Ina Steiner EcommerceBytes Blog
News and insight focusing on ecommerce.
by Ina Steiner, Editor of EcommerceBytes.com
Sun Nov 15 2020 16:34:38

eBay Patent Tackles Search Overload Problem

By: Ina Steiner

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If you've ever searched online for a product and been confronted with an enormous quantity of search results that all seem to be the same item, then you'll understand the reasoning behind an eBay patent tiled, "Removal of listings based on similarity."

"Hurray," shoppers may think, a solution to search overload where the first 10 pages of search results are listings for the same item, perhaps by the same few sellers.

But simplifying the search experience by the practice of hiding some (or many) listings is fraught with risks - not only for the shopper, who may miss the item they really wanted - but for sellers whose items may never see the light of day in search results.

Here's information from the "Background" section of the patent:

"With the large volume of listings of goods, services, and the like available for purchase on the Internet, a user can very easily become overwhelmed with a presented number of listings. For example, a user may search for an item for sale and be presented with thousands of listings."

Here's an excerpt of the patent citing an example of a shopper searching for tickets to purchase:

"In some embodiments of the present disclosure, some listings will be culled, removed, truncated, or otherwise excluded from the list of results presented to the user based on similarity to another listing that is displayed to the user. For example, if two tickets were retrieved as meeting the search request of the user, and both tickets were on the same row with one being fifteen dollars less than the other, only the less expensive ticket may be presented to the user because of the superiority in price of the less expensive ticket. The more expensive ticket may be excluded from the view of the user.

"By removing listings from query results, a number of benefits may be achieved. For example, a user may have a shorter list of more pertinent listings for their review and selection, increasing the likelihood of the user purchasing from the listings."

The idea that a shorter list of more pertinent listings increases the chances of a sale seems sound. But what factors should go into such an algorithm? 

Thinking of your own experiences, let us know the pros and cons of a marketplace eliminating similar listings from search results - is it a good strategy? And, presuming eBay and other marketplaces are already engaging in such practices, how good a job are they doing?

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Readers Comments

Perminate Link for eBay Patent Tackles Search Overload Problem   eBay Patent Tackles Search Overload Problem

by: lessthanthreerecords This user has validated their user name.

Sun Nov 15 17:05:35 2020

This is an absolutely awful idea!  eBay's algorithms can't tell which items are the same and which are different.  I spent years in constant contact with eBay's catalog team before a higher-up in that department finally authorized my account to be "blacklisted" meaning I can request to have my listings not link with the catalog.  The issue was that I sell collectible items and eBay's catalog would almost always link my item with a different catalog product.  In most cases, the item I was selling had the same UPC but was a different item.  My listing was generally a more valuable edition than the one eBay's system thought it was, so it was not uncommon for eBay to advertise (falsely) that my $150 item could be purchased from another seller for just $20.  Only when you clicked that link, it was a totally different pressing!  Now they're going to hide items altogether, and I'm sure they'll use the same criteria.  I just hope that having my listings blacklisted from the catalog will exempt them from this awful program.  Another problem is that price is not the only factor.  For example, two sellers may be offering the same item for sale, but in different conditions.  A buyer may prefer to pay more for one in better condition.  I'm guessing eBay may take that into consideration in terms of showing higher priced "new" items and lower priced "used" items, but new/used is not the only factor in regards to condition.  An item may be new but have some minor imperfections (most items sold as "new" in stores are not "mint"), and used items are going to have even more variation in terms of condition.  Also, what about special attributes?  Let's say two sellers are selling the exact same book, one for $12 and one for $100.  I'll bet eBay hides the $100 book.  But did they take the time to inspect the listing to find out that the $100 copy is signed by the author?  Many buyers would be willing to pay a much higher price for a signed copy.  This idea is a disaster, but it's eBay, so you shouldn't expect any better.

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by: RL15 This user has validated their user name.

Sun Nov 15 17:11:46 2020

way to go fleecebay, hide more listings

listings are already hidden, so, hide some more. screw the sellers and now even screwing the buyers/

the 2 walmart dopes just keep showing how idiotic they are.

Perminate Link for eBay Patent Tackles Search Overload Problem   eBay Patent Tackles Search Overload Problem

by: Snapped This user has validated their user name.

Sun Nov 15 18:57:20 2020

If eBay wants to reduce ‘overload’, then stop showing duplicate items from the same seller - no matter how much they bribe to have that listing policy restriction ‘overlooked’ in the first place.

Otherwise, let the BUYER determine how to best filter THEIR choices from there. Want to increase sale chances? STOP thinking for them.

Now that would be novel, no? And no patent lawyer costs need be expended.

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by: justchangecarriers This user has validated their user name.

Sun Nov 15 21:00:46 2020

Im not overwhelmed at all if you actually include only the words I type when you search EBAY. Adding all this extra nonsense that has none of what I typed in its title is the problem. Bring back a simpler search of what you type is what it brings up. Quit trying to think you know what the buyer is searching for. Just bring up what they type. Let them filter on the side what they want to exclude.

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by: thriftyone This user has validated their user name.

Sun Nov 15 21:09:21 2020

wow....then what in the hell are the filters for?....Buyers can sort from lowest to highest and can go from there....as others have said I am sure they will be comparing apples to oranges and end up hiding the items buyers actually want....they just need to f'ing stop with the nonsense....bring some sellers aboard who can tell them how to run the ship before they dig it further into the ground....I am so over them....

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This user has validated their user name. by: Carl

Sun Nov 15 21:31:54 2020

Ahh, clever. It is in the terms that they can hide your listings.
This would make it legal without any recourse...and all under the guise of a patent.
Brilliant.

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This user has validated their user name. by: Lightning

Sun Nov 15 22:21:40 2020

I searched for "stupid ideas" and it linked me to this article.

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by: Silver Ice King This user has validated their user name.

Sun Nov 15 22:49:35 2020

Ebay is trying to add value to their company and patents no matter how really useless they are in reality impress potential buyers into thinking they have something valuable when in fact it is nothing but another attempt to cover up their defective search engine as well as platform.

Why don't you geniuses do what most companies do to add value, fix what is wrong with the company including ridding themselves of overpaid deadwood  in management.  Instead of fixing what is wrong with their company Ebay continues to find ways to try and explain their worthless platform.

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by: ox-mix This user has validated their user name.

Mon Nov 16 00:19:29 2020

EBay's search policy is a load of crap. I despise it as a seller because eBay will gladly take listing fees, then hide the seller's listings. That's unethical but totally expected from a lame operation like eBay. Instead of hiding listings, why don't they encourage buyers to use the filters so that they can select who they want to buy from based on what's important to them? If they want something cheap, they can sort (filter) based on price. If they want something in the best shape, then eBay should put their resources into including a filter based on item condition. By hiding items all they're trying to do is to tell buyers who to buy from. Now, as I also buy on eBay I now hate them as a buyer because when I'm looking for something on eBay I want to see EVERYTHING that falls under the search word(s), then use the filter to decide who I want to buy from based on price and condition. All eBay has to do is send an e-mail out to people making them aware of the filters they can use to shorten the list of items that fall under certain search words. I don't like someone telling me who I should buy from. Just show me everything that's available and let ME decide from whom to buy. They're just a bunch of control freaks. All Cassini has done is pissed off sellers, and now pissed off the people whose rears they're trying to kiss - the buyers. Being both, I'm doubly pissed. Then, toss in a Managed Payments program which appears to have issues and you can see the train wreck eBay really is. And as long as they keep recycling executives like aluminum cans things will never change.

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by: GovyGirl This user has validated their user name.

Mon Nov 16 01:08:20 2020

I can never find my favorite seller on Amazon when I'm searching for the products they sell (I first found them through Google). I have to go back to my purchase history and hit their store name link.  I guess this would be similar.  As a buyer, I want to see all search results. I will filter out what I don't want to see.  I hate it when Ebay tells me they are not showing all results and I miss that message. I have to start my search all over when I tell them I want to see all.  Bad Idea

Perminate Link for eBay Patent Tackles Search Overload Problem   eBay Patent Tackles Search Overload Problem

This user has validated their user name. by: ySirTinLee

Mon Nov 16 01:16:44 2020

Do sellers list their items for free!?   I don't sell on ebay any longer, but when I did, I had to pay to list my items.  I would be mad as hell if ebay hid my items when I paid to have them listed.  

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by: Chicago48 This user has validated their user name.

Mon Nov 16 04:27:09 2020

Google is my go-to.  I type in "Widget Ebay" and all the widgets I want to buy from Ebay (or AMZ) show up, and then I narrow it down by price (or color or size).  

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by: COVID-19 This user has validated their user name.

Mon Nov 16 04:58:05 2020

There is no overload problem.  The only problem is eBay's own stupidity.

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by: wrslss1222 This user has validated their user name.
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Mon Nov 16 05:40:19 2020

Once again eBay is on another planet.  eBay allows sellers to promote their listings for a percentage which really is duplicating the seller's listing under the guise of Promotion.  This Promotion costs sellers a fee.  Why would eBay charge sellers to Promote their items and then eliminate them in a search?  Another problem is that eBay has never been able to compare like listings because their logic is flawed.  They are in effect comparing apples and oranges.  Once again, instead of eBay coming up with these moronic changes and ideas they need to fix what is not working.

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by: Chicago48 This user has validated their user name.

Mon Nov 16 07:42:02 2020

Do sellers list their items for free!?   I don't sell on ebay any longer, but when I did, I had to pay to list my items.  I would be mad as hell if ebay hid my items when I paid to have them listed.
^^
You get 50 or 100 or 200 free listings depending on your level of store or non-store.  
I only do auctions, I had a store and discontinued because Ebay fees were killing me. If you exceed your free limit you are charged .35c a listing.  

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by: frustrated This user has validated their user name.

Mon Nov 16 08:22:21 2020

Hey dopeys. Stop smoking pot and go BACK TO VOYAGER.  If you are running this business to make M-O-N-E-Y. (I guess you are, right?) then go back to Voyager.  

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This user has validated their user name. by: toolguy

Mon Nov 16 09:05:57 2020

Let's use rocket science on this one!

Give the searcher ALL of the results

If there are too many results let the buyer hit a "Refine" button to shorten the list

It would be the buyers choice to shorten the list not the search engine!

Way too many college educated idiots at eBay. . . .

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by: rfm This user has validated their user name.

Mon Nov 16 09:09:33 2020

If the search engine just worked properly using the parameters supplied, including boolean expressions, there would be no problem.  

It's ebay's constant need to manipulate the results that is frustrating buyers and sellers, especially by returning completely unrelated listings then what was searched for.

If ebay can't separate out unrelated results, how would it ever do so for similar ones.  There is something really wrong with all this.  Must be some hidden way this benefits ebay, because it sure doesn't help most of us.

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This user has validated their user name. by: toolguy

Mon Nov 16 09:32:40 2020

Overload? LOL

Yea, if you're searching for a iPhone SE cover you'll get an overload of results.

If you're searching for a Lee hand loader in 30-40 Krag probably not.

I don't buy or sell common use items on eBay so I don't have the "overload" problem.

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by: pace306 This user has validated their user name.

Mon Nov 16 10:54:20 2020

....... just like the mafia.

They are going to limit what you see, not show you things THEY think you dont want to see, put in the listings they make the most money on - all while sitting back and collecting fees.

If I pay for a store and list 100 items - I should BY RIGHT/LAW be able to see all 100 listings LIVE at all times until they expire (if ever).

If not - thats FRAUD. I pay for a service (listing) that are hidden!

Theres no scam that eBay wont stoop to.

eBay should be prosecuted under RICO, period.

And as usual eBay dopes - come at me bro - come sue me for slander ! I DOUBLE DOG DARE YOU.

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