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eBay Overhauls iPad App to Look More Like Pinterest and Less Like Amazon

More discovery, less commodity stuff.

Jason Del Rey has been a business journalist for 15 years and has covered Amazon, Walmart, and the e-commerce industry for the last decade. He was a senior correspondent at Vox.

Shopping site eBay is doubling down on its bet that a photo-heavy design can help it reignite sales growth and excitement in its marketplace with the release today of a new design for its iPad app.

Under the direction of Chief Product Officer RJ Pittman, the app’s redesign aims to make it easier for online shoppers to discover the uniqueness and breadth of products — more than 800 million in total — that eBay sellers offer. The app takes cues from Pinterest, which has popularized the idea of product discovery via grids of photos customized by personal taste.

“I’m happy to openly use the Pinterest model as an example,” Pittman said in an interview.

“We want this to be as much a source of inspiration as a shopping destination,” he added.

The new design, which features fewer cluttered product pages and more professional photos, comes as eBay looks to differentiate itself from e-commerce giant Amazon. As more people use Amazon as their starting point when they know exactly what they want to buy, eBay is trying to become a destination for people who are looking to discover what they might be interested in buying. In doing so, eBay is trying to capitalize both on the uniqueness of its product catalogue as well as the fact that Pinterest users cannot currently buy on Pinterest what they discover on Pinterest.

“As a product guy and design guy, I’ve just been yearning to pull all of the stuff out of the catalogue and get it in front of users in a way that’s both inspiring and simple,” Pittman said.

The app refresh comes as the revenue growth of eBay’s marketplace business continues to decrease. Marketplace revenue growth decelerated to six percent year over year in the third quarter, down from nine percent in the second quarter and 11 percent in the first quarter. The company was hit with a double whammy earlier this year: A hack of shopper information and a penalty by Google that knocked a chunk of its pages out of search results.

The redesign builds on an image-heavy refresh of the desktop eBay website that the company rolled out a year ago. At the time, I said the makeover felt “like a conservative-dressing dad trying to fit into his son’s slim-fit suit.” A year later, eBay is only getting more aggressive in its makeover as it follows the trend of visually-led product discovery, while Amazon owns more of the e-commerce market for commodity goods. The remake might not work, but eBay is latching on to a popular trend and pursuing it at full speed.

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