Finding changes and how to change your strategy

August 7, 2008

Marketplaces ChannelAdvisor By ChannelAdvisor

Since May we’ve been talking with sellers about two changes that were announced that we thought would dramatically change the strategies for sellers.  They are:

  • Only 10 items/seller per page of search results
  • De-dupe – anything that eBay flags as ‘identical’ is now eliminated by default

In fact back in July, we covered lots of specifics on how de-dupe would work, etc.

On July 31, Jeff King, posted to the AB that these changes were now live.  Definitely read this.  This part in particular is of importance as you think through your strategies:

As a reminder, our new Search
& Browse Manipulation policy
prohibits sellers from  gaming”
the system to trick the system into displaying their identical items

Understanding de-dupe
eBay’s getting complicated because there are essentially two search systems – finding 1.0 and 2.0.  Based on my experiments, in both systems the de-duping is the default, unless you opt out and then you have to nuke some cookies to get it to come back.  You can tell that the de-duping is turned on if you look at the bottom of your search results and see this:

Dedupe_1

What’s tricky about the de-dupe implementation is that the search result counts with/without de-dupe are the same.  What you have to do to figure out how many listings are eliminated is do the math of number of pages of results times your results per page.

Here’s the most extreme example. If I do a search for ‘paypal’ (titles and description) I get

8,780,542 items.  However, when I scroll to the bottom, the navigation says there are 137,646 pages of 50 results each which yields

6,882,300 actual results once the de-dupe does it’s thing.  That’s 22% of the listings that are de-duped.

De-dupe – how it is impacting sellers
There are many challenges with the de-duping of listings.  First is there are many sellers that are seeing items de-duped that they believe are different in nature.  For example, let’s say I refurbish laptops.  Each laptop is a dell inspiron 100, but each one has a different config, condition, etc.  We’re hearing that all of these listings are being viewed as identical and thus de-duped.

Second, a long-standing strategy for larger sellers was to own a particular search term by using saturation strategies to get as much shelf-space in the search results.  Well, de-dupe destroys that.

Also, sellers argue that they are paying a listing fee and the listing should show up!  Well unless they have the exact same ending/starting time, the hidden listings will eventually show, but in short – yes – you are not getting value for your listing fee.  More on this in the strategy section below.

10-listings – how it is impacting sellers
The 10-listing rule is even more disruptive to large sellers that own a category.  For example, many apparel sellers will concentrate on a certain brand and invest in a lot of inventory.  Let’s say you are a shoe seller and you have a warehouse of Etnies shoes.  To take the de-dupe out of the equation (although it very much is), assume you have 100 unique paris of etnies you currently have listed.  The consumer does a search for etnies.

Only 10 of your 100 items will show up on the first page, then 10 on the next, etc.  What these sellers are arguing is that they have invested in their eBay business and inventory and created a certain market share (represented by their supply % in the search results) and now eBay is forcing them to a max 10/50 or 20% market share.  If you previously had let’s say 40% of the etnies market before, this new change could effectively force a halving of your share.

Adopting your strategies to these significant finding changes

Both of these changes to me send a pretty clear set of signal that I’m not sure seller’s are receiving:

  • There is no economic benefit from listing the same stuff twice (in fact it’s negative).  So stop!
  • If you’re only going to get ten items into the listings – make them count
  • If you have X of an item, don’t list X, list one with X quantity
  • BestMatch seems to be favoring ending first less and less and conversions/listing more and more.
  • We all know that eBay is heading towards a more retail site.

Add all of this together and you need to really re-evaluate your listing strategy if you are feeling any pain from these changes.  Even if you aren’t, it would not be prudent in my opinion if eBay is an important part of your business to fight the direction eBay is signaling.

What you need to do is start adding a 7 or maybe even 10-day multi-quantity fixed-price listing to your strategy.

Multi-quantity fixed price is your friend (MQFP)
I’ve said this to several sellers and they are frequently not familiar with the format because they have historically put one listing per item they want to sell.  eBay has changed the rules of the game and the MQFP is going to help you get back in the game and even potentially get ahead.

Let’s say you have 100 etnie shoes and at the end of the day you have 5 of 20 unique items.

With MQFP you list 20 listings with quantity 5 each at 10 days.  Now half your inventory shows up in search (previously it could be only 2 skus worst-case if you had five duplicate listings) because a) you aren’t being de-duped at all and b) of course only half your items get blanked out by 10-sku, but page 2 catches them.  Before if you had 100 listings, you’d be spread over 10 pages – talk about waste of listing fees!

Add to the mix that I believe that as you sell one or two of the items, bestmatch raises a big green ‘this listing converts! I’m going to advantage it!!’ flag and you’ll be off to the races.

What NOT to do
Remember the quote I pulled from Jeffs posting?  It’s important enough I’m going to repeat it here:

As a reminder, our new Search
& Browse Manipulation policy
prohibits sellers from  gaming”
the system to trick the system into displaying their identical items
.

Sellers are contacting us and asking things like:
“Can your software automatically mix up attributes and titles to try and confuse the eBay de-dupe thing?”
“I’m going to create 100 seller IDs to get around the 10 listings/seller/page thing”

I don’t think either of these moves is prudent and you don’t want to find yourself NARU trying to game the finding system.  Trust and Safety has a VERY ITCHY TRIGGER finger right now and if you give them a reason to nuke you, they will.  Many sellers believe that eBay is very inefficient at detecting accounts from the same people, or matching items that are similar but with tweaked titles, etc.  I can tell you eBay is getting amazingly effecient at this and if they believe you are pushing the envelope here, action will be taken.

I think it’s a much better (and less risky) use of your time to look at things like MQFP, etc.

How to leverage MQFP for those ChannelAdvisor customers out there….
For those CA customers out there that want to experiment with the MQFP listing, here’s a tutorial on the strategy and support centre (search for ‘multiple quantity fixed price’) and here’s a tutorial on scheduling.  I’d recommend experimenting with taking your inventory and spreading it across 2-5 MQFPs so you can get some ending first benefit and balance it with the