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Executives Open Up about eBay Problems in New Year’s Podcast

Scott Cutler
Executives Open Up about eBay Problems in New Year's Podcast
eBay Senior Vice President of the Americas Scott Cutler

In a New Year’s Day podcast, two top eBay executives opened up about some of the problems sellers faced on its marketplace in 2018, including technology glitches, fraudulent returns, and an untenable pricing policy that it backed down from after seller complaints.

They also mentioned feature gaps in the new eBay Managed Payments offering and a lack of progress on its structured data initiative.

But the two managers reaffirmed the overall direction of the company. eBay will launch new seller protections in 2019, and while the company may fine-tune its policies and practices around returns, executives indicated they were generally happy with the changes eBay made in 2018 to simplify and automate the returns process for buyers.

Those revelations and others came during the New Year’s Day podcast featuring Bob Kupbens, eBay VP of Seller & Marketplace Operations, and Scott Cutler, Senior Vice President of the Americas.

We pulled out some of the more interesting excerpts of the 1-hour webcast that cover crucial areas for eBay sellers, stay tuned for more coverage of the issues raised during the hour-long session. (For full context, listen to the podcast.)

Fine-Tuning Returns:

Bob Kupbens: “You know, we simplified our returns policies from 73 to 5 policies that makes it so much more clear for buyers. We also added some auto-accept rules.

“Look, I know that some of you love those because it makes it easy for you and some of you don’t love them because it does things like prevents the opportunity for you to negotiate or have a different kind of customer service discussion.

“So we’re going to look at those and sort of tune those in 2019. But we think in general, speeding up the transaction processes on the site is a good thing.”

Seller Protection, Fraudulent Returns:

Bob Kupbens: “There’s a big thing you’ll hear more about in 2019 around trust. And basically what it means to be a partner and how do we make sure that if you’re a great seller, we trust you.

“Scott’s going to talk a little bit about that, but whether it’s an item not as described or fraudulent returns or other things, we know there’s some issues there and we’re going to build some seller protections in in 2019.”

Scott Cutler: “The other is actually from a policy perspective, a focus on seller protections. Recognizing that it is our sellers that power that environment and I think many of our sellers have felt as though we’ve swung the pendulum too far to only focus on buyers. Seller protections is another area that I anticipate us to make some great moves into 2019 that are sellers will feel and I believe recognize.”

New Tools:

Bob Kupbens: “From a seller team we’re going to be releasing a bunch of new tools to make sure that sellers can maximize the value that they get out of the eBay platform.”

“We bought Terapeak a little while ago. We haven’t yet done all the work to integrate that, but that’s coming soon.”

Technology Issues:

Bob Kupbens: “One thing that I can’t leave out of a 2018 retrospective is some of the technology issues that we had on the platform. Look, you know, Scott will probably echo this as well. They’re just not acceptable. They’re unacceptable that we have a platform that doesn’t support our sellers growing their business, you know, everyday 24-7. We’re working very closely with the technology teams. Many of you know Scott Hamilton who is one of the most earnest and wonderful human beings on the planet and he is part of the team that is actively looking at how we make sure that those kinds of technology issues don’t happen in the future and will be much, much more cognizant of how these things can affect your business.

“And so again, apologies for those of you who were affected, we really are going to try to minimize those and can’t probably prevent everything, but we’ve got a big team and it’s a huge focus for us. So just be aware of that.”

Scott Cutler: “We have great opportunity to improve the stability of the selling platform on eBay. A key goal and I am confident we are going to deliver that in 2019.”

Promoted Listings:

Bob Kupbens: “We’re experimenting with new placements for promoted listings all over the site.”

Scott Cutler: On the advertising side, promoted listings, we’ve talked about that. That’s going to be the opportunity for our sellers to raise the visibility of profile of inventory that they want to highlight. A key growth opportunity for our sellers. Key opportunity for us at eBay.”

Structured Data:

Bob Kupbens: “We’ve seen some movement in structured data, probably not as much as we wanted, but we’ll continue to work on that.”

“Again, product based commerce, we’ve learned a lot. We’ll build on those learnings in 2019 as we leverage the catalog and leverage our, our attribute data and the key aspects of all of the items that we put on the site and how we showcase those to buyers.”

Managed Payments:

Bob Kupbens: “Managed Payments – a lot of you signed up, enrolled, saw over close to $40,000,000 of revenue just in the short time that Payments has been live already intermediate on that platform. So it’s working, it’s working well. There’s obviously some feature gaps that we’re planning to fill in 2019, but this is the start of a long journey and we’ve been super clear about that.”

Scott Cutler: “We’re going to be continuing on the march that we have been on the payment side. We started, here in the fall, through the first half of the year things that we know that we’re going to be launching in particular in payments. People have PayPal as a form of payment to extend it into other opportunities like global shipping, reconciliation for sellers. All of these new features as part of our payments progression are going to be launched and available in the first half of the year. And we’re going to continue our progress that we’ve made on the payment side, which is also, I think, exciting for our seller community. So those are probably the four things that I look forward to in 2019.”

Seller Feedback, Markdown Manager Pricing Policy:

Bob Kupbens: “Our objective is to hear feedback from you, so we’ve solidified a feedback loop. We want to make changes where we’re hearing issues from the seller community. We did this 14 day Markdown Manager thing that we’re all now trying to forget, but we turned it off pretty quickly I think as a result of feedback.”

“And then you know, our executive team were just available for you and we’re going to be here on this podcast and in other forums, making sure that you get the information you need and have the opportunity to provide a feedback loop.”

Holiday Promotional Events:

Bob Kupbens: “The good news is not only are we selling fast moving new deals, goods, but the whole marketplace benefits when we have these big events.”

“So I think from that perspective, I felt like, especially in holiday, you know, sales really, really delivered.”

Marketing Focus in 2019:

Scott Cutler: “So for 2019, is going to be super exciting as we look at what we’re focused on, really specifically two things. We talked about it uniquely eBay. How we bring uniquely eBay to a notion of an inspired marketplace. And what I mean by an inspired marketplace is, we’re not trying to be like every other online site. We’re not trying to be like a retailer. We’re trying to highlight this great aspect of this inspired seller community, the purpose that we have at eBay, and to be able to identify unique inventory that celebrates the unique personalization, the diversity of, of our inventory to buyer’s. Bringing that uniquely eBay moment out and highlighting those unique categories where we can differentiate is a key focus for 2019.

“Our first priority in that is going to be in the first part of the year. Is it another big year, where we see a big traffic spike in kind of the end of February all the way through the end of March? We’re going to be there with uniquely eBay moments.

“The second thing is, as we look at on the buyer side, we’re getting a lot more specific and strategic around particular buyer segments that track to those uniquely eBay categories, those enthusiasts, those categories where we have passionate customers that like that eBay, unique eBay inventory. We want to make sure we know who those buyers are, that we’re marketing to them, that we’re providing opportunities to retain them, to acquire them and to grow our buyer platform. Buyer growth overall is really key for us to be able to create a dynamic marketplace and so we’re focused on making sure we acquire great new buyers out there, but we also keep the enthusiastic, passionate buyer at eBay and, and focus on delivering value to them as well.”

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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/.

6 thoughts on “Executives Open Up about eBay Problems in New Year’s Podcast”

  1. In other words…”Sorry we’re late to the party. Here’s a bushel shapeless promises to make up for it.”

    These people are NOT executives. They’re children…spoiled rotten children.

  2. Furthermore…are there any SPECIFICS in all of this clap trap?

    “We’re gonna paint the barn.”…WHAT COLOR???…BY WHAT DATE???

  3. Speaking of problems, we’re experiencing *huge* issues today on eBay.

    eBay management says they want feedback. Here is some feedback about some very serious (and potentially newsworthy) issues on the IT company (meaning eBay) site today.

    eBay tacked on an extra $10,000 to our monthly invoice dated 12/31/18.

    Past 12 months were all billed at $400-500. No new listings or subscriptions or high sales. No reason at all for any drastic change in fees, let alone more than two (count ’em, two!) years’ worth of usual fees added on to our bill in one fell swoop.

    Reported to eBay. They say they “cannot fix yet” but “don’t worry about the extra $10K in fees.” suggest perhaps someone hacked our account (to put cash in eBay’s pocket? not likely).

    They say we will have to wait (as they cannot access the invoice information, which is interesting) and we will have to “dispute the erroneous charges” before (or possibly after, which is scary) they attempt to take an extra $10K (over and above the correct invoice amount) from us on Jan 15.

    No help so far, no admission of any IT issues, plenty of excuses. But they tell us not to be concerned and that it will all be okay.

    Not feeling all that warm and fuzzy right now.

    It is odd that, at the very end of a lackluster year, eBay is able to potentially report huge upswings in revenue (and the fact that it’s due to a “glitch” would not necessarily make it into any 2018 reports). Imagine $10,000 extra in fees “mistakenly” billed x even 10,000 sellers. That’s an extra $100,000,000 (1/10 of a cool billion) in paper revenue (possibly largely real if the problem is not fixed and sellers are over-billed with no quick recourse) for December 2018 (making it look like they beat all projections, creamed Amazon and such, etc.).


    Are you listening, eBay?

  4. These two bobble heads need to stop drinking the kool aid and go bad to bed. Their IGNORANCE is in glowing color. They really think that sellers are so stupid that they are going to believe their babble. Well maybe some are but most have heard the noise before.

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