eBay has been 'asleep at the wheel' in the sneaker category. Now, an exec explains how the platform will overtake competitors like StockX and GOAT

By Shoshy Ciment

Before there was StockX or GOAT, there was eBay.

Therein lies the e-commerce website's claim as the originator of the sneaker resale game. Until other competitive resale marketplaces popped up about a decade or so ago, eBay was the go-to platform for buying and selling hyped footwear releases.

But as sneaker resale ballooned into a multi-billion dollar industry, new competitors and innovations in the authentication and marketplace space forced eBay to fall behind. 

Read more: An eBay exec explains how the platform is poaching sneakerheads from StockX by empowering them with superior sales data

"I do think that we were, in all candor, a little bit asleep at the wheel," Jordan Sweetnam, eBay's senior vice president of North America, told Business Insider in an interview. "That the category like this could grow so quickly and we just, you know, sat idly by."

Now, eBay is playing catch-up in a race to reclaim its former glory. And over the past 12 months, it has made some major moves while on the comeback trail.

eBay's winning sneakers strategy

eBay's investment in the sneaker category has become notably aggressive in the last year.

"Sneakers was at the top of the list of categories where we were contracting [losing business] year-over-year," Sweetnam said about eBay's sneaker business up until about a year ago. "It's this incredible space; the average sneaker customer is going to shop in 10 unique categories. That's twice the average eBay customer. And yet our business was shrinking. It was crazy."

eBay made its first major move in sneakers in December 2019, when it eliminated North American seller fees for any sneaker sold at $100 or more. eBay previously charged fees of up to 10% to sellers, which deterred some sneakerheads from using the platform. StockX and GOAT both charge various fees for sellers on their platforms.

Sneakers Authenticity Guarantee eBay
eBay announced last month that it would authenticate sneakers sold for $100 or more on its platform.

An even larger push forward came last month, when eBay launched a program for authenticating sneakers  sold on its marketplace worth over $100. This landmark move essentially eliminated one of the platform's most talked about pain points for buyers and resellers: mistakenly purchasing counterfeit pairs. It also mitigated a key advantage that, for a while, had been exclusive to platforms like StockX and GOAT. 

eBay's first authentication center is located in New York, but Sweetnam said there are plans to open another center on the West Coast to enable the platform to process 2 million sneakers a year and cut down on shipping times for sneakers shipped from the region.

eBay's key advantages over StockX and GOAT

Even before eBay launched authentication for sneakers in October, it was already seeing an over 50% growth in gross merchandise value (GMV), or inventory, year-to-date in the category. And while addressing seller fees and authentication helped spur eBay's growth in sneakers, there are certain key advantages that Sweetnam says had already made the platform unique.

"For us, it isn't just about only having new in-box sneakers in perfect condition," Sweetnam said. Unlike StockX, eBay facilitates the sale of new — or deadstock  — pairs, as well as used ones. "The ability for us to expand this into non-new is going to be really important."

Sweetnam also highlighted the ability for eBay sellers to create a personalized brand on the platform. StockX and GOAT do not give sellers as much liberty when it comes to personalizing their stores and overall profile on the site. By comparison, eBay sellers can create their own online "stores," complete with a profile and description, which helps them establish credibility and consistency with buyers on the platform.

"I love that our sellers have identity on eBay. That makes them excited to talk about their eBay presence and drive traffic to eBay," Sweetnam said. "That's part of the fun of building a business on eBay — is your identity."

eBay also provides sellers with a detailed set of analytics via a free foundational tool called Terapeak, which equips sellers with historical sales data for categories and specific items.

"As we start to bring all those things together, I think we are just uniquely positioned to have the world's largest supply and selection in sneakers covering new and pre-owned," Sweetnam said, adding that he ultimately expects eBay to cover an even broader range of customers than StockX and GOAT. 

"If you go back to how we were founded: the place to go for collectibles, the things that excite you, the things you can't find, I think we're so uniquely positioned to deliver the best experiences for buyers and sellers in these categories," he said.

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