With only weeks of holiday shopping remaining, eBay today has rolled out a new product category on its U.S. marketplace which features a collection lifestyle products and other items from companies ranging from emerging small businesses fresh off a crowdfunding round to larger, better-known tech brands like Nest. Called the “Innovators Collective,” this section of eBay now includes just over a dozen products from categories like home goods, home electronics, and more, but may grow to around 20 products before the 2014 holidays wrap, eBay says.
At launch, the site features products like the app-controlled ball Sphero and app-controlled robot Ollie; the USB battery backup Fluxmob Bolt; smart food scale from Orange Chef; Gramovox’s gramophone; “connected car” adapter Automatic; Boosted’s electric longboard; and several others.
Ebay says the service is still in its pilot phase, which means that it may or may not continue to grow and expand to other markets in the months ahead – though that’s the current goal.
According to David Ramadge, Director of Entrepreneurship and Venture Outreach at eBay Inc., the company has been watching as entrepreneurs and other small software companies were entering the market with well-designed consumer products that were “pushing the edge of innovation,” he says.
“We started talking to them, and said our eBay buyers would love this inventory,” Ramadge explains.
“So we decided to pilot a new category in North America.”
While the category includes a diverse range of products, the thing that keeps it together is the idea of innovation and the importance of design. “These aren’t knickknacks, these are fantastic innovations,” he adds.
The majority of products (~80%) will be those from smaller companies whose names and products aren’t yet ubiquitous, while the remaining items will come from authorized resellers of better-known items like Nest’s smart thermostat and smoke detector, now a Google company.
Unlike product listings elsewhere on eBay, the new section allows the companies to offer a simplified, less cluttered profile pages instead of eBay’s traditional listings, where the businesses can use high-res imagery and video to showcase their products and tell their stories.
For eBay, the addition is an example of its ongoing strategy to partner, promote and help merchandize the products from small businesses.
“We have a strong commitment to helping small businesses think about channel sales and e-commerce,” says Ramadge. “This is about bringing the power of 152 million active users to them.”
eBay will be promoting its new website with a 15% off coupon (CTAKE15) which works only with select retailers, including Supermechanical (Range Thermometer), Gramovox (Gramovox bluetooth gramophone), Automatic (Automatic car adapter), Fluxmob (Fluxmob Bolt), Orbotix (Sphero), and The Orange Chef Co. (Prep Pad).
eBay isn’t the first to jump on the wave of consumer interest in small businesses offering tech innovations. Last fall, Amazon also rolled out an innovation store of its own, featuring “smart home” products like smart locks, sensors, thermostats and more.