Editors' pick: Originally published March 21.
When eBay (EBAY) spun off PayPal (PYPL) in July, eBay announced a grand plan to revitalize its marketplace and turn its results around. Six months into the journey, analysts are tepid on the company's prospects.
In June, eBay first laid out a strategy for its PayPal-free future, explaining that it wants to focus on its core deal-seeking customer by enhancing the shopping experience, mainly through a structured data initiative.
That initiative entails turning many of the varied listings on eBay into more searchable product pages that contain different listings for the same product. So instead of searching for an iPhone and finding thousands of different listings, a customer would be shown a product page with reviews, details, images, and listings sorted into categories like "Newest" or "Best Value."
"As a consumer-to-consumer marketplace we were born in a sense where [sellers] would write whatever they want, and [buyers] would look through, and it was part of our charm," Amit Menipaz, who is leading this structured data initiative at eBay, told TheStreet. "Fast forward 20 years and it starts to get a little overwhelming. Both in terms of how to list items properly if you're a seller and where to find them if you're a buyer."
That's where structured data comes into play. Once the project is complete, consumers won't recognize the site, said Menipaz.
Of the 800 million listings on eBay in the fourth quarter of 2015, 37% have been structured, up from 28% in the third quarter. The next phase will bring that up to 60% of listings.
eBay has been systematically structuring its listings and has already gone through four countries and 18 categories. The next phase will bring them to seven countries and 26 categories.
"Six months ago, we began a series of platform, inventory and policy changes, which we believe are critical to make our business more competitive over the long term," eBay CEO Devin Wenig said during the fourth-quarter earnings call. "While we're making steady progress on these strategic initiatives, we don't expect to see material benefit from them for some time to come."
But he noted that the structured data initiative has allowed eBay to enable price trending and comparisons, which has already had a positive impact on conversion rates.
As Wenig himself noted, this turnaround story will take time. eBay expects an 18 to 24 month journey from when it first announced the plan in the summer.