Seven B-to-B Networking Strategies Used at eBay Open 2018

Seven B-to-B Networking Strategies Used to Engage eBay Open Seller Conference

Seven Strategies eBay Employs to Increase Engagement at its Annual Seller Conference

eBay has hosted seller events since 2002, but three years ago it launched eBay Open, an annual event open to all sellers who use the marketplace platform—from solo operations to large businesses to eBay newbies. This year’s sell-out event, which took place July 24-26 at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, offered the more than 2,000 attendees engaging content, the opportunity to learn about new seller tools, and the chance to interact with eBay’s top sellers, eBay employees and, most importantly, each other.

As eBay sellers are effectively brand ambassadors, it’s critical that they leave inspired, educated and dedicated to the brand. And there’s no better way to do that than gathering the community together for a live event. “A lot of these sellers do work on their own. They’re a family-run business with just a few employees, or one person,” says Jessie Babiarz, eBay Open executive producer and head of seller events. “Being able to meet face-to-face is something they only get the opportunity to do, at least when organized by eBay, once a year—and they look forward to it all year.”

Here are seven strategies the brand employed at the 2018 eBay Open to grow the event and keep sellers and the eBay marketplace engaged.


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 1. Launching the event earlier.

The eBay Open team this year marketed the event earlier, launching the event website and registration six weeks earlier than they did the year prior and, for the first time, offering an early bird rate in order to plan for audience size. It worked: sell-out occurred much earlier than expected.

“We always get really great feedback from everyone who attends about how they feel inspired and motivated to go home and continue to grow their business. We wanted more sellers to have that same feeling,” says Babiarz.

 

2. Hosting an event within an event.

The eBay Top Seller Summit is a gathering of the brand’s most important sellers. For the first time this year, eBay held it in tandem with the Open as a pre-conference followed by an evening reception and awards ceremony at Hyde Nightclub in the Bellagio Hotel & Casino. Once it concluded, the two events merged together and the Open began. The result was that each group benefitted from the other’s presence.

“Traditionally, they’ve been separate,” Babiarz says. “Our learnings from last year were that a lot of the messaging is very similar, and we wanted our top sellers to have the experience of eBay Open. We have more employees there and we have all of our sponsors in the expo hall.”

 

3. Using registration data to customize content.

eBay sellers are an incredibly diverse audience. To paint a picture: Attendees arrived from 49 U.S. states and seven countries at this year’s event. In light of that, it was important for eBay to examine its event audience and tailor content to fit its needs. Taking a page from the company’s data-driven philosophy, Babiarz and her team comb through every inch of feedback from sellers in order to improve upon the next conference. But tailoring content starts far earlier than that. “We look toward that data—who’s registering to attend—and it helps us make decisions as we move along. Some of it we plan out and for some of it we wait until people start registering to make those calls.”

 

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At the “Pop-up Theater,” executives and eBay employees discussed different topics, Q&A style.

 

4. Creating hyper-targeted networking opportunities.

With the group of eBay Open attendees being so diverse, from both a global and a business vertical perspective, the challenge becomes facilitating interaction—one of the main draws of the conference. There are multiple opportunities for sellers to interact with one another, including networking sessions around specific topics. eBay created regionally-focused networking groups and others based on business verticals. “If you sell in a specific category you can go up to another seller in that area and know they also sell in your category. It helps start the conversation which we found helpful,” Babiarz says.

 

5. Expanding the reach with digital broadcasts.

To expand the digital reach of the conference, eBay created an “Open Studio” to film Facebook Live sessions, interviews and seller takeovers of eBay’s social platforms by influencers. “They could do an interview or talk to their audience in our space. It’s another touchpoint where sellers can go and listen to each other and engage in a conversation,” Babiarz says. Like last year, the content captured, including workshop content, was posted on eBayOpen.com afterwards for attendees to view. This year, a lot more was captured beyond that, including seller interviews and post-event commentary that will be shared on the eBay for Business blog and social channels.

 

6. Connecting eBay sellers and eBay employees.

The eBay Open is not just an opportunity for sellers to improve their businesses. It’s also a place where eBay employees are able to interact with sellers and learn from one another. “It’s such a helpful reminder—opportunity, really—to hear from our sellers about their pain points, things they love, what they want more of and ideas they have. It’s a good brainstorm session for several days, and we’re able to do that in a way that we can’t when we’re not altogether.”

The event is set up to combine employees with sellers on many occasions, from eating lunch and taking breaks together to more formal settings like the Biz Boost, where sellers can schedule a custom “health check” of their business with an eBay rep.

 

7. Using casual formats to inspire interaction.

Separate from workshop content was a more informal space eBay called the “Pop-up Theater,” where executives and eBay employees discussed different topics, Q&A style. The effect is educating attendees in a natural, seamless way, where the interaction is more of a dialogue than a speech or lecture. And speaking of casual, the event theme itself followed suit.  eBay landed on “Say Hello,” which was meant to encourage saying “hello” not only to one another but also to new business practices such as payments and shipping.

“We like to think of ourselves as being a partner to our sellers and having the ability to be less formal. It’s really about saying hello to whatever it is at the event that’s happening, whether it’s inspiration, education, networking or fresh ideas,” Babiarz says. The branding technique included placing a graphically-themed “O” within key headlines and themes and event lockups. “It felt friendly, as if you’re welcome to come up and talk to anybody. Devin Wenig, our ceo, was sitting on a bean bag chair and sellers were coming up and talking to him and asking him questions. That’s what the event is about.” Agency: Sparks, San Francisco, CA.

 

Scenes From Year Three of eBay Open:

 

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