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What eBay should have announced in the Autumn 2017 Seller Release

By Chris Dawson September 21, 2017 - 9:00 am

eBay‘s Autumn 2017 Seller release was all about evolving the marketplace and creating a journey sellers can link into for success. We understand that faced with some measures such as editing images to remove watermarks and ever more product identifier requirements you might view it as just creating more work, but there are some fundamental reasons why this is needed for the things eBay didn’t officially announce but will be introducing in the near future.

At the Linnworks #LinnAcademy2017 this week, Kit Glover discussed what to look forward to in eBay’s evolution and to be honest there’s some exciting stuff in there.

The last time eBay bet big

To set the scene we need to step back 10 years or so into eBay’s past. Back then people were on computers which largely consisted of once cream boxes underneath desks (covered in dust, dirt and fluff) with cream CRT monitors (also covered in dirt and dust) on people’s desks. Laptops were just coming to the fore and tablets weren’t even available let alone mainstream, but Apple introduced the first iPhone and a mobile revolution was born.

eBay looked at mobile, saw the future and bet the house that mobile would be big. That might seem obvious with the benefit of hindsight but eBay were one of the first companies to have a mobile app (exclusively on the iPhone at launch, but later on Android, Blackberry and Windows phones although the later two have been scrapped). The eBay app instantly become the most popular mobile app ever – a title which it retains to this day. eBay are a tech company and when they get something right they get it really really right and, somewhat sadly as it was a decade ago, mobile was their last big bold innovation that worked.

eBay’s next big bet

Now the world is changing again. As John Lawson pointed out at Linn Academy, everything is now done in the cloud and our mobiles are simply cloud connectors. However this gives us on tap access to massive computing power and eBay are once again looking to the future and about to bet big.

eBay are all over AI (Artificial Intelligence), Big Data (lots of little data), AR (Augmented Reality) and VR (Virtual Reality). Some people will try and sell you on a world where we’ll all be walking around with VR headsets and perhaps Wii type controllers in each hand to navigate a virtual world. I can tell you now that this is not going to happen – I tried VR and it’s incredibly disorientating and frankly made me feel a bit queasy.

What we will start to see is a device (most likely in the early days the humble smartphone that we all carry) becoming a window to a virtual world. eBay have a couple of really cool projects which are launching in the US and will come to the UK either this year or early in 2018. One is ‘Shop the look’ and the other is ‘Image Search’.

Shop the look

We’ve already written about Shop the Look which is currently being showcased on eBay’s new The Entertainment Shop. It’s basically the ability for an overlay to be put on an image which makes it shoppable.

If you see a picture of an outfit that catches your eye then very soon eBay will be able to make that image shoppable and you’ll be presented with similar items to buy on eBay.

Find it on eBay and Image search

Find it on eBay and Image search are ways to use your mobile to interact with eBay.

With Find it on eBay you can share an image from any social site or your web browser with the eBay mobile app and it will ‘Shop the Look’ for you – eBay will find listings of the item in that image or others like it.

Image search is similar except you take a photo, crop to highlight the item you’re interested in, pop it into the eBay Search bar on the eBay app and again they’ll go find similar items for you to buy.

One day soon you’ll be able to forget about browsing through 100s of pages of listings to find a rare vase to match the one you already own. Just take a photo of your antique (or use one from the web) and do an image search on eBay for similar items instead of trying to guess what keywords a seller may have used to describe it.

With all this exciting stuff to come based around images there are two things to bear in mind. Firstly shoppers are not going to be turned on with text, logos, fluorescent borders and watermarked images when they shop. Remember we’re looking at the next generation of shoppers who didn’t grow up with the web in the 1990s and they’ll scoff at your images just as we scoff at blue, red and green text (or worse flashing text or scrolling marquees!). Secondly image search is massively processor intensive, it requires a tremendously powerful set of computers to process all the 1.1billion listings each with up to 12 images and frankly anything that’s added to the images just makes the job harder.

We totally sympathise with sellers on the work eBay are asking them to do to remove watermarks. We think eBay got it wrong and should have banned watermarks when they banned image decorations, instead of telling sellers it was OK only to later backtrack. It’s just got to happen though.

Why data and images are important

eBay have tons of really cool stuff that will be coming to the site (or sometimes off the site) in the near future. There are clever new ways to search coming down the road and largely the mobile will be the window on the world. Being serious, what type of buyer is ever going to search for a GTIN for a cool pair of trainers? No one, but they might want to shop from a picture of them.

I don’t want to dismiss data too lightly however, it’s still important as eBay need to be able to get visibility in search engines and the like. They’ve also announced new tools to help guide smart buying decisions in Seller Hub with suggestions of products similar to those you already sell where eBay see a shortage on the site, restocking information based on eBay’s knowledge of sell through rates and pricing guidance to give you an idea of whether you’re competitive, could make more margin or haven’t a hope of getting a sale as your ridiculously overpriced. All of this can only be done if eBay know the selling prices of products and have certainty that they’re comparing apples with apples.

eBay in 2018

I’m quietly confident that the much vaunted and equally derided multi-year plan that Devin Wenig put in place to revitalise the eBay marketplace will soon start to show real results. Frankly John Donahoe put all his focus and invested all the cash in growing payments which was the investor’s darling until one rebelled and forced eBay to spin PayPal off into a separate entity. Since Devin came on board investment into eBay has accelerated, although most of the innovations have rolled out first in the US so they’re getting benefits we’re yet to see in Europe and the UK.

It’s also worth noting that eBay are undergoing a brand change and presenting themselves to consumers as a colourful and exciting place to shop. It’s no accident that they’re blowing a big budget on TV and billboard advertising at this moment in time as they’ve got innovations ready to dazzle and tempt a new generation that grew up with a mobile or tablet in their hand before they even learnt to read and write. They are the future of ecommerce and they are the generation eBay need to tap in to.

Watch this space and come back in 6 months. I’ll either be happy to say ‘I told you so’ or sad to admit I got it wrong. See you around Easter 2018 time and by then we’ll have a better idea of where eBay are going and if the innovations have a) been delivered and b) are working.

  • Mark
    1 month ago

    I altered some images to remove the watermark and found all the images on my computer did not have watermarks so i uploaded them only to find water marks put on them via an ebay system which i ticked many moons ago. (That long ago in fact it took me ages to find where it is to untick it.

    Therefore if its an eBay system adding watermarks to my clean images why can they not just update their own system to automatically remove the watermarks they added instead of asking me to spend yet more time making changes to their every frustrating site.
    The way they act it seems Amazon must be backward as they have not asked for large scale changes in over 2 years. But they are still streets ahead of eBay.

    • anne golding
      1 month ago

      Please share how you found it on the ebay system? I have images that have the watermark added by ebay, it was a tick box, now it’s not there to untick…. I really don’t want to have to revise every single listing…. thanks.

  • Andy R
    1 month ago

    How many sellers will have given up on Ebay before then, Chris?

    There are so many unresolved nagging site issues which have been flagged up for years. And now this.

    If the watermarks thing is not reversed or at least categories sensitive to image theft are exempted, many sellers of such items will walk.

    We’re now moving our inventory off Ebay gradually onto our website and other platforms, aiming to remove everything by their 1 Mar 2018 deadline.

    Ebay and possibly Tamebay have understimated the impact on sellers of postcards, vintage photos and some other categories. These sellers make up a large chunk of what makes Ebay different from other marketplaces.

    There were nearly 10 million postcards for sale this morning on Ebay and more than 16 million photos.

    I really don’t feel that Ebay is the place for collectables any more and the future for Ebay is an inferior copy of Amazon.

    So none of the above is really of interest to me, though many will feel differently.

    By the way, if you want a laugh, why not try using image searches on google etc and look at the wacky results you get.

    • 1 month ago

      There are 1.1 billion listings on eBay. If only 1% have watermarks then that’s between 11 million and 132 million images that need to be replaced over the course of the next 6 months.

      It’s a mind boggling number of man hours and cost! 😮

  • Naem
    1 month ago

    I understand that when it comes to fashion etc.. this may be a useful tool, but we sell car and caravan accessories and suppliers images are not very clear and so detailed so we sometimes hire vehicles and takes hours fitting seat covers, wheel trims and related accessories to show how they really look once fitted.

    Sometimes we offer customers upto 50% refund if they can supply images of accessories fitted. This is what makes us different and because of this we get more hits and sales on eBay than Amazon.

    We are not alone, there are many sellers in all categories making such efforts.

    Do eBay really think that any one in his right mind will continue with this and remove the watermarks to help the competition? If ebay wants one clean gallery image than that is do able, but not all the images.

    If it comes to it, we will simply use one of supplier’s images and let ebay be amazebay.

    We wont be working for others.

  • 1 month ago

    Any sellers who are complaining and are threatening to leave eBay due to the extra work thats being forced on you. Please let me know which market you are selling and I will gladly step into your shoes and take your place. I will see you off with a wave and a smile and wish you best of luck.

  • simon
    1 month ago

    So the mobile way is the way to go.
    Shame I find the ebay iphone and ipad vesion both utter C**P and end up using the PC. I have had buyers not read the description and only read the small description that is show only to complain when they receive the item that it was not the size they expected which had been given.
    There seems to be more ways to sort on the PC (or maybe the mobile does have it hidden somewhere).
    Yes great have a mobile version but make it easily useable other wise it is either not going to be used or used incorrectly.
    If this is a plan for the next 5 years great as well so I only have to go through 1000+ listing once. Over the last year or two it has been a nightmare altering them for background, eans etc.
    Do it once but do it right.

  • Naem
    1 month ago

    We are not closing our eBay shop but will have to remove our images and explore other options.

    Let’s face it, buyers want a site where they are protected, can leave feedback and feel safe paying via PayPal, preferably an auction site. We will promote our site but will also need another auction site so buuy.co.uk may be a good option.

    We are currently looking into it. Idea is to copy all eBay listings and move all images to their site, it won’t be difficult. It states on their site:

    “Bulk Upload via .csv file. If you sell on eBay, download your listings on to a .csv file, email it to us and we’ll get it sorted and upload on to your account in draft so you can work on it in your own time. There is no limited to the number of listings you can send us! “

    Buuy is in its early stages but there is no member ship or commission fee apart from PayPal fee. They have good reviews and seem seller/buyer friendly. No fee will allow us to sell up to 15% cheaper than eBay and Amazon so hopefully this will help buuy visibility in search engines and generate sales too.

    There is nothing to lose and we can still make listings with our own detailed and watermarked images.

    Sell on ebay but also add an A5 leafelt in the packs to let the buyer know that you also sell on buuy and prices are up to 15% cheaper, you can still leave feedback, 30 day refund and paypal protection etc..

    • Leader of the Banned
      1 month ago

      @ Naem With a grand total of 5 books in Non Fiction Biographies & True Stories category I think buuy.co.uk is a total waste of time.

    • Naem
      1 month ago

      Hi, Leader of the Banned.

      I agree with you that they do not have many products but its the sellers who make the site successful and if we all get together and start listing then we will have another platform to sell.

      Why keep all eggs in one basket and get bullied by eBay and remove the images to save in the hard drive when there is a site that has a potential and can work.

      I think we have a site that is happy to display our own images so probably is a good option in the mean time. They are not charging so why not give them a try?

      Lets eBay have basic standard catalog images they are dying for.

  • Paul
    1 month ago

    At least 3 years ago ebay said that we had to remove graffiti from images. Today there’s still loads of graffiti everywhere. Ebay are the Tinkermen of the internet, always tinkering but never getting it quite right, trying to copy Amazon but just ending up being the s**t version of Amazon. They will never get it right. They keep wheeling out shiny new suits at head office, at great expense, but achieve nothing. They need to admit defeat and sell to someone who knows what they’re doing.

    • timo
      1 month ago

      Too right, just search ‘cardboard boxes’ …. almost every packaging supplies listing has watermarks, captions, emojis, graphics etc all over them.
      They’ve been non-compliant for ages, good luck suddenly having to revise them all!!

      Sure this is true for many other categories too;

      The lesson …. just try and sell truly unique & vintage/used items where neither GTIN nor watermarking is of any consequence.

  • Toby
    1 month ago

    Well that might as well have been written by a ebay executiveas a sales pitch!
    Why is it that ebay look at one area of retail and think it applies to everything? Not so long ago we were told everyone is scanning barcodes to locate stuff, now just a few moons later that is not happening and now they are taking pictures. That’s great…. so with the huge rise in own brands and custom branding how will this help? Let’s say someone wants some X brand paint…. they take the picture and find that it only comes up with X brand shops…. no comparisons etc. Then there are pictures taken from different angles, different set ups ( but the same item)…… all adding in items that you dont want and excluding what you do.
    I’ll tell you what….. how about they get the damned text search engine sorted first, it has been broken for so long im starting to wonder if it ever worked? Once they have shown this to work then fine work on even more complex systems. Right now i have as much faith in ebay systems as i do a wet tissue stopping a bullet.

  • Andy R
    1 month ago

    and now THIS….

    We’ve updated the eBay.​co.​ukUser Agreement.
    These changes are effective immediately for new members and from 22 October 2017 for current members.
    Here’s a summary of the main changes:
    • We’ve added new terms to the User Agreement to clarify that users are not permitted to complete outside of eBay any sales transactions with each other arising from items listed on the eBay platform. Offers to buy and sell or communicate outside of eBay constitute policy violations and may be subject to a range of actions including limits on buying and selling privileges as well as the application of final value fees for such transactions, the application of fees for the introduction of a seller to a buyer and the recovery of expenses for policy monitoring and enforcement. The same can result from sharing or requesting contact information with the intention to trade outside of eBay. You can read the relevant policy here.
    • We have included language which means that we may deduct fees, charges or other amounts which you owe us from an eBay credit balance held or controlled by you.
    As with earlier updates, we’ve made other changes to keep the User Agreement up to date with the products and services we provide.
    You don’t need to take any further action to accept the new User Agreement. If you choose not to accept the new terms, visit this help page for further information.
    Regards,
    The eBay Team

    • northumbrian
      1 month ago

      seems common sense and reasonable to us
      if anyone came into our shop and encouraged our customers to buy elsewhere
      we would not be best suited either

    • pete
      1 month ago

      your in the minority northumbrian…. It’s not just about sales it’s about providing customers with effective communication

  • 4 weeks ago

    So you think sellers are going to incurr the cost of producing good quality images that can and will be stolen by their competitors. Really???

  • Sarah
    4 weeks ago

    When are you going to cover the HUGE missing listing problem that’s affecting tons of sellers and absolutely crippling them?

    Your coverage on it is worse than Sky Sports News on FA Cup Day. Funny joke maybe but when this massive problem is making many sellers seriously suicidal it’s not that funny.

  • Elvis
    4 weeks ago

    FBE –
    Fulfilled By eBay is something I am amazed at that they haven’t started, especially with the success amazon have of it, plus amazons recent fee increases in FBA.

    • Paul
      4 weeks ago

      Good point Elvis, ebay are too stupid, I don’t think they trust themselves to get it right, and I don’t think I’d trust them with my stuff. The problem is probably the massive investment they would need to make in infrastructure. Amazon aren’t under pressure to make profits like ebay are. Ebay need to come up with some new original ideas but so far the only guy with an original idea is the guy who devised ebay in the first place. Ebay are going backwards, tinkering themselves to death. When was the last time Amazon asked you to make major changes to your listings? The answer is NEVER!! But Amazon sales still keep on increasing.

  • Jason
    4 weeks ago

    So today a whole raft of messages landed,

    First one claims our listings are not mobile responsive, even though the scanner they sent me the link for states that it is. Confused.

    Second message stated we have images that are not clickable but as they are hosted by the shop design company that made our template, their url is in the item template code and this is not allowed. When I asked the agent where I am supposed to host them, they replied with a ” I do not know sorry “.

    I have spoken to the designers and they have stated that ebay developer support has stated they have done as stated in the http://pages.ebay.com/sell/itemdescription/bestpractices.html
    Does anyone at ebay know what is actual policy, is someone who suffers from seizures in charge and issuing commands while mid fit?

    • james
      4 weeks ago

      yes they are all having some sort of major episode over at ebay HQ.

      the old best practice for removing ACTIVE CONTENT, does not relate to removing OFF-SITE LINKS, both of which are banned.

      ebay banned Active content a few months ago, we all (those who had active content) had to spends hours and hours revising every single listing.
      ebay waited until we’d finished that, then introduced the off-site links, and contact info ban, meaning we all need to revise every single listing yet again.

      if your template maker isnt up to speed on the latest requirements, find a new template maker.
      if it’s a pre-paid one, download the image, edit it as required, host it yourself elsewhere, and change all your links to the new target.

    • Jason
      4 weeks ago

      Back peddling by the reps and a message that stated#

      “Amir
      12:26 PM

      Jason, I have just checked with my team and can see that there is some issue with our site and we will be sending samples to our concerned team. We will get back to you via email within 48-72 hours.”

      When do they ever get back to you? NEVER!!!

      They don’t know what they doing, our designers have contacted ebay’s own developer support team and they are saying they have no idea what they are talking about.

      Headless chickens, fulfilment LOL

      The real problem at ebay is the revolving door of new staff and new managers, it is surely killing off the platform.

  • 4 weeks ago

    We’ve had the same problem. Our company is a medium sized company selling furniture. We had our contact details in every listing, of which we have over 1000, many of which are never-ending as we replenish stock. We recieved a warning about the contact details in our listings and were told to remove them. We asked for a deadline for when this needed to be done by, which they refused to provide. As you can imagine, individually removed the contact details from over 1000 listings takes it time, on top of all the other work we have to do. 2 weeks later eBay banned us and deleted all of our listings. We managed to get about 80% of our listings back, but lost all of our watchers and SEO/Google ranking, not to mention sales! Now we are recieving suspicious (leading) eBay messages asking if we have a showroom, or a contact number or address. The senders keep repeating the question, despite being told that we can’t give the information out on eBay. Has anyone else experienced this? Would eBay really stoop so low as to fish to catch out their sellers?

  • Will
    3 weeks ago

    Very good point Andrew. Although Ebay charges us a fortune in fees it does have many benefits.

    For example i sold 8 rare postcards from a tv series for just a little over £200 GBP – no way i could have got that price through selling on another ecommerce platform.
    The nay sayers will just have to conform to Ebays new rules,
    or jump ship create your own website and pay through the nose in advertising.

  • Paul
    3 weeks ago

    I entered eBay UK in 1998 while at uni, avoided having to ever take a ‘proper job’, I sold over 250,000 items in over several IDs in past 20 years. This week i have closed off my final eBay store for good. ANY listing i do now is just for my own private sales. eBay has been the single reason and kick up the hoop i needed to start something new & learn new skills. I feel sorry to leave as I am one the small reasons ebay is a success BUT all i have been treat with is contempt by them, I have not had one phone call, not one email of thanks, no backup in support, awful customer service, awful message system, never ever felt i had any support or trust of the thousands of successful sales i have made. So glad to be starting the next chapter of my life. eBay can crash and burn into the dust as far as i’m concerned now.

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