eBay Changes Search, Bans Checks & Money Orders
By Ina Steiner
eBay made major announcements overnight, including major fee changes to its Buy-It-Now Fixed Price listing format effective September 16, 2008 (see today's other news stories in AuctionBytes.com for details). eBay said it would also make changes to Finding (search), Shipping and Seller Standards. And in a move that was expected by many, it will move to an electronic checkout system, banning checks and money orders.
eBay is making two major changes to Finding (also called Search). First, it will change the mix of inventory on the site and will score fixed-price and auction listings separately in Best Match, but display them together on the search results pages. eBay's Jeff King of the Finding Team said this allows it to give greater weight to Time Ending Soonest to auction formats, which would be irrelevant to fixed-price listings.
In addition, eBay will expose auction or fixed-price listings more heavily in search results, depending on the category. For example, it would likely show more auction listings than fixed-price listings in collectibles categories. The changes are designed to ensure that auction listings are not buried underneath Fixed-Price listings.
eBay will also create a new factor for its Best Match search algorithm for fixed-price listings only, called "Recent Sales." This will reward multiple-quantity listings that have had recent sales over single- and multiple-quantity listings with fewer or no recent sales. eBay will continue to use factors such as DSRs (Detailed Seller Ratings) and shipping, in its Best Match algorithm. In addition, factors will be given different weights in different categories, as is done today. King said, "We let buyers tell us what's relevant," with eBay mining data based on buyer behavior.
Changes to finding will go into effect on September 16, 2008.
Beginning November 1, 2008, eBay will require sellers to have a minimum DSR of 4.3 across the board. eBay's Dinesh Lathi said this will affect a very small percentage of sellers.
eBay is moving to an electronic Checkout system, banning checks, money orders and postal orders. Accepted payment methods will include merchant credit card accounts, ProPay, and PayPal, effective late October.
Update 8/20/08: There are exceptions to the new Accepted Payments policy. See details here, including this tidbit: "Please note that the new payments policy will not apply to the vehicles categories in Motors, capital equipment categories in Business & Industrial, Mature Audiences and Real Estate."
Lathi said eBay is "actively looking to bring shipping costs into the realm of the reasonable," stating that shipping is important to buyers, who will go elsewhere if shipping is high, and will draw in buyers if shipping costs are reasonable. In the Media category only, eBay will put limits on Shipping & Handling charges, effective mid-October. It will vary by specific subcategories.
In certain "edge cases," Lathi said, such as an 80-pack DVD, there will be a safety valve: sellers will have the option of using the shipping calculator if the caps are not appropriate. The shipping caps will apply to the first shipping service. eBay did not have details about the caps available to reporters on Tuesday.
Where shipping caps apply only to the Media category, eBay will give incentives to sellers to offer free shipping in all categories. It will give items with free shipping more exposure in search, and will offer additional discounts on FVFs (Final Value Fees). The discount will apply to individual listings, so sellers can choose which listings, if any, on which to offer free shipping.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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