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eBay's new iPad homescreen

EBay is rolling out of a mobile update and is refreshing one of its online experiences today in hopes of creating a customer experience it describes as hunting for treasure and being part of a connected commerce community.

For frequent eBay users, the updates may appear minor, but the language being used by eBay’s President Devin Wenig hints at where the company is headed and sets the e-commerce giant apart from others, like Amazon.

It is creating a more visual, laid-back Pinterest-like experience that would be more similar to flipping through a catalog. The change is dramatic for online retailers, which have spent the past two decades emphasizing a streamlined buying experience that stresses convenience and speed.

eBay attempting to be both of those things to customers — inspirational and practical. The new designs being rolled out today try to achieve both of these goals. Can they pull it off?

The app updates — on iPhone/iPad, Android — are now live, with Windows Mobile and the mobile web coming soon. On the web, the changes can be seen at eBay Today, a marketplace it launched in October for those looking to browse.

In several messages posted on Twitter, Wenig spilled the beans on Monday that the updates were coming and explained what they represented:


eBay's new iPhone Home Page
eBay’s new iPhone app displays more pictures than the old version.

Practically speaking, the updates include improvements on both the treasure-seeking and efficiency front.

On the technical front, the apps will run much faster, and Android users will have new notifications that allow them to bid on auction items more quickly. EBay is adding another useful service for the iPad. It features a new “in-store pick-up” option that will allow shoppers to order items at Best Buy, AutoZone and Toys “R” Us to be picked up in a nearby store.

On the iPhone, a less practical new feature is the addition of new content for a “personalized feed” that streams items “inspired by what users want, need and love.” Most noticeable to users, perhaps, will be that the apps have much larger images, so you’ll see the camera, sunglasses or handbag that you have added to your watch list.

A look at eBay's previous app, which used text not photos.
A look at eBay’s previous app, which used text not photos.

On the Web, eBay Today is a lot like Pinterest, where consumers go to find out what’s trendy or to define their own sense of style by browsing collections made by other like-minded people. Similarly, eBay Today allows for curators, to create collections of items that you may love. Shoppers can “follow” these curators, so you can discover the latest collections.

Updates to the eBay Today homepage will include sections for “Today’s Top Collection,” “Today’s Featured Collections” and “Today’s Trending Collections.” Also, product information, including price range for items in a collection, will be added so users can purchase items more easily.

None of these updates particularly stand-out as a killer feature, but it is just another way that the San Jose, Calif.-based e-commerce company is trying to set itself apart from Amazon. In part, it’s focused on the future of user experience and connecting the online or mobile experience to in-store shopping, while Amazon is investing more heavily in expanding into new verticals, like groceries and hardware.

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