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News from eBay: structured data, Seller Hub, changes to search on the way

By Dan Wilson July 17, 2016 - 10:03 pm

eBay New Logo FeatSteve Fisher, Chief Technology Officer at eBay, has made a blog post called: “Replatforming eBay: How We Are Delivering the Shopping Destination of Choice

It’s well worth reading it because the developments outlined will have a significant impact on eBay sellers.

As Fisher notes: “Over 20 years, we’ve built one of the very best search engines optimized for ecommerce – we pretty much find you what you want to buy almost all of the time. And, we’ll keep investing in search science innovation.

But one of the biggest opportunities we have is to organize, catalogue, curate, and present our vast inventory in ways that enable every person who shops on eBay to find their version of perfect, no matter what it is.

That’s why we have embarked on an ambitious, multi-year evolution of our shopping platform at eBay that aims to deliver relevant, persistent and personalized experiences for consumers.”

The meat of the announcement can be boiled down to:

– The Product Identifier path is where eBay is going and it looks as though this will see a dramatic change to the control sellers have over individual listings. Yes, a more Amazon-like catalogue approach. As Fisher says re structured data: “This is an important change we have embarked on that will eventually extend across our inventory.”

– Machine learning will use past shopping data to personalise what shoppers see as they browse and search. He notes: “We’re creating new browsing flows and persistent product pages, allowing users to see relevant and tailored items, specifically based on their shopping behaviour.” (There are some specific examples in the blog post to help you understand what this could mean.) And some of these new flows are already in place and being tested.

– Changes to the selling service. The Seller Hub will roll out to all countries and be beefed up with improved analytics tools. Fisher says: “We are in the process of equipping our business-to-consumer sellers to figure out buyer demand gaps that need to be addressed and help them re-configure inventory accordingly.”

Thoughts

So what does this mean in the short term for sellers? Probably not much, even though some of these new features are already in the wild. But in the longer term there’s no doubt that the plans revealed will be significant. The universal roll out of Seller Hub will mean changes to your daily routine. There’s no escaping structured data and product identifiers.

And there’s more to be revealed about how listings will work in future. Watch this space. Browse and search is going to see significant change.

It’s notable that as I write this that today is the first anniversary of eBay splitting from PayPal. And, in that year, there hasn’t been much big news from eBay on a product front. But this is big news, have no doubt.

What do you make of it?

  • Andy R
    7 months ago

    What do we make of it?

    Change on Ebay nearly always means extra problems for sellers.

    I don’t remember any consultation from Ebay with sellers about this, even though sellers are the only stakeholders on Ebay who PAY for everything.

    What about the many sales sectors for which product identifiers are meaningless?

    These are areas in which Ebay does well because no-one else caters for them.

    Given that most things on Ebay don’t work properly, what hope can there be that this new seller hub will be any different?

    Or is this going to be just another internal error to the application?

  • Andy R
    7 months ago

    Did you read this disclaimer at the end of Fisher’s statement ???

    “This article contains forward-looking statements that are based on our current expectations, forecasts and assumptions and involve risks and uncertainties. These statements include, but are not limited to, statements regarding the future performance and product initiatives of eBay Inc. and its consolidated subsidiaries. Our actual results could differ materially from those predicted or implied. More information about factors that could affect our actual results is included under the captions “Risk Factors” and “Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations” in our most recent Annual Report on Form 10-K and subsequent quarterly reports on Form 10-Q, copies of which may be obtained by visiting our Investor Relations website at https://investors.ebayinc.com or the SEC’s website at http://www.sec.gov. All information in this article is as of July 15, 2016. Undue reliance should not be placed on the forward-looking statements in this article, which are based on information available to us on the date hereof. We assume no obligation to update such statements.”

  • tinker
    7 months ago

    another disaster on its way

  • JD
    7 months ago

    ~
    Structured data is fine but as ever eBay won’t invest to create it.
    There is much that they could/should have done already but they don’t have the required category specific expertise.

  • TINKER
    7 months ago

    data ,restructuring , platform, personalized,Identifier ,curate, blah blah blah blah,
    Sell , sold, profit, are the words that interest us ! they seem to be scarce ebay syntax

  • Martin
    7 months ago

    “One of the very best Search engines optimised for E-commerce”. This guy is a comedian. Probably the worst I use, and as all sellers know, repeatedly offers buyers non-sensical Best Match results.

    Lets hope search changes remove this Best Match rubbish.

    • gaz
      7 months ago

      Took the words out of my mouth. How can you have any confidence that this will be an improvement when they think ‘best match’ is a world leading search engine.
      Absolutely clueless.

      In addition there is no way the ‘talentless’ ebay coders can program what I want to see. I know what I want to look at Ebay computers don’t.

  • Ian A
    7 months ago

    I feel an air of inevitability, one day I’m going to be listing a new product and Does Not Apply will not be an option. Because to make it work surely they are going to have to get stricter with sellers as you pointed out most are ignoring it and continuing as they always have done.

    I too spat my coffee out at the first sentence. One of the best optimised search engines for e commerce. wow.
    More a case of eBay have a lot of everything so if you look long enough you’ll find a bargain. If you know exactly what you want to buy and are not bothered too much on price I suspect most people use Amazon as they’ve been structuring data since the time when eBay sellers could leave negative feedback..

  • Ian A
    7 months ago

    How many of ebays sellers use eBay purely because they don’t need identifiers and that suited their business and unique or brandless products

    It’s a dangerous game as it could make sellers pack it in, or if you’re using identifiers anyway – start selling on the river

  • Joe
    7 months ago

    There are 1000s of unique and delightful hand made items on eBay. If eBay are to eventually force the sellers of these eclectic items to use product identifiers when there aren’t any, it will push these sellers to other platforms such as Etsy, who will welcome them with open arms.

    I hate the idea of a search tailored to me too. I want to type in the box what I’m looking for, and be shown a list of items that match those words. I don’t want eBay to guess what they think I might be looking for and ignore some items based on some cock-a-hoop formula dreamed up by someone with a degree and no actual experience of anything.

    eBay seem determined to become Amazon.

    • Roger C
      7 months ago

      I absolutely agree with Joe, I see nothing but frustration for me as a (traditional) small time seller and buyer on eBay, whilst I am a eBay buyer too I sell either hand-made bespoke new items or good quality “pre-loved” items . . nothing here for me or the thousands of other “traditional” sellers upon whose backs eBay built it’s empire? Fortunately I already have a small presence on Etsy . . looks like that could grow then?

      It’s the ridiculous language that makes me laugh . . “persistent product pages” . . isn’t that another name for ad-ware and spam?

    • james
      7 months ago

      i absolutely despise ebays current level of tracking, as a buyer it really puts me off. hearing them say they’re going to dig deeper into my personal business doesnt attract me more to ebay. it pushes me away.
      I know how bad ebay’s programmers are, i see their mess-ups every single day, i dont want them dabbling blindly with AI, or tracking my habits.

  • 7 months ago

    I’m wondering why Tamebay choses to ignore big news stories like this.

    eBay Glitch ‘Disappears’ Active Listings

    http://www.ecommercebytes.com/C/abblog/blog.pl?/pl/2016/7/1468720020.html

  • Nic
    7 months ago

    We had listings stopped & ebay account given a 3 day suspension because items were miscategorized. After manually checking thousands of listings to ensure category is correct we relist the items & on some of them eBay is saying “Product found for Product Listing Details. .
    This product belongs to a different category, so the category has been changed.”

    When I check the listing it has been moved from what is definitely correct category to an incorrect category.
    Where they get their data that determines the category is beyond me as it is clearly wrong for some items.

    • Roger C
      7 months ago

      Why don’t eBay do some thing practical and finish a good idea that they started and now seem to have dropped : “Creating a listing with variations”. Those products I sell on eBay are hand-made and bespoke and I offer a small range of options of what I can send . . . but the VERY eBay tool that would be perfect for me isn’t in ANY of the categories that I need!

      As soon as I saw some time ago now they wanted to emulate Amazon with their “bar code attitude” for putting up listings I knew that I wasn’t going to see that very useful tool be expanded . . why don’t eBay realise that what they want Sellers to fill in for their listings will ONLY apply to “box shifters” selling on – likely – Chinese imports!

    • nic
      7 months ago

      although theoretically a good project the limitation of highest price variation not being allowed to be more than 4 times lowest price variation means they have messed that one up as well though.

  • James
    7 months ago

    When will these clowns sort out the fact that we cannot re-arrange the order within Multi Variation listings.

    Every time I add a new product on to a multi listing variation it goes straight to the bottom. It’s impossible to maintain order whether it is alphabetical or size because these jokers don’t have what should be a simple solution in place.

    If there was less confusion I am certain there would be more sales.

    CLOWNS the whole lot of them

  • Pamela Finbow
    7 months ago

    I had an email from Ebay asking me to change over to the new Seller Hub, so I thought I’d take a look! Firstly there was no way to change my figures to GBP£ from $, there was no history on the sales performance figures, I couldn’t create UK postage (kept saying the customers zip code was invalid (it wasn’t), so it didn’t even recognise I was in the UK. I couldn’t contact the helpline through it – even the call backs didn’t work because I wasn’t in the US. Not a good experience and I changed back within 30 mins.

    Despite the above, the overview page looked ok and I would have given it a go…….if I could have had the UK settings and not the US !!

    Worst of all, the UK support line didn’t even seem to know that they had started to roll it out……bizarre!

  • Mark.T
    7 months ago

    I do see this as inevitable given Amazon’s success with this formula and I am willing to accept that it might be a good thing for buyers and even some sellers but it is also likely to hasten my own departure from online selling.

    My online business is at the very small end of the scale but the few things I do sell are non standard speciality items that get flushed into the gutter by this structures data approach.

    Here is an example…

    For years I have sold a single model of earphones which I carried because they were the favourite cheapo earphones of serious audio people for when they were away from their £1000 headphones and valve amps. I sold all over the world to interesting and appreciative customers. I wanted to build on that product so badgered a US company who make the leading brand of after market ear tips to let me bundle their ear tips with these earphones… and they finally agreed.

    To ‘fit in’ with Amazon’s structured data, I even bought a block of genuine UPC codes to make the whole thing legit. I finally had a worldwide unique product bundle that sold for little more than the normal retail of just the ear tips.

    Result?

    Nada, nothing. Why…? Structured data overwhelmingly favours sameness not uniqueness. My listings were hard even for me to find, the original photos would get replaced, Amazon in other European countries would randomly ‘translated’ my text into gibberish and any other seller could catch a ride on my UPC despite the fact that I was the only person in the world who sold that bundle.

    I am not sobbing into my mug of tea and wailing. This is just another brave new future to keep us occupied until the next wave comes along but if it does lead to my ecommerce exit, I wish you all a fond farewell.

    I have enjoyed the experience and will miss it.

    Mark

  • james
    7 months ago

    I’ve just had an epiphany.
    eBay’s vision of structured data is exactly what we as sellers have been screaming out for.
    add all the EAN’s, do all the MPN’s, make sure your listing is comparable directly with every other one.
    Flubit (or a counterpart) will destroy eBay overnight.
    we dont need a new market at all, we just need structured data, then every single item on ebay is 10% less if you buy through flubit (or the like).
    it’d never work previously, hence why they didnt bother trying, but once this catalogues in place it’ll be easier to avoid ebay than actually use it, whilst still retaining all the sales.

    • Jonah
      7 months ago

      Yes, with off site driven selling on your own website too, eBay could become just a catalogue with any luck, no more metrics and hoops to jump through.

    • james
      6 months ago

      with their “refunds for all, any reason, any time, no return required” policies, ebay are fast becoming the most expensive and most troublesome platform to trade on; customers wont be long in realsing, just google that barcode (EAN) ebay insist on putting on every listing, and you’ll find that exact item at least 10% cheaper with 0 extra work.
      its suicide and i love it.

  • Steve
    6 months ago

    I like ebay as a buyer because it doesn’t use a catalogue, I hardly ever buy from amazon, because it’s boring and no fun to browse, Once they start using the catalogue like amazon I’m basically going to stop selling and buying there, amazon is not the place for your smaller sellers and if ebay goes down the catalogue route then it won’t be either, But to be honest I’m past worrying about what ebay are doing.

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