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Thu Sept 13 2012 13:02:28

Are eBay's Category Rollups Losing Buyers Who Browse?

By: Julia Wilkinson

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A seller recently wrote to EcommerceBytes complaining about the recent category "rollup" that happened under the Fashion Jewelry category. eBay had announced the latest round of category rollups in its 2012 Fall Update, titled "Category, Item Specifics, Catalog Updates."

eBay has been rolling up subcategories and replacing them with new Item Specifics, which must be check-marked by shoppers who want them to be included in their search, and selected by sellers in the listing process. (EcommerceBytes wrote about it when it first began back in 2004, and also when it caused complaints specifically in the Pottery & Glass category).

This seller was impacted in particular by the Fashion Jewelry category rollups, which were listed in the Update under "Category Changes: Jewelry & Watches": "It appears that most of the Jewelry and Watches subcategories have been gutted except Fine Jewelry," wrote the seller. "For Example: Fashion Jewelry>Necklaces and Pendants>Choker have gone away (as have all the other sub categories under Necklaces and Pendants). I won't rail long on eBay except to say that it is the stupidest decision I have ever heard of in any company. If one wants items to sell. Why would you make it impossible to sell an item."

The seller felt the old system of many subcategories was preferable to the current one of Item Specifics: "In the past they had an excellent set of categories (sure some others would have been nice but nonetheless it was a good set of categories)." They noted that "all the subcategories of Fashion Jewelry & Watches have no sub categories (e.g.. necklaces and pendants; Earrings: Rings; etc.) EXCEPT get ready: Body Jewelry > breaks down into  4 categories;  Body Piercing has a break down of 11 categories; Navel Rings has a breakdown of 7 categories; and none of those have a further breakdown."

If shoppers -- who are potential buyers -- always use the Item Specifics as they are intended, this should not have an adverse effect on sellers' -- and therefore eBay's -- sales. But, could eBay be losing sales from buyers who may prefer to browse a deep subcategory structure, and serendipitously stumble across items? Or, might there be shoppers who don't think to use the Item Specifics checkboxes, or don't know about them, leaving them at the mercy of the search words they happen to type in?

In one recent discussion, a seller said seller said the reason people were complaining they were not longer getting sales on eBay is because those sellers were not using Item Specifics. But other sellers denied this.

It's also interesting to look at eBay's home page now, and note it has a mere nine top-level categories, with the rest lumped under "All Categories." In looking at a screen capture of its top level in 2003, it had 23 top-level categories, plus some more subcategories visible under those on its home page.

What do you think? Have the category rollups affected the subcategories in which you sell, and if so, do you suspect it's causing a drop in sales? Do you as a shopper remember to use the Item Specifics when searching? As a seller, do you think you're using the Item Specifics effectively to list? Could eBay be losing sales it might get from shoppers who would prefer to browse? Post a comment here!




Comments (14) | Permalink

Readers Comments

Are eBay's Category Rollups Losing Buyers Who Browse?   Are eBay's Category Rollups Losing Buyers Who Browse?

by: mylifeisgood This user has validated their user name.

Thu Sep 13 14:54:44 2012

Most buyers have no clue on how to use search so it really doesn't matter much.

Most buyers do bother to read description how would they be smart enough to do a search for anything.

Are eBay's Category Rollups Losing Buyers Who Browse?   Are eBay's Category Rollups Losing Buyers Who Browse?

This user has validated their user name. by: Basset

Thu Sep 13 18:43:09 2012

As a seller, I always use all or most of the item specifics. Just in case. One place this MAY make a difference is with the mobile device customers since there is a screen for the item specifics only. They may never move on to the description page & make their decision from specifics & photos.

As a buyer, I really prefer to put in the parameters of my own search & go from there. The things I search for don't usually return a kajillion results. Right now, on one computer I have the ''old'' search format  and on another the ''new'' search format with the sliding scale price tool and ''completed'' listings at the top.
All I can say is I get more results to look at using the ''old'' search. With the new format, I feel like I'm missing out on stuff to look at. Also, the old one has the ''sunshine'' icon for new listings. The new format does not. I LIKE that icon!!!! Please add it to the new format!

I also do not like to go into Advanced Search to find the check box for ''search titles AND description'' I like it better with easy access as I use it fairly often.

Are eBay's Category Rollups Losing Buyers Who Browse?   Are eBay's Category Rollups Losing Buyers Who Browse?

by: alaska This user has validated their user name.

Thu Sep 13 23:31:30 2012

They did this to the books sub-categories years ago, lumping all non-fiction together into one impossibly gigantic mess of a category.

Are eBay's Category Rollups Losing Buyers Who Browse?   Are eBay's Category Rollups Losing Buyers Who Browse?

by: comet This user has validated their user name.

Fri Sep 14 00:10:35 2012

YEp I would much rather have more choices as a SELLER and a BUYER.  When I have tried to search for items I find a lot of times that I CANNOT find what I am looking for--even if I KNOW the item has the EXACT words in the title.  

LAst week I listed a Pearl Izumi item---and could NOT find it a few hours later.  Um---well--I KNOW it was out there since it had several views AND watchers!  

But when I use "Item Specifics" I often feel that this is buried.  And I am not exactly sure myself HOW best to use them when I search!!!!!  

Pretty sad when some one selling there doesn't know how to find stuff to buy.  

Are eBay's Category Rollups Losing Buyers Who Browse?   Are eBay's Category Rollups Losing Buyers Who Browse?

This user has validated their user name. by: bitbybit

Fri Sep 14 00:11:52 2012

People who don't like to read and are into body piercing looks to be the direction ebay is taking.

Are eBay's Category Rollups Losing Buyers Who Browse?   Are eBay's Category Rollups Losing Buyers Who Browse?

This user has validated their user name. by: bitbybit

Fri Sep 14 00:18:33 2012

Searching on ebay using IE9 I sometimes get zero results and then placing the same search on Firefox I will get hundreds or thousands. Also searching through Google gets more results for ebay items than actually being ON ebay.

Are eBay's Category Rollups Losing Buyers Who Browse?   Are eBay's Category Rollups Losing Buyers Who Browse?

by: blaumann This user has validated their user name.

Fri Sep 14 00:32:07 2012

Why would ebay do something productive?

Are eBay's Category Rollups Losing Buyers Who Browse?   Are eBay's Category Rollups Losing Buyers Who Browse?

by: OG This user has validated their user name.

Fri Sep 14 00:34:52 2012

I have a great deal of thoughts on this topic, and as both a buyer and seller on eBay I believe I have been directly and heavily impacted as a result of the ongoing changes to the search category structure.

I would like to begin by stating that eBay provides no clear source of information or knowledge base (that I know of) for how the different item specifics actually affect an item's search standing in eBay or in Google search results. Are we to believe that when selling vintage collectibles, we are expected to ''guess'' at the originally intended age range of a product (as recommended by eBay during the listing process) only to hope that someone searching for the same vintage collectible will ''guess'' a similar age range and have it come up in search? It seems to me the item specifics are changing almost daily, with broad, generalized and unfamiliar default terms (and no end to the mistakes such as missing manufacturers, disappearing UPCs, irrelevant specifics, etc..) that make browsing for an item using item specifics puzzling, difficult and frustrating. There is not even information provided to people who may not know of how to actually locate the important information use it to correctly fill in item specifics like BRAND, PART NUMBER and the new COUNTRY OF MANUFACTURE. No information is readily available from eBay on how to correctly source or identify these specifics on an actual item (or what to do if your information deviates from the norm, like multiple countries of manufacture), so just imagine how many people just incorrectly guess or assume and input the wrong info while listing! Not even basic guidelines are available, and the part numbers shown when you actually find your item in the eBay catalog are wrong quite often! Am I forced to guess / hope / wonder if a potential buyer will be searching by gender? Do I have to guess each time if my item is best for a boy, girl, or both? These choices are meant to ELIMINATE the grey area and make search more effective, not create a broad area of uncertainty where you never know if items have been left out of the item specifics you chose. In order to implement an item specifics search system like this it needs to be comprehensive and standardized! Where can I even figure out what the default search order is of the item specifics?

I operate in the collectibles business and much of my product is sourced through personal / private sellers like eBay auctions. I used to spend a few hours or so each day pouring over my collectibles categories, bidding and trying to find good deals. The sub categories being flooded with items that people advertise as ''vintage'' when they are not (with no policing or action taken by eBay to preserve the category structure integrity) was difficult enough, now that the sub categories in many collectibles categories have completely disappeared, wading through the unwanted and misrepresented junk has become unbearable. As I am a professional buyer and spend quite a few bucks buying merch, I realize that is also hurting the sellers who are no longer able to get the products they have for sale in front of buyers like me.

I also sell in the same category, and my sales volume has notably decreased since the category changes.

My area is mostly toys and collectibles (both new and vintage), and I feel like at one point eBay would at least pretend to try to keep up with the category tree of old, adding new branches as new brands and popular toy lines were released in order to make search most effective by not having to sort through all the different junk. Then the category trees just stopped growing and for several years sellers were forced to categorize items into the >other category as most of the new brands and items were not available. Now, the category structure has been completely decimated (I saw a funny thread in the eBay forum when a rep was asking advice from sellers about how they should build the new collectibles category structure, eBay probably had no clue what they were tearing down with no plan on how to rebuild it).

Changing the categories on a whim, changing item specifics from day to day, insisting that sellers use incomplete item specifics and item catalogs that are not properly updated on eBay's end and failing to provide vital information regarding these specifics to both buyers and sellers is most irresponsible and quite reprehensible. It makes no sense to me that when all this needed was a little bit of attention and tweaking in the name of regular maintenance (which most basic aspects of the site have received absolutely none of over the years). eBay is more likely to demolish an entire collectibles culture then add a simple category branch. In a situation where a bulldozer would have been excessive, eBay dropped a nuke and now nothing can grow until the radiation clears.    

Are eBay's Category Rollups Losing Buyers Who Browse?   Are eBay's Category Rollups Losing Buyers Who Browse?

by: Paul W This user has validated their user name.

Fri Sep 14 01:59:55 2012

I wish we could still browse site-wide ending soonest.  Sometimes you just want to find something interesting and not be restricted to one category.

Are eBay's Category Rollups Losing Buyers Who Browse?   Are eBay's Category Rollups Losing Buyers Who Browse?

This user has validated their user name. by: silent anarchy
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Fri Sep 14 07:22:43 2012

We need BUYERS not browsers. Weather i am selling at a show or online i see that browsers usualy dont buy.

Are eBay's Category Rollups Losing Buyers Who Browse?   Are eBay's Category Rollups Losing Buyers Who Browse?

This user has validated their user name. by: Rexford

Fri Sep 14 07:49:25 2012

This is just another example of how eBay over thinks everything.  To justify their jobs, the MBAs over at eBay have to constantly be tweaking and changing, and the changes never seem to benefit buyers or sellers.  KEEP IT SIMPLE STUPID.

This is why I love Amazon.com   It is a stable shopping and selling environment.  eBay is the house that will never be built.  

Are eBay's Category Rollups Losing Buyers Who Browse?   Are eBay's Category Rollups Losing Buyers Who Browse?

This user has validated their user name. by: permacrisis

Fri Sep 14 09:06:42 2012

Paul W, BAM. You nailed it.

A steady procession of the unusual, a huge, wide river of stuff slowly flowing past your screen going, going, gone and if you wanted something, you'd better JUMP and buy it.

That's what ebay had to offer, that Amazon didn't have.

And it was all for sale  by people- regular, ordinary people selling from their kitchen table. So there could be ANYTHING in that item churn- you just never knew.

These people were killing themselves rooting out the coolest stuff from junkpiles attics and newly discovered estates, and it showed in the quality of the stuff.

The quality was high because there were only two outcomes to listing: It was a binary situation- it either sold or not, none of this paypal chargeback/risk of theft crap. Thats why nobody lists good stuff anymore.

How many times have you seen people craning their neck to see what the 'other guy' has. There was that whole component too- the ability to watch the other bidders on the site.

So, so much lost. So much gone.

I know of three suicides caused by ebay's changes. How many more really were there?  

Are eBay's Category Rollups Losing Buyers Who Browse?   Are eBay's Category Rollups Losing Buyers Who Browse?

by: wallflower This user has validated their user name.

Sat Sep 15 10:58:17 2012

Three suicides  caused by ebay changes?? Is there anything online about this? That's horrible!!!

Are eBay's Category Rollups Losing Buyers Who Browse?   Are eBay's Category Rollups Losing Buyers Who Browse?

by: expertbenefits This user has validated their user name.

Sat Sep 15 11:17:27 2012

I think ending soonest all categories return would be great when you just want to see what is avialable to buy that might be really different...I agree that what was unique about eBay. I find that I often am looking for soemthing unusual in collectibles, jewelry, furnishings but not sure what and sometimes Have an idea and want to narrow down the search. I used to browse designer items but the search was too broad and got loaded with junk from China. The ability to refine the search is really important, to play around with it because ebay has become to crowded with department store type items and big box stores..I wish there was a filter to excclude big box stores and junk items that are available in quantities over 1000!



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