Why Patagonia Opts for a Wacky EBay Storefront

Defying expectations of for-profit retailers, Patagonia invests in an eBay partnership that allows customers to resell their used clothing. ROI be damned.

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When the IT shop at Patagonia was handed a new project to link its website to eBay's, there was no need to look for an ROI. Everyone could see there would be none. The idea was to create a branded storefront on eBay for people selling used Patagonia clothing--a rival sales channel that anyone shopping on the company's website could visit with a click.

While eBay gets its normal cut, Patagonia gets no commission for any shoppers who opt to buy used clothing instead of new.

"EBay is a for-profit company," says Bill Boland, Patagonia's e-media creative director. "So are we--but we don't act like it sometimes. On the surface it seems counterintuitive to promote used sales, but we never thought much about it. We want to help people keep their clothes out of a landfill. People talking about it was the metric for success."

The partnership brought together two development teams on two different platforms. The main challenge turned out to be a limit in eBay's public API, which caps searches at 100 sellers at one time. Patagonia wanted a much larger community.

The eBay development team responded by building a custom API for Patagonia's eBay storefront. The code performs multiple, parallel API calls to avoid the limiting issue.

The eBay storefront looks and feels exactly like the Patagonia website, except the photos of the merchandise for sale look user-generated, which they are. Click on an item and you're notified you are going to eBay. So far, Boland says, about 5 percent of visitors to the company's site have clicked over to the used clothing section.

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