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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by: I Must be Crazy This user has validated their user name.

Mon Nov 16 13:34:24 2020

Why are they obtaining a patent on this now? Haven't they been hiding listings forever anyway?

It makes me chuckle because eBay has probably hundreds of patents. Most of them are useless and their programmers probably couldn't get most to work in a practical application anyhow.

I find patent's like this, taken out by companies in general, are just a way to have a claim to something should it bear fruit in some distant future.

Ebay already hides listings. I don't see this ever implemented into practice.  

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by: OnlyPollyPocket This user has validated their user name.

Mon Nov 16 13:48:31 2020

I put up this post in Power Sellers forum.  I wonder if the two things are related.  I just started noticing this problem a week or two ago:

I have a search string:  "polly pocket" -clothes -clothing -dresses -shoes -outfits -2018 -outfit

I select All Listings/Ending Soonest/Gallery View and 192 results per page.  I do this search every morning for the current day.

There are 23,000+ results but current day listings end halfway through the second page.  I know from experience that this can't be correct...there should be several pages of results.  So I select page 9 at the bottom of the page and land on listings ending on day 6.  Then I move forward to page 10 and, lo and behold, toward the bottom of the page after listings ending in 9 days 23 hours, I find the rest of the ending soonest listings which include a couple of pages of listings ending today.  The page on which the remainder of the ending soonest listings start varies from day to day but, generally, out on page 10, 11, 12, 13 etc

As a buyer, it is really frustrating having to guess from one day to the next where all the ending soonest listings are.

Ebay, is this your great "buyer experience"?

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by: eastwestphoto This user has validated their user name.

Mon Nov 16 14:16:57 2020

Problem is simple to solve:
1. Get rid of that ebay AI search Program
2. Go back to search by Title ONLY!!

Its that easy to solve.!

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by: pace306 This user has validated their user name.

Mon Nov 16 14:23:52 2020

Muscle flexing?

"BOSTON (Reuters) - Starboard Value said on Friday that it sold nearly three quarters of its stake in eBay Inc EBAY.O during the second quarter when the activist investment firm also ended its proxy fight at the ecommerce company.

At the end of June, Starboard owned 2,090,000 eBay shares, down 73% from the 7,920,000 it owned at the end of the first quarter, according to a regulatory filing the firm made on Friday. The filing did not say when Starboard cut its stake.

Starboard did not respond to a request for comment.

In April, Starboard withdrew its four director nominees after eBay had selected a new chief executive. The hedge fund had spent months pushing the company to tap an outsider for the top job and had also pressed for a sale of eBay’s classifieds advertising business.

This year’s proxy contest was the second time Starboard had pressured eBay since having won the right to help fill one seat on eBay’s board in early 2019."

Even Starboard threw in the towel .What do they know that we dont?

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by: spooky This user has validated their user name.

Mon Nov 16 14:52:57 2020

fortunately I almost always list items one of a kind or currently one of the few listed. But I still worry eBay plays games with the search visibility

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This user has validated their user name. by: Lightning

Mon Nov 16 22:47:25 2020

By @eastwestphoto above:
''Problem is simple to solve:
1. Get rid of that ebay AI search Program
2. Go back to search by Title ONLY!!''

COMPLETELY AGREE.  The search by Title Only should be available, nothing added, nothing withheld.  No added results because Item Specifics mentions the same color (in a totally different product!).  If you want it to be ''intuitive'' because you don't know the exact search terms to use, the ''magic words'', then THAT should be available, too.  People like options that fit their style, or the way they process information.  One size can't fit all.  

Like these (name brand) socks I just bought that somehow fit foot sizes 7-13.  How is that even possible??  The sock is 4 inches long!!

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by: Geetar This user has validated their user name.

Tue Nov 17 19:05:51 2020

Maybe they should be like Amazon, and hide all listings except the lowest price.

There are just way too many sellers on ebay. And it's growing. And guess what, buyers are disappearing. So what are they supposed to do? I said it before, and I will say it again, the search need's to be rebuilt. And when they do it sellers will be getting less exposure at the same time.

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This user has validated their user name. by: Rexford

Wed Nov 18 07:06:46 2020

I thought they'd been doing that for years. They just want sellers' money. They don't actually want to show sellers' listings.

What a business model. What other companies get away with this nonsense.

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by: Jono77 This user has validated their user name.

Fri Nov 20 05:28:31 2020

How about educating the 20% of shoppers who can't or don't know how to use the filters and update the mobile app to display all the filters properly.

This wrong headed idea will kill competition and drive down the amount of sellers which means eBay will need to make that loss back by increasing prices for the rest of us that remain aboard their sinking raft!

We are getting sick of eBay utter clown-holes!

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