Ongoing eBay Promoted Listings tests and impact on multi-variation listings

By Chris Dawson March 5, 2019 - 9:00 am

We’ve become aware of multiple tests being run on eBay Promoted Listings. Having been watching them for the past week, the format in which they are displayed has changed, as have some of the positions that they are displayed in.

One thing that we spotted in the middle of last week is that eBay Promoted Listings for multi-variation items sometimes seemed to be presented as much more attractive to buyers than the same listings appear in organic search results.

The differences are stark for a product I recently looked to purchase – a new bin – the first search result in Best Match was for an eBay Promoted Listing and the second search result in Best Match is actually the first organic search result and for the same product… but with some major differences.

The first search result – The paid eBay Promoted listing

  • A single price £8.97 is displayed.
  • Free postage is displayed
  • 3,508+ sold is displayed

The second search result – The organic listing

  • A price range £8.97 – £22.98 is displayed
  • Product ratings are displayed
  • Free postage is displayed but with the addition of Click & Collect messaging
  • 457+ sold is displayed – considerably less than when you click through to the listing which then displays 3,508+ sold

It looks like there are differences based on single variations and the entire listing, but even then they’re not consistent between the promoted listing and organic listings – for instance the eBay promoted listing is displaying the price for the smallest 3 litre bin but number sold for the entire listing, while the organic listing displays the price range but (as far as I can tell) the number of sales for a 12 litre bin.

It would make more sense if the points were consistent for both organic and paid eBay Promoted Listings, instead they appear slightly misleading and in this instance make the paid eBay Promoted Listing appear more attractive than the organic search result even though the paid and the unpaid search results are for the exact same listing.

This isn’t a one off – we tested by searching for another bin using the full listing title. Again the paid for eBay Promoted listing looks more attractive as it’s 1st in search results and shows the lowest variation item price, whilst in this case the organic search result again showed the price range from cheapest to most expensive but displayed an image for the cheapest variation on offer.

Weirdness with eBay Promoted Listings vs Organic Listing example 2

One might be tempted to surmise that eBay are trying to make paid eBay Promoted Listings hyper-attractive to buyers and in theory there’s nothing wrong with this. The downside is that they may be appearing more attractive than organic listings for which additional fees aren’t being charged. The double downside is that the paid for eBay Promoted Listing in both these cases were gifted the first position in search results while the less attractive appearing organic listing were in the 2nd position in search results.

If one was to be kind to eBay, it may be fair to say that when sellers volunteer to pay additional fees for promoted listings, eBay appear to be trying to optimise them to be at their most attractive to buyers. It’s just unfortunate that these two sellers have had to pay for the top position in search results to prevent their competitors getting greater visibility when they are already top of organic eBay Best Match.

If one were to take a harsher view, one might say that eBay aren’t putting in the same optimisation effort for organic search results because if a buyer clicks the paid for eBay promoted listing then eBay gets more fees so that’s what they are focussing on.

Ongoing tests and optimisation for eBay Promoted Listings

Since we took the screen shots above, the way that eBay Promoted Listings are displayed has changed yet again and we’re no longer seeing a paid for listing in the top spot of search results and they are now displaying the full price range, however we are still seeing the higher sold counts on paid for eBay promoted listings which is a strong buying signal compared to the lower count on organic search results.

The most likely explanation is ongoing tests and, bearing in mind the importance eBay has placed on Promoted listings and their revenue stream, that the eBay Advertising team are constantly optimising the experience and testing to see what works best.

It may be that more attention is being given to the display of eBay Promoted Listings than is being focused on the presentation of organic search results. This would be bad for sellers as a paid for optimised Promoted Listing will cost them more in fees than the same listing in organic search results. Or there may be a totally different explanation that has thus far eluded us – if you have wisdom to share then we’re all ears.

  • 3 years ago

    Our sales for multi-buys seem to have increased better than when we offered the “Buy3 & Get £5 Off” deal

  • Mark
    3 years ago

    Its just a typical eBay scam.

    Sign up to sell your items by paying us a subscription fee then if you expect good sales you are in for a shock.
    But we will actually promote your listing to sell if you pay us even more money and if you don’t we will hide not only your listing but really good info will be hidden as well.

    • 3 years ago

      @Mark How can it be a scam, the extra feature to offer a discount to buyers is FREE

      By using it I am able to sell more and I don’t lose out as I save on the postage. Of course, like all things in life, it works for some sellers and not others.

      Our sales are down by 30% but not all of that is due to eBay, there are at least two sellers selling brand new items for 40% off retail, we cannot compete with them.

  • Mark
    3 years ago

    Hi no not the multi sell as like you say that makes sense with some items due to postage. I meant the sponsored listings where they will allow you to sell your items with all whistles and bells if you pay them more.
    Our sales are down over 28% and we have not increased a price in 3 years we have been absorbing it. But luckily for us we have other outlets picking up the slack.

    There must be something wrong when we are selling a product on eBay for £6.45 free shipping and sell 4 per day that used to sell 20-30 per day and we employed someone to prepare it who we had to finish. Yet the same item on Amazon sells over 30 per day recently and we charge £9.99 plus £1.99 shipping.

    We put no effort in on Amazon other than to list and pack yet on eBay we get around 5 questions per day and that’s on a good day sometimes its around 10 on Amazon 1 per month yet the description on eBay is very detailed and pretty useless and basic on Amazon.

    Our other platforms are now picking up as well so eBay are falling so far behind in every aspect but mostly sales.

    Surely every time they increase fees your sales drop so they earn the same yet leaving the where they are and allowing us to increase with inflation costs to us earns them more.

    If you multi sell the customer buys a face cream that lasts a week for £10 then they buy 3 for £9 ebay was getting around £1 per week now they get £2.70 in 3 weeks because the woman does not put it on 3 times thicker (well some do) someone is going to pick up the bill and you can be sure it will not be eBay

    • 3 years ago

      @Mark I don’t have a problem with promoted listings, one of the benefits of eBay is that you only pay on a result.

      When you advertise your items for sale on Google or FaceBook you pay regardless of if you get a sale or not.

      On eBay I use promoted listings as well as the multi-buy but set promoted listings to 1% and I put all my prices up to full RRP.

      Like you I also sell on Amazon and sell far more than I do on eBay 4/5x more for the same products with no effort. I am also looking to sell via Seller Fulfilled Prime. which some claim to lift sales.

      Surely if a buyer brought a £10 item from you each week eBay would make more than them buying 3 every 3 weeks? 3x £1.00 v 1x £2.70

  • Mark
    3 years ago

    Yes that was what i meant ebay make 30p less but they will not put up with that for long.

    We sold on the seller fulfilled scheme and pulled loads of items back off it.

    a manufacturer gave us 100 of a new product and said only him and us were selling it on Amazon on seller fulfilled prime.
    Within 1 hour there were us him and Amazon. He rang me up and asked i we had supplied them i said i had not even opened the box.

    He and us removed from Prime and within 30 seconds Amazon showed out of stock two hours later we both listed on Prime again and Amazon suddenly had it i stock again.

    IF every item amazon say they sell they actually had they would need a warehouse the size of North America.

    They apparently use software to divert that sale from them to you if you offer prime.
    Now they still get your 15% sales fee and they don’t store they don’t pack they don’t ship they don’t have the return risk its all yours. Then a return is biloled at £2.99

    They could not get it from elsewhere as his family own the factory in China. Every one buys and when asked where they bought it they say Amazon they rarely say off Joe bloggs shop on Amazon so they even get the advertising.

    Weand them just ship free now not prime and guess what Amazon are still out of Stock

    • 3 years ago

      @Mark Yes I recall you saying that on another post, but I do not really see the problem, nor do I see how Amazon are out of pocket.

      Amazon sell it – You pay them 15%
      You sell it – You pay them 15%

      Amazon sell it – People say they brought from Amazon
      You sell it – People say they brought from Amazon

      Amazon get a return – You pay the postage
      You get a return – You pay the postage

      If you sell more items through using SFP then you make more sales / profit regardless of if you or Amazon sell it.

  • Mark
    3 years ago

    H Tyler we saw hardly any growth in sales at all using the Prime.
    The only issue i have with Amazon doing that is the fact its a bit naughty looking good but making you take all th flack.
    By the time we were told what our postage would be because they get a kickback from the deal they have done with RM so it was around 85p more than we pay on our account. Then the buyer can have 48 or 24 hour so again an extra £1 if they select 24 which most do remember its Amazon getting their £7.99 per month subscription not you.
    Plus the return of £2.99 when an item does not fit as we sel a lot of items that rely on customers measuring correctly.
    So we could lose a lot of money on Prime

    standard selling price was £17.49 free shipping.
    shipped at tracked rate of £2.86

    on prime £17.49 Prime shipped at £3.22 or £4.34.
    returns at £2.99.

    No say at all about the return just done even when the item showed delivered on tracking but customer rang them and said they had not got it just 2 days after delivery date then RM admitted it was delivered 2 doors down and customer was told and went and got it but did not pay us again.

    So we had to start charging £18.99 and sales fell through the floor.
    We reverted to £17.49 free shipping and sales boomed and when they dont fit they pay to return as the laws says

    • 3 years ago

      @Mark I understand it is a bit naughty but then so is many of the way Amazon promote their listings.

      I do not understand how you take all the flack or even what flack you take unless your selling items not fit for purpose, but even then surely Amazon would take the flack as they would be the ones selling the item.

      Amazon make the sale but give you the details to deliver, if the buyer is unhappy they look to see who sold it and then complain to Amazon as that is who they purchased through.

      Royal Mail: not sure how the RM system links with Amazon. I have been told that I link my account with Amazon and only get charged the rate that RM have agreed with me and I would still pay RM direct.

      I was looking at using the Amazon delivery system rather than RM but it is slightly more expensive, about 18p.

      Amazon Shipping gave me Next Day or 3-Day Delivery rates. and was under the impression that if the buyer choose 24hr delivery they paid extra for it?

      I understand the returns / customer service will all be handled by Amazon, which I am sceptical about, although I rarely have a return or a problem but another reason why I would choose Amazon delivery, hopefully to make them fully responsible.

      Like many things, it works for some people and not others, I would never use FBA but thousands of sellers do.

  • 3 years ago

    Great catch.
    “Since we took the screen shots above, the way that eBay Promoted Listings are displayed has changed yet again…”

    Agreed, I have observed many small changes (presumably tests) with promoted listings the past few months on the US site. My surmise is eBay is attempting to data-mine results in order to dial in the right formula(s).

    I would not be surprised if eBay at some point in the future were to tier promoted listings price banding differentiation other than simply placement frequency (like image size, which I have also observed tested in search results).

  • Mark
    3 years ago

    Hi Tyler
    the unfortunate thing is the flack is when a customer wants to return stuff without paying they use every means ope to them such as a size 12 inc to 15 inch but then a guide of a dog breed they then say you said it would fit that breed,
    All our products are brand new and fit for purpose. Amazon diver the sale to you behind the scenes so they automatically accept the return regardless and the message we get is buyer says item not as described etc.
    Many have no way to reply.

    But everyone to their own ways of selling and using what works for them. We just like offering all the same items with cheaper prices and free shipping same speeds etc.

  • jim
    3 years ago

    one needs to use witch craft Dark arts and alchemy to understand this ,
    even brexit is less complicated

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