The Online Sellers Guide to eBay Spring Seller Release 2015
By Ina Steiner
News of how eBay and PayPal will work together after the breakup is swirling around, but of far greater concern to online sellers right now is the impact of changes eBay announced in March as part of its annual Spring Seller Release - and many sellers report the cost of selling on eBay is going up.
As usual, eBay changes affect different sellers in different ways depending on the category in which they sell, the volume of listings, whether they subscribe to an eBay Store, and whether the types of goods they sell dictate fixed-price or auction listings. The St. Patrick's Day announcement did not bring with it the luck of the Irish - instead, media sellers face a 500% increase in listing fees, and eBay is reducing the number of free listings it provides non-Store owners each month - from 50-100 down to 20.
eBay is also making some other changes, and while some may be positive, you don't want to get caught off guard. For example, if you have a Store subscription, make sure you understand changes that impact the number of free listings you get. And eBay is requiring sellers to add product identifiers in their listings in certain categories. More on those change below.
It's noteworthy that eBay chose not to hold a "town hall meeting" to answer questions about this year's changes as it has always done in the past. The company did not respond to our inquiry about the reason for this.
Update: eBay spokesperson Karen Crocker Snell told us, "For this past seller update, we decided to change it up a bit and not host a town hall. We did have Griff's radio show dedicated to the seller update."
eBay fee increase #1: Book and CD sellers hit hard
eBay is eliminating the special insertion fee for fixed price listings in media categories. That means instead of paying 5 cents per fixed-price listing for Books, DVDs & Movies, Music, and Video Games listings, sellers will pay 30 cents per listing (after their free monthly allotment, which is also decreasing, as noted above).
Sellers explained how the fee increase would impact them on this thread.
One bookseller said they believed eBay was trying to force media sellers to open a store but called it a bad decision, predicting eBay would "lose more than they think they will gain with these changes."
A seller replied, "I think you might be right, the fee hike may have been a way eBay is trying to force more sellers to open a store, but unless they return the media listing fee to five cents per month for store owners I think they will find that the end result will be more book and music sellers outright abandoning eBay rather than upgrading their accounts."
Another seller said the cost to list 750 CDs would go from $35 in listing fees to $219 (that takes into account the reduction of free listings). They said many CDs take a few months to sell - "Mostly someone is looking for a specific CD every so often" - so they sell between 30 - 90 CDs/month. In the summer, it drops to between 10 - 20, and after running the numbers, they said opening an eBay Store subscription wouldn't work.
Several sellers on the discussion thread said they would be forced to list fewer items and possibly go out of business. Several bemoaned the frequent changes eBay makes, with one seller writing, "Every time you finally figure out a decent way to sell and get a system going, BAM they change the game and screw you all up again."
One seller said his colleagues were overlooking an important point: "Worth as much, or even more, depending on how much you sell, is the reduction in final value fees for almost everything from the normal 10% to 9% that any store gives you."
A Basic Store costs $19.95/month with 20-cent FP insertion fee; a Premium Store costs $59.95/month with a 10-cent FP insertion fee; and an Anchor store costs $199.95/month with a 5-cent FP insertion fee - plus each level gives a greater number of free listings/month.
So while the move to a store may be more costly than the current rates for sellers, it may work out cheaper than making no changes at all - sellers should take the time to work out the math for themselves.
But the bottom line: it's the lower-volume sellers who are hardest hit with this change. And as one seller opined, it may be that the real winner from the fee hike in media categories is Amazon.
Update: Snell said, "We are increasing the Media category fixed price insertion fee to be simpler and equated with all other categories. More information can be found here.
eBay fee increase #2: a reduction in the number of monthly free listings
Currently sellers who don't have an eBay Store receive up to 100 free auction listings per month in select collectibles and fashion categories, and up to 50 free auction or fixed-price listings per month in all other categories.
Beginning on May 1st, sellers without an eBay Store subscription will receive only 20 free auction listings per month in collectibles categories and only 20 free auction or fixed-price listings in all categories.
However - if you have a high sell-through-rate on your auction listings, there is some good news: eBay will credit insertion fees for all auction-style listings that end in a sale. In eBay's words, "As an incentive for using the auction-style format successfully, sellers will be credited for the insertion fee on auction-style listings when that item sells."
While eBay is rewarding sellers if their auction format listings end with a winning bid, sellers would no doubt like some help from eBay in driving bidders to their auction listings to help them make the sale.
The fine print: Here's how eBay will dole out the free listings. "Free listing allotments will be used first and will not be charged an insertion fee, regardless of whether the listing ends in a sale or not. Once those allotments are used up, auction-style listings will be charged an insertion fee, which will be credited back to you if the item sells. This will apply to all listings in nearly any category, including media. Sellers will receive only one insertion fee credit per sold item, but there is no limit on the number of sold items for which they can receive this new credit. Credits will take place at the time of the transaction, and will be reflected on the invoice at the same time as the final value fee." - taken from this FAQ.
Store owners, pay attention to changes to free listings
eBay explains: "For sellers with an eBay Stores subscription, the monthly allotments of free listings will now be dedicated to fixed price listings, and, for listings in Collectibles categories, sellers will receive 100 additional free auction-style listings per month."
It's important for Store owners to realize that the current plan provides up to 150 free listings in any format, but as of May 1st, those are restricted to fixed-price format only - however, Store owners also receive an additional 100 free listings but in the auction format in Collectibles category only!
Miscellaneous fee changes - good news and bad
eBay is eliminating the fee for extending an auction duration to 10 days. At the same time, however, eBay is instituting a $1 surcharge for 1- and 3-day durations.
eBay will also increase the fee for using a Reserve Price on auctions to the greater of $3, or 2% of the reserve price (minimum price that must be met for your item to sell), with a cap of $100.
eBay is also introducing a new final value fee cap of $250 in select Business & Industrial categories, including Heavy Equipment, for Store owners.
Other changes: Product Identifiers and Category Updates
eBay will begin requiring sellers to include product identifiers in their listings in certain categories. Not only is it designed to help shoppers find items on eBay, but using UPCs, ISBNs, and MPNs is a requirement for exposure on Google search results.
"The additional identifiers will increase your item's visibility in search results on eBay and across the Web, and help shoppers find and purchase your items more easily," eBay explained.
But don't panic - as we noted in March, sellers who list used, collectible, vintage, or one-of-a-kind items will not be required to include unique product identifiers.
eBay is also making changes to categories and item specifics described on the eBay website.
Spring 2015 Seller Update - Resources
Here are some links to dig deeper into how the Spring 2015 Seller Update changes impact your business.
eBay announcement board post.
The eBay Spring Update overview page - "Bringing more visibility and value to your listings."
eBay Discussion Boards
A special board set up just to discuss the spring changes. eBay staff answered questions on March 17th and 18th.
You'll find an overview of current fees on this page.
You'll find an overview of new fees on this page.
Read what sellers had to say on the EcommerceBytes Blog, and leave a comment of your own.
About the author:
Ina Steiner is co-founder and Editor of EcommerceBytes and has been reporting on ecommerce since 1999. She's a widely cited authority on marketplace selling and is author of "Turn eBay Data Into Dollars" (McGraw-Hill 2006). Her blog was featured in the book, "Blogging Heroes" (Wiley 2008). Follow her on Twitter at @ecommercebytes and send news tips to email@example.com.
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