eBay UK Seller Release 2014: Tamebay comment

eBay’s direction of travel is obvious. They are serious about improving the buyer experience to meet ever increasing expectations from high spending consumers.

They are also becoming more interventionist: more than ever before they want to be involved in facilitating transactions. We’ll see what they come up with on the International Tracked Postage Services trailed today. It’s impossible to judge that without an indication of costs.

And from the autumn they will be managing all buyer returns for business sellers. It’s a big step.

The success of Managed Returns will depend on the finesse with which eBay implements the service and adjudicates the problem cases. But, as one Tamebay reader commented: “it’s not finished.” He has been testing the service for some months and had provided feedback. Rather tellingly he also noted that eBay product managers hadn’t extended the courtesy of acknowledging that input. That doesn’t bode well.

eBay’s diligence at fair minded communication is also central to a lot of the concerns that have already been aired about the new Seller Standards. Yes, they are tough but they also very clearly emulate Amazon. Customers have high expectations from ecommerce in 2014. In essence, they are not unreasonable criteria and top-notch sellers have little to fear. (One unanswered question is whether big, retail/outlet sellers are also going to be held to the same standards?)

Unfortunately the worries centre on eBay’s ability to identify a problem seller providing poor service and those professional sellers who are simply dealing with an unreasonable, indeed dishonest, buyer.

eBay’s track record in adjudicating disputes is sadly dismal. More stringent seller criteria must be matched by better service from eBay itself. Sellers must be able to count on eBay to see when they have done their best in trying circumstances. Such faith is understandably not present from sellers right now.

Few will doubt eBay’s good intentions: happy, high-spending consumers who come back again and again are good news. The various initiatives to improve the buyer experience show a solid consumer focus that is welcome.

But at the heart of this seller release is an imbalance. Lots of stick for sellers and not enough carrot. As one Tamebay reader often asks in comments: “Where’s the gravy?”

On the plus side, there is plenty of time for sellers to adjust to these changes, and time too for eBay to improve the deal with some sweeteners. Specifically, can they persuade “bread and butter” sellers that they will back them when they do the right thing? We’ll see.

eBay provided this clarification to Tamebay on the 14th March:

“The new seller standards will be a requirement for all eBay business sellers as of 20 August 2014. The new performance measurement will be the same for every seller and we’ll continue to support sellers as we’ve previously done through customer service or account management. We’ll also be sending out a monthly email with projected status details until the changes come into effect. Plus, the seller dashboard preview will be available from 16 April for all sellers to view and understand their projected performance.”