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EcommerceBytes-NewsFlash, Number 2193 - January 04, 2010 - ISSN 1539-5065    1 of 5

AuctionBytes Scorecard for Forthcoming eBay Changes

By Ina Steiner
EcommerceBytes.com
January 04, 2010




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It's January, time for online sellers to anticipate what changes eBay has in store for this year. In 2009, eBay bundled the majority of major changes into two releases - Seller Release 1 (SR1) and Seller Release 2 (SR2). This year, expect three major releases that cover a range of areas, including Feedback, Fees and Format, with some policy changes thrown in as well. According to sources, the second release in June will have the most impact on sellers.

One area of change that would have major ramifications is whether eBay will do to Stores in North America what it did to some international sites: keep the Stores concept, but do away with Store Inventory Format.

Feedback Change a Forgone Conclusion
eBay has already indicated it is testing changes to its feedback system that will roll out in 2010. eBay has ramped up testing - and it experienced a glitch on New Year's Day in which users were unable to leave feedback for several hours.

All of the new feedback flows that AuctionBytes have seen include a Net Promoter Score (NPS) question that asks buyers, "How likely is it that you will recommend this seller to a friend or colleague?" and gives them a 10-point scale, from Not at all likely, to Extremely likely.

The Net Promoter Score is now ingrained in eBay's corporate culture; more information is available in this AuctionBytes Newsflash article from October.

Currently sellers are judged by how many low Detailed Seller Ratings they receive from buyers, and how the new feedback system will affect eBay's Top Rated Seller program isn't clear.

Stores in Core
eBay tested its Store Inventory Format (SIF) in core search results in the fall, and it seems likely the company is considering doing the same in the U.S. as it did in some international markets. In Italy and the UK, eBay kept Stores, eliminated SIF, and introduced a 30-day Buy It Now (BIN) fixed-price format. (eBay.com already has a 30-day BIN fixed price format.)

Store owners in Italy and the UK pay a monthly subscription fee and get a special insertion rates on the 30-day BIN format. While the fees are more expensive than SIF format, the listings get better exposure since they appear in the main search results ("core"), no longer segregated from the rest of the eBay marketplace listings. Store owners retain their Stores, and eBay continues to offer a central hub, such as the eBay UK Shops hub.

eBay Stores sellers had reported good results when eBay rolled out Stores in Search in February 2006, but eBay rolled it back a month later, telling sellers that the volume of Store items had hurt the core marketplace. In fact, then-CEO Meg Whitman said Stores in Search "diluted the magic of the eBay experience." So most Store sellers would be interested in having their listings appear in core search results.

However, Store sellers may have a difficult time getting used to higher listing fees that seem inevitable with such a change. Currently Store listings cost between 3 - 10 cents for a 30-day listing, and the non-store 30-day BIN fixed-price format costs 35 cents, with final value fees varying, depending on the category. Whatever changes eBay may make to Stores, it's bound to be controversial.

Changes to Fees
In October, eBay sent a survey to select sellers asking them how they felt about fees. Survey respondents were presented with a number of scenarios that may reflect eBay's thinking about fees. All can be viewed via links in this October AuctionBytes Blog post.

eBay has trended toward making fees more complicated, such as adding category-based fees and giving casual sellers special rates for auction listings. While category-based fees may make sense for sellers, it won't be popular if eBay makes it too hard to crunch the numbers.

Policy Changes
In 2009, the concept of the "level playing field" philosophy was irrefutably shelved as eBay courted Diamond sellers, launched branded outlet stores and entered into exclusive deals with fashion designers, so it won't be surprising if all policies do not to impact all sellers. Policy impacting sellers may include areas such as:

  • Limiting buyer-seller communication;
  • Accepted payments;
  • Shipping, tracking, and return policies;
  • Unpaid items and dispute resolution.

In addition, there are regulatory issues facing eBay, online sellers and affiliates that may impact eBay policy-making. For example, eBay is reportedly working on features to allow sellers to collect sales tax.

Other Changes
As we noted in October, eBay is refining the attributes that tell buyers whether a product is new, used or refurbished, and will make the Item Condition attribute mandatory in certain categories; eBay will also begin displaying Item Condition in search results.

eBay is also considering making changes to users accounts in which it would allow users to link multiple accounts ("account linking").

Other changes that are on the table for 2010 include eBay's Top Rated Seller program; Best Match (search); View Item page; community generated catalog and more refined Item Specifics; and trust and safety. In addition, eBay is attempting to reinvigorate collectibles with a multi-faceted initiative running throughout 2010.

Last year eBay announced changes in April and July to take effect in June and September. This year, eBay may be planning announcements in January, April and July to take effect in March, June and September.

Comment on the AuctionBytes Blog.

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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