SEATTLE, 7 SEPTEMBER 2010 - Look out Google, you may have a new, unlikely challenger.
Google may be the first place people turn to for Web search, but the head of eBay's mobile efforts, Steve Yankovich, hopes to make eBay the first place that people look on their phones when searching for a product to buy.
"I want to replace Google as the de facto 'Where do I start,'" he said.
Yankovich, who's been with eBay for less than a year-and-a-half, is hoping to bring the company's mobile offerings from behind the times to the cutting edge.
Until the middle of last year, eBay users couldn't make a purchase from their mobile phones. They could bid on auctions, but if they won they had to pay later. There was no option to purchase non-auction items immediately, either.
By the middle of last year, however, eBay users could buy items directly from a mobile eBay site or applications like the one for the iPhone. By the end of 2009, customers had bought US$600 million worth of products from their mobile phones, Yankovich said.
He has expanded the team of people working on mobile products at eBay from just a few to 15. They have released an iPhone application for people interested in fashion and plan additional apps for other categories like sporting equipment, consumer electronics, motors and collectibles. EBay also offers mobile apps for Android and BlackBerry phones.
In addition, eBay plans to incorporate selling capabilities into the next version of its primary iPhone application. Today those selling features are part of a separate app. Since the primary application has been downloaded 12 million times, eBay expects the new version to encourage many more people to sell from their phones, he said.
The company will also launch a "motors app" later this year that will let people use a built-in barcode-reader feature to scan the Vehicle Identification Number of a car and do a Carfax lookup. The app will also let users enter the make and model of their own car and then filter searches for compatible parts and accessories.
EBay has also built but not yet released a reader for QR Codes, which are similar to barcodes, so users will be able to scan gift cards and coupons from eBay apps.
But Yankovich also has bigger plans. "The future for eBay on mobile also is to experience the product in a different way then you experience it today," Yankovich said.
The company is enhancing Red Laser, a barcode scanning app that eBay bought in June. "We're working on extending Red Laser to look at objects," he said. The application could identify an object not by its barcode but by its shape or color, he said.
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