eBay is moving to a product-based shopping experience this year, as we reported
last week. We got our hands on eBay's official playbook that outlines the plan's two phases along with some key dates sellers should know. Expect to see eBay address this in the first Seller Update of 2018, which could come as early as this week.
According to the playbook, "eBay is transforming the Shopping Experience to make it easier to browse and find the items buyers are looking for. This will be a Product-Based Shopping Experience vs the current Listing Based Experience. The result will be a pleasant and consistent buying experience with improved conversion rate and better search engine optimization both on and off eBay."
To get an understanding of what eBay means when it says it's moving from a listings based experience to a product based experienced, use the Grouped Similar Listings feature, which eBay states is an "early version" of Product-Based search. You can read more in this EcommerceBytes Newsflash article
As we reported, when eBay makes the product experience the default, whichever seller gets the main Buy Box gains a tremendous advantage, just as they do in the Amazon experience. And like Amazon, eBay gives persistent shoppers the opportunity to view other items if they wish.
Note that eBay uses the product identifiers sellers provide in their listings to make product matches - as the new experience rolls out, sellers won't be able to list certain items unless they match it to eBay's catalog using the product identifier.
eBay Will Roll Out Changes in Two Waves in 2018
In the playbook eBay provided to developers in January, eBay provided an overview of the changes it will roll out in 2018.
In "Wave 1," sellers will be required to list against an eBay catalog product for specific brands within a select number of eBay categories. (See accompanying Newsflash story for list.)
In "Wave 2," eBay will expand the Product-Based Shopping Experience to whole categories (and not just select product lines).
Sellers will start getting notified of non-compliant listings by various means such as My eBay Messages, by email, and in Seller Hub.
Sellers will be required to list against an eBay catalog product for specific brands within a select number of eBay categories. ("Starting in May, if we determine that you are selling a product in the product lines listed but you did not select a product from the catalog for it, you will be unable to complete the listing.")
For applicable brands, the new product-based shopping experience will only display listings for the initial set of product lines that have adopted a product in the eBay catalog.
eBay will expand the Product-Based Shopping Experience to entire categories.
The mandate will start rolling out to additional international markets in 2019 and beyond. (In 2018, the mandate will apply to US, UK, AU, and CA (English) sites.)
Catalog Restrictions: Item Specifics and Photos
Sellers can't modify item specifics defined in a catalog product. However, sellers will be able to continue to supply their own unique photos and relevant item specifics to a listing in addition to the photos and item specifics that are sourced from the eBay catalog data.
If a seller adds one or more of their own photos, the View Item page for the listing will only show the seller-provided photo(s) and not the stock photo. However, the Product Page will show both the stock and seller-provided photos.
Vintage and One of Kind Goods
We've heard from sellers of unique products who are concerned about what eBay's plans means for them. eBay hasn't specifically addressed how its new product-based shopping experience would impact vintage and one-of-a-kind goods, but it has previously addressed how its product identifiers policy affects these categories:
I sell used/collectible/vintage/one-of-a-kind items. Do I have to add product identifiers to my listing?
No. Although we recommend that you use product identifiers whenever possible to maintain search visibility, they are not required for listings of used, collectible, vintage, unbranded, or one-of-a-kind items at this time. Use "Does not apply" in the required fields.
It's interesting to note that while eBay provided details of its plans to developers, it glossed over the pending changes in recent posts on blog posts read by sellers. In this post
, eBay Vice President of Buyer Experience Mohan Patt said: "We'll use structured data in a more holistic way than we've done before to take the next step in transforming the user experience on our platform, by launching a full product-based commerce experience for relevant inventory."
And Bob Kupbens, Vice President of B2C Selling and Global Trust, touched on the changes in this blog post
: "We'll help buyers find what they want quickly by leveraging product based commerce and our advances in structured data. We'll invest heavily in cutting-edge technologies including artificial intelligence, augmented reality, and more, creating an eBay like you've never seen before. We'll also ask for your valuable expertise and feedback in regards to the eBay catalog as we continue to roll out our new model of shopping."
The number of products is quite limited for Phase 1 (May 2018), but Phase 2 (August 2018) includes entire categories, not just specific products. See the accompanying article
for a list of Phase 1 products impacted by the mandate.