Look out for big changes coming to eBay Search

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It’s not often that Tamebay suggests there’s a must read (or in this case a must listen) article. But if you’re making a living on eBay, or selling a lot as a multi-channel business, then it’s time to tune in.

eBay’s President and CEO Devin Wenig sat down at the Goldman Sachs Technology and Media conference in San Francisco (click on this link for audio) this week to talk to investors about eBay’s future. It’s well worth listening in to what he says. Grab a cuppa. This is a candid look at the eBay business from the top dog.

From about minute 12 you’ll get a better notion of what eBay Inc. is thinking at the top table regarding “search” (call it Best Match or Cassini, if you like). Indeed, he touches on it throughout his talk and emphasises how changes this year will be critical to eBay’s development and survival.

Here’s a snippet from Wenig: “People’s patience for scrolling through thousands of search results is not very high. The huge change we’re making is moving to a highly structured marketplace… that isn’t easy and it takes time… But it pushes the simplicity curve way out. That’s the journey we’re on.”

None of this should be very surprising. eBay has been moving towards what is termed “structured data” for quite some time. You need to be thinking more about Product Identifiers, in the first instance, and also Item Specifics.

Wenig says a great deal more than this though in his chat. And that’s why we’re writing about it but you’re better off listening in yourself for all the details. It’s an expansive talk.

There are some warm words about small sellers and how unique and choice is vital to eBay’s future, according to Wenig. And that should be good news to those who sell fascinating and bizarre stuff second hand. Who knows if it’s vital though to Wenig’s scheme?

He says that he wants eBay to “pivot away from retail” and to see a million SMEs globally selling on eBay and bring a “diverse and unique inventory” for sale on the site.

He also addresses eBay’s tricky recent history with search (specifically Google), how the company is a huge spender when it comes to marketing online and also how social could reap rewards. Part of eBay’s problem with search is transient inventory and that speaks to Product Identifiers and he’s hoping to resolve some of that.

So listen in. And tell us what you think. Devin Wenig is upbeat about eBay as CEO. What do you think as a seller?

18 Responses

  1. They certainly need to address the search algorithm. Currently, it promotes ‘for parts or not working’ items to the top of the search, especially if they are on auction.

    It appears that the algorithm writers think that first and foremost, what buyers REALLY want, is the cheapest item. As this is invariably something that is broken, and being auctioned, it reinforces eBay’ ‘Tat Bazaar’ image.

    I’ve actually bent the ear with one of the head honchos at eBay about this in a meeting, but it fell on deaf ears (or did it?).

  2. He seems to be talking about a more curated approach, that is, “We know what you want so leave it to us”.

    Leave room for those with well honed complex searches designed to find the gems. Do not make ‘Dumb’ the only option.

    The whole approach requires the item details to be correct, which is often not the case.

    One solution is to crowdsource eBayers that want small rewards for highlighting errors.

    Yes, it could be a minefield, but, if handled right, it could also add to reputation/feedback ratings.

    My speciality is HP wide format printers and I regularly write to sellers pointing out that their item is a 42 inch not a 24 inch or whatever.

    If doing that (either direct to the seller or through eBay) got me a feedback bump or free listing or ‘category guide’ status or whatever, I would seriously consider dedicating some time to it.

  3. The proposal looks good, EXCEPT , Cassani and Best Match have always been useless. I bet every seller who looks at these things could come up with repeated examples where the so called “Best Match” is driving buyers to a seller who has worse performance, who doesn’t meet the top requirements for sellers, and whose product is more expensive. This is a nonsense.

    If they want to attract sellers, and the seller is TRS, has excellent feedback, and very competitive pricing, then Ebay need to make sure these sellers feature at the top of the search results if they meet the structured data requirements. Ebay should not be disadvantaging the best sellers, simply because their Search algorithm gives non-sensical Best Match recommendations. There is no good reason any of my listings should be languishing on page 2 or 3 of the Best Match results other than Ebay’s ineptitude with their algorithm.

    It is also a problem that by default the top listing will get the most views, and therefore maintain its Best Match status, even when on every other criteria it is an inferior offer.

  4. Hopfully he will sort the resolution team out as well,

    Yesterday had a customer escalate a “INR” case which infact was not a “INR” – she claimed to have been overcharged and was advised by “An ebay representative” to raise a INR case to resolve it!

    The overcharge was because she was in USA and ordered from the AUS site and eBay’s currency conversion messed up…

    Called up the resolution team to get it sorted and was told the customer needs to confirm delivery – when the case text clearly said that it was due to an “overcharge” – Customer service didnt care said the case would be put on hold… few hours later the customer has been refunded out of out pocket and a defect on our account 🙁

    End result we have a defect and £30 out of pocket 🙁

  5. And while they mess around with this, the real problems like corrupt buyers, a defect system with defects and basics like printing postage labels correctly, getting buyers to actually complete their full addresses will just get left alone no doubt.

  6. Wenig needs to realise that Ebay is about the sellers.

    Those who sell on Ebay ARE Ebay.

    They pay all the fees and the wages of everyone at Ebay, even Wenig himself.

    What about buyers? Yes, they’re vital, obviously, but without sellers selling things they want to buy, there will be no buyers either.

    Wenig is German for little or few – and that is where Ebay are headed.

  7. How hard can it be user enters some words in the search eBay match the words with the listing titles and descriptions if the user selects include descriptions.

    If the user does not get the results they want they change the search words and eBay matches the new words.

    How it works now is eBay ignore the search words give a unrelated result the user is confused and tries a different search and eBay gives a different set of unrelated results the user tries a few more times then gives up as they cant work out what key words work and what does not due to eBay’s unrelated results.

  8. Frankly they just need to organise a search that finds what you ask for.

    For example, I sell parts for Motorola radios and the parts for newer models are 11 numeric digits. Unfortunately eBay item, numbers are 11 digits long. If someone searches for a 36012005001 knob they will just get a message saying
    “This listing (36012005001) has been removed, or this item isn’t available.”.
    eBay’s response is they should search this as Motorola 36012005001 instead. This does indeed bring up correct answers, but why though would someone enter a longer search term when the exact part number is not working? It’s like saying a search for shirt didn’t find anything so I’ll search for blue shirt!

    It’s not rocket science, just list valid answers as well as the comment regarding item numbers. Don’t give the impression things aren’t available

  9. I quite like Devin Wenig’s ideas, it sounds like hes looking to undo the damage caused by cassini and JD’s Amazon 2 mentality, he actually says in the interview he’d rather have a million small businesses than 3 mega sellers, as they don’t deliver the diversity which is ebay’s USP.

    This kinda needed to happen 2 years ago though..

  10. Ebay is bloated and over complicated its a bugger when you have a feeling of sucess just because you have actually found what your looking for , before Even clicking buy ,

  11. So they finally admit the search function isnt quite right…. well what a suprise that is..
    We often find that if you type in say banana you will bet one lot of search results but make it plural…. bananas and loads of the original search are ommitted, so alot depends on the buyers term even in such simple ways. Im looking for a banana, im looking for bananas…. both are technically ok… yet ebay often sees them as totally different.
    Another issue we have is we are top rated… we list an items that is fairly common, most have exactly same description and title etc. So it amazes me how often i find a virtually identical listing from a non top rated seller a few places above mine even though i have higher sales etc. We are constantly being told trs gets you better position…. we after several months tracking this stuff i can safely say that it doesn’t. In fact the whole trs thing is now so pointless that we have been dumping some of the ‘hoops’ to jump through to make our life easier… in fact dumping free deleivery and simply adding it on its own has seen a rise in sales of most of those items!!!
    Ebay… dump your phoney focus groups and come listen toa room full of genuine sellers.

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