eBay.com's big announcement: what's in it for sellers?

No primary category set

eBay.com made its first biannual announcement of 2009 today. This is part of the new strategy to limit disruption to sellers by making two big rafts of changes each year, rather than constant piecemeal adjustments to the platform. The changes are due to take place from 15th June (actual implementation time may, however, be later and in some cases isn’t yet fixed).

There is a lot of detail in the announcement, and I would encourage all sellers to read it for themselves. Here are the highlights, and no doubt more information will be forthcoming over the next few weeks:

Multiple variant listings

3_multiskuSellers will be able to offer variants of products – for example, shirts in different colours and sizes – within the same listing. It will be possible to vary the price (but not the shipping) for different items in the same listing. This is as announced by Mark Lewis for eBay UK at Catalyst last month.

Multi-variant listings will be available in Mens’ and Womens’ Shoes categories from the week commencing 15th June, and for the rest of Clothing, Shoes and Accessories plus Home and Garden from mid-July. Rollout across all categories is planned, but currently has no implementation date (the rumour I hear is 2010).

Amazonification of product pages

2_media_pdp_09_v2There will be an expansion of product pages: frequently used to group identical items in Music and Electronics (e.g. all the copies of one particular CD), expect to see these in Books, Movies & DVDs, Music, Video Games, Cell Phones, and Tickets, with more categories to follow. More sellers will be chasing the highlighted “value box” at the top right

The new view item page which eBay have been testing for the past year will roll out to “most” buyers by mid-June. “Photo zoom” is coming later this summer, together with an animated countdown timer for auction listings.

Dispute resolution moves from PayPal to eBay

eBay are touting this as a “new dispute resolution process”, but in fact, it looks very much like the old PayPal dispute resolution process, only hosted on eBay instead of PayPal; eBay themselves say that they will “retain substantially the same definitions and policies that PayPal uses to resolve item not received and item not as described disputes”.

Buyers will have the current 45 days to file a non-receipt or SNAD claim with eBay. Exactly how this will differ from filing a claim with PayPal isn’t immediately apparent, except that buyers will be able to file the dispute whatever payment method they have used. Once the claim is filed, buyers “may” be given the option to contact eBay by phone (we’ve heard from some people involved in the testing process that this has been done). The case is then reviewed by an eBay Customer Service rep, who will consider transaction details, buyer and seller track record, shipping information and item location; if the buyer’s claim warrants further investigation, the CS rep will contact the seller. eBay say:

We’ll be taking a more active role, and in certain cases when we determine the seller was not at fault we may refund the buyer at our own expense.

Optimistically, it’s possible that this new process might stop serial non-receipt claimants on eBay. Sellers, though, are going to see it as the loss of yet more control over the transaction, with eBay likely to be just as trigger-happy with refunds as PayPal are.

The new resolution process applies to eBay.com only; there’s no news when or if it might roll out in other countries. The transition process from PayPal disputes to eBay disputes begins Q2 2009 (i.e. now) and the change should be complete before the holiday selling season. I have no doubt that sellers will have a raft of questions about this, so leave us a comment and I’ll do my best to get more info as required.

Returns and handling time info required by 15th June

eBay have extended the time allowed for sellers to add returns and handling information to their core listings until 15th June. GTC listings must have this information by mid-September.

USPS & UPS tracking information can show in My eBay

13_tracking_1_v2For sellers who print shipping labels through eBay or PayPal, tracking information will automatically show in the buyer’s My eBay. Information can also be added manually, but this will only work for USPS and UPS tracking. (This really is very cool and I wish they’d do it for all carriers.)

Smart FAQs

5_smartfaqAn expansion of the current facility to add “frequently asked questions” to your listings, Smart FAQs will allow sellers a little more control over the pre-written responses buyers and potential buyers get to see. For those who get a large number of ASQs, it may save them some time.

(In view of a recent comments thread, we’ll be looking at ASQs in a bit more detail later in the week.)

Cleaning up Fine Jewelry

Diamond Macro 3
Creative Commons License photo credit: stephend9

There are some major policy changes in the Jewellery and Watches category, which will be enforced from mid-July:

  • Items may only be listed in Fine Jewelry if they are solid precious metal, and if the stones named in the piece have the optical, physical and chemical properties of the naturally mined stone.
  • Manufactured stones are not permitted in Fine Jewelry.
  • Manufactured stones may only be listed in Fashion Jewelry or Engagement & Wedding.
  • Plated or filled metal items are not permitted in Fine Jewelry.
  • The word “diamond” may only be used to describe stones with the “exact mineral composition of a diamond”. “Imitation diamonds” must be described as what they really are. This affects all jewelry categories.
  • Fine jewelry should not be listed in the Fashion Jewelry category.

And that’s not all

Other changes include some alterations to categories and item specifics. Seller Manager will be free for all sellers beginning 15th June (it’s already free in the UK).

And the UK?

We already know a lot of this is coming in the UK too, as Mark Lewis announced it at Catalyst last month. There’ll be a separate announcement by eBay UK tomorrow: rumour has it that compulsory free shipping in some categories is on the cards, so don’t move that dial 😉

eBay’s preamble to the announcement says:

Keeping eBay a thriving marketplace requires a close partnership between sellers and eBay to give buyers the experience they expect. We continue to invest in driving traffic and buyer loyalty, and we need your help to make buyers happy and keep them coming back. For our part, we’re also taking steps to make it easier and more profitable for you to sell.

With the exception of variant listings, I’m not seeing a vast amount for sellers in this. Most of it – tracking in My eBay, Smart FAQs, the expansion of product pages – is just tweaking changes eBay have already made.

The change that most sellers are going to focus on is that dispute process, with its unclear refund process. Sure, most of us get that happier buyers come back to eBay more often, they spend more money and so we sell more, but is eBay’s aggressive couponing strategy really achieving that? Is eBay telling buyers “don’t worry if you get ripped off, we’ll refund you” really going to make them feel safer? And given that sellers with appalling feedback and appalling terms and conditions are still selling on the site, is making buyers feel more secure going to make them do more shopping? I don’t think so.

Smart FAQs and zooming pictures are nice for sellers to have, but they don’t make up for years of being beaten down by eBay’s management, and they won’t bring the upturn in sales that lots of smaller sellers especially are demanding. For a twice-a-year-only “big announcement”, this feels curiously flat and empty.

17 Responses

  1. Eddie can probably answer this one since he runs magnify.it . How many people see picture zooming as a useful feature and actually use it? Seems useful if you are selling a used item, jewellery, or something out of box.

  2. “How many people see picture zooming as a useful feature”

    Its more of an advanced graphic display function than useful, multiple large images do the same function/serve the same purpose, but don’t look so good as a user interactive tool does, which is what can make a listing using those tools stand out from one that isn’t.

    To demonstrate, here is one of my completed eBay listings using the magnify tool. https://prune.it/6dKG

    Problem is, to use zoom or magnify tools, seller need to up their game in terms of image quality, as for both zoom or magnify, larger clearer images are required to make best use of the functionality.

  3. For me, there is nothing more annoying than that zoom feature. I find it just gets in the way, I always leave a website if they use it.

  4. I filled in a questionnaire a couple of weeks ago about the once abandoned ‘feedback court’ I wonder if this is going to be part of the next round of changes. ❓

  5. Analysts have for a long time been saying Ebay should spin off Skype and Paypal. Skype is now confirmed – an IPO next year.

    With this in mind, it’s interesting that Ebay is pulling the dispute resolution process, and shipping label production in house.

    Ebay management majored on Paypal during the recent Investors day, and the moves above give Ebay end to end control of a transaction life-cycle – a pre-requisite to any intention of severing the Paypal / Ebay knot.

  6. “For a twice-a-year-only “big announcement”, this feels curiously flat and empty.”

    Totally agree – guess the changes were over-hyped before the announcement. Given the stagnation in the Ebay core marketplace, and that they are now limited to rolling out changes 2 x a year, it’s very surprising there’s not a raft of radical changes afoot.

    Next week’s quarterly earnings announcement will make interesting reading – maybe they’ll come in ahead of expectations as I can’t see anything here that will fundamentally re-invigorate the marketplace.

  7. RE: Dispute resolution moves from PayPal to eBay

    eBay….Paypal they are the same animal I doubt anything will improve for sellers, just allow buyers to be more innocently criminal.

    (I don’t believe that buyers realise denying receipt of an item is actually theft like illegal downloading…)

  8. Sorry about that Pete (and everyone) – I’m doing my best to shut them out without inconveniencing genuine users, but if it doesn’t go away shortly, I’ll suspend forum registration for a while.

  9. Sue,

    Announcement delay – anything to do with new view item page not being compatible with IE7 etc. for all listings with a revision? Revision includes quantity top up and so is a chunky proportion of listings.

  10. What if the item is still in transit when the buyer contacts us?
    If the item is still in transit, eBay will consider the delivery estimate in the listing. If tracking indicates that the item should arrive within the delivery estimate plus a reasonable amount of additional time (3 days in most cases), the buyer will be told to wait and the seller will not be held accountable. If tracking indicates that the item will arrive outside this timeframe or is lost in transit, the seller may be held accountable.

    The thing that really bothers me about the new dispute resolution is that they take the “expected” transit time into consideration. They basically say they consider the item lost in the mail if it is currently 3 or more days late. USPS doesn’t even consider items lost until 30 days after shipping (14 days for some types of mail).

    An example would be buying something priority from Hawaii with the expected transit time of 5 days. I can file on the 8th if it hasn’t arrived yet and I could win even if the item arrives on the 9th. What’s even worse is that they say that if tracking indicates it will arrive after the 8th day the buyer can still win. So if I order something shipped via UPS and the tracking says (at any point in time) that it will take until the 9th or longer the buyer can win. I guess the good news is that sellers can supposedly appeal and if they win eBay eats the loss. Last time I was given the option to appeal on PayPal though I was told “Appeal – allow the buyer to keep the item and the money” (not my idea of an appeal).

    My experience with PayPal is that they’ve waited two or more weeks to allow the item to arrive before finding against me which was more than fair given that it had been 2 weeks since payment.

  11. If you’re selling on eBay.com the free subscription to Selling Manager will be useful as you can have multiple Selling Manager subscriptions for the eBay sites.
    I’ve currently got free Selling Manager subscriptions to eBay Italy. Australia, Hong Kong & France and a free SMP subscription to eBay Poland.



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