eBay rolls out more of the ETRS program in search and sellers aren’t happy…

September 30, 2009

ChannelAdvisor ChannelAdvisor By ChannelAdvisor

I’ve had several inbound ‘flame mails’ about a change eBay made this week as part of their roll out of the SR2 release.  I wanted to show everyone what’s going on and get a pulse from readers on where you stand.

Background
Back in late July (seems like 2 years ago!), eBay announced what they internally call SR2 (Seller Release 2).  We had detailed three-part coverage that begins here. A big chunk of the changes is what we call the ETRS program or eBay Top Rated Sellers program.  This program goes through an interim period from Oct 09- April 10 and then is fully live in April.   The way I explain it is that in this interim period, the search aspects go live (the front end or demand side) and then in April the fee aspects go live (or back-end/economics piece).
I’ve had lots of interviews with reporters about the program and generally think it is a good direction for eBay to be going in.  I’ve always been concerned (as is usually the case with eBay) that something between the announcement and the implementation/go-live would be a big ‘miss’.  It’s the eBay ‘wait and see’ factor.  Some of these things sound great on paper and in AB posts, but when the go live, they just do something so wacky they can cancel out the positive aspects of a program (for example, I’m still excited that ETRS is domestic only).
Today eBay went live with some search functionality that I’m calling the eTRS button that looks to be the wacky feature of SR2 that has caught everyone (even me) by surprise.
The eTRS button
eBay quietly added this prominent checkbox yesterday (Sept 29) and sellers noticed it in about 2 milliseconds.  On some browsers it has a big purple box and others it does not so it looks like eBay is still testing the appearance of the box.   In this screen shot it appears in the bottom left. This is a browse session, in search sessions it is showing up much higher as there usually isn’t a big category tree in SERPS.

Ebay_etrs_sort

 

What this innocent check box does is filters the results to show ONLY eTRS seller’s listings.  While eBay has talked about advantaging eTRS seller listings in search, they didn’t say they’d be giving buyers a very visible and easy way to ‘show only’ eTRS listings.  Sellers are in an uproar because this is an extreme advantaging to eTRS listings that wasn’t part of  any of the announcements or sample screen shots from the July announcements.  There’s a big difference in ‘demoted’ or ‘not advantaged’ to ‘easily filtered out’.
‘eTRS Coverage’ -data from the eTRS button
Long-time readers will know I’m a data nut, so this button actually gives us an interesting ability to measure today’s and future eTRS coverage for a variety of eBay categories.  What you do is navigate to the category, capture the number of listings and then click the magic eTRS button.  Now you know the eTRS listings, non-eTRS listings, total listings and relative %’s of each.  In other words you can see how many ‘top rated’ vs. not top rated (low rated?) listings.  I built the following table of eBay’s top 15 or so categories using this approach: (click to zoom)

Etrs_coverage

 

Here’s the same data, but sorted from most eTRS coverage to least.

Etrs_coverage_sorted

There are some interesting data points here to observe and mull over:
  • Overall 21.3% of eBay listings are top-rated
  • The Camera category is the highest with 28%
  • The DVD category is lowest with 13.2% (ouch)
  • With eBay’s first page of results showing 50 items and with a 21% coverage, if a search term has  240 results or more, it’s very likely that the entire first page will be eTRS.  That’s going to make it really tough for non-eTRS sellers as pretty much every eBay search I ever run comes back with > 2k items unless I get extremely specific.
Moving forward we’ll be tracking this on a monthly basis (assuming the eTRS button is here to stay forever) and will report on that as I think it’s going to be an interesting way to measure the success of the program.
What do you think about the new eTRS button?
Seller and buyer readers what do you think of this change?  Sound off in comments.  BTW, lots of eBay folks read this blog so this is a way to be heard.
SeekingAlpha Disclosure – I am long Google and Amazon.  I am CEO of ChannelAdvisor where eBay is a minority investor.