eBay seller Don Heiden, aka the Auction Professor, discusses his experiences with eBay’s recent changes to Categories and Item Specifics.
After 20 plus years of reselling on eBay I have seen many changes to the platform, a few of which have been well received. A large amount of these changes have not been very popular with many users on the platform. Over the years, I have just looked ahead and took those changes as a challenge, attacking them head on. Even with eBay’s Managed Payments I still was fully willing to give it a chance, though it is a mandatory program anyone wanting to use the platform must sign up for, anyway.
Managed Payments has its issues, of course, as I am sure most resellers have found out. But it has not been much of a major hurdle for my business. It was one of the very few changes eBay has ever done that actually saved me a considerable amount of money. Most all of eBay’s changes have been neutral to my business. They neither cost me money nor made me money, other than the usually and expected yearly fee increases they seem to always do.
That was until eBay started forcing required Item Specifics onto sellers. This has forced sellers (both small and large) to spend hours of their time, and hard earned money trying to fill them in.
I have even struggled with some Item Specifics in categories I have sold in for two decades, or more. Many make no sense, whatsoever, and are using terms that not even a lifelong buyer/collector would use, or even understand. Terms such as case type, inlay and PVC will be very confusing to even some long time record sellers. I have been selling records for over 20 years and I have never heard or seen PVC used instead of Styrene on a record, so I can clearly see the drastic confusion many resellers are experiencing in trying to satisfy eBay’s requirements.
Some Item Specifics cannot be filled in at all. In the record category, eBay is requiring sellers to state the album name, which, depending on the type of record you are listing, may not be possible. Many 45 and 78 RPM records were stand alone discs that were never part of any album, but yet eBay is requiring that box to be filled in.
Still other required Item Specifics will only have one single option, which is the case in the record category, also. Even though I am listing a record in the record category, I am still required to (once again) select “record” in the “format” Item Specific box. It is the only option available, which makes no sense. It seems to me eBay could have saved everyone the trouble and just added that automatically to the listing. It is, after all, already listed in the records section, so one would assume it is a record.
With most media across the platform (records, tapes, CDs, DVDs, etc.) eBay is requiring sellers to not only add key information into the title, but to also enter it into several other places a second time. Adding the artists’ name, such as The Beatles, to the title will not be enough, going forward. A seller would also have to add an Item Specific for The Beatles. This may sound easy for most well known groups or artists, but a vast amount of records listed on the platform will need to have the artist added in manually, which will take two extra steps, further lengthening the listing process for all resellers.
Changes in this one category alone seem to include the need for me to add in the “type” of record (single, EP, album, etc.) also, since they apparently have removed the old way that was done via the “Duration” Item Specific.
The record “duration” had been used to distinguish the length of the disc such as singles (45 or 78 RPMs), EPs (45 RPM w/ double the content. EP means Extended Play), Albums (LPs which are 33 RPMs, LP means Long Play), Boxed sets, and etc.
Duration in the case of record is the length of the record itself, and has been used that way since eBay started.
This change (from “duration” to “type”) would force every single seller who is selling records to go through each and every listing, one by one, to fill in the “Type” Item Specific, to meet eBay’s new changes.
Items in nearly every category I sell in have changes and requirements. I have been told by several resellers that, in some cases, eBay had moved items from one category to another, without informing the seller. In other cases, eBay had changed settings and moved condition boxes, forcing un-needed changes that are costing sellers yet more time and money.
At the beginning of eBay requiring Item Specifics, I was willing to give them a chance. They kept telling sellers it would help their buyer to better find their items, which will help your sales. So, I figured I would give it a try, and had one of my employees spend most of a week adding in all of eBay’s recommend Item Specifics to half of the more than 8,400 items eBay was recommending I add them to. In the end, 4,200 listings had all of eBay’s recommend item specifics filled in.
The half that we left alone, and did not add, would serve as my baseline. I split them up equally, in each category, so I could compare the results on a spreadsheet. I wanted to see if I did get any form of sales increase from the change. After almost two month of tracking them, I saw no increase in sales for the ones that had been added, versus the ones that did not. I did see that the items we added had dipped in sales, compared to the 4,200 we did not fill in.
As a business, I have to use my time and money wisely. If I am investing $300 of my hard earned money into having Item Specifics filled in, I would expect to get something back out of my investment. Imagine a one-person reselling business with 100,000 listings all needing to be changed. Time is money, and that would take a lot of time for anyone.
It could also double or triple the amount of time it takes to list many new items. This could mean that it may not be economically viable for me to list lower value records, and other items, on eBay any more. A large number of resellers are telling me the very same thing. Why spend so much time listing them on eBay when you can just quickly pop them up somewhere else.
While most sites are trying to make it easier and much quicker to list your items, eBay seems to be moving in the opposite direction. I can easily and quickly list the very same records on Amazon and Discogs, right now, much quicker than on eBay, without any hassle. This just seems to be another bad decision by eBay that will further alienate even more sellers on the platform.