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EBay Outlines Integrated Marketing Bid

NEW YORK — What kind of integrated marketing is right for a company that lists 328 million items in 50,000 categories?

Jeff Housenbold, vice president of business development and Internet marketing at eBay Inc., explained the firm's thinking at the DMD New York Conference & Expo yesterday.

EBay's idiosyncrasies would flummox most marketers. The 8-year-old brand is completely online. It caters to both the business-to-consumer and business-to-business markets. There are different interpretations of its value proposition. Both content and pricing on the site are dynamic. And it has no control over inventory.

So it is not surprising to see eBay spend anywhere from 100 percent of its ad budget in some years to 50 percent at other times on online marketing.

“Our marketing has been predominantly online, where our customers are,” Housenbold told attendees in his keynote address on the final day of the conference.

The San Jose, CA, company now depends on both online and offline marketing to reach customers and prospects worldwide. Multichannel outreach has taught eBay “that all boats rise in integrated marketing,” Housenbold said.

The company attracts 404 million page views monthly in the United States alone. The home page click-through rate is 90 percent. It gets 51 million visitors nationwide monthly versus 37 million for Amazon.

EBay's registered user base is 104.8 million, up 52 percent year-over-year. Of that, active users comprise 45.1 million, a 45 percent year-over-year jump. Fifty percent of users access the site through their personalized MyeBay page. The company gets more than 2 billion pieces of feedback yearly.

Marketing to this audience is done through dynamically generated content, trial- and category-specific promotions or navigational for directed shopping. EBay annually sends 1 billion marketing e-mails and 3 billion transactional e-mails. But it must be careful with this tool.

“We don't want to burn out our users,” Housenbold said, adding that eBay aims to send the “right message at the right time.”

EBay conducts more than 100 unique campaigns monthly. E-mails are integrated with postcards and Web site marketing.

Decreasing the number of sells is another issue. Two years ago, eBay had 32 sells. Now it is down to eight different messages.

Search marketing is another area that interests eBay. Affiliate deals with online firms such as entertainment search directory starpulse.com and relationships with portals like Yahoo, MSN, AOL, EarthLink, iVillage and CNET are also important.

Offline, print ads often target sellers. The company relies on inserts in major magazines, sweepstakes, public relations and television. It does not buy Super Bowl spots. A new TV campaign by agency Goodby, Silverstein & Partners starts this fall.

In Germany — where the eBay operation pulls more sales than Amazon worldwide, according to Housenbold — TV commercials are more aspirational and promotional to encourage repeat visits.

EBay has the advantage of phenomenal aided and unaided awareness, he said. But barriers were found when consumers were asked what the company does. Is it an auctioneer, retailer or trader? The positioning is unclear.

Integrated marketing, led by online, uses educational messaging to highlight that eBay sells many products, is safe to use and offers high value.

This task will be all the easier in July when eBay shuts its Half.com site, migrating all buyers and sellers to its own platform. The eBay books function already incorporates large elements of Half.com.

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