From the Editor
By Ina Steiner
Amazon announced an online payment service on Friday and put a unique spin on the service. Flexible Payments Service (Amazon FPS) is in limited beta and "is the first payments service designed from the ground up specifically for developers."
This means you can't just sign up and start using the service to receive money. You need to have programming skills and work with Amazon's "web services" to integrate the payment service on your website or in your application. But if you visit a website that offers the service, you can use your existing Amazon Payments account to make purchases, outside of the Amazon marketplace.
I wrote about the announcement in Friday's AuctionBytes Newsflash newsletter (http://www.auctionbytes.com/cab/abn/y07/m08/i03/s00), and will be writing with more details - such as international restrictions - this week. Post your own comments about the service on the AuctionBytes Blog.
In other news, there were more developments in the eBay - MercExchange patent battle: the judge in the case is allowing eBay to continue to use the Buy It Now feature. The case continues as the two sides determine how much eBay owes MercExchange for "licensing" the patent (if it still infringes), and as MercExchange likely appeals the injunction decision (http://www.auctionbytes.com/cab/abn/y07/m07/i30/s02).
David's article in the last issue on email marketing got positive reviews, you can see some comments in this blog post (http://tinyurl.com/37lqbm). It looks like people are all over the board in terms of their experience with sending email marketing to former customers, but is something well worth doing - and doing the right way.
Sellers need to prepare for an eBay Dance, which will likely be similar to a "Google Dance." For those unfamiliar with the term, Google Dance is used to describe an index update of Google's search engine. Typically, this wreaks havoc with many web site owners, who may lose position in search results. An entire industry (SEO) has been built on keeping up with Google's changes and maintaining or improving the rankings of websites in natural search.
I believe eBay is about to do a Dance of its own soon, and it may be painful for many eBay sellers. As announced during eBay Live, the company will begin serving up Best Match results by seller quality (PowerSeller status and selling track record) instead of strictly by relevance. eBay 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.
Currently, customers see default search results by "Time Ending Soonest," so everyone has an equal chance of showing up at the top of results as listings end. But I believe eBay may change the default sort to Best Match in an effort to serve up more relevant, quality listings. (Currently shoppers on eBay may select Best Match from a drop-down menu on results pages.)
According to the Tamebay blog, eBay is testing this very thing in France in three categories (http://tinyurl.com/yuksad). Sue Bailey translated the announcement of the test into English, here's the key part: "Sort by relevence changes the order in which items are displayed on the search results page. But we make a point of specifying that no item is removed or added when sort by relevence is used."
I think this means, your item will show up, but rather than showing up at the top of results when your listing is about to end, it may be buried on a lower page throughout the entire duration of your listing.
eBay has already announced it is rolling out new search technology based on eBay Express that can be seen on "The Playground" (http://www.auctionbytes.com/cab/abn/y07/m06/i26/s02).
There are now things you must do in order to have your listings show up with good exposure in eBay search results, and in the next few months, it will become critical that you put these practices in place:
1) Use Item Specifics.
2) Use at least one valid Shipping Service Option in listings (http://www.auctionbytes.com/cab/abn/y07/m07/i20/s02)
3) keep your positive feedback and detailed seller ratings as high as possible.
4) Become a PowerSeller (this one is debatable, as there are many factors to consider. But know that eBay will take PowerSeller status into account when determining where a listing shows up in search results.)
If eBay implements Best Match as the default sort, I think some sellers will be devastated. Shoppers, too, may be annoyed, particularly in some categories, and it will be interesting to see if they change their preferences to "Time: Ending Soonest," though eBay is not likely to share this information with us.
My advice is to be sure and do your best to optimize your listings for whatever changes eBay plans to roll out in the next few months, and get ready for a rocky ride.
Thanks for reading.
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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