Feedback used to be the one unchangeable aspect of eBay. Everybody hates it, everybody loves it, but no one wants it to change. Today Pierre Omidyar himself revealed that he never foresaw just how central to the eBay phenomenon feedback would become. Since he first introduced feedback until recent years only two major changes have occurred. First the ability to leave feedback for people you hadn’t transacted with was removed, and then after some minor tweaks such as introduction of feedback percentages eBay finally introduced measured steps to remove feedback in certain circumstances.
Removal of feedback that didn’t infringe feedback policies was introduced when it was determined an eBayer wasn’t participating in the transaction or community. If a buyer didn’t respond to an unpaid item process the feedback rating was cancelled, or if a buyer was suspended permanently within 90 days of registering on eBay it was decided they never had the right to participate in the community and all feedback they left was wiped.
Now both Meg Whitman, CEO of eBay and Brian Burke, the eBay Director under whose remit global feedback falls, have both stated within hours of each other that more changes are being considered, with the most serious proposal being double blind feedback which currently runs on Mercado Libre, an eBay owned site.
Double Blind Feedback
Double blind feedback is where both buyer and seller leave feedback but it doesn’t show until both are submitted. This wipes out retaliatory feedback which is a big issue although whilst there are obvious advantages studies are underway to determine what the downsides may be. One worry is that people may simply stop leaving feedback to prevent feedback being left for them (currently 83% of transactions have feedback left by one trading partner and in 70% of transactions both the buyer and the seller both leave feedback).
There are solutions to many of the issues, such as after a set period if one trading partner hasn’t left feedback they lose the right to but the feedback left for them is revealed on their feedback profile. It’s harder to find solutions for automated feedback, for instance Selling Manager Pro would no longer be able to leave feedback on receipt of feedback from the buyer. That’s a time saver for sellers but I’m not sure it’s a real concern for eBay, as retaliatory feedback is what they want to stop. Although uppermost in their minds is retaliatory negatives there’s no reason not to include retaliatory positive feedback as not particularly reflective of the transaction.
The second bombshell released is that eBay are actively looking at repeat feedback to count towards your feedback score. Currently a trading partner can only affect your score by one (+ or -) regardless of how many times you transact with them. This would mean all transactions with that person would be counted, and would in some cases change feedback scores by tens of thousands, especially for sellers in categories where multiple sales and repeat sales are the norm.
This change would be applied retroactively – with some 4 million comments left daily and 6.1 billion feedbacks already left just the processing time to recalculate feedback scores is enormous. Look out for the number of shooting stars on eBay to multiply overnight if this change happens!
The final change being considered is the community to adjudicate in feedback disputes. This would be a move to end feedback where for instance the buyer left a negative without even attempting to pay, or a seller left a negative after changing the terms after the sale. It’s simply not possible for eBay to decide who is telling the truth when a buyer and seller disagree, in fact in many cases they are both telling the truth but from a different perspective. In the case of negative feedback disputes it’s possible community members will be assigned to listen to both the buyer and the seller and decide which feedback is justified and which isn’t. The adjudicators would be assigned disputes at random to ensure that they’re impartial to both the buyer and the seller in any given case.
So that’s the future of feedback, what of recent changes such as the introduction of Detailed Seller Ratings (DSRs)? The message from buyers is that they like them, and the hard facts from eBay are so far good sellers are getting more bids and higher selling prices whereas not so good sellers are losing bids and getting lower selling prices since DSRs were introduced. This is exactly the desired effect but eBay emphasised that you shouldn’t expect perfect fives in DSRs, Don’t compare yourself against 5/5, compare yourself with other sellers in your category. So far DSRs have not impacted the percentage of feedback left – 80% is still the norm in the UK, Australia and Ireland where DSRs were first introduced. Currently it appears that DSRs for the Item Description and Shipping/Handling time give the biggest disparity in conversion rates. Although it’s early days for DSRs these appear to be two that buyers look at most closely.
Finally a heads up for all sellers! There may be a change to PowerSeller requirements in the future where feedback DSRs are taken into account. More importantly eBay are looking to improve the finding experience for buyers: Don’t be surprised if at some point in the future you find sellers with high DSRs scores appear in search ahead of those with lower scores. If a seller is seen to be giving a better buyer experience eBay will want buyers to choose their product in preference to those who are rated less highly.