I'm not sure that anyone really understands why eBay decided to acquire Skype. I know I didn't. Nor did I really think about its marketing implications.
Lucky for all of us, Canadian journalist Mark Evans has been thinking about it -- and blogging it. In a number of excellent posts since yesterday, Evans has brought up some great points:
So I listened to the Skype-eBay conference call this morning and talked to many people about the deal - and still can't quite get my head around why eBay is so willing to spend $4.1-billion on a company that had sales of $7-million last year (albeit a target of $60 million in 2005 and $200-million in 2006) and doesn't seem to have a sustainable competitive advantage. Here's my second take on how Skype fits into eBay's strategic thinking:
1. Skype is integrated into eBay as a sales tool, particularly for categories such as automobiles and B2B where eBay can score high margins and healthy profits.
2. Skype is a play in the click-to-talk market, which may or may not materialize as the Web's next killer business app. (My emphasis -ake)
3. Skype is a pure telecom investment play as it win more users and premium customers at a time ...
In a later post, Evans comments further on the pay-per-call aspect:
One more thought about the Skype-eBay deal is you'll hear a lot more about pay-per-call joining pay-per-click (AdSense, etc.) as the next killer e-commerce app based on the idea that buyers or advertisers will pay a fee if people connect to them using VOIP.
This is an interesting point. So, let's say eBay starts more aggressively courting a high-end market, and now you have more prominent eBay stores selling luxury cars, furniture, real estate, expensive electronics -- the sort of things people generally don't buy on impulse. But if those stores offer a click-to-call button -- at the vendors' expense -- surely sales would be easier to close.
Maybe it would open the door for eBay to start selling business services as well as goods. At any rate, it's a service that would appeal to the eBay business owner who can afford a customer service or full-time sales rep (or who runs their business full time and is always available) - but probably not for your next-door-neighbor who occasionally sells his old hockey and Desert Storm cards.
UPDATE: For more info, check out the investor presentation (78 slides!) on eBay's site. While it looks like they'll offer free *and* pay-per-call service, it's unclear how each will be offered.