eBay is holding a Town Hall Meeting to discuss the 2012 Fall Seller Update on July 25, 2012, Greg Holden is live-blogging the event. Note that this is not a transcript - many questions and answers are summarized/paraphrased. Apologies in advance for misspellings of people's names - we're happy to correct if notified.
Griff is hosting the event, and executives and managers fielding questions from eBay users include Michael Jones, Kristina Klausen, Johnathan Haney (seller protection), Linda C. (TRS program), Jon C. (Seller Standards) and Lewis Olsen.
As I write this in Chicago, the temperature is hovering around 100 degrees. Let's see how hot it gets in eBay's Front Porch conference room today as a new set of seller changes - I mean, improvements - goes down.
"MJ" Michael Jones starts out. (Doesn't he know that acronym is owned by Michael Jordan?) Top rated sellers are selling at a faster pace than overall ecommerce, he says. New user growth: In Q2 2 million users were added to the platform, 600,000 of them from mobile devices. 90 million downloads of eBay apps to mobile devices which they expect to generate $10 billion sales in 2012. "We can't thank our sellers enough for all the hard work they're putting in, says Jones.
Question from Jim in Chicago (BargainBuyout): I'm a Top Rated Seller, 100% feedback rating. I have 272 listings on eBay currently. I ship those from 15 different warehouses. under new seller update, I will lose my top rated seller badge. I can't do one-day handling.
The business day ends at 11:59. If a customer puts in an order at 11:59 on Monday night, I am required to have it posted by Tuesday night, which is same-day handling for my warehouse. Can you consider ending the business day earlier, to conform to the actual business day? This is fine if you sell from your house, but I deal with 15 different warehouses. Some of my warehouses can do same day shipping but I don't get the tracking number until the next day. I'm going to lose my discount on 80 percent of my products plus I won't get the top-rated seller badge.
Answer: Kristina? We're trying to get our sellers to compete in ecommerce and deliver on buyer expectations. When buyers purchase at 8 p.m., the next day is a business day for them. There are some complexities that may be involved in many of our sellers business, but there is also an opportunity to examine changes specific to sellers. We encourage you to call us to see if we can make some of those fundamental changes.
Email Question: Jill (Jill_Mazz): I had a question about the upcoming optical character recognition box that will be searching listings. This type of picture appears to be in violation of the new text in photos rule. Will the bots be able to ignore this important info. in my listings (pictures of clothing labels)?
John: We encourage you to keep photos of labels in your photos. A picture is meant to highlight the details; you're doing exactly what we want you to do.
Griff: so text that is part of the item as opposed to text that is part of an overlay, is of concern.
John: That's right, we looked at SEO and how Google looks at pictures and we're trying to optimize the experience for that.
Email Question: Any trading cards sold as an individual is no longer new once package has been opened. Are we required to use actual photos? How do we report someone who doesn't conform to the new policy.
John: You can't use the eBay stock photo in the trading cards category. (Editor: emphasis is on "eBay.") You are more than capable of using your own stock photo of an item in those categories.
Griff: How do you report any listing that you believe is violating policy?
John: We're going to make sure community members can do this. We're going to be able to doing a lot of work on our end and catch them before it even gets that far. We have this in our plan and we love the cooperation of our community in keeping the site clean.
Email Question: Since any announcement that is detrimental to sellers is announced as new updates that will make your life better, how do we believe that it's worthwhile to report buyers? Bear in mind that anything you ask us to do makes the platform less profitable for us.
John: I think it's clear that the changes we have announced have resulted in better sales. I would dispute this.
Woman from eBay: We recognize that we're going to be successful when our sellers are successful. We're trying to make changes that will make the marketplace better. We want to help our sellers grow.
John: We want a fair and balanced marketplace, and there are some buyers who are not making it a balanced marketplace, and we will ask them to leave, but they are a very small minority of all the buyers sellers will interact with.
Griff: to displel the rumor that we aren't doing anything, are we putting our money where are mouth is on this one?
John: Absolutely. We have a team in Salt Lake City that is doing this. (looking for abusive buyers)
Kristina: The new eBay reporting flow is designed to do just that. When we hear from multiple sellers about someone, that makes it really easy for us.
Griff: I know that trust and safety relies in the messages in My Messages to know what's going on.
Email Question: I sell used clothing, and sometimes I want to point out flaws. Am I allowed to point to the flaws with a pencil line (or arrow) drawn in the photos?
John: Yes it's perfectly fine to point with a pencil; we discourage circles or arrows drawn with software to point to the flaw. We encourage people to take pictures of flaws. We are working on fixes on the platform to allow people to highlight comments much easier. We hope to have other features to delight the community and address these concerns.
Griff: Use the macro feature on your camera.
John: We also give the community advice on taking pictures, in the Photo Center.
Travis in Elkhart IN (sportbikeneeds): I'm curious about the understanding and the direction of the top rated plus. TSR scores ...; all of my scores 4.9 to 5s. 99.2 % of my items have been shipped on time. Most of my items have a 30-day return policy. About 800 domestic transactions, in the powersports industry...the question to me is, I'm in a situation where I purposely have given away my discount to change it to a two-day handling time to exceed customer expectations. Situations where someone places an order at 2 a.m. and it still has to go out that day, I've moved most of my listings back to 2-day handling. This is going to hurt my business huge in that we try to exceed customer expectations unlike my competition. Now in the search results, we're going to be hurt.
Kristina: It sounds like you're concerned with the inventory that you're using, drop shippers, you are unable to meet the two-day handling time.
Travis: We try to not drop ship as much as possible. Anything that we sell one or two a year of, we keep in stock. With the returns, and the algorithms, we are not getting the kind of sell-through ratios, our sales have dropped to 25,000 a week where it should be $60,000 a week. I'm struggling to hold on to the top-rated seller status. i'm trying to understand with the algorithms how I can exceed the customers' expectations.
Kristina: If you can meet the one-day handling time, I encourage you to offer it, and you delight your buyers. Buyers are looking for the rapid handling. It sounds like you have been doing a great job of satisfying buyers.
Question from Jennifer (allourvault): Many of my photos have borders on them. Is ebay going to be instituting a tool to crop out photographs that have borders without having to reload it? I have thousands of such photos.
Jonathan: unfortunately we don't offer picture cropping utilities. We are not planning on offering any such software at this point.
Jennifer: Can you go back to the system where you edit the photo after you upload it as opposed to before you upload it?
Kristina: We are looking at providing such tools. As you upload photos, take out the borders, is my advice.
Jennifer: Secondly is there going to be any way to identify pictures that are small before you upload them?
Jonathan: Next year there will be a way to do that.
Question from Janis (topdogette): I just lost my top rated status because I do not supply tracking, and I do not allow returns. I sell double-sealed packs of orthodontic bands. Once they are opened, they are not resellable. I sell in a #10 envelope. You cannot pay to have a #10 envelope tracked. Sometimes when eBay makes a new rule, maybe they don't think it through all the way. Some of these new rules are not fair to all sellers.
Kristina: we are asking our sellers to deliver the expectations that our buyers are looking for when they shop. Delivering that consistent experience is our goal. It may be a case where you can et your terms on your return policy you can tell people that if the item has been opened I will not accept returns. (But she will accept returns otherwise.)
Not all callers are getting through because eBay is screening the calls.
Griff makes speech about not assuming you can't do something and making a business decision before you do the economics, etc.
Janis: I understand the economics entirely. My product sellers for $4.35 to $5.50. It would cost me too much to mail first-class. Seems stupid to do for an item that can fit in a #10 envelope.
Griff: I use poly bags to ship.
Janis: I am looking at a minimum of $1.89 if I use a poly bag. Tracking is not free if you go to post office.
Kristina: But if you go to eBay for label printing it is free.
Janis: It will be interesting to see if eBay would even look at this because I am not the only seller who has problems with small items or items that do not weigh much.
Kristina. We have heard about this a lot. We recognize that for some segments it does not work. We have had hours and hours of conversations about (cases where we are asked to make an exception). when we start making exceptions to a policy ehr eand a policy there, it ends up adding complexity.
Griff: Much has been said about the recent changes to top rated seller requirements. There are not requirements to sell on eBay. These are requirements to be included in the top rated seller elite and receiving the 20 percent discount. We watch the reaction and how it's working out, and what we are seeing for adoption rates. Are we seeing good results?
Kristina: We are very happy with the adoption of the top rated seller requirements overall. We do see variation in the adoption across categories, and we are monitoring it, and the impact on the health of that category.
Griff: So we're not seeing anything that would cause us to make exceptions?
Question from Leonard: Am I correct that if you do not have the one-day handling time and 14-day rerurn policy that you will still be a top rated seller but you won't get the badge in your listing?
Kristina: Right, one day handling time and 14-day return you are still a top rated seller and we will give you a boost in best match.
Leonard: I really applaud you for the new policy with regard to buyers having to email sellers if there is a problem. I know eBay's position with regard to feedback. Is there any chance that eBay might be considering that feedback might not be allowed until after a call? (until after the buyer contacts the seller to report a problem.)
Kristina: We do encourage buyers to reach out to sellers if there is a problem. We also hear from others who prefer anonymity when leaving feedback.
Unidentified eBay staffer: if there is no contact between buyer and seller, there is an automatic five-star that you will get for that transaction if the buyer leaves you feedback.
Donna: I sell a lot of trading cards. A lot of the listings don't have stock photos. Once you open the package, it's no longer new. (lost connection).
Griff: We already answered this question when it was asked on email.
Email question: Narrow grid lines added to a mosaic make a more professional image. The total image is outlined as well. Will the bots read these and treat them as borders?
Jonathan: People often put all their image in a collage. Bots will definitely detect that border around the image. We encourage sellers to break those photos out of the collage and make them separate images. use the 12 free photos that we gave away on July 2 to do this.
Lewis Olsen on the new ending auction early policy: We're changing the policy where sellers who end an auction that attracted buyers to bid on the auction, we don't want them to cancel it. We want you to actually sell the item. Some sellers are misusing the auction format to attract bidders, and then they cancel it. We will allow a seller to do that once per yer, and thereafter, they will be charged a fee. The fee depends on the high bid at the time you cancelled it. it's not the proxy bid amount, it's the actual bid. If the reserve price has not been met, there is no fee.
Olsen (cont.): There are legitimate reasons why some sellers create an auction and then end the auction so someone can win on it. the most common reason is they don't have the item in stock. We want a seller to fulfill the transaction with the buyer. Some sellers will cancel the auction because it has been listed somewhere else. That's the kind of thing we don't want to occur.
We have heard some sellers say what happens if they break an item after listing it. We want sellers to list their items carefully. Or they might think this is a malicious buyer. If so, you can end them to their blocked list, and not end the auction altogether. We do allow one "mistake" per year. But every mistake leads to a disappointed buyer.
Uncle Joe (unclejoeadamson): I noticed in the release about the "fast and free" tag on listings. I've encountered it on the site and haven't paid a lot of attention to it. It might be a good idea to ask the experts what this fast and free business is about because it seems to be making intelligent choice as about the probable delivery time from zip code to zip code rather than the actual time. Some of us have concerns about setting customer expectations within the published norms.
Kristina: the notion behind fast and fee is that the logo on the view item page makes it easy for buyers to identify items that are going to get to them fast. We have come up with somesophsitcated algorithms that will determine shipping time. We are excited about the program. We encourage you to check out the new fast and free dashboard.
Griff: The answer I got when I asked about this is we are being very conservative with how it is being served up so we don't end up setting up expectations where they won't work.
MJ: We are seeing lift in sellers that have fast and free in their listings.
Question from Mary: When you brought up the ending an auction early that had a bid, the new fee imposed on that, I will say I am guilty of that, but because when I go to My eBay and see item, I see 40 watchers on an item that is sitting at $5.99, and everyone is hoping everyone else will not bid on the item for forget about it, they are "sandbagging" the item and will not bid. When it's less than 12 hours to end of auction, if my item is sitting at less than $5, and I have 30 watchers, I don't know if they are going to bid or just watching it, so I freak out and end the auction because I'm afraid that it will sell for $5. What can eBay do to encourage bidding when they find people who shop in antique stores, the time to buy an antique is when you see it, but on eBay they will sandbag. Can ebay put the number of watchers on the item page so others can see how many are watching?
Griff: I have never heard of this term sandbagging...
Mary: buyers are sandbagging, not the sellers.
Griff: I could not subscribe to that view of buyers. A seller is making a mistake by making assumptions about people who are watching a listing. the strategy you're using is creating bad buying experiences. (Mary is encouraged to call the show tomorrow.)
Unidentified eBay staffer: Even when you are at 12 hours left and your item is standing at $5, know that a lot of buyers are waiting to put in a last-minute bid. The way to get highest prices is to pay attention to when your auctions get the best prices.
Question from Scott (nanettestore): quick comment. I'm still working on the last seller update. I really appreciate all the work you do to continue to make it better on eBay. eBay is constantly evolving and changing. I'm really thankful for all these seller updates.
MJ: we really appreciate that. You go back to 1999, but think about 3-4 years ago, we had zero dollars in sales via mobile devices. We're going to do $10 million this year. We have to be nimble, and we appreciate your business, and I love it when people realize how far things have actually come.
Kristina: I appreciate the call as well. I echo what MJ is saying. We recognize the changes we're making are going to be a lot of work for sellers, but we try to skate where the puck is going.
Question from Gary (qualitysales4you): Quick step back. It applies to your new fall updates as far as cancelling an auction early. Why we shouldn't participate in that one freebie thing. You used the term contract, and you're right. In your next update, you need to look at the buyer side of that contract. they have a tendency to run through the whole gamut and then deciding they don't have a contract and they don't have to comply with that contract. They don't follow through, and they're not required to follow through.
Jonathan: I would say you're partially right. That's why we have the group in Salt Lake City to find buyers and go through and work with them to rehabilitate them and educate them. Longer term, then, make sure we have the right incentives in place to make sure we have the right lifecycle in place.
Email question from Danny: At eBay in Denver it was advised we could put a three or four day handling while we were on vacation so we could keep TRS. How do the new requirements affect this?
Linda: Vacation settings are not common for sellers. It's unique to ebay. If you do market with a three or four day handling time you will not receive a TRS seal. If you make changes to your listings, it will come off. you may want to consider hiding your listings while you are on vacation and then come back to one-day handling when you come back.
Griff: I understand the concern of this seller. Remember that your purpose on eBay is to sell. If you believe it's important for you to leave those items visible, do the economics. That should be your motivation, not just the 20 percent discount.
Question from Mike: TRS, one day handling, 14-day return...how local pickup will be handled? It doesn't count against that 90 percent, I've heard.
Kristina: If you do offer local pickup in your listings, we will not be looking for tracking to be uploaded for that. If the buyer selects the local pickup option, we will not look for tracking.
MJ: One thing is, I am always glad to hear feedback. Also, happy to hear that people are definitely looking at ways they can be top rated, which is great. 50% of all items sold on eBay are from top rated sellers. I want to thank everyone for working so hard.
On the boards yesterday, I hinted that there will be more great things we will be doing between now and end of year, including marketing things, and we look forward to everyone having a great holiday season.
End of Town Hall Meeting.