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By Imogen Watson, Senior reporter

July 3, 2020 | 4 min read

Of the 300,000 small businesses that eBay houses, 20,000 in the UK had to shut up shop because their product became redundant during the coronavirus pandemic.

As small businesses are the building blocks that hold eBay together, the online auction house and e-commerce platform is endeavouring to help save those struggling from extinction.

As part of The Drum’s Can-Do Festival, Geoff de Burca, chief strategy officer at MediaCom and Rob Hattrell, chief executive officer at eBay UK, sat down with consulting editor Sonoo Singh to discuss how to empower small businesses and help build communities to create economic opportunity for all. Watch the session in full here, or enjoy some insight below.

How can eBay help small businesses?

“There were some businesses that had to just shut down, even though they were online,” recalls Hattrell. “If you are in the party entertainment business, that market simply doesn’t exist. So we provided support that mothballs their business, so they can come back when they're ready."

To support small businesses eBay provided a set of discounts, protected ‘Seller Performance’ if there were postage delays or issues and gave advice on how to manage businesses in the case of temporary closure.

It also cut fees for listing or selling items, which brought in new sellers onto the platform who were no longer able to function offline. "If you're running a business and you've never been online before, we made it free to basically start your business on our platform," Hattrell explains.

"That's drove another 50,000 businesses onto eBay, which are in various stages of evolution," he adds.

Online competition post-pandemic

While eBay deals with the responsibility of ensuring its small businesses are protected, at the same time it has its eyes on catching up with the likes of Amazon while fending off competition from Etsy. With everything going online during the pandemic, are old e-retailers like eBay worried about competition after things ease off?

“The competitive challenge is relentless,” Hattrell admits. “It's a super competitive world online. But they all operate in their own independent ways. My view on competition is that we offer and do something different.

"And what we do different is partnerships, because the truth is, eBay only wins when the small businesses on our platforms win and succeed. We are singular in that we are single-minded and we aren't distracted by any other business models."

Long-term lockdown trends?

Considering consumer behaviors, has lockdown cultivated long-term trends or will things go back to normal?

"The trends that are most likely to continue from my perspective are ones that were where the crisis has accelerated an already existing trend," argues de Burca.

"According to the ONS, since lockdown, total online retail in the UK has grown from 19% to 30%, which is an astonishing acceleration now. It will fall back but it won't go all the way to 19%. It will keep some of those gains because of the new people who've tried online."

Rob Hattrell and Geoff de Burca spoke with consulting editor Sonoo Singh as part of The Drum’s Can-Do Festival, an online event celebrating the positive energy, innovation and creative thinking that can make the marketing community such a powerful force for good. You can watch the interview in full here.

Sign up to watch forthcoming sessions and see the full Can-Do schedule here.

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