My First Feature Launch at eBay

Today I launched my first feature at eBay as a full-time product manager.  It has been a long time in the making and it was quite the adventure.

Overview

I started at eBay in September, 2015 on the Verticals team (responsible for browse pages, Deals, and Events on the site and apps).  My workstream is specifically the SEO initiative for Verticals.  My workstream is responsible for several features that will be launching incrementally in 2016.  This first project is called the Event Expiration page**.

Problem

The Event Expiration page is an experience that will load when a user clicks a link to an expired event (i.e. an event that is no longer running a sale of items on eBay).  Before this page existed, if a user clicked a link to an expired event from Google, an email from the eBay Newsletter, or a bookmark, the user was redirected to our homepage.  This created 2 major problems:

  1. There were thousands of unique expired event links on eBay throwing 301 redirects to our homepage.  All of these 301 redirects were problematic because Google saw this and classified it as a soft 404 error, hurting eBay's overall SEO.
  2. The user would expect to land on an event, but instead landed on the eBay homepage.  This was confusing and frustrating to the user, and caused a drop-off in engagement.

Solution

The Event Expiration page solves the first of these 2 problems by eliminating 301 redirects, and instead, maintains the unique URL of the event with a tailored user experience.  This new UX solves the second problem from above by giving the user context that the event has expired, and re-engaging the user with eBay by suggesting other events, and prompting the user to subscribe to eBay's Deals & Events Newsletter.  This page also sends a "noindex" call to Google to remove the expired event from Google's index, and lower the amount of traffic that lands on the outdated content.

An example scenario can be seen here:

A previously running event for Up to 50% off Samsung Phones in its active state will later expire and load this new expired event experience.

Comparison

This is the first feature and page that I have launched as a PM at eBay, and in general as a PM outside of my college-startup daapr.  It is very different experience launching something in a large corporation like eBay compared with the bootstrapped startup environment.  

For starters, you have way more resources at hand, including many knowledgeable designers, analysts, engineers, and product managers that bring support and advice along the way.  You also have an existing and extensive architecture for testing the feature, then launching it to your users.  There is also a large user base that will start seeing and using this feature immediately.  All of this is very helpful and exciting.  This is all relative to the bootstrapped startup, in which you have only a couple of people to rely on, an ad hoc infrastructure for testing, and a much smaller audience in which to see and enjoy your feature.

On the other hand, I believe that I could have delivered a comparable feature in a fraction of the time it took to launch the Expired Event page in the bootstrapped startup environment.  For all of eBay's resources in people and infrastructure, there is also the large process for getting a feature from start-to-finish.  I had to do numerous meetings with varying groups of people to simply kick-off the project, then I was able to actually do some work with designing and building the product.  Once the work was [almost] finished, I had to organize multiple design, product and engineering reviews to gauge whether the feature met expectations and standards, then incorporate feedback from these reviews.  On top of which, I had to navigate a system called LaunchBay, in which every party in eBay, ranging from legal to seller experience and brand, all had to sign off on launching this new page.  This process was quite cumbersome.

Takeaway

Overall, this first feature at eBay taught me a lot about UX on a larger scale, SEO, and product management in a large organization.  I saw firsthand the tradeoffs that product management has at a large company.  There are so many great resources at your disposal, but with them, comes many reviews and emails to coordinate the launch of the feature.  I found that some reviews were extremely helpful for receiving feedback from more senior people at eBay.  This is not something you get with the bootstrapped startup.  At the same time, I think that there could be a better job done in streamlining the process more to allow for fewer reviews and emails, and more time building and launching.  That being said, meetings, reviews and emails are all part of large corporations (which I knew going in).

The magic in it all is having a company with the ideal balance between process and agility to launch faster, with proper review.

All in all, this has been an enlightening experience, and I look forward to many more product launches with eBay and my career as a whole.

Footnotes

**This workstream also covers native content-type integrations on eBay browse pages to replace the current image-mapped content on pages like www.ebay.com/fashion.  I am also handling other SEO-related projects such as migrating stylestories.ebay.com to be under our root domain and several other projects.