eBay Rolls out Custom Categories for Stores
By Ron Mansfield
If you operate an eBay Store, you know that Store categories are like the aisles, or departments in a bricks and mortar retail establishment. If you sell shoes on eBay, one category might be "men's," another "children's," another "women's," and so on. Until this week eBay limited us to creating 20 custom Store categories - 19, actually since we were forced to use the last category as "Other." That all just changed. Rumored during eBay Live 2005, the new 300 Category/Subcategory feature went live Thursday night, March 16, 2006. Here's a first look:
Why We Need This
The ability to create more categories and subcategories will make it easier for shoppers to find what they need in your Store, particularly if you have a diverse inventory. With 300 categories, a shoe Store can now have subcategories that drill down a total of three levels from gender to size to style, for example. So, you might have the following Store category design: Men's > 9.5 > Running; and then another for Women's > 8 > Running and so on.
The limit is now 300 categories no more than three levels deep, and the last category is still "Other." This means you could have 300 "Level 1" categories, or 30 Level 1 categories with 10 subcategories each, (minus the one obligatory "Other" category reserved by eBay).
When you visit the "Manage My Store" page and click the Store Categories link, you will be presented with the opportunity to add up to 300, (299, actually), categories or subcategories now rather than 20, (19). At the bottom of the page, you will see a running total of categories available and used. It will say something like "All categories 23 of 300," for example. The Manage Store Categories page will have a new column called "# of Subcategories." It will show how many subcategories you've assigned to each main category.
Adding New Categories
Add new categories as before. Consider keeping your "top level" categories broad and manageable - 20 or 30 perhaps. Use the remaining bandwidth to slice and dice those main categories. For example, I sell vintage service documentation so I might have a main category called "Books, Schematics and Service Documents" and then three subcategories - one called "Books," a second called "Schematics," and a third called "Service Documents."
If you create categories within categories, (subcategories) you cannot list items in the top (Level 1) category. For example, if you had a category structure of Men's > Pants, you could list an item in the "Pants" category but not in the "Men's" category. Pencil out the categories carefully before reaching for your mouse.
To add a subcategory, click the checkmark next to the main category of interest in the "Manage Category" page (in Manage my Store) and click the Add Category button. You will then be able to define and add new subcategories.
If you are adding subcategories to an existing category, (making the existing category the Level 1 category), you will be prompted to move the listings from that category into one of the new subcategories you have created, (or elsewhere, if you like). If you decline, active listings in that category will get re-categorized as "Other" and you will need to move them to the correct subcategory manually. This is because you may only list an item in a category at the bottom of your category structure. You should also check/change the categories in your Stored "Inventory" listings before re-launching in Selling Manger, etc.
Placing Items into New Categories
Once you have set up your new categories and/or subcategories, every time you create new listings you'll be asked to specify a Store category or, if there are subcategories under that category, you will be asked to specify a subcategory.
You can define how categories appear in your Store, alphabetically, by number of listings or in a specific order you specify. You can choose to have eBay selling categories or your custom Store categories displayed in your Store, and you can define the depth of categories displayed, (levels 1-3).
Custom Listing Frame
There is also a new listing "Frame" feature that lets you specify how categories are displayed in your listings. You can pull elements such as Store category list and Store Search box into all of your item descriptions pages. There are three key elements to the Custom Listing Frame: a new "Breadcrumb" navigation trail; the existing Custom Listing Header; and a new Left Navigation Bar.
By displaying Store navigation aids on your item pages, it helps you keep customers in your Store. Note that words that are picked up as part of your left navigation bar do not count towards eBay's Keyword Spamming Policy, which states that the text sellers place in listings must be directly relevant to the item being sold.
Old links to Store categories should work, and in the worst case should take folks to your Store landing page.
Getting the Latest
The online help for this upgrade is changing frequently and you should check it periodically (http://pages.ebay.com/storefronts/faq.html). There is also a tutorial (http://digbig.com/4gtjs). You might want to bookmark this Latest News page as well (http://digbig.com/4gtjt).
It is also worth reviewing a discussion about the new features started in the eBay Stores forum (http://digbig.com/4gtjw). eBay moderators post updates and known issues (for instance, a moderator has warned that sellers may experience delays of up to 5 minutes when moving listings to a new category).
About the author:
Ron Mansfield is an eBay seller consultant, instructor, and freelance writer (http://www.ronmansfield.com). His books have been published in eighteen countries, in more than a dozen languages, with over two-million copies in print. He has recently finished writing eBay to the Max to the Max (http://www.ronmansfield.com/ebay_to_the_max.htm) for Que Publishing, which discusses these topics and many others in detail. It is on store shelves worldwide. You can order it today from Amazon as well (http://digbig.com/4gatd). He is currently writing a book about eBay stores, due out later this year. In his spare time he enjoys restoring, buying, and selling collectible electronics (http://www.childhoodradios.com/page/page/334445.htm) from the fifties and sixties.
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