Ina Steiner EcommerceBytes Blog
News and insight focusing on ecommerce.
by Ina Steiner, Editor of EcommerceBytes.com
Fri Jan 13 2023 17:50:24

eBay Sellers Fight the Algorithm and They Aren't Alone

By: Ina Steiner

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People are increasingly aware of how corporations are using algorithms behind the scenes, and a recent news story revealed an unexpected entity that is fighting back - a public school district filed a lawsuit against Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok, Google, and YouTube, claiming their algorithms manipulate and exploit vulnerable young people.

Tech companies are watching their customers' every move to better target their marketing campaigns and boost revenue. But online sellers are also being scrutinized, something not lost on EcommerceBytes readers.

This hit home when reading a comment on the EcommerceBytes blog from a seller who said they go out of their way to foil eBay's algorithm. 

The topic of the blog post was the vexing questions buyers ask sellers. Naturally, the topic turned to eBay's "offers" feature that allows buyers to negotiate a lower price - some sellers find it annoying when they make it clear they don't entertain offers but receive such requests anyway.

In their comment, the seller said they always responded to offers with a counteroffer - even if it's just a dollar less than the asking price - because, they said, "that helps eBay's algorithm know you are trying to make a deal as opposed to a flat rejection."

Since eBay's algorithm takes into account buyer and seller behavior, it's not farfetched to think that eBay may be looking at how sellers handle offers.

The concern is how marketplaces like eBay, Amazon, and Etsy use algorithms to determine which listings to show someone searching for an item - and in which order. This translates into higher or lower sales for a seller depending on the exposure their listings receive in search. 

Complicating matters for online sellers is the fact that marketplaces now include promoted listings (ads) in search results - with little to no transparency on how sellers' paid and organic listings will appear. All of this makes it a challenge for sellers to optimize their listings, and many have turned to paying extra in advertising fees to gain visibility in search results.

But the more sellers who are paying to promote their listings, the more ads - and search results can get muddied. Marketplace Pulse highlighted this challenge last year in a post titled, "Amazon Is Burying Organic Search Results." 

"Of the first twenty products a shopper sees when searching on Amazon, only four are organic results. There is little space left for organic results at the top of the page, the real estate that drives most sales," Juozas Kaziukenas wrote.

We wrote about how customer claims (such as Item Not Received) negatively impact sellers' eBay search rankings in this October article, including an embedded video of a presentation from eBay Open 2022 where executives discussed the latest factors that influence its search engine ranking.

Like the seller who makes sure they respond to every offer so as not to be penalized by eBay's algorithm, do you change your behavior so as not to hurt your standings in search? How do you outwit the algorithm?

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Readers Comments

Perminate Link for eBay Sellers Fight the Algorithm and They Aren't Alone   eBay Sellers Fight the Algorithm and They Aren't Alone

by: CT Bay This user has validated their user name.

Sat Jan 14 06:28:13 2023

The stock is tanking. Active buyers continue to decline. It clearly doesn’t increase revenue or grow their business. Why do they continue to think this is a good idea? Just show people what they searched for!!

Perminate Link for eBay Sellers Fight the Algorithm and They Aren't Alone   eBay Sellers Fight the Algorithm and They Aren't Alone

This user has validated their user name. by: toolguy

Sat Jan 14 09:42:41 2023

eBay search has always worked for me, I use this search at least 50 times a day!

And it's paid off with great buys. . .

https://www.ebay.com/sch/i.html?_from=R40&_nkw=leatherman&_sa
cat=0&_sop=10

Perminate Link for eBay Sellers Fight the Algorithm and They Aren't Alone   eBay Sellers Fight the Algorithm and They Aren't Alone

This user has validated their user name. by: Rexford

Sat Jan 14 14:28:53 2023

1) You have sites (particularly eBay) that can't get basic programming or search right using algorithms. How many ways can you say that they are out of their league?
2) Algorithms are the modern day rigged carnival trick. Pure evil.

Show buyers what buyers want to see, not what YOU want them
to see or only for those who are padding your pockets.

Perminate Link for eBay Sellers Fight the Algorithm and They Aren't Alone   eBay Sellers Fight the Algorithm and They Aren't Alone

by: ebayout This user has validated their user name.

Sat Jan 14 14:35:57 2023

eBay is like going to the grocery and not seeing any canned corn...and somedays frozen corn.  

Perminate Link for eBay Sellers Fight the Algorithm and They Aren't Alone   eBay Sellers Fight the Algorithm and They Aren't Alone

by: Snapped This user has validated their user name.

Sat Jan 14 18:54:18 2023

“… I use this search at least 50 times a day! ”

That’s the problem.  It should work right the first time.  

Perminate Link for eBay Sellers Fight the Algorithm and They Aren't Alone   eBay Sellers Fight the Algorithm and They Aren't Alone

by: pace306 This user has validated their user name.

Sat Jan 14 20:46:12 2023

Its called "being to smart for your own good"

Greedy people (AHEM eBay) always think they know better when they dont.

They think that if you tighten the screws they will get more sales, when the exact opposite happens.

When you let sellers be their best and do their best, the company will grow.

I just went through (3 hrs) with the worlds dumbest company - I have a customer with a sales tax issue - he is being charged the wrong tax rate (hes right the state rate where I am is less then what eBay is charging him) and after 6 calls, 2 online chats and 1 specialist AMERICAN guy in FL (probably in his den watching VELMA) - HE couldnt answer the issue either.

Yes - eBay searched worked 50 , 100, 1000000000 times correctly - but just and ONLY for you.

Perminate Link for eBay Sellers Fight the Algorithm and They Aren't Alone   eBay Sellers Fight the Algorithm and They Aren't Alone

by: Shanna This user has validated their user name.

Sun Jan 15 10:49:41 2023

Just because you have never been in a plane crash does not mean they never happen.

Perminate Link for eBay Sellers Fight the Algorithm and They Aren't Alone   eBay Sellers Fight the Algorithm and They Aren't Alone

by: Justwantebaytolisten This user has validated their user name.

Sun Jan 15 14:09:28 2023

The search is ebay's number 1 issue.  It's just plain awful. Irrelevant and forced to show everything but accurate results. If they would just show a page full of what you actually search for the site would grow again. They sacrifice actually sales and butter growth for advertising dollars. They take the easy quick buck but it's hurting the platform long term. It's just such a shame to have to use Google to search on eBay since eBay search never shows the actual active listings...... I honestly don't know how anyone finds anything on eBay

Perminate Link for eBay Sellers Fight the Algorithm and They Aren't Alone   eBay Sellers Fight the Algorithm and They Aren't Alone

by: smallstuff This user has validated their user name.

Mon Jan 16 00:23:40 2023

eBay search usually works well for me - both as a seller and as a buyer.  If only some other companies had such good search engines.  I used to buy a lot of shipping supplies at Staples, but their search engine usually does not show what I have always bought from them.

Perminate Link for eBay Sellers Fight the Algorithm and They Aren't Alone   eBay Sellers Fight the Algorithm and They Aren't Alone

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

Mon Jan 16 00:36:50 2023

At the top of search results (disregarding sponsored listings) are the items eBay thinks are most likely to sell.  What their algorithm is and whether it is effective I do not know.  But I do know that starting titles with the best keywords (among some other factors) gives a seller the best shot at a sale, especially in crowded categories.  

Perminate Link for eBay Sellers Fight the Algorithm and They Aren't Alone   eBay Sellers Fight the Algorithm and They Aren't Alone

by: Sierra This user has validated their user name.

Mon Jan 16 00:44:23 2023

I sold on Amazon Handmade for 5 years. I stopped in October 2020 when I finally had enough of not being able to find my items in search. I could go to the Handmade "department" and my things surfaced easily, usually at the top of the 1st page ... but they were NOWHERE to be found when searching on what many Handmade sellers called "regular Amazon" (meaning not going to Handmade first). Even after Amazon Handmade had been around for 5 years, most shoppers didn't know that Amazon even had a "handmade" section, so it was imperative for handmade items to appear in search results on "regular Amazon." (there were only about 7 pages of search results for my main search term on "regular Amazon" so it was easy for me to go thru all of the results trying to find my items).

In early October 2020, just before I called it quits on Amazon, I was able to speak with an Amazon employee (based in Seattle), not a regular seller support rep but someone who seemed to really know how things worked. He admitted that Amazon was showing shoppers things they "thought" they'd want to see based on their behavior (i.e., searches, purchases, etc.). The random things mixed in with my searches were rarely things I'd searched for OR bought on Amazon (or ANYWHERE!). Within a year, I started seeing the same thing happen on Etsy. I've only been noticing this strategy on eBay in the last few 6 months or so.

These tactics aren't helping sellers and I'm willing to bet they're chasing shoppers away.  

Perminate Link for eBay Sellers Fight the Algorithm and They Aren't Alone   eBay Sellers Fight the Algorithm and They Aren't Alone

This user has validated their user name. by: Marie

Mon Jan 16 02:04:04 2023

For me I hate Amazon's search, I actually find it worse than Ebay's and I'm not that fond of Ebay's either.

Perminate Link for eBay Sellers Fight the Algorithm and They Aren't Alone   eBay Sellers Fight the Algorithm and They Aren't Alone

by: Actual Seller This user has validated their user name.

Mon Jan 16 03:26:15 2023

eBay multi-variant listings are a disaster.
For example, search for 100 6x6x6 boxes and sort by lowest, and you get people spamming single box low, but in the listing, the 6x6x6 is way higher.

Perminate Link for eBay Sellers Fight the Algorithm and They Aren't Alone   eBay Sellers Fight the Algorithm and They Aren't Alone

by: Tahiti_Tom This user has validated their user name.

Mon Jan 16 06:19:11 2023

Wow, I loved the article. A few months ago we started doing this exact same thing because we felt that declining offers, even the really horrible ones, was hurting the number of offers we got. It could just be in our head, but it seems like it works.

Perminate Link for eBay Sellers Fight the Algorithm and They Aren't Alone   eBay Sellers Fight the Algorithm and They Aren't Alone

by: ADJackson This user has validated their user name.

Mon Jan 16 06:51:00 2023

I don't find eBay's search results that bad. In fact, it is easy to manipulate with their Advanced Search option. for example, I can search for cheapest item and that is exactly what I get. Amazon, on the other hand, is a nightmare. Their search for the cheapest gets me items that are totally unrelated to what I am looking for. In fact, I am forced to choose from what they decide. So, buyers end up buying the item that is promoted on their page; it is pushed in your face.

Yes, eBay could improve on their search algorithm but Amazon's is the pits.  

Perminate Link for eBay Sellers Fight the Algorithm and They Aren't Alone   eBay Sellers Fight the Algorithm and They Aren't Alone

by: AddyUp This user has validated their user name.

Mon Jan 16 08:15:19 2023

When I lay out a new ad on eBay it looks clean and clear. But when it's live on the site it's a jumbled mess.

Rows and rows of ads for other peoples items. I counted fifty. Mine was in there somewhere. Sometimes I wonder if the buyer knows what they are really buying.

Perminate Link for eBay Sellers Fight the Algorithm and They Aren't Alone   eBay Sellers Fight the Algorithm and They Aren't Alone

by: Calling You Out This user has validated their user name.

Mon Jan 16 08:31:22 2023

CT BAY posted "The stock is tanking"

uh no as a matter of fact ebay stock is up (‎+5,754.21%)

Had you bought $100 worth of Ebay stock you would now have $575,421.00

Perminate Link for eBay Sellers Fight the Algorithm and They Aren't Alone   eBay Sellers Fight the Algorithm and They Aren't Alone

by: Frank Abagnale This user has validated their user name.

Mon Jan 16 09:20:14 2023

You have to put yourself in ebay's shoes. In 2019 (pre-pandemic) their GMV was about $90 billion. This year, it will be about $75 billion. So, how does ebay replace that lost GMV? Simple. Handle payments yourself. Raise current fees. Eliminate or reduce perks. Cut costs. Charge extra or increase the minimum amount for features such as promoted listings (they will probably increase the minimum percentage in the future). Increase ads on the site. Manipulation of the search results for a higher sale is probably on that list.

And I agree with pace306 "They think that if you tighten the screws they will get more sales, when the exact opposite happens." This is not 2006 when ebay sellers had less choices. Today, sellers have way more options and even the life long ebay regulars are using cross listing software to spread their eggs in other baskets.

     

Perminate Link for eBay Sellers Fight the Algorithm and They Aren't Alone   eBay Sellers Fight the Algorithm and They Aren't Alone

by: Frank Abagnale This user has validated their user name.

Mon Jan 16 09:37:50 2023

I checked Amazon stock and they are up 108,922%. So multiply that by $100 and......

Perminate Link for eBay Sellers Fight the Algorithm and They Aren't Alone   eBay Sellers Fight the Algorithm and They Aren't Alone

by: ebayout This user has validated their user name.

Mon Jan 16 11:18:54 2023

@CT...I looked for time machines on eBay. If there were any, they were hidden.

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