In a desperate week for high street retailers, Eve Williams’s move from Asos to eBay serves as a reminder of how the balance of power has shifted in the industry.
While Topshop and Debenhams have been haemorrhaging cash, Asos and eBay have seen sales and profits surge during the pandemic as consumers have turned to online brands they know and trust.
Williams has left her position as Asos global brand director with immediate effect to head up eBay’s UK marketing division where her first task will be to help maintain that recent momentum as social restrictions (hopefully) ease in the New Year.
It may be a stretch to suggest that marketing has been a key growth driver at a time when simply having the ability to trade freely has been a differentiator, but there’s no doubt the Cambridge graduate is moving between two brands with an acute understanding of their customers and what makes them tick.
Asos was already renowned for its ability to use social media as an effective marketing tool before Covid-19 struck; but with shoppers confined to their homes the fashion brand has taken its activity to the next level by making full use of channels such as Instagram and TikTok to connect with its target 20-something customers. Over the summer it became the first European brand to get over a billion views on TikTok for its #AySauce challenge (it ultimately reached over 2 billion) – evidence that Williams and her team have been earning their corn.
Since graduating in 2004, Williams has moved quickly through the marketing profession to a senior role with a retail giant. Prior to joining Asos as brand director in 2013, she worked for an agency producing print, digital and social content for brands including Tesco.
She was promoted to the role of Asos’s global brand director four years ago since when Williams has been responsible for its marketing and customer programmes.
In her new role as eBay’s UK chief marketing officer she’ll oversee all of the brand’s UK marketing activity including campaigns and content.
eBay itself is going through a period of leadership change in the UK following Rob Hattrell’s promotion to head of Europe. Hattrell will now oversee eBay in France, Germany, Italy and Spain as well as the UK, with Murray Lambell becoming general manager of its UK business.
On announcing Williams’s appointment, Hattrell placed the importance of her role in the context of the changing lives of consumers and the continued evolution of the ecommerce market.
He’s right – and although eBay looks well-placed to prosper given the strength of its brand and the breadth of its proposition, businesses will still need to earn their growth by attracting new customers and building loyalty among those they already have.
With Amazon, eBay and Shopify all reporting a huge uptick in demand since March, marketing can be the difference between who is crowned the ultimate winner in the battle of the marketplace giants. Williams’s job is to help ensure that winner is eBay.