Former Google, Apple Executive RJ Pittman Joins eBay

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new ebay logo Online commerce giant eBay announced Friday that it had hired RJ Pittman as Senior Vice President and Chief Product Officer for Marketplaces. His role, which is newly created, does not include PayPal.

Pittman was most recently in charge of worldwide e-commerce at Apple. He occupied that role since 2010.

Before Apple Pittman was at Google where he presided over a wide range of properties and projects during his three years there. According to Pitman’s LinkedIn profile he did the following while at Google:

  • Portfolio of products under management include: Image Search, Finance, News, Google Labs, Advanced Search, Video, Blog Search, Google Trends, Music Search, and others
  • Led product strategy, design, and development for over 70 product launches at Google on 4 continents, 40+ languages and countries
  • Led 100-300% annual growth across the various search properties, including the first monetization rollouts for Image Search, News, and Finance
  • Led the overhaul of Google’s “20% time” process to accelerate and invigorate innovation at scale with an all new Google Labs deployed worldwide in 2009
  • Co-lead for consumer search properties UI/UX design decisions for all user-facing search properties worldwide
  • Passionate about the consumer experience, user-centric design, and polishing every pixel on the page
  • Featured spokesperson and technology evangelist for Google. Regular speaker at conferences, panels, press events, and product launches

Before coming to Google Pitman was CEO of Groxis. Groxis developed the “visual search engine” Grokker, which was part of a number of visual search alternatives to Google for several years.

The press release generated by eBay last week said that, in a newly created position, “Pittman will be responsible for leading the eBay’s product and development strategy for Marketplaces, and creating world-class, end-to-end shopping experiences for more than 124 million active users and 25 million sellers.”

An eBay spokesperson told the Wall Street Journal that Pittman’s departure from Apple was unrelated to the hiring of Burberry CEO Angela Ahrendts who will have responsibility for retail stores and e-commerce. Had Pittman remained at Apple presumably he would have reported to Ahrendts.

I spoke briefly to Pittman on Friday. He told me he was very excited about coming to eBay. He said he would be focused on product strategy and “Perfecting the shopping and customer experience” at eBay’s various marketplaces, which include the flagship property but also classifieds sites such as Kijiji and Marktplaats in Europe.

Mobile will be a central focus. “The customer journey is multi-platform today,” said Pittman. He discussed with me how massive volumes of web traffic are coming from mobile in many markets outside the US, such as Thailand, Australia, China, India and Japan.

Pittman’s role and oversight will include design, product and engineering. They’ll be vertically integrated to speed development and time to market, he said, adding that his group will be “working as an agile team with a global perspective.”

Last week eBay reported Q3 earnings. The company’s revenues grew 14 percent year over year to $3.9 billion and modestly beat expectations (marketplaces saw revenue growth of 12 percent) however its Q4 outlook was disappointing to many investors.

Pittman sees a very strong global opportunity for eBay, lead by mobile innovation. Yet PayPal remains the growth engine for the company. Pittman will have to do a bit of reinvention of the user experience (and the brand) in order to fulfill the promise and expectations of his new position.


About The Author

Greg Sterling is a Contributing Editor at Search Engine Land. He writes a personal blog, Screenwerk, about connecting the dots between digital media and real-world consumer behavior. He is also VP of Strategy and Insights for the Local Search Association. Follow him on Twitter or find him at Google+.

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