Why we don’t like eBay Product Identifiers

Last week I wrote that sellers are failing to complete the Product Identifiers that eBay are requesting (and in some categories, insisting) they add to their listings.

Many of you have told us in no uncertain terms that you don’t like the mandate so today we’re highlighting some of the issues you see.

Why Tamebay readers aren’t completing eBay Product Identifiers

You simply don’t have the time

It takes time to add information when listing on eBay and adding Product Identifiers is not a trivial requirement. Sure you probably have the Brand and perhaps the Manufacturer’s Part Number (MPN) to hand, but finding the GTIN (EAN or UPC) isn’t always easy. Manufacturers don’t always display GTINs on their own websites or on the product. You could well end up searching the web for a GTIN for each and every product you list.

The product data doesn’t exist

Some manufacturers are simply not implementing GTINs or MPNs correctly. They may use a single GTIN and MPN for a product in a range of colours and sizes instead of applying one to each individual variant.

Other manufacturers reuse GTINs, once this season’s stock is all sold they’ll recycle the GTIN for next seasons products.

More work needs to be done by manufacturers to ensure that each individual product really does have unique product identifiers if eBay sellers are to have any chance of pleasing eBay.

Buyers won’t search for GTINs

When was the last time you searched on eBay (or any website) for a GTIN? Probably never. The only time you may have performed a GTIN search is if you’re in a physical store and do a bar code can for price comparison.

Literally no one knows what GTINs are, any more than you know Tamebay’s IP address. We’re humans, we don’t like long numbers, we like words and very much prefer to type tamebay.com rather than a number such as 213.219.36.171 and it’s the same when it comes to products.

You don’t want price comparisons

You’ve taken superb product shots which catch a buyer’s eye in search results. You’ve written your own enticing description instead of cutting and pasting a boring manufacturer specification. You’ve driven traffic to your eBay listing with tools like eBay Shop email marketing, Markdown Manager, Sales and price promotions. You’ve built up a fantastic sales history which means your listing is now at the top of eBay search results.

Why do you know want to add a GTIN to make it really easy for a buyer to find a competitors listing and price compare, possibly buying from an alternative seller as they’re a couple of pence cheaper?

You don’t like reviews

If your listing doesn’t have a GTIN then eBay can’t assign reviews to it. You’re telling us that one bad review can ruin a listing’s sales and of course the review may not be for an item you’ve sold. It might be for an identical product sold by a less scrupulous competitor which wasn’t all it should be. If a competitor sells a dodgy refurb which gets a bad review, you don’t want that appearing against your listings and potentially damaging your own sales.

Equally some readers are concerned that competitors with similar products might simply drop a bad review against your product, in the same way that in the past some sellers worried their competitors would buy from them simply to leave a negative feedback.

So what’s different to Amazon?

We all know the reasons why eBay want product identifiers. They want to catalogue products, ensure that they can appear on Google, compare identical items so that they can surface the best deals to buyers, add reviews as we all know that user generated content is even better Google bait. But sellers still have a myriad of reasons for not complying.

If all the above issues are valid on eBay, how come Amazon sellers are so successful? On Amazon everything is catalogued and assigned an ASIN. All sellers on a single product list against a single product detail page so any bad reviews affect everyone and there’s total transparency on price between different seller’s offers.

Sure there are a handful of sellers on Amazon who try to play the game and create their own ASIN instead of competing with other sellers. Amazon will soon put a stop to sellers trying to cheat by insisting that every ASIN has a valid GS1 GTIN.

Will it make any difference anyway?

We know that eBay suffered a Google penalty for semi-hidden landing pages tailored purely for SEO. eBay are now trying to rebuild their SEO rankings and at the same time catalogue products for eBay’s own search engine. Will editing your listings to add product data make the slightest bit of difference to their SEO efforts?

Sure there are some products (like mobile phones) where comparisons are so easy that catalogue listings make sense. But if you’re selling an own branded unique item, will having a GTIN or MPN really make any difference?

What’s eBay to do?

eBay need to boost their search engine visibility and surface the best deals in search for their buyers. You want to make your listing outperform your competitors listing even if it hurts eBay’s more general search engine optimisation.

So I’m genuinely interested in your views and what you think eBay should do. Would it be better if eBay went do the road of fully catalogued listings with product data already completed in the style of Amazon with one listing, set of reviews and product data for each item. Alternatively do you like the status quo where you can differentiate your listing from competitors and, if not today at least at some point in the future, are you willing to add product data to increase off-eBay SEO?