Mega Finding 2.0 update!

July 15, 2008

ChannelAdvisor ChannelAdvisor By ChannelAdvisor

Note: Every time I blog about Finding 2.0, I get lots of comments about sellers+buyers hating the new finding.  The general thought is that millions of buyers are used to searching eBay a certain way, and why should eBay change?  The reality is that the eBay buying (finding is key to that of course) hasn’t kept up with the rest of the internet and they have a good 5-10yrs of innovation to catch up on.  Thus, I think it’s important for eBay to fix this, but do it in such a way that improves the experience for NEW buyers, INACTIVE buyers and ACTIVE buyers. To me, that’s a very interesting problem and I’ll continue to track eBay’s progress and report on things as they go.

Finding 2.0 from the horse’s mouth
Last week, I theorised that eBay was opting more consumers into Finding 2.0 and provided some background on the new feature.  I had a call this week with Jeff King and other members of eBay’s Finding team to help clarify some questions that ChannelAdvisor’s customers have about Finding 2.0 and was able to glean many interesting tidbits that eBay cordially said I could share with readers.

15-sku rule/de-dup/even-selection/bump or dump?
First, within the seller community, there is a fair amount of fear-uncertainty and doubt around a bunch of Finding changes that were announced on May 19 called “Policy Updates”.  Unfortunately, most sellers don’t know about these because they were Finding changes kind of buried in a ‘policy update’ note so hopefully we can get the word out.  The three major things you need to know about are:

  • Removal of the 15 listing limit – You can now list as many of any product as you want, vs. being limited to 15
  • De-duping – HOWEVER, if you list the same item multiple times, eBay will only display 1 (yes one -1, uno).
  • Even selection – The number of listings from any one seller will be limited to 10 per page

Long-time eBay sellers that read these bullets will hopefully realise that these three little bullets effectively turn most eBay scheduling/listing strategies on their head.  No longer can you saturate the search results or try to own 10% of the first page, etc.

The trick here is the first bullet (15-listing) went live May 19, but the other bullets have not, so sellers have reported competitors flooding eBay with lots of duplicate listings.  Also, the original post isn’t very clear on how the de-dup/even selection will work. I clarified several areas with eBay:

ES Q: With de-duping, will the buyer get a visual cue that there are multiple listings?
eBay A: No, the buyer will see a note at the bottom of SERP that says: “Note: duplicates have been omitted”.

ES Q: With even-selection, if a seller has 1000 unique items on eBay and 100 would have been on page 1 with BestMatch, what happens to the 90 that do not display?  Are they bumped to page 2+ or are they ‘dumped’ and the new BestMatch page 2 items are shown?
eBay A: The items are bumped, not dumped.

ES Q: When are the de-dupe and even selection changes rolling to the site?
eBay A: Towards the end of July

ES Q: Sellers are very entrepreneurial and tend to do things like opening multiple accounts, rotate titles, etc. to get around these kinds of things.
eBay A: We’re anticipating a variety of optimizations and believe we’ll be able do things like link accounts that eliminate gaming of the system.

(speculation) – I’m sure eBay would have preferred to roll the changes simultaneously with the 15-sku rule change, but I imagine getting some of these features to work at the scale eBay deals with have taken longer to get out than anticipated.

Finding 2.0 update
We turned the conversation to F2 and eBay did say that more people than expected are opting in (and staying in) to finding 2.  They mentioned that later in July they will be experimenting with a number of features.  A couple to keep an eye out for:

  • Improved recall – as F2 is ‘learning’ about how people search, its getting better at helping buyers find what they are looking for.  For example, a search like “size xxl sweatshirt” today on F2 will not automatically know that the size should be xxl and will instead do a text search for XXL in the title.  Future F2 tweaks will improve this.
  • Change to the navigation/refinement – In the current F2, if you enter “shoes”, as you select refinements, they are given little boxes that show up under the search box.  The consumer can click the ‘x’ to remove that refinement.  eBay is going to test a different way of doing this (which I think looks cleaner) that keeps the refinement nav to the left and allows the consumer to tick boxes on the left vs. bouncing the consumer around between the left/top/etc.
  • The next one is exciting enough that I wanted to cover it in its own topic:

AuctionZone: An interesting fixed-price/auction hybrid approach – from Italy
eBay has been experimenting with how to achieve their goal of improving the fixed-price eBay experience, while continuing to keep the auction heritage. For example, earlier in the year, John Donahoe talked about a split-screen test (fixed price left/auction right) they were doing and it turns out that eBay has been testing something called AuctionZone in Italy that is working well and will see testing in the US shortly.

In Italy, eBay is largely fixed price and there is more of a store-in-search kind of experience.  To surface auction-style listings, eBay created a strip at the top of results for auctions (ordered in good old ‘ending first’ it appears.)  This strip is essentially 7 snapshot chiclets and a scrolling nave and a little ‘quick nav’ thingy (bottom right – 5 little boxes with an orange punch-out that shows where you are) that you can use to zoom around the auction results faster than the page flip.  Here’s an example screen shot or see it live here (warning: some Italian could be handy) : (the red box ans AUCTIONZONE text were added by me to make sure you don’t miss this innovation).

Auctionzone_2

While I think that in the USA, 7 auctions/SERP is probably not enough exposure for auctions, it is encouraging to see eBay continuing to work on this challenge and test different solutions.  I’m excited to see them leverage snapshot view for it because….

Buyers love snapshot
One of my favourite (and the reason I’m staying opted-in to be honest with you) features of F2 is snapshot view.  This has previously been called Window Shopping, and now is called snapshot view (I liked WS better, personally).  What’s neat is you can really quickly browse through hundreds of items and look at large versions of the pics very quickly.  For example, here’s one of my favourite buyer searches on eBay (star wars – highest price), in snapshot view. With a few ‘hovers’ of the mouse I can now see what is interesting here, zip to the next page, next page and be done in seconds with what used to take 20-30 mins.  This means as a buyer that I check this and other favourite searches more often and I’m finding more interesting things than I did in traditional ‘list view’.

eBay confirmed that Snapshot view is getting a lot of play from buyers and they are excited to see how it performs for the holidays.

Implications for sellers?
There’s a lot of detailed information here that we covered and if you sell on eBay, here are the implications:

  • As the Finding experience changes, you need to make sure that consumers are still finding your items (DSRs, DSRs, DSRs!)
  • The old ‘saturate search results’ strategies will go away when the new de-dupe and even selection changes roll.
  • (speculation) Given the way the changes are going and some behaviours we’re seeing in BestMatch, I’m getting the sense that the best strategies are going to involve multi-quantity fixed-price listings. BM seems to look at conversion data (conversions/listing) and if you have 20 items to sell and attempt to do it 1 listing at a time, you can do no better than 1 conversion per listing.  However if you had a 7 or 10 day fixed-price listing with quant=20 in there, as the items sell, you should be able to (if you have great DSRs) get some better exposure because your conv/listing will obviously be higher than something that is 1:1.

That’s a lot of information for one post, after you digest it let me know what you think and if you have any follow-up questions.  I’ll continue to keep an eye on F2 and let everyone know if/when any of these items ‘go live’.

Seeking Alpha Disclosure: I am long Google/GOOG.