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Exclusive Q&A: Xiaodi Zhang, VP of seller experience at eBay

Xiaodi Zhang
eBay VP of seller experience Xiaodi Zhang says the e-tail giant actively supports small sellers.

eBay sees a lot of potential value in e-commerce for small retailers.

Chain Store Age recently spoke with Xiaodi Zhang, VP of seller experience at eBay, about how small retailers can leverage innovative technology to effectively compete in e-commerce. Zhang discussed broader trends in online retailing as well as specific solutions and services eBay provides small sellers.

Why should a small business get involved in e-commerce?
For any small business, it's increasingly important to think about omnichannel strategies, just from a customer reach standpoint. They need to think about the long-term trajectory of their business; and also about how in the last 15 to 20 years, online sales have continued to grow at a faster rate than offline sales.

By entering e-commerce, small businesses can scale faster and develop and build their customers significantly beyond the confines of their local communities.

How does eBay assist small businesses with e-commerce?
We help through the entire e-commerce lifecycle and journey of a small business. That includes managing their inventory, creating simplified listing tools for them to be able to list online seamlessly and then to manage sales, messaging support, and answering questions from prospective customers.

Post order, eBay offers shipping services and payment options. We think about our suite of services through an end to end lens of helping our small sellers across all the different touchpoints and different types. of friction and challenges that they might face.

[Read more: eBay offers small business sellers support]

What does eBay do to help a small business overcome supply chain friction and disruption?
We're not necessarily as involved on the sourcing side. Our sellers usually have their inventory already. And some of them do use eBay for sourcing, but that's not our primary focus.

In terms of the distribution of products, we have invested through a number of different programs. For example, in certain categories, we offer an authenticity guarantee where we provide sellers with labels, and they ship products to our facilities where we verify that they are legitimate and then we ship them to the buyers.

eBay also has a global shipping program which helps our small business sellers ship across borders and facilitate international shipping. And if a buyer needs to return an item, we can also facilitate that return process, as well.

What do you see as the top two trends in small business e-commerce for 2023?
One is the increasingly global nature of e-commerce and the need to provide the care and personalized customer experience that only smaller businesses can offer to their customers, but through a global lens in terms of building customers around the world.

Another important trend for small businesses in e-commerce is innovation. There's just a lot of innovation happening, such as with personalization and with using data to improve your business and better reach your existing customers, as well as to better understand what type of features and capabilities you can use to convert potential customers. In addition, leading-edge technology areas like social commerce, live commerce and AI are all types of innovation that small businesses will be able to benefit from in 2023.

What advice do you have for a small business looking to succeed in e-commerce?
In general, small businesses that are successful in e-commerce in the long run are flexible and able to adapt based on information. E-commerce is a great way to get data and feedback quickly, so for any small business interested in building up their brand online, my recommendation is to be flexible and to try lots of different strategies.

That's the main benefit of online retailing versus brick-and-mortar retailing; you get them much faster feedback to help improve your business. But the hardest part is always starting.

Does eBay offer any services for small business in innovative e-commerce areas?
We have a number of live commerce events that we have been introducing and that's an area that we are expanding into. In addition, eBay is using a lot of the data that we have collected from all of our years in e-commerce and incorporating that with AI technology into personalization on both on the buyer side and the seller side.

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