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Choice listings, anonymous email, but definitely not PayPal only on eBay.com

By Chris Dawson June 18, 2008 - 5:38 pm

Adam Trachtenberg, eBay’s Director of Product Management for Platform & Services, gave an overview this morning of where eBay is going in the new few months. Though this was aimed primarily at developers, it provides some great news, and some not so great news, for sellers as to what we can expect for the rest of the year.

Project Echo : merchandising API

This will enable cross-merchandising, in the same way that many websites now highlight “people who bought x also bought y” items. Data based on geography, buying and search histories and user profile will be made available, as well as currently popular items.

Four new API calls have been released: most watched, deals, related category items and top selling products. More are on their way!

Improvements for large sellers

eBay aim to become more efficient and responsive to the needs of larger sellers, with a better API and business process support. Processing will be faster and there will be fewer timeouts with an asynchronous bulk interface: in effect, sellers will be able to manage their entire business away from My eBay, and will be able to organise inventory by their own SKU rather than by eBay item number.

Choice listings are coming

Sellers will be able to list variants of the same item: by colour, size, memory, material etc., compressing multiple listings into one single listing offering buyers a range of options. Interestingly, this was presented as enhancing the *buyer* experience by cutting down near-duplicate listings: I think eBay are missing a trick there, because many sellers have begged and pleaded for years to be allowed to offer real choice listings.

Changes to email communications

Sellers will be able to specify more than one email for message-forwarding: for example, customer service emails from buyers can go to one address, and eBay invoices to another.

Emails between sellers and buyers prior to a sale are being anonymised: buyer email addresses will no longer be visible on ASQs, though “reply” will still work as eBay will handle mapping between the anonymised email and the buyer’s actual email. Post-sale, both parties will be able to see each other’s email addresses. This should – say eBay – cut down on fraud: it will of course also limit off-site sales, and many sellers will complain that it will restrict communication between trading partners. They should also note that it will no longer be permitted to display an email address within the body of a listing.

Mandating essential information

eBay are forcing sellers to include information material to the transaction, some of which has previously been optional for inclusion within a listing. For example, on .com sellers must specify at least one domestic shipping service with pricing, as well as handling time, which will be used to display an estimated arrival time to buyers. A returns policy and who pays for the return of the item will also have to be specified, though on .com at least “no returns accepted” remains an acceptable policy (the same does not apply in most of Europe).

A consistant and safe checkout experience

Various approaches are being tested over different national sites: eBay Australia will (perhaps) be PayPal-only from mid-July, and UK sellers must offer PayPal though may offer other payment methods too. The US will “definitively” not be made PayPal-only, though eBay are “looking at data and talking to people” about the way forward on this issue.

New applications for third-party checkouts have now been closed: as a buyer, I can’t help but cheer here. I’ve been buying on eBay for nearly a decade and I still hate 3P checkouts, so how must new buyers feel?

A whitelist approach to HTML

Currently, eBay have adopted a blacklist approach to HTML, CSS and javascript, blocking known-bad code from use on the site. This will change to a whitelist approach, whereby known-good code will be permitted and everything else blocked. For the majority of sellers, this won’t make any difference whatsoever (Adam joked that there will be no block against ugly templates 😆 ) but anyone using javascript and Flash widgets within their templates may be impacted.

In an attempt to limit possible damage from bad code, descriptions will now be served from a seperate domain so that scraping of sign-in information within the eBay site should no longer be possible.

Verification of new sellers

New sellers will have to complete telephone verification and one of either PayPal or Live Chat verification once they have sold their first few listings, or when attempting to list a high dollar amount. This should keep the site a little more secure.

Adam wrapped up with what is definitely the theme of this DevCon: “we want your feedback”. eBay are certainly doing their best to appear to be listening to developers: they need to make buyers and sellers too feel that they’re being listened too. With big hints that “more change is coming”, the rest of this week is shaping up to be very interesting indeed.

  • 11 years ago

    eBay are forcing sellers to include information material to the transaction, some of which has previously been optional for inclusion within a listing. For example, on .com sellers must specify at least one domestic shipping service with pricing, as well as handling time, which will be used to display an estimated arrival time to buyers. A returns policy and who pays for the return of the item will also have to be specified, though on .com at least “no returns accepted” remains an acceptable policy (the same does not apply in most of Europe).

    What if the seller is not located in the US, how can they supply a domestic shipping service with time?

  • EAnderseen
    11 years ago

    These all seem like very sensible changes to me.

  • 11 years ago

    Annoyed about the no email policy, but I could see it coming. If I was eBay I would’ve done it years ago, eBid don’t allow email addresses on listings.

    Are we still allowed to show a phone number?

  • EReliable
    11 years ago

    “In an attempt to limit possible damage from bad code, descriptions will now be served from a seperate domain so that scraping of sign-in information within the eBay site should no longer be possible. ”

    I did not understand that. I scap about 3000 – 5000 listing everyday for analysis. I dont use ebay API. Do you think my program will be affected ?

  • SD-STRIKEBREAKER
    11 years ago

    I’m sure some bellends will come along and find something to cry about, I wish they’d all do one and join all the other unwanted and bad sellers on ebad.

  • Jimbo
    11 years ago

    On the email address point – although I don’t doubt that it may well become policy, it isn’t policy yet (as far as I’m aware).

    In the UK are we not obliged to supply a valid email address to comply with distance selling regulations?

  • Karen
    11 years ago

    How does revising hundreds of listings to show a refund policy of “none” a good idea?

    How about if refund policy isn’t checked then you don’t have one.

    Having to offer one even if it’s none is right up there with stupid eBay ideas.

  • 11 years ago

    What?!?! Sellers will no longer be able to see a buyer’s e-mail until the transaction is complete? This is yet another disguised ploy to weaken seller’s communications and lower the Detailed Seller Ratings. Afterall, lower overall communications means lower Detailed Seller Ratings, which in turn benefits eBay in that it will reduce the amount of discounts it doles out.

    Yes, eBay was a fun place. Now it’s a hell for sellers. eBay will get their just desserts as the stock has weakened its hold from the $30 range and has been steady in the $28 range. Meanwhile, Amazon was steady in the $80 range and has increased its position to the 82 range.

    Good riddens eBay! Sellers are moving to Amazon, Etsy and RubyLane.

  • 11 years ago

    The e-mail change doesn’t surprise me, in fact I’m surprised they didn’t go further and get there quicker. What I expected was that we’d never get to see the email address and that all communication would have to come through “My Messages”. Maybe next year, I mean by then they won’t have much else left to take from us anyway.

    On the whole though, I’m okay with all this. My biggest complaint right now is that I’m sick of revising my listings. I’d almost rather give up having a choice on some policies and just have them default them to whatever the hell they want so I can save some time revising. Well, not really, but it’d be nice to stop working on old listings and have more time for working on new ones.

  • 11 years ago

    Wait until Friday, the day JD will announce that if your companies big enough you can buy a slice of eBay at a knock down price, buy.com was just the beginning.

  • UK_trader
    11 years ago

    So soon we will be prohibited from supplying a contact email address in eBay listings. Well I list on eBay.co.uk as a business seller and to comply with EU Distance Selling Requirements we must include contact details including (you guessed it) an email address. If we fail to comply with the law will they pay any fine we incur for ignoring the law (on eBay’s say so). Or will their European executives face jail time for ignoring EU law (like M$ did at their peril)?

  • 11 years ago

    I think “A whitelist approach to HTML” aka Active Content Policy sounds like a sledgehammer to crack a nut.

    Moving listings to a different domain AND whitelisting widgets – why do both?

    The impact will be on cross-selling galleries and other listing enhancements. The free galleries will probably shut up shop rather than pay the approval fees.

  • 11 years ago

    UK_trader’s point is interesting, but we need to remember that as announced this week, the new polices apply to eBay.com only: I’m sure the UK lawyers will be all over it before it’s introduced on .co.uk.

  • northumbrian
    11 years ago

    I dont care
    the best advice I ever received was ,
    if there is something you can do nothing about, the best thing to do,
    is do nothing

  • Jimbo
    11 years ago

    Sue, have these polices actually been announced for .com?

  • 11 years ago

    Jimbo: yes.

  • 11 years ago

    http://valleywag.com/5017352/ebay-demolishes-level-playing-field-for-buycom

    Unbelievable video of Pierre saying “big off-eBay sellers would be a disaster on eBay”

  • Jimbo
    11 years ago

    Any chance of a link/details of when they come into effect? 🙂

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