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Clearing up a Burning Question about Recent eBay Category Changes

Clearing up a Question on Recent eBay Category Changes

Recent eBay category changes had many sellers of collectible postcards scrambling when they rolled out on October 12. Sellers said eBay rolled up the subcategories and left them to select one of two: Topographical Postcards and non-Topographical Postcards. Instead of shoppers perusing subcategories, eBay expected sellers to add product attributes (called Item Specifics) to help shoppers narrow down results when searching for postcards on its marketplace.

In the wee hours of October 12th, a seller wrote in a discussion board thread: “There were probably a hundred or more postcard categories. eBay nuked them and put all postcards in two categories: Topographical Postcard, Non-Topographical Postcards.”

Exacerbating the problem: sellers said eBay did not give them a reminder that the change was coming – and some said eBay eliminated the Item Specifics that had already existed in their listings, making it impossible for shoppers to find them. Over subsequent weeks, sellers struggled with the task of editing their listings and many reported a devastating slowdown in sales.

In addition to the disruption it caused many sellers of postcards (and other categories where eBay rolled out changes), some sellers didn’t even understand the terminology. For example, on October 31, a seller posted a thread on the eBay discussion boards titled, “Meaning of a topographical and non topographical postcard” where they wrote the following:

“Where can I find eBay’s definition of a Topographical Postcard and a non-Topographical Postcard? When reviewing the category my items have been assigned to, it doesn’t seem to make sense. Neither of these terms are United States postcard terms. The UK sources I have found describe somewhat “Topographical” but then say if it isn’t that it belongs under “subject.””

The issue was also raised during a recent Weekly Chat session on November 24th. An eBay moderator responded to the seller as follows:

“Topographical: Topographical postcards are those that show general views or street scenes, rather than particular subjects such as trains or horses. Some collectors call them “Topo”.

“Non Topographical: Those postcards that show a particular theme or subject, rather than general views or street scenes. Some collectors also call them “topical”.

“In terms of Item Specifics, depending on the category the seller will be asked to provide Countries and Cities or Subjects and Themes with more or less relevance.”

The moderator also pointed to some resources for sellers to learn more.

The same seller asked a follow-up question on the following week’s chat (December 1st) about the under-representation of US companies on the “brand/publishers” Item Specifics pulldown menu. If you sell postcards and are interested in learning more, you can find the seller’s question and the eBay moderator’s responses here.

One reader reached out this week and said sales were finally rebounding. Let us know if you were impacted by the October 12th category changes and how you’re faring in the final runup to Christmas.

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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/.