An eBay exec explains why the e-commerce platform is doubling down on NFTs as the once blazing market cools down

  • The NFT market has begun to cool down since its peak in January.
  • eBay will soon allow users to buy and sell NFTs on its platform across the various categories.
  • An eBay SVP said it is “opening up collections to the next generation of collectors and creators.”
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The once-booming NFT market has showed initial signs of slowing down. But eBay is still betting on a bright future for digital collectibles on its platform.

After years of allowing merchants to sell physical items on its marketplace, eBay is facilitating the buying and selling of NFTs, or nonfungible tokens, the platform announced in a blog post on May 11. eBay has updated its policy to include the sale of NFTs across cards, music, entertainment, and art categories. 

“It’s opening up collections to the next generation of collectors and creators,” Jordan Sweetnam, eBay’s senior vice president of North America, told Insider in an interview.

Right now, NFTs are listed for sale on eBay’s platform, though actual transactions are occuring outside of eBay’s site on a variety of blockchains it declined to disclose. When a buyer closes on a sale of an NFT on eBay, he or she can pay with a credit card, though instead of inserting a shipping address, the buyer inserts a wallet address during checkout for the seller to be able to transfer the NFT.

Sweetnam said eBay is looking to integrate blockchain technology into its platform in the future to facilitate the transfer of digital assets in one location.

“For right now, eBay’s primary objective is just to learn our way in and let our community know that we welcome these items on the site and whatever your passion is, eBay is the place to buy and sell it,” he said.

Why eBay is betting on NFTs

At 25 years old, eBay is a veteran of the e-commerce space. But the legacy platform has wasted little time jumping on the latest trends in resale and trading. eBay has become the first e-commerce company to lean into the NFT craze. 

But while these digital collectibles have defined much of the resale and e-commerce market over the last couple of months, the market has recently begun to cool down. Since the NFT peak in January, prices and active market participants have gone down steadily. The total number of NFT sales declined roughly 28%, with the total value of sales dropping 14% between March 30 and April 28. Sales volume in dollar terms have continued to decline in May.

Despite the recent decline, we’re still likely in the early stages of the NFT craze, said Craig Russo, the director of innovation at blockchain incubator Polyient Games.

“Mainstream adoption will continue to be driven by major brand and company adoption of the technology,” Russo told Insider, adding that he believes more e-commerce marketplaces will follow eBay’s lead and integrate NFTs into their platforms in the near future.

According to Sweetnam, eBay’s push into NFTs began like many other initiatives: inspired by the independent activities of buyers and sellers on the platform.

“We started seeing people showing up buying and selling NFTs on eBay before we even had a strategy for NFTs,” Sweetnam said. “Our community has always kind of led.”

Once the initial interest was there, the path to launching NFTs was a collective effort by individual employees with a passion for the space. 

“This isn’t something where a bunch of executives got together and met and said, ‘Okay, we’re going to carve out resources and figure this out,'” Sweetnam said, explaining how he put a call out for any interested employees who were passionate about NFTs to help launch the category on eBay. The group came together and pulled off the launch in about three months.

“That’s that kind of magical unlock that you talk about,” he said. “The employees and the customers fundamentally believed in what was happening.”

Sweetnam said there’s a long way to go when it comes to eBay refining the category. But even as offerings evolve, the e-commerce platform will stay true to its identity. 

“NFT does not replace eBay,” he said. “It actually just brings on this incredible new asset class, whether they be digital collectibles art, musical moments, a static pixel, [or] a series of moments.”

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