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The Sellers Guide to eBay’s Early 2019 Seller Update

eBay Early Spring Seller Update 2019
The Sellers Guide to eBay's Early 2019 Seller Update

There is a lot to process in the first eBay Seller Update of 2019, and the company also revealed some hints of what is to come later this year. eBay announced the update on February 26, as expected, although this year it called it the early seller update, and it said the spring update would be announced in April.

eBay Senior Manager of Seller Operations Kristi Diemoz explained: “The Early Seller Update is not meant to be like a full-on update like our typical Seller Updates. In our very first Early Seller Update, we announced a handful of changes that were ready to go. Rather than hold on to them and announce them later in the year, we thought, let’s release them now so that sellers can start taking advantage of them sooner rather than later.”

Keep in mind that, in the announcement, eBay said all fixed-price listings would become “Good Til Cancelled” (GTC). Lumping the GTC mandate in as part of a “handful of changes” not worthy of a “full-on” update is surprising. And as you’ll see, there are numerous other changes that many sellers may have yet to absorb, yet eBay provided less than 3 weeks to prepare for the rollout in “mid-March.”

In this guide, we first look at eBay’s hints of what’s to come later this year, then we dive into the changes officially announced as part of the eBay Early Seller Update on February 26.

What’s coming later in 2019
During a podcast to discuss the “early” seller update, Senior Director of Seller Engagement Jesse Kiefer provided hints of what’s to come, perhaps as early as April when eBay plans to announce the “spring” seller update. They include changes to Managed Payments and Promoted Listings, as well as changes to the product catalog.

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Changes to Promoted Listings: “We’re going to be making a number of changes this year to improve our seller’s ability to drive velocity. One of them, which you’ve heard us talk a lot about is Promoted Listings, and we’ll be making some enhancements to Promoted Listings throughout the year that you’ll hear about.”

Changes to Managed Payments: “We’re also going to be enhancing the feature set offered with Managed Payments. That’s not part of today’s update, but it will be a key focus for us in 2019, so stay tuned for more there.”

Changes to eBay Catalog / product-based shopping: “Another key focus for us in 2019 is product based shopping and the underlying catalog to support it. And so stay tuned for more information on that as we go through the year.”

In-person seller events: “Another way we are partnering with sellers is that we’re doing more in-person seller events. These events are great ways for sellers to hear the latest eBay News and learn about tools and features and programs, all with an idea of making them more successful on eBay.”

Overview of the changes
eBay categorized the changes announced in the Early eBay Seller Update 2019 into 5 categories. The GTC mandate is getting a lot of attention, but be sure you peruse all of the changes so you don’t experience any unwelcome surprises in the coming weeks and months.

1) Send offers to buyers
The Offer to Buyers feature allows sellers to send offers to buyers to encourage them to purchase an item in which they might be interested. We wrote about the feature in November, when it was only available to a subset of sellers. eBay explained in February’s Update announcement:

“Starting in March 2019, a new “Offer to buyers” feature in Seller Hub will enable you to send offers to buyers of some of your listings. As you will be able to target buyers who are interested in your items, the new “Offer to buyers” feature may help you increase your conversion rate.

“Buyers who receive the offer will be notified that other buyers can still buy the item and that they should take advantage while they can. Offers will expire after 48 hours.”

For sellers who like the concept, be aware that this feature will be available selectively across their inventory: “Eligibility is determined by a number of factors, including age of listing, listing format, and rules that manage the number of offers buyers receive. We may expand eligibility criteria over time.”

More information about Offer to Buyers feature.

2) Seller Hub updates
eBay is making two changes to Seller Hub: sellers can edit active listings directly in Seller Hub, and sellers can download the Orders Report directly in Seller Hub. Here is eBay’s explanation:

Edit your active listings in Seller Hub will be available to all sellers soon:
“Sellers have asked for the ability to edit listings directly from the Active Listings page in Seller Hub. You can now edit price, quantity, and custom labels for all listings from the Active Listings page. To try out our new feature, hover over price, quantity, or custom label fields and click the pencil icon to add or edit. Your listing will be updated when you click Submit.”

Easily access and download the Orders Report in Seller Hub:
“Starting in March 2019, you will be able to easily access and quickly download an Orders Report directly to your computer from the “Manage orders” page in Seller Hub. The Orders Report will help you manage your business on eBay more effectively by allowing you to efficiently fulfill your orders and maintain accurate records.” (NOTE: Latest 90 days only.)

More information about Seller Hub changes.

3) Fixed price listing duration change (GTC Mandate)
This is a big change – eBay is making all fixed-price listings 30-day Good Til Cancelled, and we’ve written quite a bit about what’s coming in the next 1 to 3 weeks (mid-March was as specific as eBay got about when the changes would take effect).

First, the positives: eBay said because of their longer duration, Good ‘Til Cancelled listings potentially have greater exposure to buyers and may be more likely to sell. Other benefits of Good ‘Til Cancelled listings include:

  • Improved SEO
  • Listings keep their interested buyers
  • Out-of-stock feature
  • No seller action required to relist items
  • End listings at any time and relist when you want to
  • Simplified selling flow
  • Retained sales history for multi-quantity listings, which improves search rankings

For sellers unfamiliar with the out-of-stock feature mentioned above, we wrote about it in Newsflash with the help of Shipscript, a longtime developer of eBay tools. This article is a must-read for sellers impacted by the GTC mandate (we couldn’t find key details about the out-of-stock feature on the eBay help pages – Shipscript filled in the gaps).

Next, the downside for sellers: the loss of shorter durations; recurring billing (you’ll be charged listing fees every 30-days unless you manually go in and cancel their listings); and double-billing, an issue you can read more about here. eBay is still considering whether to make GTC 31-day duration instead of 30-day to eliminate the possibility of being billed 13 times in any one year.

The eBay fixed-price GTC mandate is an attempt at a one-size-fits-all strategy that some sellers believe won’t work for their businesses, citing some valid reasons for wanting shorter-duration or non auto-renewing fixed-price listings. See the results of our survey in today’s issue to learn how sellers feel about the mandate.

More information about fixed-price listing duration change (aka GTC mandate)

4) Inventory optimization
eBay listed three components of its “inventory optimization” changes in the 2019 Early Seller Update. The main changes and takeaways:

  • Provide item specifics to list items without the eBay catalog. Be sure to provide complete and accurate item specifics when you list items for sale on eBay.
  • Automatic updates of “New other” condition listings. Be aware that for certain categories, eBay will change “new other” to “open box” or “used – like new.” eBay said the updates would help meet buyers’ expectations. “We recommend that you review your listings to make sure your item conditions are accurate,” it stated.
  • Terapeak’s eBay insights tool will be free to Basic and above Store subscribers. Starting in mid-March 2019, Terapeak will be free to Basic, Premium, Anchor, and Enterprise eBay Store subscribers. “Terapeak uses recent eBay sales data and price trends to help you optimize your listings and improve your sales velocity.”

Those Store subscribers who were paying for a subscription will receive a pro-rated refund, and in mid-March, eligible sellers will begin receiving email invitations to use Terapeak for free. NOTE: To get the free version, eBay Store owners not yet subscribed should wait until they receive the email invitation!

If you have a Starter Store or no Store at all, you must pay for a subscription to Terapeak on a monthly or yearly basis.

More information about Inventory Optimization changes.

5) State sales tax requirements
eBay began collecting sales tax from buyers located in certain states this year thanks to Marketplace Facilitator laws (with more on the way). eBay announced that starting this month, its new Orders Report will itemize how much tax eBay collected and remitted for transactions in “marketplace responsibility” states.

“We will apply state sales tax to items sold on eBay based on each state’s unique tax requirements. We partner with leading tax provider Vertex to ensure our tax calculator accurately reflects state and local tax law, and regularly update our tax calculations. If you believe sales tax has been applied in error, please contact us.”

NOTE: You can only download orders in the Orders Report based on the same time periods that are available in the “Manage all orders” page in Seller Hub. The maximum time period is “Last 90 days.”

eBay also addressed one of the problems with its sales-tax collection practices: it currently does not exempt buyers who have exemption certificates. We wrote more about this in Newsflash and how it could be negatively impacting sales.

More information about Sales tax requirement changes.

eBay 2019 Early Seller Update – Links to Resources

eBay Announcement Post – Link

eBay Seller Update Overview Page – Link

Selling on eBay Podcast Early Seller Update Edition – Link

eBay Discussion Forums Dedicated to 2019 Early Seller Update – Link

eBay Weekly Chat February 27 – Link

EcommerceBytes Blog Post “eBay Spring Seller Update 2019 Is Rolling Out” – Link

EcommerceBytes Blog Post “eBay Sellers Have Questions and Objections to GTC Mandate” – Link

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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.