eBay CEO: Paying for things is about to get a lot easier

Mobile devices will enable a flurry of new ways to pay in coming months, John Donahoe says.

Casey Newton Former Senior Writer
Casey Newton writes about Google for CNET, which he joined in 2012 after covering technology for the San Francisco Chronicle. He is really quite tall.
Casey Newton
2 min read

SAN FRANCISCO -- The way people pay for things is changing fast -- but it's about to start changing even faster, eBay CEO John Donahoe said this morning.

Speaking at the BoxWorks conference, Donahoe said the rapid adoption of mobile devices by consumers was making it easier for consumers to pay in a variety of new ways. Countless companies have sprung up trying to cater to those consumers, he said, and the result will be a flurry of innovations.

"Most people are underestimating how fundamentally the shopping and payment experience is going to change," said Donahoe, who has led eBay since 2008.

John Donahoe speaking to Marc Andreessen at BoxWorks.
John Donahoe speaking to Marc Andreessen at BoxWorks. Casey Newton/CNET

For its part, Donahoe said, eBay has made mobile payments a high priority. Its PayPal business has introduced several new ways to pay -- a fact that has largely been lost in a media environment that has focused on its chief competitor, Square. Donahoe praised one of the changes eBay has brought to the market in particular: users can hit a "PayPal" button at Home Depot and pay using a mobile phone number and a four-digit PIN code, without ever removing a phone or wallet from their pockets.

In March the company also released a direct Square competitor, called Here, that lets users make and accept payments using a dongle that connects to their mobile devices. Here went unmentioned during Donahoe's talk, though.

While eBay is sometimes seen as the stodgy old plumbing of e-commerce, Donahoe released a flurry of statistics showing how quickly its users are adapting to the mobile world. Its apps have been downloaded more than 100 million times, and eBay will close $10 billion in volume on mobile devices this year. PayPal will process another $10 billion on mobile devices. Some 8,000 cars are sold per week on eBay by users on mobile devices.

Already in the United Kingdom and Australia, mobile payments represent 25 percent of all payments eBay receives. Soon, they will be over 50 percent, Donahoe said.

Moderator Marc Andreessen asked Donahoe how eBay would compete against the "thousands" of companies springing up in hopes of disrupting it. Beyond encouraging creativity inside of eBay, Donahoe said, the company would continue to acquire companies that fit its mission of enabling commerce around the world.

The result will be a rapid shift in payments, he said.

"There will be more change in how consumers shop and pay in the next three years than there has been in the last 20," Donahoe said. "Mobile is at the very center of that."