eBay Australia managing director, Tim MacKinnon has spoken to Retailbiz about the year that was, the impact of Covid-19 on consumer spending behaviour, how the online marketplace is supporting small business and the key retail trends he expects to continue into 2021.

RB: What is happening with consumer spending despite tough economic conditions across retail?

TM: “I’m not an economist but ABS data shows consumer spending has surged – with the highest quarterly jump since 1976, swelling by over 3 per cent in the three months to the end of September. This data is in line with eBay’s own research showing people are continuing to spend this Christmas with their threshold for an instant (versus considered) purchase higher than pre-COVID. This is being drive by strong levels of government support, record low interest rates and restrictions on travel and other forms of entertainment.”

RB: Explain the increasing move to online shopping via mobile and the eBay app.

TM: “The number of Australians shopping via the eBay app has continued to grow in 2020. Despite more people working from home and having easier access to their laptop or desktop more than 70 per cent of eBay’s traffic comes via the app.

“Buyers have discovered the ease of shopping via the eBay app from the comfort and safety of home and have the convenience of having whatever they need to be delivered straight to their door.

“It’s another reason for businesses to focus on optimising mobile shopping experiences for their customers. Few retailers will have a customer base big enough to justify a standalone app, so entrepreneurs and home-based businesses especially need to exhaust social channels and marketplace apps that help them reach the hundreds-of-thousands of people shopping online.

“As a major bonus, additional channels can help get 100 per cent of your inventory online. You never know what might sell, and if 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that demand can shift unexpectedly.”

RB: How are Aussie small businesses using eBay and how is eBay supporting them?

TM: “With 40,000 small businesses operating on our platform we’re always looking for opportunities where we can support them to grow and truly scale. Since April we’ve been offering those sellers new to eBay, three months fee-free. In addition, we’ve been providing new sellers tailored support to make sure they’re making the most out of their experience.

“Buy Now Pay Later has played a big part in growing e-commerce over the past five years, opening up ways to pay, which in turn has opened up additional spending. Earlier this year we launched our partnership with Afterpay and provided it at no cost to thousands of Australian retail partners.

“And when it comes to working capital, we have teamed up with Zip Business to help ensure small retailers on eBay can access flexible lines of credit to purchase inventory, cover short-term expenses such as marketing campaigns and manage their cashflow.

“There are however still thousands of retailers that haven’t made the move online. eBay provides a fantastic way for a business just starting out as well as help businesses looking to expand their existing channels.”

RB: What is eBay’s 2021 plan and what retail trends are you seeing? 

TM: “There’s been a lot of commentary around e-commerce and shifting consumer behaviour this year as we have seen COVID accelerate the trend for more people to shop online. 

“Consumer behaviour won’t just snap back to where it was, and enough time has now passed for the habit of shopping online to form. We know this Christmas will be the biggest ever for e-commerce as consumers become more comfortable with online shopping. 

“This has heightened consumer expectations with fast, free and trackable delivery no longer a nice to have, but essential. They want confidence on when they can expect a delivery and need to be able to monitor it along its journey.

“Another trend we’ve seen accelerate since COVID is supporting local businesses. eBay research reveals nearly 70 per cent of people want to support local businesses this Christmas. It’s why we partnered with Australian Made: their first partnership with a marketplace globally.

“Additionally, amid supply chain disruptions and fewer planes carrying air cargo, there are straightforward incentives for consumers to favour local retailers and Australian-made goods. For starters, products made in Australia are simply a quicker option when it comes to delivery right now. 

“When it comes to shopper trends, through the pandemic, we’ve seen Australians buying everything and anything. They’ve shifted more of their wallet to online whether setting up a home office, home gym or forms of entertainment from puzzles, board games and LEGO, and we expect the trend will continue well into 2021.”