Some sellers were caught off guard when they saw a new metric in their seller dashboards beginning on Friday. The Return Rate metric shows the percentage of returns broken down by category, prompting rampant speculation about how eBay might be planning to use it in the future.
eBay had announced the new metric in September, but it got lost in the more pressing news about new performance criteria.
Here’s how eBay explained the Return Rate metric in September:
“Although returns will not count as defects when you successfully resolve the issue with your buyer (without the need for eBay to step in and help), your overall return rate will be included in the seller dashboard along with your return rate by category, item condition and purchase price range. For example, you’ll be able to see your return rate for listings in clothing and accessories, if applicable. eBay may alert sellers if their overall returns rate is very high within their category. eBay may also provide recommendations to update your selling practices in order to help minimize returns.”
The introduction of the new Return Rate metric in the seller dashboard coincided with the new seller performance standards eBay rolled out on February 20th, however, the metric isn’t part of those standards.
“Your overall returns rate will now be included in your seller dashboard so you can better manage – and minimize – your returns,” eBay told sellers at the bottom of a reminder on the announcement board on Friday about the new standards. “Note: returns don’t count as defects when successfully resolved with your buyer (without eBay having to step in and help).”
Despite assurances by eBay, many sellers are skeptical about eBay’s plans for Return Rates. On this thread on the eBay discussion boards, sellers weighed in with their theories – here are some excerpts from several sellers:
“UGGHHHH Can you guess what new seller metric is going to help decide whether to boot you off eBay coming up in the Spring Update? Now I can. Thanks for the heads up.”
“Just like the question that buyers are asked about the shipment arriving on time was never supposed to be used against us, you better believe this one will be used against us down the road also. Especially since they are advising us to watch that number.”
“You’d be a fool not to think this will eventually be a part of our standards. Just like with the on-time shipping metric. Last year when eBay started asking buyers that question they swore up and down that it wouldn’t be used to judge us, that it was just for internal metrics. They didn’t want to redesign the dashboard twice in a year so they threw in the next graded metric and hoped we wouldn’t see it.”
“It’s very hypocritical that eBay keeps pushing returns on sellers, is extending TRS+ requirement from 14 to 30 day returns, and at the same time announces that they added return rates to our dashboards so we can keep track of “- and minimize-” our returns.”
eBay spokesperson Ryan Moore responded to our inquiry about the new metric on Monday. “As you know, we just removed it, and we’re getting great responses from sellers about the change, so we have no plans to bring it back. Sellers will see that their return rate is still visible, which is an acknowledgement that returns are still an important part of delivering a best-in-class customer experience, and the information is helpful to sellers in managing their businesses.”
We presume he is referring to “Return requests: items not as described,” which no longer counts against sellers as shown on this graphic comparing the new standards with the old ones.
Sellers had additional thoughts about the new metric. One seller said the Return Rate was too broad to be useful. “Mostly meaningless data – eye candy. The categories are too broad. Would be useful if the data was comparing peer to peer in a thinly sliced segment, but this current version provides the seller with no real actionable information.”
Another seller said the metric was inaccurate – “My dashboard shows 2.44% return rate but when I click for the report it says this “You do not have returned items for the time period you selected.” (period selected 18 months).”
Another speculated that eBay would use Return Rate against US sellers in the future, but not China-based sellers or large retailers – “Since nobody can afford to send items back to China their numbers will look perfect and Weinig can once again proclaim how great the Chinese sellers are for eBay. Want to bet that number also won’t be used against the big box stores just as the out of stock won’t be?”
A seller also raised the issue of the new metric during a Facebook chat held on Monday to answer questions about the new seller standards.
“What is the purpose behind adding the “return rate” metric to our seller dashboards?” a seller asked. “Can you tell us definitively that eBay will not be using this against sellers in the future? eBay has a habit of applying standards retro-actively and if this is coming down the pipe, we should be told now.”
An eBay moderator used the eBay for Business Facebook account to respond with the same explanation as offered in September (pasted above) verbatim.
What do you think of the new Return Rate metric? Are you among the skeptics who believe eBay will add it to the seller performance standards in the future?
Comment on the EcommerceBytes Blog.