Direct Line Blog

Did eBay just create couch commerce?

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Depending on what study is being cited, everyone is watching TV with a smartphone or tablet in hand. It's required, I think. So it's little wonder that eBay has found a way to capitalize by adding a “Watch with eBay” tab to its iPad app that will serve product listings according to what a consumer is watching on TV.

I haven't had a chance to toy around with the app, but based on a video eBay produced to tout the new tab, a soap opera fan using the app could be shown items such as a star's autograph or a dress worn by an actress on the show.

Despite a statement announcing the new tab, eBay doesn't really explain how the functionality works. The company said consumers will “type in their zip code, cable provider, channel and the program they are currently watching” to receive the product results, but eBay doesn't specify whether I'd need to type in any or all of that information every time I access the app, let alone change the channel. I've asked eBay for clarification*, but it's interesting that the company said in the statement that it plans to work with TV networks, cable providers and studios to enable the app to identify products featured in a show.

I called up Pete Deutschman, chief buddy officer of interactive agency The Buddy Group, to get his thoughts on the “Watch with eBay” tab. Deutschman is a big proponent of connecting TV, desktop and mobile; he's even coined what to call the three-channel integration--Connected14--and dedicated a website to the concept.

Deutschman said the tab is “definitely a step in the right direction” but noted that adoption poses one challenge. Another challenge is engendering consumers to use the app on a recurring basis. But those are down the road issues. Adoption will come on some scale, especially if the app can tag TV shows a la GetGlue or IntoNow.

eBay's rolled out something every e-commerce company or retailer should have been working on, so my question to Deutschman was how eBay's  first-to-market position could impact the fledgling “couch commerce” market. Basically to what extent does eBay's entry into the market kneecap follow-up entries by a Walmart or Target?

Deutschman said that brands would be more beholden to a Walmart or Target whereas eBay serves as more of a level platform. “eBay is an equalizer in a lot of ways, providing the opportunity for the small [brands] to compete,” he said.

*According to an eBay spokesperson, consumers only need to enter the zip code and cable provider when they first use the tab. They'll need to input channel and program information each time they use it, but the app will prepopulate options. The spokesperson said eBay is talking to different cable networks and others in the industry about developing the ability to tag TV content. eBay ran a non-consumer-facing pilot program of the tab with Bold and the Beautiful that made every single item in an entire episode taggable, the spokesperson said.

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