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eBay Fashion faux pas before Christmas

By Chris Dawson November 8, 2018 - 1:55 pm

Fashion retailers were notified that updates to item specifics on eBay listings would need to be made by November, via a little pop up in the Seller Hub in early October. In a Fashion faux pas, eBay listings will be blocked from renewing and relisting if they’re not updated starting on the 8th of November.

At the time, sellers questioned whether the notice period was a little short, especially considering that no retailer ever makes plans for major changes or updates in Q4 just as Black Friday is about to land and orders hot up for Christmas.

Now that the restriction has landed, sellers are pretty upset as one could have foreseen:

“So this restriction is live today, 8 weeks before Christmas and we have 442 listings that are set to fail on Sunday. We can either get all of those items and relist them manually, or we can leave them unlisted and spend that time listing new stock. Or we can just guess at the answers and hope. All the data is captured in the listing so buyers will be able to tell what the colour and sleeve lengths are. Perhaps I can just pop onto the seller hub and use a handy tool that’s been developed to help sellers identify update the listings. Oh wait — when I go to Seller Hub, I can’t even find the announcement about this in the list.”
– David Brackin, Stuff U Sell via Tamebay comments

Looking back, there are many things that could have been done to make seller’s lives easier. For starters the timing was never going to be good and the current changes which apply in the Women’s Tops & Shirts category are now live.

There are a maximum of 15 Item Specifics that can be used for eBay items and what would really help sellers is to know which are mandatory and which are actually displayed on eBay so that buyers can use to refine their search queries. Changing from “Main Colour” to “Colour” might appear to be a small change, but if it’s blocking your listing from renewing or launching it’s a major issue.

eBay also don’t give any helpful guidance as to the attributes that should be used for a garment and in particular have a highly confusing way of displaying them. We’re publishing another post just on Item Specifics and how confusing they are today.

The biggest failing from eBay is the way that they disseminate the information – they published a PDF. PDFs are not helpful to sellers, they can’t import the information into listing tools, it’s not helpful to try and cross check a PDF when listing, it’s not at all easy to check existing live listing Item Specifics against a PDF.

Why was there no easy to use tool in the new eBay Seller Hub identifying listings which would fail to renew as of today with tips to update the Item Specifics? Why was there not a longer lead time and a warning that live listings which would need updating?

If you are a fashion seller than you have our sympathies. You’re probably much more interested in uploading new stock and preparing for Black Friday than you are knowing that for the next 30 days you’ve got to deal with Good Til Cancelled listings that have failed to renew.

It might be reasonable to say that you had notification from eBay, took the decision rather than edit existing listings it was easier to bury your head in the sand and wait for listings to fail rather than try and fix them ahead of time and that you’ve only got yourself to blame. It might also be reasonable to say that with the lack of tools to identify and fix your listings you had no real choice and eBay could have done a lot more to help you.

  • Jay
    2 weeks ago

    Can I also just add… we’ve been offered 50% off our Final Values Fees throughout Nov, Dec and January on all Women’s Coats and Jackets if we update the required Item Specifics before 30th November. The credit will be applied to our February invoice.

    The offer isn’t widespread it would appear, we were invited to take it up with a phone call and only assuming because we have “thousands” of listings within this category and had to “agree” to make the changes via email.

    There’s nothing in Seller Hub to identify the listings. eBay simply sent us a direct email with a spreadsheet attached containing the “Item Numbers” of the listings they want updated.

    Anyone who uses eBay File Exchange will already know the struggles between “ItemID” and “CustomLabel” (typically used for SKU) in the way that there is no easy way to match them up. You cannot update your existing listings simply by providing “SKU”. You have to provide the Item Number and that makes this task so much more difficult, yet, this could so easily be resolved with a few extra lines of code in the eBay File Exchange system, which is still in the Stone Age.

    Additionally the eBay API is of no use either. Unless your listing was created initially using the API and you specifically set the correct field telling eBay that you’d like to manage that listing using only “SKU”, then you cannot make any changes to it without providing the Item Number.

    What eBay seem to fail to understand here is that Item Numbers can change. If you end a listing and relist it, it’ll have a different item number. However, your own SKU is unlikely to change. So why on earth would anyone want to rely on eBay Item Numbers for keep track of and maintaining their inventory.

  • Nick
    2 weeks ago

    Have you tried setting InventoryTrackingMethod to SKU when creating a listing through File Exchange?

    It seems to accept it and also gives an error if the value is invalid. I just got the following when I deliberately gave it a bad value:

    “Error – Input data for tag is invalid or missing. Please check API documentation.”

    Then you could try revising a listing using just the SKU.

    • Nick
      2 weeks ago

      Part of this got deleted.

      The full message was:

      “Error – Input data for tag Item.InventoryTrackingMethod is invalid or missing. Please check API documentation.”

    • Jay
      2 weeks ago

      @Nick

      Thanks for the tip. I was under the impression that this setting did not work with File Exchange and that it was exclusively used for API calls. Also, I do remember reading in the API docs that the setting couldn’t be changed once a listing had already been created. So, it was my understanding that we couldn’t simply “revise” an existing listing and set the inventory tracking method to SKU.

      Anyhow, I guess relying entirely on what you read isn’t always best practice. Best advice is to just try it and see what happens.

      I will try your suggestion.

    • Nick
      2 weeks ago

      It must be worth a try although I couldn’t find it in the File Exchange manual.

    • Nick
      2 weeks ago

      In case I didn’t make it clear this was using Action=Add. You must set the InventoryTrackingMethod when adding an item (according to the API documentation). It can’t be revised later.

    • 1 day ago

      Once the listing is created, the InventoryTrackingMethod on a live listing may not be changed (the documentation is correct). Once set to SKU, you will never be able to create a second listing with that SKU until the initial one has been ended (can be relevant to some sellers). Many management tools cannot work with InventoryTrackingMethod = SKU listings, if they try to submit revisions. The eBay API will reject attempts to use the item number to identify and update the listings, requiring all management be by SKU. That can be useful to some sellers, but is quite rarely used and can cause problems if you try to use any other software in the future to manage your listings. (ChannelAdvisor has been built to handle that automatically, but it wasn’t easy.) As noted, it might cause a problem with File Exchange or other implementations, so tread with caution.

      Since you note that this is difficult for you to link between the ItemID and the SKU values, that implies you do not have a 1:1 relationship, which is required to do the management by SKU. If you do have a 1:1 relationship, then using something like a VLOOKUP in a spreadsheet should allow you to correlate them together and create an update request that uses the ItemID value to apply changes to your listings.

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