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Sellers are ignoring eBay’s Product Identifier requirements

By Chris Dawson June 29, 2016 - 7:04 pm

We all know that ticking all the boxes on your eBay listing template and filling in Item Specifics and Product Identifiers is tedious. It takes time, it’s sometimes a pain to find the relevant information. When you’ve got hundreds (or thousands) of listings to complete it’s going to become tiresome.

Still however we also know that if eBay is to grow and prosper we need to do the donkey work, especially if it’s our own listings we want to attract the sales.

I’ve been looking at light switches and electrical sockets and whilst it’s in some ways understandable sellers aren’t getting every last bit of structured data correct, it’s dismaying to see just how appalling the situation is.

Having checked dozens of listings I’m only going to highlight the first three that I looked at for a basic MK Electric light switch. It’s typical of the endemic failure of sellers to complete the structured data across a whole raft of products and this would be a very long article if I detailed all the listings I looked at. Trust me, the first three were pretty typical of the others though.

I’m going to start with a great example of a listing. The title has the part number, manufacture and is descriptive enough for me to know I’m about to buy 5 MK K4871WHI Light Switches. The product data confirms they are manufactured by MK, that they are the K4871 part and has the EAN 5017490243188. The seller has completed what should be the basic requirements.

MK Listing with Product Identifiers

The next listing I looked at is a car crash as far as product identifiers go. It may be laziness, it may be too much workload to get hundreds of listings completed with product identifiers included, it may be an old listing hurriedly edited to meet eBay’s new requirements. Either way it has the brand “MK” in the title but specifies the product as “Unbranded” and has the Manufacturer’s Part Number (MPN) specified as “K4871WHI” in the title but specifies the MPN as “Does Not Apply”.

MK Listing without Product Identifiers

The third listing was even worse, although I didn’t think that could be possible. Unbranded (MK in the title), MPN Does Not Apply (K4871WHI in the title) and the seller specified both the GTIN and EAN as Does Not Apply.

MK Listing without Product Identifiers 2

What makes this listing the worst of the three in my opinion is that within the description the seller has added “Manufacturer: MK (ELECTRIC)” and “Manufacturer Part No: K4871WHI”.

It’s worth noting that MK are not some virtually unknown manufacturer – MK invented the modern light switch and a safety socket with a three-pin shutter system and if you have a look at the plug sockets in your home and the chances are that you’ll have an MK switch or plug socket. MK will have part numbers and EANs for everything, it’s just that sellers aren’t entering them on eBay.

This is an interesting situation. eBay have requested sellers enter product identifiers but it seems many sellers simply aren’t, or if it’s mandatory they’re simply added Does Not Apply as a short term stop gap. What eBay will do remains to be seen – will they live with the current situation or will they impose more stringent controls.

Perhaps it’s time for eBay to start scanning listings for manufacturers who they know have GTINs in place and enforcing compliance?

  • Andy R
    11 months ago

    “if eBay is to grow and prosper we need to do the donkey work” ???????

    Flippin’ eck!!!

    Ebay has been growing and prospering whilst sellers have been doing the donkey work for 20 years !!!

    You don’t mention the unstable market Ebay have caused with their constant changes!

    • james
      11 months ago

      if eBay is to grow and prosper…. EBAY need to do some of their own work.

      eBay make it DIFFICULT to do the work.

      eBay PUNISH you for not managing all the work.

      even if you do, is there a reward as promised? NO.

      recently got top-rated back after all the pulava with defects etc, fully compliant with EANS etc, all part numbers & MPN’s correct.
      have i seen an uptick in sales? NO, they went off a cliff.

      if you havent complied yet, DONT. thinking of going back and undoing them all now to put “does not apply” on everything and see if that helps.

      REMEMBER: what ebay say, and what ebay do, are often exact opposites. if they tell you sales will improve if you do it, and worsen if you dont, assume the opposite.

    • james
      11 months ago

      while i’m at it….

      when you searched ebay for the
      “MK electric K4871wh”

      did these results show?
      did you know they were for an MK electric K4871wh?
      would the GTIN have contributed any to it?
      is the title completely irrelevent – does it not work for search?
      or would you have found the exact same item, exactly the same (possibly cheaper previously), if ebay hadnt burdened its sellers with 30billion man-hours of work?

    • Alex
      11 months ago

      What James said.

      Yes, we are one of those awful sellers that simply mass edited our 2,000 listings (most of which have been on ebay for over a decade) to comply with the requirements.

      We will get to it when we get to it.

  • tinker
    11 months ago

    wedo ebay to make money not to sit for hours ticking boxes,
    if ebay cant make it easier to list and find items thats their hard luck we will sell elsewhere

  • Tony
    11 months ago

    I think eBay is doing the right thing because when I just checked the top listings were the ones with the most Product Identifiers in place. As margins get tighter it will become uneconomical to produce listings that don’t sell.

    Let’s face it, most products have that many features but look very similar if not exactly the same it’s easy to purchase the wrong item making Product identifiers very important for the consumer to purchase the exact item they require and to make comparisons for price and quality of service.

    • TINKER
      11 months ago

      where does it end? thickness ,shade, wind direction, high water mark, altitude, density,
      atomic and chemical symbol ?????

  • 11 months ago

    I agree with Tony – I don’t think eBay will need to punish non compliant sellers because eventually the listings without the product identifiers will drop down the search results, due to lack of visibility with Google as well as eBay.
    It also will mean less duplicates, as the “Does not Apply” loophole for identical listings will be less attractive.

  • David Brackin
    11 months ago

    A little more carrot and a little less stick. (PS sorry, we’re out of carrots).

    Frankly, I don’t believe eBay’s claims about this helping sales in every category they are trying to shoe-horn it into, and it’s all just a desperate knee-jerk reaction to the Google penalties they got last year for doing some frankly dodgy SEO. Someone screws up, sellers have to do all the work relisting all their inventory.

    “Come and put all your inventory on eBay! – You’ll regret it later”. Good grief. This is not how you build the world’s most vibrant marketplace by grinding down sellers, one tedium at a time.

    Once again it is the sellers who have to do the work and tidy up the catalogue. The implementation has been frantic, poorly thought-through, unsupported and a general shambles. The releases have been issued at extremely short notice and no technical support has been provided to sellers to help update this information — for example tools to see where listings aren’t compliant or bulk upload or suggested values.

    The whole thing is “work today, jam tomorrow” and it’s no surprise that all that’s happening is that sellers are making a complete mess of the structured data that eBay holds.

    If “Does Not Apply” becomes banned, all that sellers will do is purchase new bar codes from GSI for a dime a thousand and create more mess and incorrect data in the structured database.

    It will be literally decades before eBay’s catalogue is tidied up from this shambolic implementation.

    • Andrew
      11 months ago

      There are tools to help you with this. eBay provide a list of recommended item specifics that you should be setting on your listings based on which category you’ve listed in. You also have listing recommendations in Seller Central that tell you which listings have missing identifiers, as well as other things. You could also download a listings report and see which of your listings are missing EANs, Brands, MPNs etc and fill these in. There is functionality to bulk update all these fields.

      I’m not sure how eBay could possibly suggest values for your item specifics? Only the seller knows what their listing is supposed to be for? I’d be interested to hear how you think eBay could provide this?

      Also, you might want to check the GS1 website, barcodes might not be as cheap as you think.

  • Stephen
    11 months ago

    Unfortunately the MPN option doesn’t work well for us as a clothing seller – For example a bra can come in 30 sizes but all have the same MPN – as ebay requires a different MPN for each variation we need to select “Does Not Apply” even though we have (in our eyes but not ebay’s) a valid MPN for the product.

    Some smaller sellers also wont have the time to check the part number of ever nut bolt and widget that they sell as they are a small team that’s (hopefully) rushed off their feet just fulfilling customers and answering questions. so mass editing their listings and selecting “Does not apply” is a quicker option and stops them from loosing listings and revenue. Whether or not they will enter MPN’s in the future (either as an ongoing “I’ll do 5 items today” project or on new items) is another question as it can be a time consuming process.

  • Sam O'levski
    11 months ago

    I have a friend who puts ‘does not apply’ to stop customers searching for a cheaper seller, and were doing very nicely thank you by not following eBay’s instructions.
    They sell clothing brand new all with numbers which could be entered, but their theory is that as they are not the cheapest, why make it easier for the customer to buy elsewhere, when they have attracted customers by taking time to do nice photos and presentation, spent time discovering which key words improve sales etc.
    Should they ‘help’ the seller who is cheaper and has entered all the details, but has blurred photos, no measurements and so on. ?

    • james
      11 months ago

      No, ebay is a race to the bottom, they SAY quality is important, but they DO everything they can to discourage it.

  • steve
    11 months ago

    Interesting that your search found exactly what you needed without all the EAn and such nonsense isnt it?

  • Joe
    11 months ago

    There’s so much wrong with this post I don’t really know where to start. It’s easy to sit back and say what sellers should be doing, but Chris, correct me if I’m wrong, you haven’t been a serious seller on eBay for some years have you?

    eBay constantly introduce hoops for sellers to jump through with promises of extra sales and/or visibility but that never actually happens. They’re constantly ‘improving’ category structures that require constant revisions as well as other ‘improvements’ that again require constant revisions.

    It’s not practical for serious sellers to waste hours on end making minor changes with no tangible benefit.

    And as for compliance, eBay do very little to enforce anything. They brought in rules for duplicate listings which are not enforced in any serious way. They brought in rules for photos not having text etc but there are still 1000s of listings that breach the policy, but eBay don’t enforce them.

    eBay are the masters of introducing silly rules and rarely enforcing them, probably because some university graduate with zero experience of retail thought it was a good idea.