Tuesday, November 8, 2011

What I Hoped Would Be Announced At Innovate2011

Late post, I know. Hyper-growth life (yes, that was a #humblebrag).

I went to x.commerce (ex-PayPalX-Innovate) to check on industry trends, meet friends and exchange ideas. I didn't have huge expectations but I did hope to see a couple of things emerge from the whole x.commerce effort that will extend both the Marketplaces and PayPal divisions beyond where they are today. This has yet to come in full, but some early signs are still visible and look promising.

eBay has made some very interesting acquisitions which have an obvious synergistic quality to them, and it seems that it's managing these integrations well - as in, not forcing them to immediately assimilate but rather trying to make their products available within the greater eBay portfolio context. Now the question is whether all of these acquisitions can be actually leveraged together into a coherent, complete set of products and services. This leads me to what I was hoping to see.

The two things I had hoped to see coming from eBay were (1) An integrated social commerce suite that allows commerce to go anywhere - basically showing that if sellers don't come to marketplaces, marketplaces will come to them. Preferably, this would be integrated with FB's open graph and allow real personalization based on social data. (2) A real transactional identity strategy and toolbox that allows PayPal's data and identity assessment to be extended by commerce sites to tie past purchasing behavior and enhance user experience. I was hoping for these two things since in my POV, both would have shown that the Marketplaces and PayPal divisions understand the limitation of their business model (mainly, the need to own the experience on eBay.com and the consumer relationship for PayPal) and they are willing to partner and really provide access to some of their assets for others to expand on them. x.commerce, in general, was the right evolutionary move from PayPalX, since payments alone are not enough to build a really big and vibrant developer community - the problems a more flexible payments API is solving are not big enough (vs a new payment rail, but that's not what PayPal was offering).

While both were sort-of touched upon and generally speaking the direction is impressive, both the general x.commerce vision in general and the PayPal Access product specifically seem, still, a bit limited. In the x.commerce case, demanding that all capabilities communicate through the "fabric", as well as the way APIs expose information about the buyer (categorical answers such as "engaged", "casual" etc) demonstrate how eBay is trying to maintain as much business logic behind the APIs rather than provide raw data based on varying permission levels (at the consumer's discretion). PayPal Access is very similar in that sense - as one participant noted, currently looking a bit like a re-branded Express Checkout with a nifty sign-in module. I (hope to) see both of those concepts evolving more in the coming year as eBay incorporates more feedback from users, and becoming more open with its data and services. There's really a lot to be done in social commerce if eBay wants to continue being relevant, and I think it recognizes that. Time to take the big, platform agnostic, open-web-style leap.

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