Should eBay TRS status be harder to achieve?

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I’m hearing very mixed views on eBay’s Top Rated Seller (TRS) program. Unsurprisingly many are questioning the value of the program since eBay announced a 10% decrease in the Final Value fee discounts in the 2012 Spring seller release. However I’m hearing more sellers wishing eBay would make it even harder for their competitors to qualify and retain TRS status to make the program more exclusive than it has become.

When Top Rated Seller status was first introduced there were many sellers who thought it an impossible goal to achieve. Getting Detailed Seller Ratings (DSRs) high enough were for some an impossible goal, and yet those same sellers are now easily achieving TRS status and finding all their competitors are too. I’ve also heard complaints that sellers appear able to retain TRS status even if their feedback percentage drops from the typically high percentage that’s usual on eBay. Sellers who are TRS but have feedback scores significantly lower than reasonably common 99.9% really aren’t providing great service.

If eBay were to raise the TRS standards then those at the very top would retain the status and have less TRS competition. So what does TRS status get you?

TRS Benefits

  • Final Value Fee discounts: Whilst this is the benefit most sellers are currently complaining about I’d suggest that it’s the benefit you should discount first. There’s only one way discounts are likely to go and that’s down and it wouldn’t surprise me to see them disappear entirely or at least be further reduced over the course of the next few seller releases
  • eBay Top-rated seller badge: It’s not just having the TRS badge on your listings, eBay also display it in search results and give the ability to narrow search results to TRS listings only. They also have additional marketing from time to time including promotion of TRS on the eBay home page:
  • Protection from one off feedback blipseBay have made it easier than ever to retain TRS status with a grace period to protect your business from one off issues that may arise. If your feedback drops below TRS status you get time to recover and in the mean time keep your TRS badge and benefits.
  • Access to eBay “Value Box” on product pages: TRS gives you the opportunity to appear in the Value Box when listing with a matching product from the eBay catalogue in Technology.
  • Access to Featured First: If you’re not TRS then you don’t get access to the Featured First listing promotion. Although there’s a cost implication this is still one of the best ways to kick start sales on your new listings.
  • An average 20% boost in visibility in Best Match search: I’ve saved the best for last – this is the biggest benefit of TRS status and as with everything on eBay sales are what keeps sellers on the site. eBay have previously said that TRS gives around a 20% boost in search result placement resulting in around a 15% increase in sales compared to sellers who aren’t TRS. This is the real reason that sellers would prefer less of their competition to be TRS.

New eBay.com TRS service requirements

We’ve only got to look to the eBay.com 2012 Spring Seller Release to get an idea of how eBay may tighten the TRS criteria in the future – The answer is service. eBay say that buyers expect their items to ship without delay once they pay and they want to be able to see when their order has shipped. If you want to be TRS on eBay.com that’s what you’ll have to do.

US sellers will soon have to ship 90% of their items with tracking and upload the tracking information to eBay within their stated handling time in order to qualify or retain TRS status.

Visibility will also be lowered for TRS sellers who don’t offer the very best levels of service. eBay.com sellers need to offer 1 day or same day handling and a 14 day or longer return policy to get the greatest boost in Best Match and qualify for the final value fee discounts.

There’s been much discussion in the US about the new TRS requirements, especially the tracking requirement. It’s been pointed out that very low weight items (typical products would be Stamps and Postcards) have in the past been posted as letters costing just $0.25 to send with USPS. The lowest price for tracking appears to be $1.64.

Will we get tracking and fast shipping requirements in the UK?

If eBay listen to the sellers calling for more stringent TRS requirements then mandatory tracking for all shipments and a 1 day handling time could be introduced in the UK in future seller releases.

DSRs are largely becoming irrelevant for the best sellers. In the UK you can now get auto five star ratings on two of the criteria and as more sellers routinely qualify for TRS status DSRs are no longer able to differentiate between the good and the outstanding. Rather than tweak the DSR requirements eBay could well decide that service will be the next way that sellers in the UK are measured and differentiated.

55 Responses

  1. it dont matter what badge you have in the eyes of buyers all ebay sellers are arseholes to be insulted and abused without the discount its not worth having

  2. If you sell niche products that have little competition then the search benefit and TRS badge are irrelevant. If buyers find and want they have to buy.

    So for me it is way more important that eBay simplify the search result to make it easier to find stuff. Or put another way put the gear that is 100% relevant right at the top.

    Buyers of niche products right now are offered a list of stuff that is simply not relevant.

    Google search is far superior here so the idea of eBay doing more with google is for me a good one.

  3. Tracking does not always equate with good service. You mention items that drop through a letterbox. Buyers of these items know good service when they do drop through the day after buying.

    But when items are sent tracked buyers need to be home to take delivery. Else the blerdy card and a trip to RM delivery office.

    Buyers don’t want that – its a pain in the arse.

  4. It may just be bad luck, but every time I reach top seller status there ensues a volley of complaints, negatives and poor DSRs, I want it about as much as I want a target painted across my heart. In fact been wondering if I can get it taken off I don’t want it.

  5. not to mention the fact if we switch our low value volume sales to second class it more than compensates for the TRS discount

  6. Making DSR status harder is just the sympton of the issue. It isn’t the root cause.

    The root cause of search results problems is that Ebay’s algorithm gives overdue emphasis to number of previous hits or searches, and not enough to factors such as feedback and price.

    Consequently results show some sellers higher even if they are charging in total over a £1 more for an item and have, say, 99.7% feedback. Lower down Best Match you will find 100% feedback and lower price sellers who should be at the top of the visibility.

    Fix the algorithm and you fix the problem, so Best Match genuinly are Best Match – best combination of price, service, feedback. Right now they aren’t.

    Tracking is a guarantee of nothing incidentally and is the wrong focus for ebay. When 99.9% of mail is delivered domestically and internationally within very acceptable timeframes to the buyer and the seller has compensation protection against loss up to 10x the value of the first class stamp, tracking is just chasing an infintesimally small problem, and doesn’t actually do anything to improve service. Don’t believe me? Check out my 100% feedback under user ID admiralhardinge – all sent first class and standard air mail. Tracking is only used for higher value items per ebay policy.

    We all know where the real problems are – Italy, South America, occasionally France. It is more reliable and faster sending to Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan than it is to Italy

    Meanwhile ebay twiddle their thumbs over sellers who are allowed to put misleading claims in text on their photos, making the market unsafe for buyer and seller alike.

    Meanwhile, when there is a widespread problem like when US Customs decided mail could only go freight, 100% scan, or Brazilian post hub strike, both of which caused massive delays for all, tracked and untracked alike – do Ebay do anything to inform buyers and make allowances for sellers? I’m whisltling in the wind.

  7. Tracking does not benefit the buyer. It puts up the total price (unless the seller absorbs the cost)and often means that they have to traipse off to collect something from the PO because they weren’t in to sign for it.

    What on earth is ebay doing forcing sellers down a route that disadvantages buyers merely to make it easier for them to gather some statistics so that they can reward or penalise sellers?

  8. I sell a huge amount of stamps worldwide via eBay and have just been told that my discount is being reduced from 20% to 10% as a business seller (along with everyone else).

    There’s no way I’m offering tracking for anything under GBP 100, I really don’t want to spend my life queuing-up in the Post Office.

    And no buyers will pay for it either

    As I’m going to lose 10%, might as well lose 20% instead and not worry about Top Seller Status if I won’t offer tracking.

    The loss rate of my mailing is tiny (about 1 in 4,000), so I’ll take my chances thanks as I don’t want to bankrupt my punters…

  9. horses for courses! low value high volume sellers just cant send tracked and be competitive or profitable
    we simply dont worry about TRs on this sort of item

  10. Are buyers really that bothered about TRS? Most of the time when I buy something as long as I get it in 3 or 4 days I’m happy. If I need something urgently I will look for someone who offers a guaranteed next day service or if I’m feeling really radical I’ll pop down the shops. This whole thing of conditioning people to have greater and greater expectations sucks. When I was a kid you couldn’t buy milk on a Sunday. It wasn’t a problem.

  11. Just noticed in our Amazon.com account that tracked parcels are now being monitored….I am guessing this will come to the UK as well! Oh Joy!

  12. Harder?

    For TRS you need to keep 99.5% satisfaction on FIVE separate criteria (4 DSR and 1 disputes).

    If anything it is way too hard and random to keep up TRS.

    All you really need is to have someone who sees you as competition have 3 friends order things from you and give you low DSR stars on the same criteria to lose TRS for a full year assuming you sell a moderate amount of items or fewer. Even if you sell a large amount a targeted push by someone against a single aspect of the criteria is very likely to topple you.

    All you need is for one mailtruck to overturn that was carrying your mail. One set of like 10 items that get a 2-3 week delay in getting to their destinations and nothing will protect you from losing your TRS even if you mailed them the same day that the payments arrived.

    We had an outage when we had a freak October Snowstorm… I actually went to a McDonalds outside the immediate area for a full week twice daily and ended up having to mail each item at the post office with them applying the postage. Under the new thing I would have also had to manually enter all of the tracking numbers as well. In the old days before the recent requirements and DSR stars I likely would have gone down to three times a week during that period but we are at a point of paranoid service.

    If someone tells me that their dog ate my item and they want a refund — guess what — they are going to get that refund whether it happened or not because I am too paranoid that they will give me 1s etc. They will also end up on my no bidder list but TRS means I provide paranoid service.

    I am far more afraid of someone dinging a DSR star than anything else.

    But nothing — no paranoid level of service can stop you from losing TRS due to luck as passing 0.5% on ONE criteria is just so very easy…

    Does walmart satisfy 99.75%(.25 overall is about the same as 5 .5 critera) of their customers? Does ANYONE? Well that is the demands on the current ebay seller.

  13. When you say “monitored” what do you mean?

    This sounds a bit creepy and big brotherish if you ask me. Buyers are going to start having privacy concerns. So much for data protection laws.

  14. eBay’s not bad, but its not enough anymore.There’s another site called Auctionopia that lets you IM with the seller.
    I trust actual contact over TRS any day, plus its a lot more fun haggling.

  15. TRS is not just about the discount or 20% extra visability. It also has a beneficial perk of being able to use Featured First.

    Every now and then we will use FF, even if it is a loss leader. To us featured first is far superior than best match. The extra revenue brought in more than covers the outlay.

  16. Feedback percentages are misleading, there is no way to tell which are UK and which are overseas sales. I have seen accounts that are 98/99% and still have TRS in the UK, ours being one of them.

  17. Not sure about tracking as it’s not viable for low margin products like budget DVDs that we sell. I think that as long as items are marked as dispatched within 1 working day and a delivery time dsr is 4.9-5.0 then that should pass. Tracking isn’t viable for every product on ebay.

  18. I have to agree with Megan & Chris.
    You can’t have a selling business without eBay, but if you’re really serious about selling you’ll get your stuff up everywhere you can.
    To ignore new options just because they’re small or new is just short sighted.
    Plus, Auctionopia doesn’t have listing or selling fees, just store fees… so why not make use of it?

  19. Excellent post!

    If eBay ever introduced 1-working day despatch times, for instance, as mandatory in order to achieve eTRS that would be DISASTROUS to those sellers who simply cannot offer such (white goods, custom made items, etc)

    I can imagine it will be introduced across certain categories, e.g. Electornics but in Home Garden, Sporting Goods, etc – no thanks!

    I agree, it could be tightened up to be more exclusive, but careful thought needs to be put into this and the hoops sellers need to jump through. The latest Seller Release suggests otherwise, with so-called protection for Comms DSRs excluding all sellers who offer a local pick-up (which would, presumably, be the above type of seller).

    I recently wrote a cover feature for Net magazine advising sellers how to gain and maintain eTRS. It is hard enough as it is, but sellers have really raised their game. There needs to be more subtle refinements. Not a blanket 1-day rule. eBay have added one-size-fits-all policies before and they often don’t work (fortunately, eBay listens well and isn’t immune to revising such policies…)

    Personally speaking (wild conjecture only), and slightly off topic here, i can see the demise of feedback as it is now and more emphasis on more granular DSRS.

  20. I did notice that when I made TRS last year, my sales more or less doubled. There must be something about the TRS ‘reputation’ that the buyers like, at least in my line of goods….

    I hope the tracked thingy doesn’t happen, though. All my items are less than £5.00 and all with free UK postage, at-cost postage overseas. My items are made up to order (software CDs) and if I had to do tracked delivery, I would have to spend ages at the post office and eat into my profit margins too. I generally drop my CDs in the local post box while walking the dog; I want to stay as far from post offices as possible as there’s always a queue of geriatrics in front of me when I get there.

    If the eBay postage printing thing worked for me then I’d use it; afaik, it counts buying postage on eBay as having posted the item it seems. I have found, though, that trying to post things to Ireland via the eBay postage printing system is a nightmare because it insists on a postcode whereas in the RoI they don’t always have one.

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