EcommerceBytes-NewsFlash, Number 1543 - May 22, 2007     1 of 2

eBay Tests New Search-Results Interface

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eBay is tweaking the way it displays search results in what is likely part of a test to help it improve the buying experience on its US marketplace. Wall Street analyst Bob Peck of Bear Stearns described the new interface in a research report published Monday. He noted that a search for "kingdom hearts ps2" brings back descriptive choices of products the eBay system thinks are best matches - in this case Kingdom Hearts (Playstation 2) and Kingdom Hearts II (Playstation 2). Once a consumer makes a choice by clicking on either game title, a page comes up with a description of the product and five listings that are ending soon, and - as Peck points out - not necessarily ending soonest, as is the default sort on search results.

At the top of the page, there is a short product description with photo provided by Muze, then there are three tabs called "overview" (the default view); "listings"; and "ratings." There are three sections on this Overview page:

  • Listings ending soon
  • Product Description
  • Reviews

It is the "Listings ending soon" section that is most interesting. In this example, there are only 5 listings displayed for each of the two PlayStation games. (Clicking on the Listings tab brings up all of the results.) The columns are different than those on regular eBay.com search results pages. In this interface, there is a column indicating whether the product is new versus used, and a column displaying shipping costs.

The test interface seems to be based on eBay's Magellan search technology, which relies on item specifics. In the media category, which includes games, sellers can enter UPC codes (or ISBN numbers in the case of books), and eBay will populate the product attribute fields based on the data it licenses from Muze, a third-party database company. It's possible that listings that do not include item specifics will not appear on the Listings page of the new interface at all.

Peck says of the new interface, "We believe that some sellers could have initial concerns with only 5 being shown at first (although users can click to see more). Nonetheless, we think eBay will continue to tweak its product finding to best serve the buyers while balancing sellers' needs."

One PowerSeller had theorized a few months ago that eBay was going to be tweaking the search results pages so that listings from top PowerSellers who violated eBay's multiple-listing policy would no longer dominate search results. In this case, the five listings for each of these two PlayStation gaming products were from five different sellers. But the logic used to pull those five to the top is not clear, and sellers might well object if they get less favorable exposure as a result.


About the author:

Ina Steiner is co-founder and Editor of EcommerceBytes and has been reporting on ecommerce since 1999. She's a widely cited authority on marketplace selling and is author of "Turn eBay Data Into Dollars" (McGraw-Hill 2006). Her blog was featured in the book, "Blogging Heroes" (Wiley 2008). Follow her on Twitter at @ecommercebytes and send news tips to ina@ecommercebytes.com.


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