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Online Sellers Guide to eBay Fall Seller Update 2019

Online Sellers Guide to eBay Fall Seller Update 2019

eBay released the Fall Seller Update 2019 on Wednesday, September 4, and it announced changes to its User Agreement. It goes without saying that stability and predictability are crucial for sellers running ecommerce businesses, and many view these regularly issued announcements with trepidation.

As is typical with seller updates, eBay put all of the Fall Seller Update changes into several broad categories:

  • Growth Tools
  • Inventory Optimization
  • Marketplace Updates
  • Seller Protections and Policy Updates

Here’s how we classified the major Fall Seller Update changes that will impact sellers:

1) Managed Payments – New Features (and Now Required for Some Sellers)
2) Promoted Listings: Pay-and-Pay to Play
3) “Simpler” Policies, New Enforcement Measure (“Hide All Listings”)
4) Changes to Returns Policy
5) Seller Negotiation Tools: New “Offers to Buyers” and “Counter Offer” Tools
6) eBay Motors Fee Changes
7) Category and Item Specifics Changes
8) User Agreement

1) Managed Payments – New Features (and Now Required for Some Sellers)

All eyes are on Managed Payments as eBay begins mandating more sellers adopt its payment processing system. When it first launched in July 2018, it was missing critically important features. With the fall update, eBay listed two new features, both of which are hard to believe were ever missing:

  • Seller-initiated refunds for full or partial amounts. Participating sellers can issue full or partial refunds to buyers directly from Seller Hub or through our Issue Refund API.
  • Easier order management. New user-friendly order numbers now follow transactions through their entire life cycles so you can efficiently track and manage your orders from order initiation to payout.

eBay also said it would add the following business management features in the coming weeks:

  • New Finances API. If you integrate using eBay APIs, you can update your integrations to view your payout information.
  • Issue multiple seller-initiated refunds. Participating sellers will be able to issue more than one refund per order, up to the full order amount.

And, “in the future,” eBay will add the following feature:

  • Simplified payment for shipping labels. You will have the option to deduct USPS shipping label fees from your pending payout.

Keep in mind that eBay is collecting money from buyers on your behalf; to get your funds, sellers need to add a bank account to their eBay seller account.

Upon perusing the Fall Update on Wednesday, we noticed eBay had included a FAQ addressing what sellers should do if they received a notification to register for managed payments, but hadn’t actually answered the question in its response.

eBay has since updated the FAQ to the following, which appears to be an acknowledgement that some sellers are being forced into the program:

If I receive a notification to register for managed payments, what should I do?
All eBay sellers will eventually be enabled for managed payments. If you have received a notification to register for managed payments, you can complete registration by verifying your identity and business information and adding a bank account to receive payouts.

You can read about the changes to Managed Payments in the “Marketplace Updates” section of the eBay Fall Seller Update, where you’ll also find information about the availability of Multi-User Account Access.

2) Promoted Listings: Pay-and-Pay to Play

eBay is a pay-to-play marketplace for all but casual sellers. With the need to show revenue growth but unable to grow sales (GMV), eBay is turning to advertising fees, making it a pay-and-pay to play marketplace.

Not only do eBay sellers pay listing fees / Store subscription fees, but they increasingly feel they must pay Promoted Listing fees if they want their listings to sell.

In the Fall Update, eBay announced several changes to Promoted Listings, including cleaning up duplicates in search results caused by Promoted Listings:

Removal of duplicated promoted and non-promoted listings in search
Starting in September 2019, we’ll no longer show duplicate promoted and non-promoted listings on the search results page. If you are using Promoted Listings, only one of your listings, either promoted or non-promoted will appear in a given set of search results, giving buyers a cleaner, more relevant search experience. We will select which listing to display, based on factors such as listing quality, relevancy to the buyer’s search, and ad rate.

Promoted listings will continue to appear outside search on other pages such as the Home page, product pages, and other prominent locations on eBay.

While sellers may have objected to having Promoted Listings show up on the same page of search results as their non-promoted listings, this new change leaves them wondering if they’re now worse off. In a FAQ, eBay says, “Your non-promoted listings will show when they rank higher than promoted listings.”

It cites the following factors when choosing which to display, an ad or a regular listing: listing quality, relevancy, ad rate, and more.

But how could a promoted listing be any more relevant to a search listing than the non-promoted listing, since they are identical?

A moderator attempted to answer this question on the eBay boards, writing, “With this change, if your organic listing naturally ranks higher, your Promoted Listing won’t appear in search, but can still be shown across other promoted placements onsite. Conversely, if your promoted listing ranks higher, your organic listing will no longer appear in the same set of search results.”

As one seller responded, “Why would the “organic” listing ever rank higher in eBay’s eyes? eBay makes more money on the promoted listing and has the stated goal (right from the CEO’s mouth) to drive more sellers to use promoted listings. I can’t see that the “organic” would EVER rank over the “promoted” just based on eBay’s stated goals.”

Another seller wrote, “either way the seller loses something that is bought and paid for without eBay holding up their end of the agreement.”

It’s pretty clear that eBay needs to provide more information with some examples to make its new policy understood.

eBay also announced the following change to Promoted Listings:

Increased visibility for Promoted Listings in search results
In our ongoing effort to optimize the visibility of Promoted Listings placements, we’re shifting to a mix of promoted and non-promoted listings at the top of search results. Now a mixture of promoted and non-promoted listings will be eligible to appear in the top search rankings.

This is designed to balance visibility for both promoted and organic, non-promoted listings, depending on their relevance to a buyer’s search and quality of a seller’s listing.

You can read about the changes to Promoted Listings in the “Growth Tools” section of the eBay Fall Seller Update.

3) “Simpler” Policies, New Enforcement Measure (“Hide All Listings”)

eBay said it’s simplifying its policies to make them easy to understand beginning October 1, 2019.

In addition, “starting October 1, 2019, we’ll introduce a new enforcement measure called “Hide All Listings” that will temporarily hide all of your listings in buyers’ eBay search results and browsing while you correct a policy issue, rather than end all of your listings or suspend your account. By hiding your listings, any watchers, bidders, or buyers will be able to continue to do business with you. After you correct the issue, all of your listings will be visible in search and browsing again, and you won’t lose any of your item’s sales history. We anticipate Hide All Listings will only apply to a small percentage of eBay sellers.”

Note the following from the FAQs:

What will happen if I am not following a policy?
First we’ll let you know if you aren’t following a policy and what steps you’ll need to take to correct the issue. We’ll then give you a grace period to take all the actions you’ll need to resolve the issue.

If an item cannot be sold on eBay because it is prohibited, we will remove the item to protect you and refund your fees.

If you relist the item after we remove it, or don’t take steps to correct the issue, all of your listings may be hidden from new buyers for a brief period.

You can read about the changes to Policies and the new Enforcement Measures in the “Seller Protections” section of the eBay Fall Seller Update.

4) Changes to Returns Policy

eBay said beginning in February, it will automatically update listings that offer a returns policy that does not align with one of its five updated returns policy options announced last year. “We encourage you to update your listings to your preferred returns policy options now before we automatically update them for you.”

Certain categories are exempted, including items in Collectibles & Art, Cameras & Photo and Medical & Mobility categories – listings in those categories can continue to offer 14-day returns.

In addition, beginning in early November, items in the Jewelry & Watches category can be offered with 14-day returns – quite a significant development.

The changes above are included in “Seller Protections & Policy Updates,” which also includes changes classified as follows:

  • Additional protections benefits for Top Rated Sellers
  • New return shipping label credit for false claims
  • Refund deduction for used and damaged returns
  • Automatic updates of existing listings to supported return policies

You can read about the changes to the Returns Policy in the “Seller Protections” section of the eBay Fall Seller Update.

5) Seller Negotiation Tools: New “Offers to Buyers” and “Counter Offer” Tools

Many sellers like the option to entice interested shoppers with offers. eBay announced two new “Offers to Buyers” features to “help you reach more buyers and negotiate your offers”:

Target buyers who add items to their carts but haven’t completed their purchases
Previously on Seller Hub, you could only send offers to buyers that are watching your listings. The new “Offers to buyers” feature will allow you to send offers to additional buyers that have added your items to their carts but not checked out within 5 days. You will be notified when buyers become eligible to receive offers through this new feature.

Negotiate your offers with buyers with a new counter offer feature
Currently, when you send an offer to a buyer, the buyer can only accept or reject your offer. Starting in early October 2019, we will add a counter offer option that will allow you and a buyer to negotiate an offer by exchanging up to five offers and counter offers for each negotiation. Seller Hub users will be able to select or deselect the counter offer capability. The counter offer feature will be available in additional selling flows over time.

Note that sellers can turn off counter offers if they use Seller Hub.

TIP: Beware of making offers from your mobile device!

eBay said the “counter offer” feature will not be available on the mobile apps upon initial release. That means if a seller sends an offer to buyers via a mobile app, those buyers will not be able to respond with a counter offer. “We are actively working to bring the counter offer option to the native apps,” eBay said.

You can read about new seller negotiation tools in the “Growth Tools” section of the eBay Fall Seller Update, where you’ll also find information about changes to Terapeak.

6) eBay Motors Fee Changes

eBay “streamlined” listing options and made the following fee changes for sellers of vehicles on its eBay Motors marketplace:

Simplified pricing options for cars and trucks
Starting in October 2019, listing vehicles in Cars & Trucks in eBay Motors will be faster and easier with simplified package pricing. If you list six or less vehicles in Cars & Trucks during a calendar year, you will have the ability to select from three pricing options that include bundles of assorted features for auction and fixed price listings.

Simplified pricing option for high volume vehicles sellers
Also starting in October 2019, high volume sellers (i.e., sellers who list more than six vehicles during a calendar year) in the Cars & Trucks category may purchase the Premium option for $95 for auction and fixed price listings. The $95 Premium option fee will include the insertion fee plus feature upgrades displayed below.

eBay didn’t provide context in the announcement to determine whether these will cost sellers more to sell on eBay Motors, but “simplified” pricing (where it bundles options together) doesn’t mean it won’t hit some sellers in the pocketbook – sellers should do their homework before October rolls around.

Especially noteworthy is the following FAQ:

I’ve always listed cars and trucks for free. Why will eBay start charging me?
We’re launching industry-standard pricing package options that bundle certain features to simplify the listing experience and provide transparent pricing. Our pricing package options will include fees for popular features to assist first-timers, low volume, and some high volume sellers with their listings. You will still be able to take advantage of the previous fee options and advanced listing upgrades through the advanced tool.

You can read about the changes to eBay Motors in the “Inventory Optimization” section of the eBay Fall Seller Update.

7) Category and Item Specifics Changes

eBay is making changes to certain categories and to Item Specifics – be sure to review this carefully to see if and when the changes will impact you.

You can read about the changes to Categories and Item Specifics in the “Inventory Optimization” section of the eBay Fall Seller Update.

8) User Agreement Update

According to eBay, its new User Agreement, which took effect 5 days before the Seller Update, includes changes around sales tax:

“Our updated eBay User Agreement, effective August 30, 2019, relates to eBay’s ongoing rights and responsibilities pertaining to marketplace tax collection.”

Note that we have not determined what other changes it might include, but one thing jumped out at us in the eBay User Agreement. Remember when we said above that eBay is a “pay-to-play” marketplace? It’s now more of a “pay-to-maybe-get-to-play. See this provision of the eBay User agreement in Section 5:

“Seller fees don’t purchase exclusive rights to item exposure on eBay, whether on a web page, mobile app, or otherwise. We may display third-party advertisements (including links and references thereto) or other content in any part of our Services, in our sole discretion and without consent from, or payment, fee reduction, or other credit to, sellers.”

Sellers have been weighing in on how the changes impact them. Please leave a 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/.