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eBay Employee: Catalog Strategy Will Make or Break eBay

eBay’s catalog strategy outlined by incoming CEO Devin Wenig in April will make or break the company, according to eBay Seller Advocate Jim Griffith, who called it the single most important project eBay has embarked upon in the past 10 years. But, he said on Wednesday, eBay needs sellers to help it build the catalog.

Griffith made an impassioned plea for sellers to help the company by adding Product Identifiers to their listings. “This project is literally, make or break. I hope you will join me in adding as many Product Identifiers as you can to your new and existing inventory.”

Wenig had told Wall Street analysts in the spring that eBay looks at the world through listings, which unlike the catalog approach (used by Amazon, for example), are transient. They come and go and don’t have “link equity,” he said, “and they’re hard to attach content to.”

Adding a structured data catalog would give eBay persistence and link equity, making sellers’ inventory more discoverable, both on and off eBay. “We’ll move toward becoming the world’s first online global marketplace to use structured catalog data at scale for all listings,” Wenig said at the time.

A month prior to Wenig’s discussion with analysts, eBay had informed sellers of the new requirement to add Product Identifiers to their listings – the heart of eBay’s catalog strategy. Sellers who list branded items in new or manufacturer refurbished condition in certain categories are required as of June 29th to include the item’s brand, manufacturer part number (MPN), and global trade item number (GTIN) to complete new listings and manual relists.

In April, Wenig called the eBay catalog a multi-year approach. “We feel good about it, but it’s not a short term fix,” he said.

But Griff, as Griffith is known to longtime sellers, conveyed a much more urgent message to sellers on Wednesday. “Your contribution in providing this information – Brands, MPNs, and GTINs when you list – will determine whether or not we continue as a major marketplace in the world,” he said. “Its success is critical to our being able to compete. And we cannot do it without you!”

Griff’s remarks were included at the end of a chat session where he also spelled out the benefits of the catalog to eBay sellers, such as having their inventory show up consistently on platforms outside of eBay like Google Shopping. “Right now, we rely on a Google rules for sending product information to them for Shopping. Product with GTINs, Brands and where applicable, MPNs is given priority in Google Shopping,” he said.

Let us know what you think of eBay’s catalog strategy and its reliance on sellers to make it succeed.

Comment on the EcommerceBytes Blog.

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Ina Steiner
Ina Steiner
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). She is a member of the Online News Association (Sep 2005 - present) and Investigative Reporters and Editors (Mar 2006 - present). Follow her on Twitter at @ecommercebytes and send news tips to ina@ecommercebytes.com. See disclosure at EcommerceBytes.com/disclosure/.