eBay didn't have enough listings in key categories in the run-up to the holiday shopping season, a company executive said as he responded to one of the company's most ardent supporters who felt eBay had blindsided him in November and December.
To the seller's dismay, sales of his t-shirts plummeted after eBay helped his rival (a platform called Teespring) to "flood the marketplace" during the holidays.
eBay Vice President of Seller & Marketplace Operations Bob Kupbens defended the company's actions in a podcast
on New Year's Day where he answered the seller's question along with those from 9 other sellers.
eBay summarized the seller's question as follows: "I've been selling on eBay for a long time. I've had a bunch of great years. Recently, eBay let a large T shirt seller onto eBay and they flooded the market. As a small seller, how can I compete with larger sellers who overwhelmed the market with lots of listings?"
Kupbens said eBay determined that its listings growth had not been not sufficient to meet all the inventory needs of buyers it was trying to drive to the marketplace over the holiday shopping period.
"We looked at key categories, fashion obviously is a key category and said, wow, there's just not enough listings here. So we went out on purpose to try to add listings to the marketplace.
"Now, did we overdo it a little bit in the Tee shirt category? I'd say probably. And in fact we're going to look at how we back that down in the very, very near term, but that said, we're always going to be looking.
"In fact, we're going to use the data from this holiday to understand better what listings result in what sales growth. Because if you're not growing sales, listings just becomes pollution and confusion, and small sellers may or may not be able to then compete with large sellers."
Kupbens then appeared to insult the seller, who saw sales going to his rival, by stating, "The best inventory is going to win."
He then he added salt to the wound by advising the seller to give even more fees to eBay by participating in its Promoted Listings ad program. "If you're worried about the visibility of your listing, I think that's an opportunity to give more promoted listings a try. Increase the rates and just see what additional visibility you can get by leveraging promoted listings and put yourself ahead of any of those listings that you might believe are flooding the category."
But Kupbens also said that when eBay adds more inventory, it brings more traffic and benefits sellers - this despite the fact that the seller reported the Teespring listings "robbed him" of his Christmas sales. (And then why would the seller need to spend more to advertise his listings through Promoted Listings?)
"Having more traffic in Tee shirts is actually a good thing for all sellers in Tee shirts," Kupbens said. "We believe there's probably a balance there, but for sure as you bring more inventory and you have more vibrance, more listings, more ability for a buyer to come and feel for sure that in this category they're going to get what they want, then that should be good for everyone. And so we're trying to make sure that as we add listings, we balance that in a way that it is truly good for everyone who sells in that category."
So staunch a supporter was the longtime seller Danny Hone (Honeville1) that he had signed up for eBay's new managed payments program when it became available in 2018 and even provided an endorsement in an interview on the eBay corporate blog
Before Kupbens addressed the seller's question during this week's podcast, the executive had talked to members of eBay's merchandising team who said eBay was working closely with certain sellers:
"We're able to pivot quickly and understand what the buyer's needs are. Go out to our sellers, ask them to source the inventory so we can be nimble enough to meet the needs of the customers."
"I think one other thing that we started to do in 2018 and we can really get better at it in 2019, is the specificity and creativity of one-P (1st-party) ads on the platform.
"I think for a lot of major sellers, we did advertising packages in partnership with them that really allowed them to get the right inventory in front of customers who were interested in it at the right time."
The t-shirt seller indicated in his original question that he suspected eBay was allowing Teespring to sell for far less than eBay's regular longtime sellers - "3 out of 4 shirts on eBay are now from the Teespring marketplace. Under our rules, if ANY of the rest of us tried their model we'd lose in excess of over $500,000 a month just in listing fees. They obviously aren't playing by our rules."
Kupbens did not address what incentives eBay was giving Teespring.
The seller also asked, "If you'll do this with the Teespring marketplace, what assurance does anyone have that you won't do this same agreement with other marketplaces, like Etsy, Walmart, Wish or Amazon" - another question that Kupbens left unanswered.