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eBay to Make Product Identifiers Searchable

eBay will soon make it possible to search by UPC, or “product identifier” in eBay vernacular, according to a member of the company’s Product Identifier (PI) team. The news came during a weekly chat session to answer sellers’ questions about the upcoming extension of Product Identifier requirements starting Feb 29th.

However, eBay later noted that “Buyers generally don’t search on product identifiers directly.”

The new requirements are a key part of eBay’s “Structured Data” strategy, which it has told Wall Street will help eBay create a better buying experience and result in better exposure in search results on sites like Google.

One seller explained that some sellers prefer not to include UPCs in their listings “because they do not want buyers to copy it and use it in SEARCH to quickly find the seller who has the lowest price for that item.” The seller asked if it was against the rules for sellers not to enter the UPC number in their listings.

eBay’s Jim “Griff” Griffith responded, writing, “That would be short sighted and actually, counter productive. If the item has a valid UPC code and the seller does not include it, their item may not be returned in Search (and we certainly won’t support the activity as a way of avoiding competing on price). It’s not against the rules per se but it is definitely not a smart business move for the seller who chooses to not provide the UPC code.”

When asked if eBay could make required Product Identifier fields set to “Does Not Apply” by default for sellers who don’t sell items with product identifiers, a member of the PI team revealed that longer term, it was looking at ways to make listing easier for such sellers.

eBay advised sellers who noticed mistakes in eBay’s catalog, “If you want to send us feedback and get our catalog data corrected you can send that to “dl-ebay-catalogsubmission (at) ebay.com.”

One seller said eBay’s Turbo Lister listing tool had only 13 characters in the UPC field, to which Griffith replied, “Make sure you have updated to the latest version of Turbo Lister which has the fix and allows for 14 characters in the UPC field.”

He also reiterated, “Buyers don’t search on UPC codes. We are not expecting buyers to search on UPC codes. Buyers search for items using keywords.”

One seller asked, “This came out last spring… they told us THEN it had to be done by fall or they would not relist… Why did the time to have these fixed by bump all the way out to FEB of this year?

The member of the eBay PI team explained: “Original categories for new listings went into effect June 29th 2015. Multivariation listings in the original categories – Jan 29th, 2016. Additional Categories and GTC listings – Feb 29th, 2016. There’s been a few phases of this, we are trying to spread this out over time as we know it takes work.”

Griffith also responded: “Compliance has been good, but not as good as planned so the mandate was extended.”

Sellers had been advised of certain key points before participating in the chat:

1) If a PI is required for the category in which you are listing an item, and the required PI’s are missing or unavailable

  • For a missing or non-existent UPC, ISBN or MPN, type Does Not Apply
  • For unbranded items, select “Unbranded” from the Brand drop down list.

2) The only GTIN (Global Trade Identification Number) recognized on eBay at the moment are 14 digit UPC and all ISBN numbers. Some GTINs like older codes or current EAN (European Article Number) or JAN (Japanese Article Number) or any code that has less than 14 digits are not currently recognized and will be rejected. In those cases, type “does not apply” in the UPC field.

Griffith ended the session by posting, “Finally, another important reason why Product Identifiers are absolutely critical to the continued growth and success of the marketplace at eBay” and linked to a Google blog post about its requirement mandating merchants add GTINs to their Google Shopping data feed.

You can find the weekly chat session on the eBay website.

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/.