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eBay Shows New Browsing Modules to Shoppers

eBay is taking a new approach to the way it displays products to online shoppers that goes far beyond traditional keyword search results, it announced this week. The structured data eBay refers to as being “the key to unlocking this new experience” is available thanks to the seller mandate known as Product Identifiers.

“The new modules take advantage of structured data that is now foundational on the eBay platform, allowing us to instantly surface listings with great savings, best selling products, and more, and present them in easy-to-navigate ways,” eBay said in a post on its corporate blog on Thursday.

The announcement comes after a similar post 2 weeks ago. In that post, eBay’s Product Manager for Shopping Experience Jason Fletchall said eBay often finds that providing too many options can be overwhelming for some people and described five stages in the shopping journey (want, discover, compare, decide and buy).

In Thursday’s post, eBay quoted Director of Search Front-End Product Management Dominique Bouchon. “Our new browsing modules provide users with extra levels of guidance and more flexibility in surfacing the most relevant items for them.”

Bouchon referred to modules including “shop by brand” options, “great savings,” and “best selling products” and said, “Structured data is the key to unlocking this new experience, as it allows our platform to reveal patterns in buying and selling.”

That’s not to say all sellers are sold on the new modules. One seller recently notedwhen referring to the addition of “Shop by Brand” at the top of every page, “If you’re not one of those brands you’re done.”

Another wrote, “Inevitably when eBay manipulates search results items in Diamond (huge accounts) seller’s inventories are promoted, and items in smaller seller’s inventories are demoted or completely hidden.”

But not everyone was skeptical. “Awesome,” said one seller, “I’ve been waiting for this. I’ve always preferred Amazon’s structured system. I just wish they’d go head-first and clean up all of the categories.”

What’s different about the new modules, eBay says, is that they help shoppers without using keyword searches.

“Many users want to click to browse through items that they are interested in rather than rely on keyword searches,” according to Bouchon. “If we only surface a long list of listings, we miss the opportunity to surface the most interesting products and listings. We now have an algorithm that can instantly and intelligently surface them to our users.”

eBay has failed to get back its mojo in Google search results after being penalized by the search giant, and eBay’s new management team has been touting structured data as an antidote when addressing Wall Street. The company will report its first-quarter performance a week from Tuesday, when analysts will see for themselves if eBay’s initiative has started to show any positive results.

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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). Follow her on Twitter at @ecommercebytes and send news tips to ina@ecommercebytes.com.