From today product identifiers will be required on listings in specific categories with the aim of making it easier for buyers to quickly find what they’re looking for.
Product Identifiers include Manufacturer Part Numbers (MPN) and Global Trade Item Numbers (GTIN). GTINs include European Article Numbers (EAN) and International Standard Book Numbers (ISBN).
Today this might appear like even more seemingly meaningless work just to comply with eBay’s requirements when listing. However in the future it should not only enable eBay to give better visibility and conversion by showing buyers the products they want, make it easier to give trust to buyers and enforce standards and ultimately better SEO and at the same time give inventory insights and tools to help sellers perform even better in the future.
The problems with eBay product identifiers
I see multiple issues that eBay will have, even on something as basic as the “Brand” product identifier, let alone MPNs.
Take for example a product which practically every eBay seller will be using today – mailing bags. Searching for “Mail Lite” on eBay, a quick browse down the first page of listings demonstrates the issue.
When specified, sellers had variously entered the brand as ‘Mail Lite’, ‘Sealed Air’ and ‘Mail Lite by Sealed Air’ all of which are technically correct, although ‘SEALED AIR & PP Padded Envelopes’ is about the worst we saw. The problem is that Mail Lite is a brand of Sealed Air (the parent brand), not to mention mis-spellings such as MailLite which we’ve also seen. If sellers can’t even get the brand correct then eBay can’t match listings as being an identical product.
Whilst Brands aren’t particularly well entered on eBay, MPNs are even worse with sellers variously ignoring them, making up totally fictitious part numbers (e.g. ‘padded envelopes style bubble lined cd dvd’) and very occasional even getting them correct.
The problem becomes even worse for certain products – some items have multiple manufacturers part numbers! Take a standard IBM power supply – it has an MPN of 08K8206 and right next to it another MPN of 08K8207. Which part number should you enter on eBay and what if a buyer searches for the other equally valid MPN.
Worse still, IBM change the MPN of their power supply each time they make a small update – that means many (in some cases 100s of) power supplies which are almost identical will have the same part number. That’s why when you see some listings on eBay for power supplies they’ll have a list of 100s of compatible manufacture part numbers – it’s so that (hopefully) the buyer can find the part number that they’re looking for.
Naturally each part number will also have a unique GTIN so that won’t help either.
Whilst eBay’s aim to move towards catalogued products makes a lot of sense (think Amazon single product page), unless there’s some uniformity in brand names and MPNs enforcement it might end up being a lot of work for sellers with no real end benefit.
Dates you’ll need to include product identifiers on eBay
From today (29th June), you must include product identifiers for single item listings in affected categories to complete your listing. This applies whenever you manually relist, or revise certain fields within, existing eligible listings too.
Listing with product identifiers will become compulsory for multi variation listings from the 1st of September. Currently it’s only possible to add identifiers to the parent of a variation listing on eBay so by September they’ll need to add fields to enable GTINs etc for each individual variation.