How this weeks eBay search changes affect you

By Chris Dawson November 8, 2012 - 12:54 pm

You may not have noticed but eBay have changed the way that your multi-variation listings are displayed in eBay search results this week. Sellers are naturally noticing fluctuating sales as always happens when a search change is rolled out on the site and as always it will benefit some and disadvantage others. Overall through we’d expect an eBay change of this magnitude to have an overall positive impact on sales.

Changes to multi-variation listings in search results

The most significant change is a move away from the shared/collage picture in search results. The main picture displayed in search results will now be the one most closely matching the colour or search term used by the buyer. If there is no colour entered as a search term the image shown should be the picture for the variation with the highest best match score.

If you click the “More options” link then you will see the shared/collage picture in the pop up overlay, but clicking “See full details” will still take you to the original variation displayed in the search results with colour and size information pre-populated.

This is a significant change as it’s no longer quite as obvious in search results that there are other options available.

The new multi-variation listing

There is another significant change and that is when the buyer clicks through from search results and lands on your listing. Again instead of being presented with the shared/collage picture eBay will now take the buyer direct to the variation shown in search results. This on the face of it is a good thing as the buyer is being presented with the product of interest. However it also results in the variation drop down options being pre-populated with the same choice.

Buyers need to be aware that they can still change these options and whilst colour is very obvious as it matches the image, size is a little more ambiguous. Many sellers still state available sizes in the title so the buyer could be forgiven for thinking theat they’re ready to click the buy it now button. As highlighted in the image above the most popular size is pre-populated and this enables the buyer to instantly click the buy it now button without manually making a selection.

Previously when clicking the buy it now button the buyer would be directed to select an option as shown to the side. Now because the variations are pre-populated as highlighted above it’s very easy for the buyer to go ahead and purchase an incorrect size.

Even if the buyer than adds a “note to seller” or sends a subsequent email it’s likely that the seller will ship the size ordered before they and the buyer jointly figure out it’s not the size actually required.

Impact for sellers

Wayne of told Tamebay that he’s seen an instant negative impact on all of their multi-variation listings. One of the problems that he sees is on listings where the variation isn’t just colour, but also pattern. For instance if you’re looking at unisex clothing it’s unlikely that Pink will be the most desirable colour to appeal to men.

You also need to revisit your multi-variation listings to check your items specifics and ensure that you name your variations correctly. For instance “Main Colour”, “Exact Color” or “Colours” would all be picked up by eBay, but “Shirt Colour” or “Color Option 1” wouldn’t. You should also ensure that the values match those from eBay’s suggested options such as “Blues” and not “Dark Blue” for the main colour variation.

Have you seen a change in sales since the changes went live this week? Have you seen an unexpected fluctuation in sales from your multi-variation listings? With your buying hat on do you like the way that eBay will show you a red dress if you searched for a red dress, or were the old collage/shared images more to your liking?

  • 5 years ago

    As an avid reader of Tamebay I was surprised to see our images of this dress on Tamebay. I was also disappointed to see they were being used by another seller, with their watermark on them. I would love to see a Tamebay Post about the issue of image theft and image protection.

    • 5 years ago

      Thanks for the call and advice Chris, really appreciate it.

    • 5 years ago

      Just my luck to pick an example listing like that… 😀

    5 years ago

    classic carl!

  • Gary
    5 years ago

    And of course ebay no longer wish watermarks or anything else that identifies an image to be used. Image theft will be a big growth area on ebay.

  • Tony
    5 years ago

    With regard to the issue of watermarks, it might be an idea to introduce a small change or flaw in a picture that, like a watermark, identifies it uniquely as one you created. Kind of like a ‘Spot the Difference’ 😉

    • 5 years ago

      I use Digimarc to digitally watermark my images.
      After I edit them in Photoshop the Digimarc plugin embeds my user data, copyright and date etc. in to the image without it being visible.
      The service has a yearly fee but it will also search the web regularly for you to see who has nicked your pictures.
      The only issue I sometimes have though is convincing eBay that the images were mine in the first place to insert tht digital watermark in to! They often don’t believe me and think that I have taken standard factory images and added my own copyright to them. But overall it does allow me to prove to eBaay or the image thief that they have taken my images, even if they have edited them extensively themselves.


  • Richard
    5 years ago

    I was surprised to see my collage photos weren’t showing. They are a key reason why my adverts tend to end up on top and I’ve been working hard on improving them.
    Like many my sales have been flat in the UK, but since I sell summer items this is perhaps to be expected.
    I guess there is a reason to this, and it’s true that most changes Ebay has made have benefited me.

  • superhands
    5 years ago

    I noticed my pictures on my multi listing have changed to random pictures from the 20 variations on my listings,

    Since this change I have had no sales as it shows a picture of items completely unrelated to the the main shared picture,

    So the listing won’t get clicked on,

    So the only way I can force ebay to show what I want them to show is to remove all the multiple choice pictures and list with only one picture,

    This should cause some confusion with my buyers.

    • 5 years ago

      I too noticed that one of my competitors multi-variation listings which was almost always at the top of the searches, has just dropped down in to no-mans-land.
      Get on!

      I’ll stick with doing it the old one colour, one listing approach for as long as I am allowed to thank you very much,

  • I’ve been toying with this most of the day, and I think I have finally found 1 benefit to this new system.

    We have a listing which previously was displaying our main image. Within this image were 32 small thumbnails of the choices available within. So if a customer wanted Variation A, they would be presented with the main image. However now they are presented with the image of what it is they’re actually looking for; this is a definite positive.

    However, the downside to this is that if a user is simply browsing the category, they are presented with the supposed best match image from within the listing as opposed to the main image. This in my opinion is a real downside. If the user sees Variation C, but wants Variation A, then chances are they are going to continue scrolling down the category until they see the one they want – particularly if the title does not suggest that there are variations within.

    Our sales figures today from multi variation listings are once again down on earlier in the week which is very disappointing.

    I know eBay’s changes in the past have always come good in the end, but I just don’t see how this one ever will.

  • 5 years ago

    So what would the gallery picture be if the variation was instead a style? As this would surely not have any keywords associated with it. Would it default to a random variation picture?

    Somethings not making sense here and it seems to me like eBay are favoring white backgrounds perhaps? This would tie in with their push for them to complement the imminent Pinterest style feature.

    • To simplify, these are the possible combinations I’ve worked out so far.

      We have a multi variation listing live at the moment which currently contains 29 different inflatable items available (item number 261076763726).

      1. User searches the word “inflatable”. Photo displayed is a Treasure Chest (supposedly our best match from the listing).

      Chances of us making a sale here (in my opinion): VERY LOW

      2. User browses inflatable category. Photo displayed is a Treasure Chest.

      Chances of us making a sale here (in my opinion): VERY LOW

      3. User knows what they want, and searches “Inflatable Parrot”. Photo displayed is the Parrot.

      Chances of us making a sales here (in my opinion): VERY HIGH

      So that, as far as I can see are the 3 search result possibilities & implications of the new search results.

      The other implication is as mentioned in Chris’s article, this being that the dropdowns within the listing are auto-filled for the user when they click into it. The chances of making a sale I would suggest are probably the same as the 3 scenarios above.

      One very high chance of a sale versus two very low, whereas previously before the change we probably had 3 above average chances of producing a sale.

      A change for the better? I just don’t see it!

    • 5 years ago

      @ Wayne

      There’s a reason this change doesn’t help you. eBay’s multi-variation listings are not supposed to be used that way and this is a violation of eBay’s fee circumvention policy.

      From eBay:

      Different brands and different functional products can’t be combined. In most cases this would be a violation of eBay’s Circumventing Fee policy. For example, you could not create a listing that combines different brands of fine gauge cotton cardigans into one listing. You also could not create a listing with the traits Article, Size and Color, where “Article” refers to shirt, pants and jacket to make the single listing include an entire outfit.

  • superhands
    5 years ago

    I have checked all my multi listings and it seems like if you put any more than the shared picture it will use all the other pictures but the one you want it to use,

    So it doesn’t show the correct picture for the searched for item, so the potential customer won’t click through as the picture is of something entirely different to what they are looking for,

    I changed one of my listing to 1 picture only for 20 variations and I made 2 sales tonight, but none in the last 2 days when they were forcing the wrong images at customers,

    Any one would think they are trying to stop people using the multi listing for some reason, loss of single item listing fees maybe ?,

    As for me it makes no sense to show random pictures.

    • Dduval
      5 years ago

      Exactly right. We used to use 20 adverts for 20 items of similarity. That’s 20 * insertion Fees * 12 months per year….and if you have enough adverts a higher shop subscription instead of the basic shop

      For the last year we used 1 * Multi listing which is one insertion fee

      I’ve been saying to myself how long will it be before E bay realize well its 1 year and they caught on to this , so saved myself a good 1 year of fess

      Ok, busy now working my next workaround

    • Rich
      5 years ago

      superhands says: “it will use all the other pictures but the one you want it to use”

      Yes, that’s the top and tail of it, you have to ask what the point is of selecting a gallery image in the first place.

      I can only think there has been some form of technical error.

  • Rich
    5 years ago

    I am taking the individual pictures off one popular ad, and am going to redo all my individual pics with the collage picture inset.
    I suppose if I’m quick off the mark I’ll steal a lead on other sellers, but what a thing for Ebay to do, and what a time to do it?

  • CJ
    5 years ago

    It’s so so stupid.

    It benefits sellers that never bothered to upload individual variation images as buyers can still see they offer other colour options from their gallery images. I’m just going to delete my variation images until they reverse this change.

    Doing it when a customer searched with a colour is fine, it makes sense, otherwise just no.

  • 5 years ago

    One solution, which I’ve not heard anyone say yet (and admittedly would be a fair amount of work) could be to include a collage image for each colour.

    Make the largest image on the collage the colour and then include smaller images for other options. It does mean if you have five colours you’d have to do five different collages, but if the sales on the product justify the time investment it may be worth experimenting with.

    • Rich
      5 years ago

      Yes probably, but for now I think it’s easier to take the collage picture and add it to the individual picture, that’s what I’ve just done to 2 of my most important ads.
      Thinking back, I always had one particular colour that sold well, and it was only when I turned to multi variant listings that other colours took off too. Hence that collage picture, with the main colour shown large and the others around it, was all important to me.

  • Hereford United fan
    5 years ago

    My sales are down a lot today.

    Another problem not mentioned is this.

    Search on pink watch and it brings up the least popular of the 6 shades of pink I sell on one particular item.

    The customer is going to look at it and say ‘oh I wanted a darker pink’ They will not click on my listing.

    Just outrageous that they should do this now. I spoke to a different account manager and she told me to email my account manager. They have had lots of complaints.

    I suggest you all the do the same. Not convinced they will do anything though.

  • TheShopkeeper
    5 years ago

    Yet another ebay implementation of something not thought through or tested properly and at one of the busiest times of year.

    Like Comet, they haven’t got a clue and will follow that company down the same path. Except no-one will buy them for £2 a year before they go under because they don’t have any assets worthy of stripping.

    • Peter
      5 years ago

      Great to see some people with their finger on pulse on what is happening in Silicone Valley.. How is your empire working out there TheShopkeeper? Or is that even your real name? 😉

  • 5 years ago

    These changes have had a significant negative impact on my listings.
    Last week my listings were top of a search category and have been for several months.
    As of the last few days, they have suddenly dropped to the second page!
    I can’t believe that it’s related to performance, I am very worried.

  • Gerry007
    5 years ago

    We have noticed some of our multi-variable listings pictures are not displaying correctly in search.

    Instead of the main picture, another secondary one [one of the variations] is showing in searches.


  • 5 years ago

    For my category which his hair extensions these changes just don’t work.

    For a listing for say polo shirts where the options will be red or blue or green it is pretty straight forward but for my listing i have 2 different shades of Black, 4 different shades of brown and lots of shades of blonde.

    So now when a buyer searches “brown hair extensions” they may be looking for light brown but my picture shown is dark brown. So its pretty obvious the buyer will keep scrolling down until they see a light brown.

    Basically any hard work that has been done to build up best match rank has gone out the window and it becomes a random market and pot luck as to who gets the closest match to what a buyer might want.

    Has anyone else noticed a favoritism towards the colour Purple? We are seeing a lot of other sellers have Purple as their main picture even though it will not be their most popular colour.

    All this is going to do is have sellers remove all variation pictures and make variation listing lose half their purpose.

    What postive impact will this honestly have on eBay if a buyer searches a generic term and get a specific answer. Most buyers on eBay don’t know what they want but would like to see all options available to them.

    This is like walking into a clothes store wearing a red t shirt and all of sudden the racks automatically hide everything that is any other colour than red, forcing you to buy another red shirt.

    This is the craziest thing to come out of eBay for years. We all know there envious of Amazon and have been trying to build a similar model for years and i guess there looking to have plain white background pictures on their site. I do agree it looks less cluttered and easier to the eye but on eBay its just not user friendly.

  • 5 years ago

    ” If there is no colour entered as a search term the image shown should be the picture for the variation with the highest best match score.”

    We only have a couple of MV listings, sold one yesterday which pushed the listing onto p.1 of our main cat. but the picture that is showing is not the one that sold, bit bizzare. Would love to understand how this works.

    The only positive I see is the price range is now displayed in search.

  • 5 years ago

    Apparently another measure to benefit buyers but this really hasn’t been thought through. If the buyer searches for a term without colour they are still shown a specific colour from a multiple listing. How can this possibly benefit anyone, unless the buyer just happens to want that specific colour? Surely they would like to see all that is on offer? Come on ebay, please think before literally toying with peoples livelihoods!

  • Hereford United fan
    5 years ago

    My sales on MV listings were down 72% Saturday on Saturday!

  • Andrew
    5 years ago

    The main problem with this new system (for me) is that when potential buyers click on your listing in the search result the drop down boxes are preffilled for them.

    For example a listing for hats with three colours, red, blue & green, each of which is available in three sizes, S, M & L say.

    Buyer searches for hat, eBay displays your green hat, when they click the listing it is preffilled to green, small.

    It is not clear you have other variations available and it’s a lot of work for them to find out whether you have a red large.

  • kitty
    5 years ago

    I regularly list a multi-variation listing, and since the new photo layout came in, my sales dropped radically. My sales rate sort of works like clockwork, so it’s quite interesting to really see the effects of this new layout on them.

    I had a really nice main photo, showcasing the colours and details of my product in a gorgeous eye catching shot (I’m a photographer, so I spent extra time on that one)

    Now, when buyers search a general term for my product, they are confronted with the least popular color for some reason (apparently ‘best match’ applies to the one colour everybody hates?)

    Even I scroll right past it half the time! I mean, you know it’s bad when you miss your own listing, it’s right at the top, and you’re specifically looking for it!

    On the upside, I deleted all my variation photos and stuck them all as ‘shared’ this morning, and sales picked right up, starting almost immediately. My precious showcase photo is back to being the main one, while my competitors are still suffering with the ugly detail shots for their listings. They too, once had beautiful listings…

    I search my listing from a customer’s prospective regularly, just to make sure all is well, and I noticed the whole search is far less attractive now. I expect e-bay to lose a lot of sales with this whole ‘ugly photo first’ system.

    All of these listings now show some irrelevant detail shot, without any of that that special attractive advertising the ‘main’ photo used to provide. Just scrolling down the thing now makes me want to give up on shopping, now all of these listings just look so plain and unattractive. No more ‘wow, that listing looks great!’ moments I guess 🙁

  • David P
    5 years ago

    I was under the impression that a lot of what is occurring is technical glitches as opposed to changes made by eBay.
    From what I had read previous to this they were trying to match up variations to searches when relevant but if this was not the case then the gallery image should show.
    That is certainly what at least one person has reported CS telling them on the ebay forums.
    I am certainly finding that our bestselling variant is not displaying when a generic search term is used.

    If this is actually the change ebay have wanted to implement then it is ridiculous and is certainly going to harm sales because the picture is certainly the way most people will tell whether a listing is multi variant or not. The ‘more options’ button is stupidly inobtrusive I am surprised anyone notices it.

    • Rich
      5 years ago

      I wondered if any one had a clue whether this is a glitch or not. Certainly, now I can’t even change the pictures displayed on the multi variant listing, I get the message this feature currently not available.
      So I am stuck with a lot of formerly really good performing ads that I can’t spruce up in any way whatsoever.

    • flowers
      5 years ago

      I contacted e-bay and was told this was not a glitch. It’s the new system.

      I was also informed, on two separate occasions, that they have a received a slew of complaints from sellers, and, if they get enough, they might even fix the problem.

      It’s supposed to give the buyer pictures that are more specific to their search.

      So, for example, if you were to search the term ‘red button’, every photo that came up would only show the red variation in each listing. Fair enough.

      However, if you search just the general term ‘button’, it will give you a best match photo. Unfortunately, the best match photo is just a random variation photo, and never the gallery shot.

      So you might search for the general term ‘button’, but the photos that appear will only be of a green variation or a blue variation.

      This is off putting to buyers, as now
      they’ll never see that you have an entire line up of colours. At a glance, they only see one random detail photo, probably of a colour they’re not interested in.

      And then they scroll right past your listing…

      Please folks, add to the massive pile of complaints they are receiving, and maybe we’ll get lucky with getting this

      The e-bay ‘suggestion box’ is here:

    • Rich
      5 years ago

      Thank you for your very clear answer and this exactly defines my problem.
      Surely, if no colour is selected in the search, then the multiple image is the most appropriate one and anything else is a random stab that is most likely wrong as you say.
      I will send a message as you suggest.

  • Rich
    5 years ago

    This from a pink on the Ebay UK seller’s board:

    I’ve gotten an update on this that the decision has been made to roll back the latest change on MVL pictures in response to seller reaction and confusion.

    What does that mean? It means that the “Shared” or “Collage” picture for MVL will appear again in the Search result page. This change should happen sometime over the next few days so please give it a chance to take effect before contacting CS to state “it’s not there yet”.

    • flowers
      5 years ago

      Thanks for following up on that Rich, I’m glad to hear that E-bay has taken its seller’s suggestions to heart, and that collectively, all of the complaints have had an effect.

      I’m sure the sudden sales drop for every multi variation listing on the site also played its part.

      I’d love to know how much profit they lost in fees this month because of this little experiment…

  • Hereford United fan
    5 years ago

    I got told that the collage picture will appear where a colour has not been used in the search. Not there yet.

  • Gerry007
    5 years ago

    This is still not fixed.

    Just basic search [with no colour or sizes] still shows random pics & not the main picture.

    About time ebay fixed this fault!!….

  • Rich
    5 years ago

    According to the Ebay discussion board, the unofficial gossip is that it starts 27-28th and will unravel thereafter. But what can you believe now?
    It isn’t a technical error, simply an error of judgement. I think it was designed with the mobile market in mind but just my guess, and was an attempt to eradicate ordering errors.
    To compensate ebay are supposed to be apportioning the same visibility to individual variations, and so are encouraging even more use of MVL. But clearly losing the gallery picture is just a step too far.

    The Oz site has the standard collage picture when viewed from a home computer and individual variations from a mobile. Maybe this would be better.

    By the way the merge variations tool is up the creek too. Not only does it not identify groupings correctly, but also has a terminating error on the final page.

  • Rich
    5 years ago

    There’s now a general announcement that the collage pictures will begin to appear late next week onwards, note this is a reversal of a decision, not an error correction, ie, some muppet had planned to hide the collage picture for reasons best known to himself.

    • flowers
      5 years ago

      Thanks for the update Rich… the sooner the better, this is really affecting sales.

      I’ve discovered that different browsers give me different photo results, meaning the selection is truly different for every buyer.

      What were they thinking?!

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