eBay.com announce changes for sellers

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eBay.com has which are to be implemented later this year. The two biggest groups of changes affect the way seller quality is measured on the site, and the way search results are presented. There are also changes to the unpaid item process, email contact between members, vacation settings, and more control over ship-to locations.

There are a lot of changes, and no doubt more detail will emerge as sellers read and digest eBay’s announcement. In the meantime, here are the headlines:

Measuring seller quality: new Top Seller program and DSR changes

DSRs: the low numbers count

When DSRs are used to measure seller performance, eBay will be moving the focus from overall average to the percentage of 1s and 2s. As buyers don’t necessarily have a consistent standard for what “good” is (and eBay tell them that 4 is “good”, while penalising sellers for getting 4s), concentrating on the number of buyers who have had a demonstrably bad experience and have left a 1 or 2, is a more effective way to measure seller performance.

DSRs left by non-US buyers will no longer count at all for this purpose, but repeat US buyers will be counted. There will be minimum numbers of 1s and 2s left before sellers will be penalised under this policy, which is intended to ensure that the feedback of one buyer cannot cause penalties for a seller. (In practice, being a low feedback seller is going to continue to be difficult.)

That said, for the moment, average DSRs continue to be a factor in many aspects of eBaying, including:

New Top-rated Seller program

The new eBay Top-rated seller status recognizes PowerSellers who consistently provide the best experiences to their customers. The program differentiates sellers by their relative performance and offers incentives and rewards for providing great buyer experiences.

PowerSellers with low numbers of 1 and 2 DSR scores will be eligible for this new program, which offers the highest level of fee discounts, increased search visibility under BM, and 😀 a new badge for their listings (and perhaps in search results).

Changes to PowerSeller program

PowerSeller icons will no longer show on listings. For PSs who do not qualify for the TS program, their fee discounts will continue until April 2010. After that, non-TS PSs (are you confused yet?!) will receive a 5% discount on their FVFs.

We’ll be looking at these changes in more detail in a future post.

Changes to search results pages

Changes to Best Match

  • As of July 27, 2009, raising the price or changing the title will not automatically reset your recent sales.
  • Number of impressions (views) versus number of sales will become a factor in BM.
  • New BIN listings will be given some exposure under BM even if they have no sales, to boost them at the start.
  • Titles, seller performance, shipping costs will be factors in BM. Fixed price listings with free shipping will continue to be advantaged.
  • Auctions ending soon will be boosted under BM.

Listing enhancements removed

Featured Plus, Border, Highlight, Gift services, ProPack and Homepage Featured are being discontinued. Featured First will be available only to Top Sellers, but will not be displayed when any other sort method than Best Match is selected.

New search visibility tool

A new tool is being launched so that sellers can measure a listing’s position under BM, impressions to sales, and compare their own listings to those on page 1 for a given search result.

Better selling practices

New “Selling Practices” policy

  • Return policy and handling time must be specified in listings
  • Sellers can include “only relevent terms and conditions”. Inconsistent or contradictory T&Cs are a violation of this.
  • “Listing descriptions must be professional in both language and tone” – “Listings cannot include comments that undermine confidence in the marketplace, such as comments expressing negativity toward buyers or the selling process.”

If we could get rid of “I am not responsible for items lost in the post”, I’d be very happy.

No more additional insurance

Sellers will no longer be able to specify an additional optional or compulsory insurance fee for their listings.

Auctions versus BINs

For auction listings with BIN prices, the BIN price will have to be at least 10% above the auction start price (anyone would think people had been using this to get around eBay fees 😉 ).

Things that sellers have been asking for…

More control over ship-to locations

Sellers will be able to specify countries they do not want to ship to. eBay give as an example that sellers can specify they ship to Europe, but exclude Russia and Italy.

Faster unpaid item process

Sellers will be able to open a UID 4 days after the listing ends (currently this can’t be done until 8 days). It will be possible to automatically open a UID, and buyers will not be permitted to leave feedback while this claim is open. Emails will be “more neutral in tone”.

Changes to email

Emails between members will be “threaded” both in My Messages and email clients – so you’ll be able to keep track of an entire conversation without having to dig into message histories. However, buyers will be kept anonymous until after sales are complete. eBay’s emails to buyers post-sale are being streamlined:

Vacation settings improved

Stores sellers will now be able to put all fixed price listings “on vacation” – not just SIF. The same options (to hide listings or display a “this seller is away” message) will be available as now.

Changes are scheduled for weeks commencing 22nd September and 1st October. At time of writing, these announcements have been made for eBay.com only. eBay UK’s corresponding announcement isn’t due until tomorrow, and though we expect much of the content to be similar, in some places, it is bound to differ.

As normal with eBay announcements, there’ll doubtless be more questions than answers as sellers work through the implications of the announcement. We’ll be looking at exactly what sellers will need to do to ready their listings for September and take advantage of new site features once the UK announcement has been made tomorrow.

In the meantime, what do you think – good, bad or indifferent changes? Just what eBay needs, or too little too late? Leave us a comment.

65 Responses

  1. It all seems fairly encouraging on the surface.

    I assume I will be paying higher fees when all this comes into force? currently get a 30-35% discount on FVF.

  2. For 5 years I made 100% of my income using Ebay. For me, nothing has been the same since the huge changes early last year… that catastrophe compounded by the economic downturn, means that its all too little too late.

    Ive diversified and glad I did because the income Ebay generates is now a mere sideline

    Such a pity… I was a hard core Ebay girl and those times are gone.

  3. Looks good to me at first glance, Sue.

    The only things which jumped out to me as potential problems, and (hopefully) not for myself, were:

    1. Any change in measuring buyer satisfaction, ie: tinkering w/DSRs, will cause a new round of dolphins to get caught up and they’ll likely have to slide the scale a little one way or the other to adjust.

    2. Sellers who didn’t realize they were already responsible for their customers receiving undamaged packages may scream bloody murder over the removal of the insurance option. Surely it will cause a little extra buyer dishonesty as well. And might it not lead to feedback threats when the buyer used to paying for insurance asks for it and is told by a non-participating seller that they don’t offer it?

  4. At a very quick glance and bearing in mind the UK announcement may have different % etc, I think low feedback sellers will continue to have a very hard time to qualify for discounts and improvements in search position. You are only going to need 1 or 2 “I thought 1 was good” buyers and basically your stuffed.

  5. #3 Of course, hadn’t thought of that…being honest I couldn’t give a monkeys about the discounts, they are nice and all that but all I want are the sales and the traffic…all our BIN prices already take into account all the fee’s, the 30% discount is just a bonus which I generally tend to spend on featured first anyway.

  6. #6 — More than 1 or 2 of those instances …4

    “To ensure sellers—especially lower-volume sellers—are not penalized as the result of just one low rating, it will take at least four instances of low DSRs (1s or 2s) in one DSR for this requirement to apply. “

  7. I like what I have read so far…but maybe that is because I was expecting so much worse!

    I was expecting shops to be burned down, ebay branding burned into my forehead and my own individuality mashed out of me, catalogue style listings with every tom dick and harry using either my (brilliant) stock photos, or having to use some other di…oops harry’s rubbish stock photos for products…etc.

    Unless these are changes that still are to be announced?

  8. Looks reasonable. If there is a fee increase its in the reduced Powerseller discounts for those who don’t make it into the Top Seller programme. However I guess the UK structure will as usual be different.

    Wasn’t sure how to interpret this in the how are DSR’s counted (most of my sales are international)
    “International transactions will no longer count toward the PowerSeller requirements, including the Top-rated seller status, or toward the new standard for all sellers.”

  9. It all looks livable with, I will reserve judgement until the UK rehash appears.

  10. To little far to late i have to say in a year i have not missed ebay selling i stopped the day i couldnt neg as a seller have brought nothing from the site and dont intend to either.
    Its a shame ebay was brilliant not anymore

  11. Cliff re the insurance it’s not really a case of whether sellers realised they’re responsible regardless whether the buyer took out insurance or not. It’s much more of a “the sellers who used it have just lost a sizeable chunk of their income”!

    Those that use it know that a proportion of buyers will add it on and it’s all bunce.

  12. Cliff, Katakitty – at the moment, this seems an improvement on the old dolphin net, but any system based on absolute numbers or percentages, without human involvement, is going to pull in some dolphins. I’d like clarification on

    it will take at least 3 instances of 1s or 2s in at least one DSR to lose Top-rated seller status or 4 instances in at least one DSR to lose PowerSeller status or face other consequences as a result of low DSRs.

    As repeat buyers are now being counted, and that doesn’t make any mention of “from different buyers”, I’m concerned that a “1s across the board” buyer could individually impact a seller. We’ll see – I’m sure there’ll be clarification to come.

  13. #11 Amanda “i stopped the day i couldnt neg as a seller”. Sounds like a really good reason to stop selling.

  14. From the Seller Checklist:

    In November and December: Stock up, list your items, and enjoy the best, most profitable holiday selling season ever!!

    (funny, that’s the motto for my off-ebay site too)

  15. Would I be right in thinking that it just says you can’t offer Recorded etc in the listing. If a buyer requests you send it recorded, there’s nothing to say that you can’t charge the buyer to post it how they want.

    And surely this will only appy to business sellers, as they are the only ones accountable for items lost in post etc (from a legal POV).

    Other than that, need to digest it a bit more really. Also depends how buyers will be notified of the changes, so long as it doesn’t follow the campaign eBay had for the FB changes:

    “Now you can neg sellers without any worries at all”

    I could think of a more constructive way to word that change.

  16. Nah – you can still offer Insurance if you wish e.g.:

    1st Class Royal Mail – £2.00
    1st Class Signed for Royal Mail – £2.78

    What you can’t do is:
    1st Class Royal Mail – £2.00
    1st Class Signed for Royal Mail – £2.78
    Optional Insurance £0.78

    Lots of sellers make lots of money from buyers paying the optional insurance.

  17. Does anyone know when the UK annoucements will be taking place?

    I currently get 35% discount on FVF’s so as long as this isn’t affected or unless they compensate it buy reducing FVF’s I don’t mind.

    Just as long as I don’t lose out financially is what matters most to me.

  18. Sorry Sue, I read the post in superfast speed, while trying to sort my post for collection at the same time.

    Thanks for the prompt reply 😉

  19. The biggest relief (so far) is that I can’t see any need to revise all our listings again. And confirmation that it will be advantageous to restart old poor selling listings every now and again.

    If anything I think they should have gone further to rid the site of poor performing sellers. Maybe the UK announcement will go further…..

  20. I’m sad about the removal of featured plus. That was an extremely valuable tool.

    Also I think the top seller program is very obtainable for bronze powersellers. People who are shipping 1,000 packages a month or more, that’s not easy to maintain 99.5% 3’s, 4’s, and 5’s.

  21. Why does the eBay product catalog include photos?

    Photos are important for the convenience of sellers and for buyers to make the right purchase decision. Starting September 1, 2009, eBay will begin selecting photos for the eBay product catalog from the listings of sellers who do not opt out by August 31.

    More amazonification perhaps?


  22. I like the changes. It’s a move in the right direction and will give buyers on ebay more confidence and will reward sellers giving good service which is obviously a good thing.

    Are international sales not counting towards PS/TS status a move to penalise the Chinese et all PowerSellers currently selling only on .co.uk? We’ll have to see what comes tomorrow for the UK and whether that is confirmed here as well. Would be good news for many UK based sellers if it was implemented here too I would guess.

    #13 Amanda, if you no longer sell on ebay (since not being able to leave negative feedback for buyers) why are you reading and commenting on an ebay discussion forum? Haven’t you got better things to do with your life as ebay apparently has no part of it any longer?

  23. Another note.

    If you list on a different site to your own site, then you are not likely to be eligible for Top Seller status on that site.

    Then your placement will be affected, no matter how good you are as a seller.

    That is how I read it.


  24. @26 – the rest of the story:

    Starting September 1, 2009, eBay will begin selecting sellers’ photos for inclusion in the eBay product catalog. If your photo is chosen, an attribution including your user ID and a link to your profile page will be included on the product details page under your picture each time it’s displayed. This attribution can give you significant additional exposure.

    eek! um – thanks but no thanks.

  25. As of July 27, 2009, raising the price or changing the title will not automatically reset your recent sales.

    Best news ever. This was a major pain when planning for the future.

    # Number of impressions (views) versus number of sales will become a factor in BM.

    More good news. This means sellers need to have a way to make convert buyers quicker rather than letting them shop around. Scarcity?

    This is open to abuse however. Just swamp your competition with page views and drop them from best match. I hope eBay has a way to deal with that especially seeing how they don’t enforce any kind of controls on who can join. I’m sure someone will develop a bot to do just this. There is already one that goes around watching listings to get them to show up on things like the pulse.

    # Sellers can include “only relevent terms and conditions”. Inconsistent or contradictory T&Cs are a violation of this.

    It’s a very good idea but this seems way too open to interpretation and misunderstandings.

    Listing enhancements removed

    This would be a good thing if they didn’t allow top-sellers to continue to use featured plus. I’m a little confused though why eBay would remove listing enhancements which have been scientifically proven to improve selling price, conversion rates, etc. I mean it even says so every time I’m trying to list an item.

    I don’t like the new insurance policy because I like being able to give my customers a choice or feeling like they have one. Much in the same way I offer first class mail and priority mail even though they are exactly the same thing (except cost). But it seems like a fair compromise with the remaining changes.

  26. When it says 3 instances of 1 in any given DSR…Over what period, 30 days? 12 months?

  27. #19

    It’s a pity that eBay dosen’t kick the same football as PayPal seeing as they are in bed with each other. PayPal states within their Seller Protection Policy that sellers must ship goods by “trackable means”.

    If this were the case then why does eBay give sellers the option to use 1st or 2nd class standard postage options or sellers standard rate. Surely, it should only be 1st and 2nd class recorded or some other trackable option. After all, eBay says it wants to make eBay a safer place! Now’s the time to prove it.

    You never know, it might even reduce the number of “item not recieved” claims!

  28. “Are international sales not counting towards PS/TS status a move to penalise the Chinese et all PowerSellers currently selling only on .co.uk?”

    I don’t think that’s the way it’s working. International sales are those that end up selling to buyers located outside the country where the site is located. So as long as those Chinese powersellers are selling to UK buyers, they won’t lose out.

    Now, sellers like myself who have an overwhelming majority of cross border sales will lose out on all fronts–even in search exposure. Any sales I make to foreign buyers simply don’t count towards anything. Which means they’ll make my volume seem even lower than it is.

    The insurance is an issue for those of us in the US with shipping caps. I understand what eBay was trying to accomplish–just don’t think it was the right way to go about it. The fact that in some cases, they’ll make more off of sellers this way is just a happy coincidence.

  29. One thing further than really irks me: eBay is going to be pestering my buyers with unpaid item emails at hour 48 and 96. No way to opt out or turn them off.

    Many sellers of low asp items let their buyers shop for a week, sometimes longer, before invoicing. Now, it will seem as if we’re pestering our buyers for payment despite long-standing agreements and more flexible payment terms.

  30. Surely not over 12 months, to get 3 instances of a 1 DSR on high volume sellers is way too low.

    When you sell 150 items a day you’re bound to get the odd low rating for whatever reason, certainly more than 3 in a year.

  31. Sue, sadly we were told on the announcement board for the announcement that we WON’T be able to turn them off.

    Believe me, we asked. 🙁

  32. For Sue:


    Sellers will not have the ability to opt-out of the payment reminders, as site-wide consistency is important in setting community expectations. The tone and message of these reminders has been changed to remove any implication that they may be seller-driven. EBay will be reminding buyers that they have an open transaction. All of the unpaid item communications will be updated in an effort to lessen the burden on our sellers.

    I don’t have SMPro, just the regular Selling Manager.

  33. And, so I don’t sound completely pessimistic, I will say

    Yea to the UID shortening
    Yea to the opt out for specific countries

    (If you’ll check the ‘guess’ discussion, I predicted both! LOL)

  34. HORRIBLE! This is going to kill anyone who sells a popular item on Ebay. If your a current power seller, your days are number. Especially if there is a way to “Knock down” other listings by just adding views and not buying. Then add in having just one person (perhaps another seller) bid on 3 of your items, win and then give you 3 “1”s and your sunk.

  35. # Number of impressions (views) versus number of sales will become a factor in BM.

    I did a little research on this and it is the number of times the item is returned in search results that matters, not the number of times your listing is visited. I really hope they don’t include search API and finding API calls into that. This will probably have a side effect of constantly cycling through the bottom listings on the first page that no one ever looks at.

  36. @bigpoppa #38

    There are three separate calculations;
    * one for feedback percentage in which the multiple item buyer would only impact your rating once,
    * one for your DSRs in which a multiple item buyer would only impact your rating once with an average score, and,
    * one for TSR in which eBay looks at the total number of low ratings you get and the multiple item buyer could knock you out.

    Starting in October for TSR there are three scales dependent on your sales volume.
    *Low volume sellers with less than 400 annual transactions may have no more than 2 instances of 1s or 2s on each one of the four DSRs over the past 12 completed calender months
    *Sellers with more than 400 annual but less than 400 in the last three calendar months may have no more than 0.50% transactions with 1s or 2s on each one of the four DSRs over the past completed calender 12 months. In other words for every 200 sales you can only receive ONE low DSR rating,
    a 1 or 2.
    *Sellers withmore than 400 transactions in the last three calendar months may have no more than 0.50% transactions with 1s or 2s on each one of the four DSRs over the past completed calender 3 months.

    In your example selling 150 items a day:
    150 x 7 = 1050 per week = 4515 per (averaged) month
    You would need to keep your incidence of 1 and 2 ratings below 22, that is NOT 22 sales but 22 individual ratings per month.

    Worst case scenario, one buyer who bought 5 items and was seriously miffed enough to give you 1 star across the board on each one would put you on the edge.

    In April the rating scale and weighting will change for PowerSellers.

    Simple huh?

  37. Now you have explained it Henrietta it sounds terrifying.!

    I sell high ticket items, approx 65-70 recorded sales a month, of those about two thirds leave feedback, of the two thirds that leave feedback only just about half leave DSR stars.

    Are the yearly transaction numbers based on sales or the number of feedback and stars you get? this year at a guess our recorded sales are 750 transactions,498 feedback recieved, 354 star ratings recieved.


  38. If it sounds too complicated then it almost certainly is.

    Simple question for me to answer when I reconcile the changes to my situation:

    Will I make more money from the same effort, the same money from less effort or neither of the those?

    I suspect that I aleady know the answer.

  39. #32 Mark don’t get you point there. The PayPal protection plan is to protect the seller. Not sure why forcing sellers to use a trackaable method would make eBay a safer place.

    I would also point out that recorded “signed for” is not a trackable method it just offers a proof of dispatch & receipt (in theory). It follows the same route through the postal system as standard mail & is just as likely to go missing as standard mail (possibly more, due to perceived value).

  40. No.44 –

    I’m with whirly on his questions. My situation is exactly the same. I sell about 3000 items per month, and am left around 2000 feedback per month with around 1200 leaving DSR’s.

    Is is judged against my 3000 sales per month or feedback/dsr’s left?

  41. Just had the email from ebay UK.

    Free P&P on all Media catergories, that includes books. Still digesting the email but the books is a real killer. Absolutely sheer profiteering from Ebay.

  42. #49 Yup – affects me too, as we sell hundreds of comics every month. I don’t mind change, but surely offering free postage means that anyone who buys multiple items from me will end up paying more??? Or am I missing something? Over 50% of our transactions are multiple buys….

  43. How reasonable were the P&P charges? Neither reasonable or unreasonable.

    I wonder what the average DSR score left across the UK site for P&P charges on Free P & P listings is.

  44. #51 Well, our DSR for p&p is currently 4.8. I think our charges are pretty reasonable – not the cheapest on eBay, but not the most expensive, either.

    I suspect this will encourage buyers (particularly our repeat buyers) to go directly to our website, where they will still get a discount on postage that I won’t be able to offer anymore on eBay! Mental.

    Also, I hope I’m right in assuming that no-one will be able to leave us anything less than 5 stars once we’re forced down the Free p&p road?

    Well, hope springs eternal, I guess…

  45. #50 Simon, I’n my experience people paying more for combined orders has not had any impact on the number of combined orders sold & customer satisfaction levels have increased since I implemented free postage (some time back).

    I have no problem with customers paying more, as long as it doesn’t impact on sales.

  46. Our DSR’s for the same period in #53 are all above 4.8 and 4.9 which is higher than the average ebay score across the site 😆

    Just to add insult, the average star rating for Postage & Packaging is 4.58, so hardly anyone on the site will qualify for the new standards 😆

    Time for a DVD I cannot be bothered with this nonsense anymore today.

  47. #55 Thanks, Jimbo – that reassures me a little bit. I really don’t mind change, especially if it brings more profits! Roll on October!

  48. #53 Whirly obviously you know your business better than I do but if you were to put your shipping and handling cost + additional fees + money for an extra pint onto your “buy it now” price do you think it would effect your eBay sales?

  49. most of it looks like fiddling with numbers

    glad i dont sell books though….ouchy!!!

  50. #58 Yes I believe our sales would decline, I don’t believe that buyers of big ticket items (both in terms of value and in size) expect or would believe delivery is free. ?

    £369.99 + 39.99 Delivery or £409.98 with Free Delivery. Does one look better than the other?

    Average size of a bath on a pallet is 2000x1000x800. We charge a set fee of £39.99 just because it seems like a reasonable/attractive figure, it costs us £45-£50 inc vat so we already take a hit, sometime we get lucky and the drop is not to far from the factory so we make a small margin, most of the time we loose, particulary scotland / North wales were on average we pay around £60 per pallet.

    I will have to wait and see how the new best match works before I make any changes with regards P&P, we have some baths with free P&P running at the moment but there is nothing obvious to suggest we sell more of them to be honest.

  51. #61 Sue… I missed that little clause – thanks. That’s slightly reassuring, but I’d love to hear an example of how the Post and Packaging Charges DSR could EVER be reasonably given less than 5 stars when it’s free. (serious challenge – I really would like to know!)

    Unless, of course, the buyer desperately wanted to give us more money, but weren’t allowed to by eBay.

    Oh, hang on, that’s actually what will be happening every single time someone purchases more than one item from us… Not really fair on the buyer.

  52. Seems like eBay is yet again “fixing” some of the mistakes it made with all the foolish sweeping changes they made last year (eg: reverting neutral = negative etc).

    I stopped buying and selling on eBay a year ago, I’m glad I did because sucks now.


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