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Mon Mar 22 2010 09:26:43

eBay to Make Changes to Search as It Adds Store to Core

By: Ina Steiner

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eBay is testing enhancements to its search function, according to Wall Street analyst Colin Sebastian of Lazard Capital Markets in a research note issued today.

Colin noted that despite an increase in numbers of listings, eBay's shortcomings in search functionality failed to drive a similar increase in sales. He warned that when eBay moves Store listings to core next week, it could exacerbate the problem and create a glut of merchandise in certain categories.

However, he said:

"eBay is simultaneously introducing enhancements to its Search, and importantly, several sellers testing the upgrade suggested to us that the relevancy of search results will improve. In addition, the updated Search algorithms will favor higher quality sellers (top-rated sellers) with the lowest prices, Auction items ending soonest, the most relevant item titles and descriptions, and free shipping."

Colin issued the report after attending eBay's On Location event in Atlanta where it hosted 500 people, offering classes and talks by the authors of business books, Duct Tape Marketing and The Toilet Paper Entrepreneur. While there, he conducted a survey of small and mid-sized sellers, and said it "suggests a fairly constructive view of upcoming changes, which are aimed at reigniting growth on the Marketplace."

Calling it a survey may be a stretch. He did not provide information about how many sellers he spoke with or if they were members of eBay Voices or Education Specialists programs, who were in attendance. (Does one really expect many eBay sellers who are focusing on other channels to attend an event such as this?)

Some of the key points from today's report:
  • We expect eBay to announce another round of changes to the Marketplace in late April, taking effect 60 days later in late June, with a potential third round of changes this year planned for fall.
  • CEO John Donahoe and President of Marketplaces Lorrie Norrington spoke at the event and met with sellers, which we see as indicative of the outreach efforts of eBay management to sellers of all sizes.
  • The fee changes on eBay emulate several of the measures the company implemented last year in international markets. In those markets, eBay's Marketplace generated a significant increase in transaction volumes even through the economic downturn and competition from Amazon. While there are numerous variables that contributed to stronger International performance, we believe that changes to fees and other policies in the U.K. and Germany were largely responsible.
Colin also said he believes eBay continues to target incentives toward sellers that offer the best customer service along with access to high volumes of products/SKUs. (In addition to Daily Deals, eBay recently launched a promotion where it drove buyers to eight merchants through an eBay Bucks promotion.)

It's a shame no details were provided about eBay's changes to search - that could have a major impact on sellers. We'll see if eBay intends to stick to its promise of giving sellers 60 days notice of major changes.




Comments (43) | Permalink

Readers Comments

eBay to Make Changes to Search as It Adds Store to Core   eBay to Make Changes to Search as It Adds Store to Core

by: Julie

Mon Mar 22 10:00:49 2010

Sales have been plummeting for me since October, & I don't have the heart to continue to twist & bend & "adapt".  I just focus my efforts elsewhere where I don't feel effed with.
Good job, ebay!

eBay to Make Changes to Search as It Adds Store to Core   eBay to Make Changes to Search as It Adds Store to Core

by: old timer

Mon Mar 22 10:06:57 2010

I took advantage of the 10-cent Fixed Price offer in February and March, to convert all of my Store Inventory items to FP in advance of the changes coming at the end of March.  I figured that by doing so I would get at least the promised exposure earlier than waiting for SI to be automatically moved to FP by eBay.  And, it seems that the exposure during this brief pre-transition period should be even better since a lot of SI would be remaining buried in the existing search rules and before the potential flooding by under-99-cent free auctions.

Well, I did experience a small uptick in sales and some older items that had been buried in the SI non-exposure limbo sold, but it appears to have been a temporary blip.  So, I am not as hopeful for the future of my sales come April.

Now, this article indicates that eBay is going to "enhance" the search.  But from these comments:

"Colin noted that despite an increase in numbers of listings, eBay's shortcomings in search functionality failed to drive a similar increase in sales. He warned that when eBay moves Store listings to core next week, it could exacerbate the problem and create a glut of merchandise in certain categories."

"eBay is simultaneously introducing enhancements to its Search, and importantly, several sellers testing the upgrade suggested to us that the relevancy of search results will improve. In addition, the updated Search algorithms will favor higher quality sellers (top-rated sellers) with the lowest prices, Auction items ending soonest, the most relevant item titles and descriptions, and free shipping."

I can't help but feel that eBay has finally said "get out" to the smaller sellers.  Free shipping, lowest price, highest volume, auctions preferred.  That's what gets the enhanced search rewards??  Well, fine, that leaves out a heck of a lot of sellers, including myself.

Here's my revised plan for the new world order on eBay.  Instead of my original plan of upgrading to Premiere Store and maintaining my inventory of hundreds of items (eating a 170% increase in up front listing costs in hopes of improved sales), I plan to stay with the Basic Store and reduce my listings by about 80%.  That will keep my listing costs on eBay about what they were before the changes.  I won't give eBay any additional up-front fees because I do not believe that there will be any improvement in sales, equal search, or additional traffic.  I may gradually rotate my inventory through eBay, but even that is a question in my mind.

Frankly, I don't think the already announced changes effective at the end of March plus these next search changes are going to benefit my business at all, and in fact, with the search changes you are discussing, it will be a negative impact.

As I have said before, I have to thank JD's disruptive innovation as it has opened my eyes to life beyond eBay.  I'll take the money I would have given to eBay in those increased up front listings fees and divert them to other on-line efforts.

Maybe it will pay off, maybe not.  But I choose to no longer keep paying eBay for services not rendered.  I had hoped that my $1.00 of listing fees would purchase equal services as any other seller's $1.00, but it's obvious that eBay will never treat good sellers equally.  So be it.

eBay to Make Changes to Search as It Adds Store to Core   eBay to Make Changes to Search as It Adds Store to Core

by: fat frog

Mon Mar 22 10:57:09 2010

It sure doesn't take much to convince the mindless wonders on wall street does it.

At some point in time these wonders will wake up and head for the hills as ebay slides into that hot place.

eBay to Make Changes to Search as It Adds Store to Core   eBay to Make Changes to Search as It Adds Store to Core

by: Patricia This user has validated their user name.

Mon Mar 22 11:52:39 2010

As long as everyone pays the same for Ebay's services a sellers place in the listings should have nothing to do with their price, their reputation or the quantity of items they sell.  Ebay hasn't yet learned this - perhaps they never will.  Instead they should be weeding out bad sellers AND bad buyers and letting items sell on their own merits and not on factors laid on the sellers themselves.  This method has contributed greatly to Ebay's decline.  Unfortunate that there are no adequate business minds on board to realize it!  I'm sure this would be business logic to an experienced management team.

eBay to Make Changes to Search as It Adds Store to Core   eBay to Make Changes to Search as It Adds Store to Core

by: Rich

Mon Mar 22 12:33:44 2010

Ebay has already moved store format items into core; at least for my search pages they have. The "include store inventory" link on the left side of the page has disappeared from all my search pages and when I search for an artist in the music catgorywho has more than 30 listings; all of my store inventory listings of that artists are coming in the core searches. I'm a top rated seller with low item costs in comparison to others, but the best match search does not help me much at all.  Many sellers who have higher prices and are not top rated; appear higher than me in best match. Do buyers know to not use best match? As David Steiner suggested; I've got spreadsheet and am trying GEMM.  So far in 2 weeks just 1/10th the sales of Ebay, but there are no upfront fees and Ebay has become unaffordable; so a spreadsheet with 20,000 items can produce the same as an ebay store with 2,000 items with $2,000/year less in fees.  I called Amazon and will get set up there in April.  Thanx for good article on search--with bad economy; Ebay has made major mistake in raising their prices--sales will be slow; regardless of "core" and the fees for tons of sellers are now unaffordable

eBay to Make Changes to Search as It Adds Store to Core   eBay to Make Changes to Search as It Adds Store to Core

by: Digby

Mon Mar 22 13:05:37 2010

It is just to hard to get seen (views) on ebay with their search system. How can a new seller get to be a powerseller if they don't get seen ?
So I am not playing their games. I list on 2 other sites where I get seen less, but pay less and where I do not have to put up with their constant changes and effort to maximise their profits !

eBay to Make Changes to Search as It Adds Store to Core   eBay to Make Changes to Search as It Adds Store to Core

by: Karma

Mon Mar 22 13:29:45 2010

Been trying to buy something on ebay and my search is stuck in "best match" mode!

"Search by" is inactivated.

This has been going on for days!!!

So I ended up buying nothing since I do not like to be forcefed by ebay...

Is it this the way how ebay will control the million more listings?

eBay to Make Changes to Search as It Adds Store to Core   eBay to Make Changes to Search as It Adds Store to Core

by: USE eBay

Mon Mar 22 13:40:33 2010

Glad to see that an analyst is seeing what we posters on Auctionbytes were saying on these 'pages' after the 4th quarter results came out.  All these new listings, and flat sales?  What is wrong with this picture?  Didn't take a genius to figure it out that search is broken beyond repair.  JD, give it up or the BOD will give YOU up!

eBay to Make Changes to Search as It Adds Store to Core   eBay to Make Changes to Search as It Adds Store to Core

by: Mark Malone

Mon Mar 22 14:30:40 2010

Small wonder that our sales have gone into the toilet over the past 3 weeks. We sell antique furniture and our sales have been abysmal.

We thought we would ride out the latest ''enhancements'' by buying a Store - That we don't need and will probably never use since we do all auctions - but we are sitting here wondering just how much more of this we can take?!? Not much more!

eBay to Make Changes to Search as It Adds Store to Core   eBay to Make Changes to Search as It Adds Store to Core

by: Karma

Mon Mar 22 14:46:52 2010


Best match search:

TSR, low auction start price and low shipping do NOT mean anything!!!!

Sellers WITHOUT TSR, high buy it now prices and $11.00 - $15.00 Shipping cost are way ahead of me

- because they are listing triple the amount that I do.

So I guess best match goes to the seller with the most listings - nothing else matters!

eBay to Make Changes to Search as It Adds Store to Core   eBay to Make Changes to Search as It Adds Store to Core

by: USE eBay

Mon Mar 22 15:56:40 2010

I'm still trying to get over the analyst who considered it news that eBay might have trouble when everything is in core.  Yet eBay keeps loading up the listings by goosing them with 1/2 price auctions.  From 40 million listings on January 1st to 54 million today.  All of these listings have to appeal to a dwindling number of buyers. Oh, I forgot to add in the Free 100s. How CAN stores in core show any success?  If you wind up on the 10th page of a listing, no one will ever see you. I know, I've been there. Then it will be a scramble as we see in this blog.  It will be the best match sweepstakes and, oh great, they're going to tinker with it again.  And, oh terrific, we're going to have two more adjustments before the end of the year.

HELLOOOO EBAY, WAKE UP!!! -- This does not make sense, this constant pounding on the sellers.

I truly believe you don't know what you're doing.  You consider us 'noise', but if you read Auctionbytes blogs, you would have read back in January what your fancy wall street analyst told you in Atlanta.  Listings way up, sales flat = FAILURE!!!

Your opinion of your sellers is abysmally low and totally undeserved.  Until you change that opinion and start honoring your sellers, or merely giving them the time of the day, your results will be the same.  When the sellers leave, the buyers leave, unless they are interested in a bland, repetitive and boring site.  Wake up!!

eBay to Make Changes to Search as It Adds Store to Core   eBay to Make Changes to Search as It Adds Store to Core

by: GV

Mon Mar 22 16:33:46 2010

This is interesting. Back in 2006-2007 they complained that there were too many items on the site;

[]...She said it was the result of an ambitious effort to reduce the amount of overpriced commodity items that have increasingly clogged up the site – such as thousands of cell phone chargers, outdated MP3 players and other electronic devices, often with high starting bids and reserve prices.

"I think we made a couple mistakes in the middle of last year. ... We frankly had too many items on the site," Whitman said.  ...[]

EBay profit surges 52%
Associated Press - April 18th 2007.

Is ebay trying to recycle old failed strategies as well as sites? (much like the garden thing they just came up with)

If over filling the place didn't work then why will it work now with less traffic and less consumer confidence?

I wonder if the analysts have used ebay themselves? The types of things I collect are mostly no longer available there but when they are the prices and shipping are outrageous.
As far as buying anything which is not rare or collectible ebay just isn't the place compared to real life or a real website.

eBay to Make Changes to Search as It Adds Store to Core   eBay to Make Changes to Search as It Adds Store to Core

This user has validated their user name. by: Philip Cohen
Web Site

Mon Mar 22 17:42:13 2010

I really do hate to be so cynical but can anyone be sure that some of Colin Sebastian’s comments are not being influenced by some of that cash that eBay has squirreled away overseas—that cash that none of the stockholders have yet seen any of?

The fact is, you would have to be extremely naïve to be persuaded by anything that eBay says, except maybe for notifications of fee changes, and even then an eBay-claimed fee decrease is most likely to be a typical eBay sleight of hand …

“eBay Bucks Promotion Offers a New Twist on Daily Deals”
By Ina Steiner
AuctionBytes.com
March 19, 2010

Utter desperation, particularly the bit ending end of March (to help prop up the first quarter result); of course, the fact that “listings” may be up means nothing to either eBay or sellers if those listings don’t result in meaningful sales. But that’s about all that the Don can now do: the buyers are already drifting away; about all he can do now is offer free listings so that he can at least claim that listings are up …

Then, how can all those nominal 99c starts in many cases ever result in meaningful sales unless the seller has a “mechanism” for ensuring a reasonable selling price? The fact is, the whole fee structure of eBay is broken.

Regardless, come on all you participating “eBay Bucks” sellers, list that product! Shame there are fewer buyers about: see it’s not only sellers who are sick of eBay’s constant, devious, manipulations.

And, don’t forget to list those free 100 one-cent-start items for the Don on April Fools Day. He is going to need all those extra listings to help him prop up the second quarter figures, so he can say: “Well revenue is down a bit [again] but look, listings are up! The turnaround is happening!”

See, the Don and his team of fellow incompetents are thinking ahead …

“eBay May Reward Top Buyers for Selling on eBay”
By Ina Steiner
AuctionBytes.com
March 22, 2010

So, both sellers and buyers are now being offered a petty incentive to jump through the eBay hoops. Give me a break.

Then there is “last week’s [eBay] survey”; I’ll bet we will never see an unexpurgated version of that survey’s results.

eBay: Dead Man Walking.

eBay to Make Changes to Search as It Adds Store to Core   eBay to Make Changes to Search as It Adds Store to Core

by: Patricia This user has validated their user name.

Mon Mar 22 18:54:31 2010

Its pretty evident now that Donahoe and crew are dancing as fast as they can.  I guess their latest brainstorm is to get the most listings (and listing fees) possible and pick up some final value fees too.  They are all out in an effort to look profitable.  One can only sit back and watch them in their desperate madness!  I'm not listing anything for now...just going to sit on the sidelines and watch the bedlam.  I suggest other sellers do the same - use the time to beef up your listings elsewhere cause not much is going to sell on Ebay anyway.

eBay to Make Changes to Search as It Adds Store to Core   eBay to Make Changes to Search as It Adds Store to Core

by: another side of the coin

Mon Mar 22 19:55:37 2010

If they do squeek or slither (your pick) by this quarter, it will be because of all their tap dancing and the Skype sale. No way will they be able to do this the 2ndQ even with discount listings.

Will be interesting, please pass the popcorn.

eBay to Make Changes to Search as It Adds Store to Core   eBay to Make Changes to Search as It Adds Store to Core

by: Getting worse

Mon Mar 22 20:34:03 2010

Why can't they fix what is broke?  Last night one of my auctions ended, I received the ebay "Pay Now" invoice, instead of the winner!  I received a question on an item this weekend. The pink gowns pic was correct, but the title was of another gown I had for sale. I had to email the potential buyer & apologize for ebays error, to find out which item she actually had a question about.  Ebay leaves another buyer with bad impression....and I of course lost a potential sale, due to their incompetent glitches.  I foresee many,many more glitches with the hugh influx of cheap listings that have come on board. April fools day spells more disaster in their downward spiral with the whirlwind of cheap merchandise they are creating following in blind pursuit. Sellers listing at 99cent with free shipping are in for a rude awakening, as the buyers are vanishing.  Appears it will be the blind leading the blind into the poor house.

eBay to Make Changes to Search as It Adds Store to Core   eBay to Make Changes to Search as It Adds Store to Core

by: RicRoe This user has validated their user name.

Mon Mar 22 21:53:06 2010

There eBay goes, changing search algorithms again!!!!!

The secretive manipulations, testing, tweaking, revisions, never end..sellers have no assurance that today's listing strategy will produce success after listings are created.

Re-listing a successful item? Does not matter, by the time the new listing is up and running, algorithms may have changed, that relevant title is now not so much.

This does not benefit sellers, and it certainly does not advantage eBay.

Lets start with the apparent reality that since Best Match was implemented, site wide sales are down.

How about eBay comes clean and releases statistics of completed sales and the search method used that those sales resulted from.

I have no doubt such statistics exist. MBA's like John ''noise'' Donahoe can not inhale correctly unless they have current data that supports the concept of doing so.

With all the time, effort, energy, and lost sales that are part and parcel to the manipulation of Best Match, the logical and most efficient process would be to eliminate Best Match entirely.

Task the dedicated team that is charged with creating and recreating the Best Match nightmare with functions that will actually help all sellers....Like maybe the long promised never delivered shopping cart.

Reset default search to time ending soonest and end the non stop behind the scenes manipulations once and for all.

The resulting increase in sales will benefit sellers as well as eBay.

Is that concept too difficult for a data crunching MBA to grasp?

eBay to Make Changes to Search as It Adds Store to Core   eBay to Make Changes to Search as It Adds Store to Core

by: honeybunch

Mon Mar 22 22:01:57 2010

old timer said:
"But I choose to no longer keep paying eBay for services not rendered.  I had hoped that my $1.00 of listing fees would purchase equal services as any other seller's $1.00, but it's obvious that eBay will never treat good sellers equally."

Yeah, those two points are key, aren't they?  It still surprises me that eBay has so much trouble grasping such simple concepts.

Simplest concept of all:  People aren't going to continue being your customers if they're getting nothing for their money.  The way search is now, too many sellers get nothing for their money.

Almost as simple:  People aren't going to continue being your customers if their dollars don't buy what the "other guys'" dollars buy.  The way search is now, too many sellers are subsidizing the big boys' item visibility at the expense of their own.

Of course, that brings up another concept that eBay just doesn't seem to grasp:  Customers who are treated inequitably don't just go away, they go away RESENTFUL.  They're bitter, and they're vocal.  They stop not just selling, but buying.  And they warn their friends to stay away.  And they stop patronizing your other establishments, like PayPal.  The emotional impact of the experience sticks with them for years.  They'll avoid you and your products long after the details have faded in their memories, all because of an overriding feeling that you...suck. (sorry, no better way to put it)

Nowhere is this failure to understand basic business concepts more apparent than in the way eBay has messed with search.  By making search so inequitable, unstable, and incomprehensible, they stupidly self-imposed limits where there had been none before: on their own customer base.

The buyers were limited as to what they could see without slogging through endless pages of irrelevancy.  They were unknowingly limited in their selection, because millions of unique items had been rendered virtually invisible to them.  And they lost their favorite sellers, who disappeared from the venue due to the inequitable way that their sales had been limited.

The entire buying and selling experience has been completely degraded by eBay's search shenanigans, and the impact of that has manifested in falling traffic and falling profits.  It's hard to believe that eBay did it all on purpose, but they did.  They really did.  They built a dam right in the middle of their own profit stream.  Who DOES that?  

Now with this stores-in-core thing, I shudder to think what's coming. EBay's incompetence, their lack of integrity, and their lack of sense are a lethal combination.  Whatever's next, it won't be good.

eBay to Make Changes to Search as It Adds Store to Core   eBay to Make Changes to Search as It Adds Store to Core

by: another side of the coin

Mon Mar 22 22:48:08 2010

Donahoe & co. are obsessive to the point of anal that both Best Match and the new Express will stay regardless of both obvious failings. They will stick to it to the end even though their obvious OCD won't let them admit that both are a complete abismal failure. Express didn't work before and Best Match is just poor and never meant to be used this way in search. So, of course, they WILL make it work because a square can always fit inside a circle, just force it. This from a CEO who is just crackle barrels or a screw loose.

eBay to Make Changes to Search as It Adds Store to Core   eBay to Make Changes to Search as It Adds Store to Core

by: USE eBay

Mon Mar 22 23:04:45 2010

I want to know what further form of torture eBay has in store us that will start in June and the other later in the year.  They don't HAVE to have changes.  In this case, change is not good, unless they are changing back to 'ending soonest' as the default setting.

But, Best Match is just too tempting for them to give up.  I picture them as mad scientists in a laboratory with smoking beakers (as in a Frankenstein movie) -- tweaking here with a wink, tweaking there with a snarl, and taking out all of their petty prejudices on the sellers.

I keep telling myself USE eBay, USE eBay, USE them as they use you -- it's just business, but it's not easy to stick around for all this carp.

At this point, however, it's too close to D-Day to give it up.  I'm dying to see what happens when the big dump begins.  I wouldn't plan to have listings end around March 31st or April 1st. Ebay is probably now getting the duct tape ready to repair any 'glitches' in the system that may occur. Stay tuned. It'll be interesting.

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