Amazon and eBay have two quite different solutions to assist buyers to find the product they’re looking for. Up until now eBay have relied on ending soonest, a lottery of which product happens to be at the top of search results at the time the buyer happens to search. Amazon in contrast present just one listing for each product with the best price/availability highlighted to the buyer.
eBay is about to change radically to present products based on Best Match, a complicated algorithm including relevancy, prices, feedback and soon popularity as judged by recent sales. (It’s worth spending five minutes to read eBay’s best match patent). eBay’s biggest issue is how to present the most relevant item a buyer is searching for, out of many instances of the same product.
Amazon’s radically different approach has always made relevancy easy. With only one listing (known as the ‘Detail page’) for each product, price/availability/seller reputation are all that’s needed to present the best item to the buyer. Even here though there are issues such as the way that listings are created.
On Amazon the first person to sell a particular item creates the detail page with the picture and description. The product will be assigned an Amazon Standard Identification Number (ASIN) which all other sellers of the same item will then list against.
In the future other sellers may update the product information, the decision about whether or not to display any changes is processed automatically according to automated business logic known as ‘ASIN Authority’. The information displayed on an Amazon detail page is drawn from multiple seller contributions based on this logic and so the information the buyer sees is a collaboration of different sellers listings.
This ‘Wisdom of the Crowds’ approach brings with it it’s own problems. You may have listed a particular product against an ASIN when another seller with makes edits to the detail page. This could then result in selling an item you don’t possess due to the changes made by another seller. With a large inventory it may not be until buyers start to receive their items that the change is revealed.
Amazon advise that because the product details for an item are drawn from multiple sources, it is your responsibility as a Merchant on Amazon to continually monitor your listings for accuracy.
eBay and Amazon’s approaches to displaying the most relevant items to buyer both have their flaws. In the future eBay’s will rely heavily on displaying listings from the best sellers with the most relevant products, but each seller will be in control of their descriptions and are able to ensure accuracy. Amazon ensure every item detail page for every product has the same information in the same place, but this can produce mis-matched products as contributions from multiple sellers (including Amazon themselves) are rationalised into one detail page.
The next few weeks as eBay roll out 30 day listings with recent sales influencing search results will be interesting. With sellers able to ensure product descriptions are 100%, eBay should have an advantage over Amazon on accuracy. If the search result page produce a similar set of sellers to Amazon’s detail page, ranked on price/availability/seller reputation then buyers finding experience will be much improved.