EcommerceBytes-NewsFlash, Number 1561 - June 15, 2007     1 of 5

eBay Throws Changes at Sellers During eBay Live Keynote

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The keynote address of eBay Live 2007 was held in the Boston Convention Center Thursday evening, and the venue had the feeling of a high school auditorium. It may have been a pep rally, but there was less excitement at the 2007 meeting than in previous years, despite the presence of company founder Pierre Omidyar in the stands.

There were a number of announcements that would likely be of interest to sellers, but they were granular announcements saved for last. And the one that may be controversial among sellers is eBay's decision to serve up Best Match results by seller quality instead of strictly by relevance.

eBay CEO Meg Whitman got a warm greeting when she walked onto the stage, and she replaced last year's mantra, "The Power of Three" (which referred to eBay, PayPal and Skype), with "Social Commerce." In fact, Skype was hardly mentioned during the gathering.

Whitman said that to eBay, Social Commerce was about commerce, communicating and community, a phrase reminiscent of the dot-com boom days when the term "content, community and commerce" was bandied about.

eBay's CEO kept it light, letting Kristen Cunningham take the stage to talk about the importance of the eBay Giving Works program, which has raised $100 million to date.

PayPal President Rajiv Dutta was next to take the stage to tell attendees that eBay was making a major investment in servers. He mentioned the recent site outage and said it was a result of this upgrade, undertaken to achieve greater than fourfold redundancies. (Editor's Note: there is a planned 2-hour outage on PayPal scheduled for Monday.)

Dutta got some cheers when he said there was $2 billion in PayPal accounts ("waiting to be spent"), which he calls the PayPal money supply. Highlights of his presentation included:

  • The PayPal Security Key is now out of beta testing and is available to everyone
  • The online dispute resolution program has seen a reduction of buyer complaints by 50 percent.
  • In August, PayPal is launching payments review - if sellers wait until eBay says it's okay, sellers will be protected with a 100 percent guarantee.
  • eBay will introduce new risk tools and filters to let sellers make better decisions, "to put more power in your hands to manage your risk."
  • PayPal's goal is to make every address in the system a confirmed address.

eBay President of eBay North American Marketplaces Bill Cobb then took the stage, and introduced his parents, who were sitting in the audience. He recapped last year's keynote announcements, and reassured sellers that there would be no increase in any selling fees in July.

Cobb spoke about fraud, then showed a video highlighting how shoppers could "battle bland" by shopping on eBay, where "different is good." The video is part of a campaign called "WINdorphins," and users can learn more by visiting the windorphins.com website.

Highlights of Cobb's presentation included:

  • eBay will add an eBay Stores tab to the newly designed header.
  • eBay is testing a new homepage design (5 percent of visitors see new designs), and in 2 months, eBay will make a decision about which new design to use.
  • eBay has been working on "visual navigation."
  • eBay will soon launch eBay Countdown which displays a real-time countdown to an auction ending, a price ticker, and other features. No download is necessary, and buyers can leave the feature open in their browser.
  • eBay will launch "single click bid," enabling bidding with a single click, without having to wait for the computer to refresh.
  • Cobb also mentioned MyWorld features and the eBay To Go widget as well as the new policy on embedding videos in listings. He also mentioned MarkDown manager for Stores, and said "we are committed to the long-term success of eBay Store owners."
  • eBay will offer Featured eBay Store owners 24-hour support.
  • eBay will reduce the monthly subscription fees of Anchor stores by $200 to $299.95.
  • eBay will begin offering top buyers telephone customer support.
  • eBay is testing "price & shipping sort" as part of its battle against excessive shipping charges.
  • UPS is offering sellers savings (up to 31 percent for ground and up to 22 percent for air shipments).
  • eBay is changing the PowerSeller qualifications, making it easier for seasonal sellers and sellers of low-cost items to become PowerSellers (eligibility can be based on either dollar or unit volume).
  • Bronze PowerSellers will now have phone access to customer support, just as the Silver PowerSellers do.
  • eBay will begin serving up Best Match results by seller quality instead of strictly by relevance. Buyers may select Best Match from a drop-down menu on results pages, which sorts results by relevancy based on historical buying behavior. eBay will give preference to listings in Best Match sorts by PowerSeller status and selling track record. Cobb did not explain what selling track record meant, but it seems likely to be based on Detailed Seller Ratings that were rolled out recently in Feedback 2.0 - a feature disliked by many sellers.
  • eBay will hold a Summer Relief promotion. From June 19 through August 5, eBay will lower the first tranche of the Final Value Fees from 5.25 percent to 4.5 percent for eligible auction, auction BIN, and pure fixed-price format listings.

There were so many different announcements made affecting eBay sellers, it may take some time for the full impact to be realized.

Almost fittingly, the Boston event is more sedate than the lively Las Vegas event of last year. The Exhibit Hall is not the mad crush it has been in past years, though vendors were not complaining - at least publicly. With two more days to go and the weekend approaching, things could get peppy.


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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