Wednesday, October 31, 2007

eBay Inc. Profiting From the California Wildfires

The recent expanse of devastating wildfires to rip through Southern California will help boost EPS in Q4, which is already being predicted by analysts to be a huge quarter for eBay. I've already filed with the SEC to exercise two massive chunks of options in late December and early January, just before we release our Q4 numbers. The holiday shopping season is perennially the biggest quarter for eBay in terms of listing volume and ASP. We are optimistic that the wildfires will only enhance those numbers, and even expect the usually stagnant conversion rates to increase dramatically. The first victims should begin receiving insurance reimbursements by Black Thursday and some prior to that, but most will have some type of compensation by the second week of December.

I've been in almost constant contact with Bob Swan regarding the direction we need to take in the run up to the holidays and how best to monetize the tragedy of the wildfires. We both agree that the negligible rise in conversion rates during normal holiday shopping seasons will rise by between 8-14% based solely on the needs of the thousands of Californians looking to rebuild and restock their new homes with convenience and luxury items. We've decided to play it by ear as far as any potential insertion fee promotions go. If my little drones don't seem to be listing enough for my taste, I will throw them a bone in early December. We cannot afford not to have a marked increase y/y in listings in November and December, especially with the number of options I'm exercising at the end of the year.

When I began work at eBay in 1998 I shared my Divine Retribution Income Model with Pierre. At first he was a bit skeptical to say the least. I quickly was able to start him down the road of understanding. Little by little, he was able to see that devastating acts of God and horrific tragedies have an enormous synergistic effect with the business model that Pierre had created. Any doubts that Pierre might have had simply vanished with the success of our Auction for America. The A4A was born out of my DRIM theory as a means of not only compensating for any loss in revenue due to the attacks on 9/11, but more importantly increasing revenue based on the fear, renewed sense of patriotism and compassion, and the basic human desire to purchase and acquire as a defense mechanism.

What better way to feed the desires of the American populace with a more-than-shaky economic outlook than to convince the collectively shocked and scared that buying unneeded luxury items during their time of crisis could actually benefit the victims of the September 11th attacks? I challenge you to find a better business model. And the media did a good job promoting the A4A, they fell hook, line and sinker. With just a few mentions of the A4A on the cable news channels, buyers came pouring into the eBay site with their credit cards in their hands. The sellers were still selling (it's the perfect business model, the drones must sell to pay for their fees, and a stupid little incident like 9/11 won't affect the sellers, they've got bills to pay and mouths to feed), and the A4A made sure that the numbers of buyers maintained, and I was pleasantly surprised by how many new buyers signed up because of the A4A.

The A4A allowed eBay Inc. to capitalize on what everyone was calling the worst national tragedy ever. Prior to the attacks of 9/11, eBay had been having a stale year in terms of listing volume. The A4A was the beginning of a steady three year climb in listing numbers. The wildfires in CA are certainly tragic, but they may be too much of a regional event to spur long-term growth in listings and revenue. For the time being, I'll take what bump I can, until I'm graced with another nationwide event that will ultimately lead to another jump in sustainable growth.

No comments: