eBay navigated multiple pandemic hurdles to launch its new sneaker authentication program, a service that its SVP of North America says was 6 months in the making

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eBay authentication
The set of eBay’s authentication announcement, which mirrors the actual authentication facility in New York.

  • eBay recently launched a new program for authenticating sneakers on its online marketplace.
  • The timing of the launch was ambitious, especially with the pandemic impacting similar authentication centers across the US in the form of positive COVID-19 cases and shipping delays.
  • “It has been logistically challenging to pull it off,” Jordan Sweetnam, eBay’s senior vice president of North America, said of the launch. “But what has allowed it to be successful and allowed us to even get here in the time we did is it’s something that not only resonates with our customers, it’s really exciting for employees.”
  • Here’s how eBay launched and scaled its sneaker authentication program during the pandemic.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

eBay is gunning to be number one in the world of sneaker reselling. And by finally launching a sustainable authentication program, the company hopes it can continue to close the gap on competitors like StockX and GOAT. 

The platform’s new service, which authenticates sneakers worth over $100 sold on its marketplace, launched last month. The move is eBay’s latest attempt to reclaim its former glory as the originator of the sneaker resale game, following the elimination of North American seller fees last December.

“Making sure that people are getting exactly what they want is important,” Jordan Sweetnam, eBay’s senior vice president of North America, told Business Insider in an interview about eBay’s decision to launch an authentication program. “Are the laces in the box? Is it in the right condition if you’re storing this for resale value?”

Read more: A 28-year-old quit his insurance job to resell discontinued items on Amazon. Here’s how he’s sold $1.2 million worth of goods on the platform since 2015.

When it comes to the sale of hyped sneakers —or any luxury item, for that matter — buyers want to know that they are not being scammed with counterfeit goods. And as sneaker resale explodes into a multibillion dollar industry, other resale marketplaces like StockX and GOAT have already made authentication services a key component of their business models. 

How eBay set up an authentication center during a pandemic

Launching anything during a pandemic can be risky. But eBay’s efforts have likely mitigated a key advantage that, for a while, had been exclusive to aforementioned competitors. 

Sweetnam said that eBay made the decision to get into sneaker authentication about six months ago, as the pandemic accelerated interest in the sneaker category overall. Even before launching authentication, eBay was seeing over 50% growth in gross merchandise value (GMV)or inventory, year-to-date in footwear.

To set up the center itself, eBay relied on guidance from its authentication partner, Sneaker Con, the world’s largest sneaker show that also runs a popular resale marketplace app with its own authentication service. 

Sweetnam confirmed that authenticators in eBay’s launched New York center are currently following standard safety procedures during the pandemic including social distancing and mask-wearing.

In April, Business Insider reported that StockX — which operates six authentication centers globally and four in the US — had recorded seven confirmed cases of COVID-19 at centers as employees complained about unsafe working conditions. And as of August, delays in authenticating real pairs of sneakers due to the coronavirus were still causing some people to wait weeks for their orders and payouts. GOAT has similarly stated that buyers should expect delays due to COVID-19 related workflow delays. 

“Everything in the pandemic is more complicated,” Sweetnam said, explaining how other aspects of launching authentication had to be modified to accommodate for the circumstances of the pandemic.

For example, in designing the hang tags that indicate a pair of sneakers has passed inspection, eBay had to work around the unavailability of in-person focus groups to figure out a design that would excite sneaker enthusiasts. To do this, eBay relied on internal user research and feedback from Sneaker Con.

Ebay Sneakers
eBay’s sneaker tag denotes a pair has passed inspection.

eBay also forwent a formal “unveiling” of the service. Under normal circumstances, launches of this scale are usually celebrated in large, in-person gatherings. But for its sneaker authentication launch, eBay relied on videos and virtual content to help spread the word to users. 

“It has been logistically challenging to pull off,” Sweetnam said of the launch, which he describes as successful thus far. 

In addition to the new center in New York, Sweetnam said there are plans to open another center on the West Coast to enable eBay to process a total of 2 million sneakers a year and cut down on shipping times for sneakers shipped.

https://markets.businessinsider.com/news/stocks/ebay-took-a-risk-launch-sneaker-authentication-in-a-pandemic-2020-11-1029778732

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