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Impacts of eBay’s 2012 Fall Seller Update

August 8, 2012

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eBay released its annual Fall Seller Update just over two weeks ago now, in which it outlined the next round of changes it will be implementing and how those changes will impact how people who sell items through the site (here’s a link to eBay’s 2012 Fall Seller Update Checklist for those who are interested).

As usual, some of the updates target specific categories (of which “Sports Mem, Cards & Fan Shop” is not one), while others have impacts on sellers across the board.

In the past I have been extremely skeptical about what I read in these emails due to eBay’s repeated attempts try to convince sellers that what they’re reading about smells like roses even though any seller with half a brain knew immediately that they reeked like turds (see massive fee increases, the introduction of the anonymous Detailed Seller Rating system that often allows opinions to trump facts, or the elimination a seller’s ability to properly defend themselves against problem buyers).

My skepticism is far less pronounced this time around though, as there actually seems to be some generally positive steps being taken by the company on the part of sellers.

The changes were separated into three groups: “New Protections and Rewards”, “New Ways to Showcase Your Items, Boost Sales”, and “Other Updates”.  Here are some of the highlights that I believe will have an impact on sports card and memorabilia sellers:

New Protections and Rewards

A trio of changes specifically identified as “safeguards to protect sellers” are being implemented that will make an impact. 

The first requires that the buyer must contact the seller before they can open a Buyer Protection case, while the second involves only allowing cases found in the buyer’s favour to be counted in a seller’s US performance measures as of February.  Simply having a case opened against you will no longer impact your performance measures.  In addition to those two changes, eBay will also be making it quicker and easier for sellers to report buyers who they suspect are abusing the system.

Given my recent run-ins with a pair of problem buyers and the nearly twelve months of struggles I faced with my “business” due to a select few buyers’ unrealistic expectation that I ought to be losing money when I ship them an item, these are definitely welcome changes. 

They certainly don’t fix all of the problems faced by sellers, but they are at least another step in the right direction of restoring some semblance of balance to the equation.

On the rewards end of things, eBay is making changes to its “Top Rated” seller program by introducing a “Top Rated Plus” level.  Only the “Top Rated Plus” badge will be promoted in listings, with the “Top Rated” badge being retired and that status only being visible in a seller’s feedback profile page.

This one is a bit of a double-edged sword from my point of view. 

The Top Rated badge seemed unusually easy for sellers to qualify for, which to me diminished its value.  From that perspective I can see the need to introduce a level that is more difficult to qualify for.

The main problem I see with this change, however, is that sellers who deal in small volumes or with small-ticket items (such as myself) will find this level and its associated benefits extremely difficult to achieve.  Search results and listing promotion will be directly impacted by this change, meaning small-time sellers are once again being pushed farther and farther to the sidelines of the marketplace.

New Ways to Showcase Your Items, Boost Sales

The two big ones here are the mandatory inclusion of a picture with an item listing and enhanced visibility of item condition notes.

Both of these changes are intended to give buyers a better idea of exactly what it is they are buying, which eBay feels will limit the need for them to ask questions of the seller and prevent issues surrounding the “item as described” portion of the Detailed Seller Ratings program.

As long-time readers of this blog may remember, I implemented a personal policy of always including a picture with an item last year, so that change really has no impact on me.

As for the item condition notes piece, this may turn out to be something that will require some work on my part as I don’t often include specific notes right now.  This is largely due to the fact that the options eBay currently has in place for item condition aren’t exactly geared toward the condition of trading cards (i.e. brand new and like new).  I’m going to take a wait and see approach on this one, but if I do need to take action then I expect it will be fairly easy to do so through Turbo Lister.

Other Updates

Again, two changes in this category stand out to me.

The first is the introduction of a fee for ending an auction-style listing early if it has bids placed on it. 

eBay feels that such a scenario reduces buyer confidence and makes those buyers less likely to make purchases on eBay in the future.  I tend to agree and that opinion comes from both sides of the equation.

I can only recall ever doing this myself as a seller twice.  Both times I had to end the auction for reasons that were beyond my control, but on each occasion I felt the wrath of the people who had placed bids before the item was removed.  Those potential customers were basically lost forever because I removed items they felt were going to be theirs.  eBay adding a fine for doing that is just further motivation to never find myself in such a situation again.

Having also just experienced this as a buyer (a seller ended an auction just hours before it was set to end when it was at a much lower price than my high bid), I can appreciate the frustration from that end of the spectrum as well.

The second change involves further reduction of off-eBay communication with buyers. 

My eBay Messages and a seller’s email address will sync automatically, eliminating the duplication of efforts that is often involved in responding to inquires generated through eBay’s system.

Users will also be able to include images through My Messages, which eBay feels will eliminate the need to share personal email addresses or links to third-party photo-sharing sites.

Really these changes are all about eBay further restricting its users’ ability to communicate off its site (they don’t want sellers avoiding Final Value Fees by finalizing deals off the site), but since they’ve been moving in this direction for quite some time it’s good to see some changes being made that will make on-eBay communication easier and better for buyers and sellers alike.

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So there are the more impactful changes that I noticed in eBay’s latest Seller Update.  If you’re a seller on eBay, how do you feel about that the company has introduced this time around?  Did I miss anything you think might have an impact on my eBay selling habits?

Leave a comment, e-mail me at bb_bros@hotmail.com, or connect with me on Twitter or Facebook and let me know.

Until Sunday, all the best in your collecting pursuits!

Ryan

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