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Mon Aug 11 2008 22:25:16

eBay as a Catalog

By: Ina Steiner

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A reader sent me a screenshot of an eBay search results page for the term "sony ericsson w580i," writing that she believed it was the new "test" for merchandising placement. "The page takes triple the amount of time to load with this stuff on it," she wrote.

She had apparently used the "Refine search" feature to narrow the results to Cell Phones & Smartphones. When she did this, the results page came back with a section inserted above the listings called "Best Matching Products for sony ericsson w580i."

This isn't brand-new, but the reader was concerned that this type of search results page would become the default for all searches. I duplicated the search and also refined it by selecting Cell Phones & Smartpones, and I showed the resulting search results page to a colleague. He thought it was actual product listings - but looking closely, you can see that the items at the top are generic products to help users narrow results even further to the exact model they are looking to buy.

Clicking on one of those products - or models - brings you a "model" page that's even more interesting. For example, clicking on "Sony Ericsson W580i Walkman (AT&T)" brings you to a page with listings, but above the listings, there's a section to help you narrow your search even further, and in the left column, there's a complete product description, including the Manufacturer Part Number and Phone Model, for example.

And three tabs are located at the top of the model page: "Listings" (the page you are currently viewing); Product Details; and Reviews.

I did the same search on, and came up with similar results - the first page showed many listings - including some for accessories, not the phone itself - but by choosing "cell phones" under the category list in the left column, it then displayed a list of cell phone models and showed how many listings appeared for each model.

When I did the search on for "sony ericsson w580i," the standard results page showed 5,371 listings. Once I refined the search by clicking on Cell Phones & Smartphones, it brought back a page with 387 listings, and I could have refined it further by model.

As I wrote at the end of the eBay Live conference in June, this is a catalog approach similar to Amazon and Wigix. It's not necessarily bad, and might be good - depending. Here are some questions I have about the feature.

Is this catalog approach going to be applied to all categories?

Why did it take so long for the catalog page to load for this user?

Will eBay continue to show the standard search results page (with listings), and show the catalog page only when shoppers refine their searches?

As for lessons for sellers, it's one more reason to use Item Specifics wherever and whenever possible!

Comments (15) | Permalink

Readers Comments

Perminate Link for eBay as a Catalog   eBay as a Catalog

by: Cowbell

Mon Aug 11 23:31:31 2008

eBay is so determined to become Amazon, they're forgetting that we already have Amazon. Amazon is much better at being Amazon.

Amazon auction sucked because eBay was better at being eBay. Now that eBay wants to be Amazon, it might be a good time for Amazon to try being eBay again.

eBay has given up on it. In their haste to become Amazon, they're the once who convinced me to move my business there.

Perminate Link for eBay as a Catalog   eBay as a Catalog

by: Dan

Tue Aug 12 00:32:21 2008

This isn't anything new. These have already been the return search results for popular media items for at least half a year or more, I'm quite certain of it. If you type in ''Star Wars'' or virtual any of thousands of titles for movies, books, etc, you will see these search results.

I buy and sell in the media catagory almost daily, so I''m very sure of this (at least in both the Mountain States and Central time states where I divide my time).

I can't say what other product catagories it is already being used in.

Perminate Link for eBay as a Catalog   eBay as a Catalog

by: Burrfoot

Tue Aug 12 01:10:25 2008

The catalog is a great idea, so go to WIGIX ( where they started that way and the fees are so much lower than feebay.  Free for $25 and under items.  Try selling those items on feebay.

Perminate Link for eBay as a Catalog   eBay as a Catalog

by: Patricia

Tue Aug 12 01:33:20 2008

If Ebay thinks its going to lure buyers away from Amazon by pretending to be Amazon...boy are they missing the mark.  You can't just dress up the old pig to look like a fashion model - the end result is it simply becomes a big fat joke!

Perminate Link for eBay as a Catalog   eBay as a Catalog

by: Gaz

Tue Aug 12 02:24:36 2008

I go along with Ina on this -

- is it going to ultimately be the default in every category?  If so, then the communicators at Fort FeeBay need to issue a schedule now and give sellers plenty of time to adapt their listings to fit.

- will be only in certain ranges of categories?  If so, it's even more crucial they do the above so that the affected sellers know, and the others can get on with making money for themselves and JD's junta.


Perminate Link for eBay as a Catalog   eBay as a Catalog

by: Joe Chan

Tue Aug 12 02:46:11 2008

This seems like a copycat reaction to Http://

They will not be able to do it though.  It is built on unstructured data from day one, trying to fit that into a structured catalog is next to impossible.  They may be able to do it for a few selective categories, that's about it.

Perminate Link for eBay as a Catalog   eBay as a Catalog

by: Dan

Tue Aug 12 03:34:54 2008

One more thing; Remember, that ebay has disabled the best match/dsr  algorithm, as they stated in their message, for "at least a week".

So, this may not be the best time to be looking for new search results that were already out there. Who knows what is disabled, temporarily...?

Perminate Link for eBay as a Catalog   eBay as a Catalog

by: Linda

Tue Aug 12 08:56:11 2008

Cowbell has nailed it. Ebay is the World's online leader in AUCTIONS. Amazon the world leader in retail transactions. Ebay has always coached us to stick with our niche. Sound like they should listen to their own advice. Why would they try to chase down the leader? Very errant decision IMHO. Be the best at what you already are, instead of ASSUMING the grass is always greener on the other side. You can't be ALL THINGS to all people, Ebay. Just not possible.

Perminate Link for eBay as a Catalog   eBay as a Catalog

by: Gail

Tue Aug 12 11:34:11 2008

I was going to comment further about my email to Ina, but it's not necessary. The thoughts expressed here already pretty much cover anything I would have added.

I will say that I usually search certain categories, and had never seen this setup before.  I ventured beyond my niche this time, and I encountered page freezes, extremely slow loading pages, and incorrect results.  Incidentally, I was not using best match.  That's another whole story unto itself.

I just can't see how this would work effectively in all categories. Antiques, collectibles, rare or one-of-a-kind items, categories that people browse are not conducive to being grouped and sub-grouped. Who sets the criteria? Is eBay going to attempt to catalog these categories or perhaps do away with them entirely? That's MY selling area!

Perminate Link for eBay as a Catalog   eBay as a Catalog

by: tula

Tue Aug 12 11:46:22 2008

It looks tome like eBay is trying to become something of a shopping portal, rather than an auction site.  People search for stuff and eBay shows them auctions, store listings, and sponsored listings from elsewhere.  It would explain why they're so focused on the search technology and bringing in outside vendors like  Free listings for the big guys and a fee only on the back end of a sale sounds like they're heading in that direction.  Makes me wonder if it's going to start looking more and more like

Perminate Link for eBay as a Catalog   eBay as a Catalog

by: Peter Leeflang/CEO Leeflang Archives Corporation

Tue Aug 12 11:53:58 2008

The catalog concept only works when a site has structured data.
These type of catalog records are only available for commodities and then only if manufactured and recorded in the database era.

A catalog is not possible for unique or pre-computer era items, unless Ebay gets lucky with acquyiring some proprietary databases (which are usually incomplete anyway and often not for sale).

Will this mean that all sellers selling products that do not fit the catalog model, will be expected to leave Ebay?

Perminate Link for eBay as a Catalog   eBay as a Catalog

by: Dan

Tue Aug 12 13:57:04 2008

I just purchased a pair of shoe inserts on eBay.  These inserts are available everywhere you look on the internet.  I could have chosen Amazon, Google, or the manufacturer.  The reason I chose eBay is because historically its been the easiest and most enjoyable.  

eBay should stop trying to copy others.  eBay's best match did not make it easy to find the lowest price item in the location closest to me.  The item I ultimately bought was buried in the eBay stores.  The seller has free shipping and the lowest price on the site.  His feedback is great.  Why best match does not recognize this is beyond me.  

The item belonged at the top of the search results (period).  Had I not been completely familiar with the inner workings of eBay I would have bought the item through Amazon.

Perminate Link for eBay as a Catalog   eBay as a Catalog

by: CashBackatEbay

Tue Aug 12 14:11:50 2008

I'm ringing the same tune as CowBell in the first entry about eBay going back to being eBay instead of trying to be Amazon.

eBay has created an environment of distrust between its sellers and buyers that's simply not present at Amazon. For Amazon buyers it's practically a transparent partnership. They've done a fantastic job of branding their site this way so that the sellers appear to be a part of the Amazon family.

Perminate Link for eBay as a Catalog   eBay as a Catalog

by: Patrick Alexander

Sun Aug 17 19:03:37 2008

Read this link throughly ''Stirring Up the Cubicles at eBay'':

you will understand.

We are ALL being punished because some 30 year old female ''engineer'' (Dear God..) was too stupid to sort a search for a ''4G iPod Nano.''


Perminate Link for eBay as a Catalog   eBay as a Catalog

This user has validated their user name. by: permacrisis

Mon Aug 18 22:44:40 2008

Hacksaw through the steering column, while depressing the accelerator to the floor.

That is the ebay roadmap of running a business!

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