EcommerceBytes-Update, Number 271 - September 26, 2010 - ISSN 1528-6703     2 of 7

Cheat Sheet on eBay's Surprise September Announcements

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eBay made three separate announcements on Tuesday that included a major round of changes affecting sellers, with many of the new policies taking effect on October 26. That gives you 30 days to figure out what all the changes are, how they affect you, and to make sure all of your listings are in compliance.

There was a reason eBay had promised sellers they would only roll out 2-3 major changes affecting sellers a year and promised to give them at least 60 days notice. It takes a lot of time for sellers to adjust to these changes and often affects inventory-sourcing decisions, so it's disappointing to see the company's management break their promise to their customers.

Sellers are scrambling - in particular, they are having difficulty figuring out how to get their listings into compliance with the new Duplicate Listing policy. And while automatic 5-star DSRs for fast shipping sounds like a win for sellers, be sure and read the fine print - some sellers will benefit from this new policy, others will not.

AuctionBytes interviewed eBay Vice President of Seller Experience Todd Lutwak on Wednesday to get some context and learn more about how the changes would affect sellers - you can read the article here, and eBay spokesperson Johnna Hoff fielded some questions we had about the changes.

First, here is a list of links to the three announcements eBay made on Tuesday, then we'll tackle the Duplicate Listing policy in more detail.

Enhancements to Feedback and Buyer Protection to help sellers - link

  • Automatic 5-star DSRs for free and fast shipping
  • New way for sellers to report bad experiences with buyers
  • Item condition and delivery dates in the Feedback flow (Starting in November, when buyers go to leave feedback, they will see the seller's estimated delivery time, delivery date (if sellers uploaded tracking information), and the item condition specified by the seller)
  • Updates to Buyer Protection ("Buyers prevented from opening cases too soon" and "Some cases removed from your performance record")

New policy to improve search for buyers and boost exposure for sellers - link

Sellers may have one Fixed Price listing per identical item. Multiples of an item must be sold in a single multi-quantity Fixed Price listing. Beginning October 26th, eBay will automatically end duplicate Fixed Price listings, keep the best performer, and credit Insertion Fees and listing upgrade fees for the ended listings. For sellers with more than one user ID, the one-listing rule per seller applies across all selling accounts. The new policy does not apply to Auction-style listings.

Newly listed Fixed Price listings will no longer receive an upfront allotment of impressions in Best Match search results.

Note: From eBay's FAQ: Why will new Fixed Price listings no longer receive an upfront allotment of impressions in Best Match search results? "The original reason for giving new listings an allotment of impressions was to jump start a Listing Performance Score - the ratio of a listing's sales to the number of impressions it receives - in crowded search results. With duplicate listings from the same seller removed from search results, new relevant listings from all sellers providing great service will have increased visibility in search. The upfront allotment of impressions is no longer needed." AuctionBytes confirmed that eBay will still use the listing performance score for Fixed Price listings.

New way to shop for DVDs, GPS and iPod/MP3 players available now - link

Sellers are required to use the eBay Catalog when listing items in the following three categories: iPod & MP3 players, Global Positioning Systems (GPS), and DVDs, HD DVDs & Blu-ray categories. Listing with the catalog in those categories is free (no Insertion Fees). (See eBay's Help page on listing with Catalog.)

Item Condition is required for listings to show up behind the "buying option" tabs in the new experience and in the value box. eBay also explained in this announcement the requirements of being eligible for the "Value box" (which is eBay's version of the Amazon.com's "Buy box").

More Information about eBay's New Duplicate Listing Policy
You can find information about eBay's new Duplicate Listing policy on this page along with an FAQ. The new Duplicate Listing policy applies to all categories on eBay and eBay Motors, but does not apply to Auction-style listings or Auction-style listings with Buy It Now. After October 26, sellers who continue to create duplicate listings for identical items may be subject to a range of additional actions including listing cancellation, loss of fees, limits on account privileges, loss of seller status, and account suspension.

The policy permits one Fixed Price listing per identical item per seller across all of their selling accounts. Variations such as color and size are considered significant differences and will not be considered identical items.

Here are some answers to additional questions we asked eBay last week provided by eBay spokesperson Johnna Hoff.

Can sellers have duplicate titles even if their photos and descriptions clearly indicate different items (i.e., same item but different condition)?

Johnna Hoff: Yes. It is important, however, that the conditions are clearly discernable and markedly different, and that the photos and item descriptions visibly and clearly demonstrate the differences.

What triggers eBay to flag an item as a dupe? Is it a software program, and if so, how will that software program be able to detect if something is not actually a dupe under eBay's policy? For example, if the title is the same and the photos and descriptions show different items (or same item but different condition)?

Johnna Hoff: We have electronic detection methods that operate based on the requirements of the new policy and factor in a variety of the aspects of the listing.

If a seller of used items lists 5 used forks in the same pattern with each piece showing different signs of wear, how would the seller ensure eBay wouldn't incorrectly identify those five listings as dupes?

Johnna Hoff: If the items show differentiation (i.e. in a photo) like visible wear patterns, pits, marks, rips, tears, chips, etc., which would allow a person to clearly discern one from the other, we wouldn't declare them identical and the seller could list them in Single Quantity Fixed Price Listings. The seller would need to call out the differentiation by using separate photos for each one (and close ups of any unique condition marks) and indicate the specific unique condition item in each item description.

If item condition values are the same, but the individual items have clearly differentiated types of wear patterns, or use, that can be shown in photos and described in item descriptions, we would consider them different and they could be listed individually.

This question came in on the AuctionBytes Blog (condensed): "I sell in apparel on Amazon as my primary selling site. I also sell on eBay but in a much more limited capacity. eBay sellers have this annoying habit of coming to Amazon and steal images. Then they go back to eBay and use my photos on eBay in their listings. Some of these sellers are rude enough to actually lift my text word for word too. So what happens with this new image detection software when one of these image thieves steals my photos for their own eBay listing and then I list one of my items on eBay? eBay's new software will pick up both images. Does eBay have anything in place to make a determination of who is the thief and who owns the image legitimately? Even more that I am not selling my products using two eBay IDS in violation of this new policy?

Johnna Hoff: There are many factors, including seller ID, that go into detecting duplicate listings. Sellers should call out any differentiations in their listings by using separate photos for each one (and close ups of any unique condition marks) and indicating the specific unique item condition in each item description. Even if a seller were to use a photo from another seller or listing, we would detect that the listings are different because of the different seller IDs.

Comment on the AuctionBytes Blog
There are two posts dealing with Tuesday's announcements on the AuctionBytes Blog, please feel free to leave your comments!

"eBay Changes Duplicate-Listing Policy" - link

"How eBay's Dupes Policy Affects Sellers of Used Goods" - link


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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