Beware when running a sale on your eBay listings: shoppers may not see it. eBay executive Bob Kupbens revealed on Wednesday that if sales offers aren't good enough, eBay will "suppress" them.
That may be unwelcome news, but at least sellers now have a greater understanding of how to deal with this new, unannounced policy from eBay after 6 months of uncertainty.
Some background for the uninitiated: when sellers run sales, eBay displays a banner showing the offers at the top of listings in order to entice shoppers. For example, a seller might run a BOGO sale (Buy One, Get One at X% off).
But beginning in January, eBay moved sellers' sales banners to the bottom of listings where shoppers would be less likely to see them. As we wrote in May
, imagine a retail store holding a BOGO sale to excite shoppers, but placing the signs at the back of the store where many shoppers might miss seeing them.
For the past 6 months, sellers have been forced to speculate on whether eBay was hiding their sales intentionally or if it was caused by a glitch. At one point, an eBay moderator told sellers discussing the problem in a thread on its discussion boards that "initial testing showed an increase in sales when the promotion was moved closer to the description," and added, "We are keeping a close eye on this and we assure you that if this leads to a reduction of sales for our sellers, we will look into reverting back to the previous format."
Kupbens' explanation on Wednesday contradicts that initial finding - he said eBay now removes banners from the top when it thinks sellers are trying to "game" the system, while rewarding "quality" offers by keeping them at the top.
While Kupbens revealed the new policy in a video presentation in response to a prescreened question from a seller, eBay has yet to announce the change.
The seller had asked
: "I am wondering if we could have some sort of banner or advertising on our listing page (most important) and on our store page when we create a promotion. For example, if I run a buy-1-get-1-free promotion, buyers currently are not seeing that until they add the first item to their cart. And they are not putting the first item in the cart because they have no idea it is basically half price. We used to have a banner highlighting the promotion on the listing page. Would love to either have it back or understand the logic behind not advertising a seller's promotions on their listing pages and store page."
Kupbens responded in the video, stating there had been a lot of questions and a lot of feedback about the placement of Promotions Manager and Markdown Manger promotions. He said eBay had been testing the placement of the promo banners to see what works. "What I mean by "what works" is what drives conversion. Because at the end of the day, you want an offer that's going to drive conversion."
"We were just trying to - again on a small sample - test around a few things to make sure that we could figure out exactly what the right placement was and the right timing," Kupbens said. "We found out - not rocket science - good offers drive conversion, which makes a ton of sense," and he said bad offers undermine confidence in the platform.
"I think you've all seen these offers, like, "save a dollar if you buy three" and the items are $500, which is not a great offer. So what we found is if you show those offers above the item, and they're really not great offers, those buyers don't want to come back."
Kupbens said eBay would go back to showing all the "good" offers at the top of the listings, and would start suppressing some of the "really bad offers."
"It's subjective in terms of what's bad, but we're setting the bar super low." And, he said, "We're going to keep playing with that threshold."
Since it's subjective, who will make the determination about the quality of a promotion? eBay is turning to a technology solution to help it. "This is where we get to use machine learning behind the scenes and figure out how we optimize offers and their relation to conversion," Kupbens stated.
Kupbens went a step further when he accused some sellers of gaming the system. Referring to what he called bad offers, he said, "It's really not an offer. It's just a way to try to game it and gain visibility."
What do sellers do if they don't agree with eBay's detection software? "If you as a seller believe that you have a legitimate offer, that's a good offer for buyers that isn't showing up for some reason, let us know," Kupbens said.
Ironically given the fact eBay hasn't announced this policy change: another seller submitted a question to Kupbens asking him why eBay didn't communicate changes before rolling them out - "The problem is all the stuff you guys do that we don't hear about until AFTER the fact, usually after a lot of misinformation and speculation has transformed a simple thing into a complete mess,...eBay could reduce seller anxiety, misinformation, and confusion by doing a better job of communicating with us in a timely fashion. I think you'd find a far happier seller community if you did that."