[CA Catalyst] eBay UK: the shape of things to come

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This afternoon’s keynote speech at ChannelAdvisor Catalyst by Mark Lewis, MD of eBay UK, and his team had some good news for sellers about changes to come this year.

Perhaps best of all was the news of just how changes will be made in the future: Mark acknowledged that last year’s process of constant alterations to site specifications was difficult for sellers to work with. Vowing that eBay UK wants to be a better business partner and easier to work with, he announced that in future, major changes will be made in two “annual releases”, meaning that sellers can make all necessary changes to their listings in one hit. Better still, eBay UK will aim to announce these changes 60 days in advance, so that sellers have plenty of time both to plan for and to implement them.

This year’s annual releases will take place in June and September: it was acknowledged that these are pretty close together, and in future years, it’s hoped to spread things out more evenly. But there are changes eBay want to make this year: June is just about sixty days away, so the announcements need to be made soon, and September was chosen to be well in advance of the holiday shopping season.

Raphael Orta gave us a sneak preview of some of the changes being announced in the first round.

  • Multiple variation listings will finally allow sellers to offer a choice of colours, sizes, fits etc. etc. in their listings. Multi-SKU listings have been on the cards for a long time now, and are something that many sellers have asked for time and again.
  • Free pictures
  • Smart FAQs will build on the FAQs currently available to sellers to display when potential buyers use “ask seller a question”. There will also be the option to turn off questions altogether.
  • Easy returns: eBay will introduce a simple way for buyers to notify sellers that they wish to return an item, and to print off a “returns slip” to send back with their item. I’d guess that “easier returns” will worry some sellers, but I suspect that it won’t increase returns rates much, and that any small increase that does happen will be more than made up for in buyer confidence.
  • Free shipping: there are currently visibility incentives to offer free P&P (i.e. advantages in Best Match): financial incentives are also to be offered (no indication of just what these might be). Giving sellers a financial incentive to offer free P&P should finally put to bed the old argument that eBay only want it to push FVFs up, and should encourage more sellers to experiment with including shipping in their item price.

    Free shipping will also be mandated in more categories this year: there was no official announcement of which categories this might apply to, though I’m hearing a rumour that tech will be one of those affected.

    In response to a question on free P&P, Richard Ambrose said that there are no plans to change DSRs for these transations, either to make a “5” compulsory, or to make the DSR unavailable.

More than the details of the actual changes – which are all pretty sketchy at the moment; a full official announcement is expected in the next few weeks – I have to applaud the sense that’s limiting major eBay changes to just two tranches a year. Last year was a hellish round of constant listing editing for many of us: we can’t and won’t go through that again, and now it seems we don’t have to.

26 Responses

  1. Shouldn’t Mr Lewis have been addressing this speech directly to the eBay community?

  2. ……. eBay UK wants to be a better business partner and easier to work with ……’

    Well he (Mark Lewis) would say that wouldn’t he?

    We shall see.

  3. “Multiple variation listings will finally allow sellers to offer a choice of colours, sizes, fits etc. etc. in their listings.”

    Oh Yeah Baby!! Bring it on!!!

  4. Multiple variation listings

    Good news long term. Not looking forward to setting it up and editing listings etc.

    There will also be the option to turn off questions altogether.

    VERY interesting. Questions are probably the biggest drain on our resources after packing. Compared to Amazon and our websites, eBay is a very cumbersome marketplace when it comes to communication. Dare I switch questions off though? Will it actually change anything or will be just have them all send emails?

    … at least Easy returns should take a little pressure off even if we leave the questions on.

    Free shipping has always been a silly idea in my book. There goes all our multiple item orders. We offer a decent shipping discount and many many buyers take us up on it, increasing order value. eBay may not mind if a buyer now buys one item from seller A and another from seller B, but have they thought that a buyer might now buy an item from seller A and not bother buying a second item? Or go elsewhere for the second item?

    On the plus side – no more messing about with shipping discounts, combined orders, complaints about high shipping.

    no plans to change DSRs Some sellers worry too much!

    I’d say overall, for once, I’m happy with what eBay have in mind. Seem like they are trying to streamline things for the site which is good for all of us. Just a little worries about the sting in the tail that seems to come with every ebay update…

  5. Too little too late. Big deal.

    It sure doesn’t “put to rest the idea that Ebay encourages free P and P in order to get more fees.” Let’s say you have 1000 listings up…..charging shipping. Ebay then says we will give you 5p off listing fees for every free shipping item listed. You then raise prices on all 1000 items in order to make up for free shipping. Ebay gets ALOT more fees….and pays you very little for the free shipping.

    Ebay simply is banking on the fact that more sellers will offer free shipping now and thus raise their prices….and the money they raise off those extra FVF will largely be more than the financial incentives they give to those sellers for free shipping.

    DSR’s…..anyone surprised? Still the most screwed up part on Ebay…..and of course Ebay says it will stay the same.

    This site seems to be really pro-Ebay. We should let you in on a little secret those of us in the states know already. The good ole’ John Hoe is starting to take alot of criticism and shareholders are starting to demand results or else…..sellers haven’t came back……buyers are leaving, etc. Ebay think they can enact these little carrots to sellers…..feedback revision (however, they limit it…so what good is it), best match is still broke and ruining many sellers sales and causing many to leave…..Amazon is killing Ebay in just about every way you look at it….regardless of the US economy, etc.

    I bet Ebay has gained back maybe 5% of the mass exodus of sellers who left after last May’s changes. The problem is I bet Ebay has lost even more then those 5% they gained back the last 6 months because of poor sales due to Best Match and other factors, etc.

  6. on the whole quite a reasonable set of changes
    though I am with jimbo
    why should you pay to hear these things announced
    ebay itself should hold a yearly conference in the NEC birmingham or similar
    much the same as the political parties do

  7. Free shipping will also be mandated in more categories this year

    Why can’t they just make all of them mandatory free at once? It’s called disruptive innovation for a reason.

  8. we having nothing against free shipping
    but ebay needs to be viable and profitable, we need to make a profit and if we dont,
    we dont use ebay

  9. It will all be free shipping soon. Bigger retailers have set a precident and now buyers expect it.

    We’ve moved a large number of our products on eBay to free shipping over the last 6 months as that’s how we see things going. It also helps with our DSRs somewhat.

    We’re not out of pocket as we’ve just stuck what would have been our shipping costs (anywhere from ยฃ2.49 – ยฃ9.99) onto the price of the item. Sales have actually been encouraging. Savy buyers realise that our competitors with lower prices simply hit them with big shipping costs.

    But you’re totally right North, if it’s not viable and profitable, it’s no use.

  10. there is no such thing as free shipping , and in the past when we have offered “free shipping”, we have been asked if discount is available on shipping ,if more than one item is bought ๐Ÿ˜†

  11. They do not need to introduce free shipping which messes up postage discounting etc.

    All they need to do is charge FVF on postage and reduce it on the actual item, so that the Final Value Fee remains proportionate.

    9% FVF across the board, compared to 10% FVF on the product price would solve everyones problems… (figures are an example).

    That would soon stop overcharge of postage and everyone could carry on working out their own shipping rates and combined costs…

    It would seem a simple solution.


  12. Anyone know what they mean by “free pictures” – the second item on the list.


  13. on a more serious note
    I really like the idea of being able to turn off questions,

    questions like do you have a buy it now in mind when you start an expensive item @ 99p
    boil my urine

  14. Getting back to the “free pictures” I did wonder if it meant “additional free pictures”, and perhaps a step towards banning self hosted pictures using Photobucket, own web space etc ……

  15. cant see the point in banning own hosted pictures
    and then offer ebay pictures free

  16. But I can see the point in offering eBay pictures free for a limited period of transition.

  17. As for the free pictures, auctiva does the job fine for me and lets me schedule auction items not in 15 min increments. Id like to see that so all the items are not ending in 15 min segmants.

    On the free postage, i like to start some technology items at .99p what if i sell them and lose money as i have to post it? I know i should start it at 4.99 to cover it but it kinda defeats the point of a 99p’r Then they all of a suden dont want it and cant work the technology, say pay for my return postage or i will leave a neg ( Its happened before, ebay told me”thats not feedback extortion”)

    id like to see the full details of these proposals.

    As for turning off questions, can i have a standard letmegooglethatforyou reply using their keywords

  18. Thanks for letting us know Sue, it helps when planning a few months ahead what Ebay have lined up for us.
    No chat about this on the Powersellers board, which I find strange.
    I know a lot of them have been asking for the multiple listing variations.
    It could cut a lot of listings ,help with best match (more sales on one listing)
    and maybe even let us drop a shop level saving more fees.
    Thanks for the ‘heads up’ Sue.

  19. somethings afoot
    ebay are retiring their photo hosting picture manager in August


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