reached $25.06 billion in Q3 2020, up 22.3% from $20.49 billion a year ago.
Global GMV hit its highest quarterly growth rate for the marketplace in 15 years in Q2, when it grew 26.3% year over year. In fact, U.S. GMV had declined every quarter since Q4 2018 and global GMV only increased twice: by 0.9% in Q4 2018 and 1.4% in Q1 2020.
EBay is ranked No. 5 in the 2020 Digital Commerce 360 Online Marketplaces Database.
“If you look at eBay prior to Covid, they were under-performing other ecommerce companies, and that’s the concern,” said Brian Yarbrough, an analyst at Edward D. Jones & Co. “Do we go back to that lackluster performance after Covid?”
For the first nine months of the year, global GMV grew 15.7% year over year to $73.44 billion from $63.54 billion in the same period of 2019. U.S. GMV was $27.91 billion, up 21.0% from $23.05 billion in Q3 2019.
Looking forward, eBay projects global GMV growth in the “low double-digits” in Q4, executives said on a call discussing the results, according to a SeekingAlpha transcript.
Pandemic-wary shoppers have turned to online marketplaces like eBay and Amazon.com Inc. to avoid stores in the era of social distancing. The company said it ended the quarter with 183 million active buyers, up from 182 million in Q2. That’s a significant slowdown in added buyers from the previous quarter, when eBay had added 8 million new active buyers in Q2 after the pandemic started compared with Q1. That was also less than analysts’ average prediction for almost 184 million, raising fears about customer growth.
Investors may be concerned that eBay’s growth is lagging behind ecommerce growth overall, which is more than 30%, said Ron Josey, an analyst at JMP Securities. “You could argue they are still losing share here,” he added.
CEO Jamie Iannone, who took the helm in April, is still trying to show that a slimmed-down eBay can lure customers and get them to spend more on the site. Under pressure from activist investors, eBay in February completed the sale of its event-tickets marketplace StubHub to Viagogo for $4.05 billion. In July, eBay sold the classifieds business to Norway’s Adevinta ASA in a cash and stock deal worth $9.2 billion, leaving eBay with a 44.4% stake in the company.
Iannone said he is focusing on refurbished products with two-year warranties from brands like DeLonghi and Makita. The market for refurbished brand goods is in the tens of billions of dollars and is a good fit for eBay deal-seekers, he said. The company is also developing authentication services for luxury watches and secondhand sneakers to attract more high-value products to the site and increase average order sizes, the CEO added.
Its renewed focus on categories such as sneakers may stem from the growth in niche marketplaces (or sites that sell items in a particular vertical) that are now direct competitors to eBay. In the Digital Commerce 360 Online Marketplaces Top 100 ranking, for example, there are five online marketplaces focused on primarily selling sneakers. The five marketplaces collectively reached a Digital Commerce 360-estimated $2.13 billion in GMV in 2019.
Customers that purchase sneakers buy other products on eBay too. “An average sneaker buyer purchases in 10 unique categories each year more than double the amount of other eBay buyers,” Iannone said. “A year ago, we were losing share in this important category. But now we’re seeing over 50% growth year to date, and that was before launching the authenticity guarantee.”
EBay has deals with United Parcel Service Inc. and other carriers to protect sellers from shipping capacity issues and surcharges over the busy holiday period, he noted.
“We’re well-positioned to help sellers reach buyers this holiday season,” Iannone said.