Adam Trachtenberg, eBay’s Director of Product Management for Platform & Services, gave an overview this morning of where eBay is going in the new few months. Though this was aimed primarily at developers, it provides some great news, and some not so great news, for sellers as to what we can expect for the rest of the year.
Project Echo : merchandising API
This will enable cross-merchandising, in the same way that many websites now highlight “people who bought x also bought y” items. Data based on geography, buying and search histories and user profile will be made available, as well as currently popular items.
Four new API calls have been released: most watched, deals, related category items and top selling products. More are on their way!
Improvements for large sellers
eBay aim to become more efficient and responsive to the needs of larger sellers, with a better API and business process support. Processing will be faster and there will be fewer timeouts with an asynchronous bulk interface: in effect, sellers will be able to manage their entire business away from My eBay, and will be able to organise inventory by their own SKU rather than by eBay item number.
Choice listings are coming
Sellers will be able to list variants of the same item: by colour, size, memory, material etc., compressing multiple listings into one single listing offering buyers a range of options. Interestingly, this was presented as enhancing the *buyer* experience by cutting down near-duplicate listings: I think eBay are missing a trick there, because many sellers have begged and pleaded for years to be allowed to offer real choice listings.
Changes to email communications
Sellers will be able to specify more than one email for message-forwarding: for example, customer service emails from buyers can go to one address, and eBay invoices to another.
Emails between sellers and buyers prior to a sale are being anonymised: buyer email addresses will no longer be visible on ASQs, though “reply” will still work as eBay will handle mapping between the anonymised email and the buyer’s actual email. Post-sale, both parties will be able to see each other’s email addresses. This should – say eBay – cut down on fraud: it will of course also limit off-site sales, and many sellers will complain that it will restrict communication between trading partners. They should also note that it will no longer be permitted to display an email address within the body of a listing.
Mandating essential information
eBay are forcing sellers to include information material to the transaction, some of which has previously been optional for inclusion within a listing. For example, on .com sellers must specify at least one domestic shipping service with pricing, as well as handling time, which will be used to display an estimated arrival time to buyers. A returns policy and who pays for the return of the item will also have to be specified, though on .com at least “no returns accepted” remains an acceptable policy (the same does not apply in most of Europe).
A consistant and safe checkout experience
Various approaches are being tested over different national sites: eBay Australia will (perhaps) be PayPal-only from mid-July, and UK sellers must offer PayPal though may offer other payment methods too. The US will “definitively” not be made PayPal-only, though eBay are “looking at data and talking to people” about the way forward on this issue.
New applications for third-party checkouts have now been closed: as a buyer, I can’t help but cheer here. I’ve been buying on eBay for nearly a decade and I still hate 3P checkouts, so how must new buyers feel?
A whitelist approach to HTML
In an attempt to limit possible damage from bad code, descriptions will now be served from a seperate domain so that scraping of sign-in information within the eBay site should no longer be possible.
Verification of new sellers
New sellers will have to complete telephone verification and one of either PayPal or Live Chat verification once they have sold their first few listings, or when attempting to list a high dollar amount. This should keep the site a little more secure.
Adam wrapped up with what is definitely the theme of this DevCon: “we want your feedback”. eBay are certainly doing their best to appear to be listening to developers: they need to make buyers and sellers too feel that they’re being listened too. With big hints that “more change is coming”, the rest of this week is shaping up to be very interesting indeed.