eBay sellers asked some tough questions in December’s Ask Me Anything feature on the discussion boards. Executive Jordan Sweetnam said eBay won’t be backing down in some key areas, but he did make some surprising revelations about changes to programs and policies eBay may be making in the New Year.
The head of eBay Americas Jordan Sweetnam outlined a new approach eBay will take to seller policies in 2020, one that many sellers have long pushed for, though he didn’t provide detailed specifics about exact changes and when they might roll out. “From a business perspective, 2020 will be a year where you’ll start to see more around how we begin to differentiate our business across the different categories that exist on eBay,” he told sellers.
The information came in a post by Sweetnam on an “Ask Me Anything” (AMA) board on the discussion forums on December 22, 2019.
Providing sellers with category-specific policies would be a major shift away from eBay’s “one size fits all” approach to which sellers must currently adhere.
Returns is an example of an area where sellers have requested greater flexibility in the policies they can offer in their listings, especially in categories such as clothing that have high rates of returns and returns-fraud, and collectibles categories where returns pose greater difficulties as well as different buyer expectations.
In one post on the AMA board in December, Sweetnam acknowledged seller concerns:
“”Retail standard” as a concept is right, but I think the opportunity is to recognize that “Retail Standard” is different if we’re talking about new Cell Phone cases vs Vintage Christmas Ornaments vs Plants. We need to move from “what is THE retail standard” to “what is the customer expectation in THIS category/condition.””
And in another post, he said eBay should provide shoppers who are buying a brand new TV with a “retail store experience,” where customers fully expect returns. But he said the retail standard when buying collectibles, one-of-a-kind comics, or a closeout/final sale “is totally different,” and “we need to recognize the same on eBay.”
Sweetnam also said he wants more interaction between eBay employees and sellers. “Outside of the online community boards, we’re looking at ways to get more face-to-face eBay staff interaction with sellers throughout the year. Keep an eye out for more details on eBay UpFronts, Meet-Ups, and other seller summit events happening in 2020. We’re looking at some different ideas for 2020 so don’t be surprised to see us experiment with a few different ways to connect in person.”
Addressing Additional Concerns from Sellers
Sweetnam responded to a number of questions from sellers on various topics in the Ask Me Anything session, some of which we covered in the following blog posts:
- eBay Open to Flexible Seller Return Policies – eBay is open to a more flexible return policies for sellers, which would be a major change from the one-size-fits-all policy in place now.
- eBay Not Backing Down on Managed Payments or GTC – eBay has no plans to reverse course on two unpopular policies – Managed Payments and the GTC (Good Til Cancelled) mandate.
- eBay Tests New Approaches to Promoted Listings Ads – eBay is rethinking its Promoted Listing Ads and will begin testing some approaches. But it won’t rethink its practice of displaying identical listings from rival sellers at lower prices in order confirmation emails – and gave its reasons why.
Sweetnam did not respond to all of the questions sellers asked; most notably, he skipped questions about eBay search; Google search visibility, and glitches.
But he did tackle a doozy: “eBay is broken, how do you plan of fixing it in 2020,” in which a seller posted the following concerns:
“Impressions are down, traffic is down, costs are out of control for sellers as a result of the many policy updates that were made this year (forced returns, promoted listings, service metrics, etc.).
“Many long time sellers are on their last legs, and buyers don’t seem to be willing to eat the increased prices (yes, increased seller fees are passed onto buyers).
“Many sellers are moving, or have already begun moving their inventory over to greener pastures (Poshmark, Mercari, Facebook marketplace).
“Sellers are buyers, and if we aren’t selling, we aren’t buying.
“How do you guys plan on turning it all around in 2020?”
Sweetnam responded: “Hopefully this one is covered in all of the other answers, but ultimately it ties back to the question on “how we are going to improve the relationship with our sellers”. More connection + understanding, a clear articulate of “value for fees” and a focus on where eBay has a right to win on our terms vs trying to be someone else.”
Changing Course on Some but Not All Seller Sticking Points
In summary, last month’s Ask Me Anything session revealed eBay won’t change its plan to roll out Managed Payments to all sellers or reverse its Good Til Cancelled mandate (GTC).
However, Sweetnam’s responses did show eBay is considering making some major changes in certain areas such as seller policies and Promoted Listing Ads.
You can find the AMA board on this page of the eBay discussion forums, and be sure to visit the EcommerceBytes Blog posts linked to above.