May 25, 2017 by Andrew Minalto - 29 Comments

How NOT to Lose Your Shirt after eBay’s Spring 2017 Business Seller UPDATE!

Something very strange and unexpected happened on this blog last year… I wrote a post about an eBay update and it was pretty much all good news!

Shocking I know, as “eBay update” and “good news” usually don’t come hand in hand.

8 months on from that historic event and we have another eBay update to deal with – so will it be back to normal or is it more good news for us sellers?

Let’s find out!

We’ll delve into each one in more detail to find out exactly what the changes are and what they mean to us, but overall the Spring 2017 update can be grouped into a few main categories:

  • Emphasis on buyer friendly return policies – in eBay’s own words, they’re going to be “rewarding sellers who offer buyer friendly returns policies with greater visibility to their listings”.
  • Updates to seller performance standards – there are some positive changes being made to performance standards when selling abroad BUT the maximum allowed late delivery rate is being lowered for top rated sellers.
  • Category changes – eBay are again making some changes to the product categories and sub-categories, which is all to do with trying to align themselves to general industry standards and make it easier for product identifiers to be used.
  • Seller Hub developments – there are also some updates to Seller Hub, which I’m excited to see as I’m already pretty happy with the whole idea (though just so I don’t give eBay too much credit, they did borrow heavily from Amazon here!).
  • General policy updates – nothing too important here (unless you sell custom items that require printing!) but we’ll still go over it nonetheless.
  • Changes to international eBay sites – including both .com as well as the 4 major European sites – .de, .fr, .it, and .es

And that’s the overview of this eBay update, but let’s now go into each change in more detail and see whether it’s good or bad news!

Buyer Friendly Return Policies

This is the area I’m most interested in, for two reasons – firstly because I already offer a very generous returns policy in my eBay businesses and I was hoping that eBay were going to reward this with a boost in search rankings.

Now this doesn’t appear to be the case as they’re NOT going to give a direct boost in search. Instead eBay are “providing improved search filters and highlighting free returns on listings to help increase visibility”.

So I presume this means that they’re going to add the ability to filter search results for listings with FREE RETURNS only, just as you can do now for free delivery:

And then the second part about highlighting free returns, that will be some sort of logo to show which listings offer free returns in your search results. Again, similar to what we currently have with Fast & Free and eBay Premium Service:

SCREENSHOT 2.

Overall I’m still happy as this will mean more click-throughs to my listings and therefore more views and more sales!

And then the second reason that I was very interested in this change is because returns is a huge area of concern for my blog readers! I get countless emails every week about buyer returns on eBay and it’s clearly one of the biggest issues for sellers and with good reason – just check out my article on the top ten buyer scams on eBay and you can see how many of them involve abusing returns! eBay even refer to this themselves as they say that “most returns go smoothly but we also know it’s an area of concern for our sellers” – which is a bit of an understatement.

But what are they doing to stop unscrupulous buyers taking advantage of sellers?

Well eBay are taking three additional steps to protect us:

  • “Starting this autumn, sellers who offer free returns can decide if they want to offer less than a full refund. This applies in cases where an item is returned that is not in the same condition that it was in when you sent it, for example, a damaged item or an item no longer in its original packaging.
  • Improved detection of buyers we suspect of misusing returns to stop them before they start a return.
  • Strengthened preventative measures against buyers misusing returns.”

Now I don’t know if I’m just becoming cynical after years of hearing such things but to me that sounds like a lot of waffle. I mean, I’m honestly not sure what “improved detection of buyers we suspect of misusing returns to stop them before they start a return” actually means to me and you, in practical terms and I’ll be very very surprised if we see any real change when it comes to buyer abuse of returns.

So really it’s not a surprise that sellers are so wary of offering free or longer returns, because surely that will mean more abuse from buyers, right?

Well NO, in my opinion that is completely wrong!

Scammers really don’t care if you offer 14 days or 30 days returns, because they’ll just start their scam earlier either way. And they also don’t really care if you offer free returns or not because that only applies when the buyer has changed their mind! All they’ll do is simply say it arrived damaged or faulty or it isn’t as described and that way you’ll be liable for return postage anyway.

Which means that by not offering extended and free returns, the only customers you’re losing are genuine buyers... buyers who just want a little more confidence in your products – and that’s exactly what offering 30 day or free returns does – it tells potential buyers that you know your product is good and you don’t expect any returns.

Of course it’s inevitable that you will get slightly more returns like this BUT this will be more than offset by the increase in sales.

And please don’t doubt this or argue the point as it’s simply a fact that a better returns policy results in more sales! If you don’t want to take my word for it, then here it is straight from the horse’s mouth:

“Our analysis of eBay listings shows that offering a longer returns window significantly increases the likelihood of a sale. For example, going from a 14 day to a 30 day returns policy increases the likelihood of selling by 30%.”

30%! That’s huge! And that’s without considering any extra benefit from increased search visibility.

I know I’m going on about this a bit but here is a chance to increase your sales by 30% or more, from doing something so incredibly simple…

But alright, I think you get the point, so let’s move on to the next change.

Seller Performance Standards Update

The next big change announced is all to do with the seller standards and it’s a mix of good and bad news.

First the good news – from May 2017 late deliveries to many of the fast growing, upcoming eBay markets will no longer count towards the late delivery metric “as long as you dispatch on time and make it right with the buyer should any problems occur.”

This means that as long as you post the item and mark it as dispatched within the required timeframe then any late delivery won’t count against you!

And eBay will even remove negative or neutral feedback in relation to delivery delays from buyers in these emerging markets. And just so that there’s no confusion, here is a full list of the countries that eBay classify as “emerging markets”:

Afghanistan, Albania, Algeria, American Samoa, Angola, Anguilla, Argentina, Armenia, Azerbaijan Republic, Bangladesh, Belarus, Belize, Benin, Bhutan, Bolivia, Botswana, Brazil, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cambodia, Cameroon, Cape Verde Islands, Central African Republic, Chad, Chile, China, Colombia, Comoros, Congo, Cook Islands, Costa Rica, Cote d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast), Djibouti, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Falkland Islands, Fiji, French Guiana, Gabon Republic, Gambia, Georgia, Ghana, Greenland, Guatemala, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Jamaica, Jan Mayen, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kiribati, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Lebanon, Lesotho, Macau, Madagascar, Malawi, Maldives, Mali, Marshall Islands, Mauritania, Mauritius, Mayotte, Mexico, Micronesia, Moldova, Mongolia, Montenegro, Montserrat, Morocco, Mozambique, Namibia, Nauru, Nepal, Nicaragua, Niger, Nigeria, Niue, Pakistan, Palau, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Peru, Romania, Russian Federation, Rwanda, Saint Helena, Saint Pierre and Miquelon, Senegal, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Solomon Islands, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Suriname, Svalbard, Swaziland, Tajikistan, Tanzania, Thailand, Togo, Tonga, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Tuvalu, Uganda, Ukraine, Uruguay, Uzbekistan, Vanuatu, Venezuela, Vietnam, Wallis and Futuna, Western Sahara, Western Samoa, Yemen, Zambia, Zimbabwe

So mainly Asian and African developing countries….

To be honest I don’t really understand what eBay are going for here?

My only guess is that these are markets that eBay want to grow so they’ve come up with this as an incentive. But why? Is late delivery the big obstacle for sellers listing their products internationally? Is it because the postage network is not as good or because of customs delays? But then if it was based on that then Italy should really be one of the first countries on the list… And is this even enough? I don’t think so to be honest, it will help existing sellers but it’s not going to make people who weren’t already selling to these countries do so.

The next change to our seller performance standards is the introduction of 4 distinct regions in which your performance will be measured:

  • USA
  • UK and Ireland
  • Germany, Austria and Switzerland
  • Global

Now previously your sales to the UK and Ireland were also counted as part of your Global performance standards but that’s no longer the case – each transaction will only count towards one or the other, based on where the item is posted.

This means that in order to be a Global top rated seller, you need to meet the requirements from orders sent to that region specifically.

Just so you understand what I mean, let’s take a look at an example.

Let’s say I previously had 1,000 global sales on eBay in the last 12 months – 950 of those were to the UK and Ireland and just 50 were sent to other countries.

Now previously I could qualify as a global top rated seller because my UK and Ireland sales were also taken into account but from August 2017 that’s no longer the case.

Does this mean that you can lose your global top rated seller status once this change comes into effect?

Thankfully not! Surprisingly eBay are once again being very reasonable and allowing an adjustment period. They’ll protect your seller level for 3 months for above standard sellers and for 6 months for top rated sellers.

So that means if you’re a top rated seller on the 20th August evaluation (the last evaluation before the changes take place) then your seller status is protected for 6 months, i.e. until February 2018.

Pretty simple really and that’s it for changes for the global seller performance standards.

But it wouldn’t be an eBay update without some change to the UK and Ireland seller standards and predictably it’s a negative change.

Previously the maximum allowed late delivery rate for top rated sellers was 4%, but from August 2017 this is being lowered to 3%! Now one percent may not seem like much but it actually means you can have 25% less “late deliveries”.

For example, say I make 5 sales a day, that’s 150 sales a month and 1800 sales a year. Previously I could have up to 4% of those sales being delivered late and I’d still qualify for TRS (based on that metric alone) which meant 72 late deliveries (1800 x 0.04). However I can now have a maximum of 54 late deliveries (1800 x 0.03) so it does make a fairly big difference.

However, I’ve said previously that, notwithstanding a few specific issues, it’s fairly easy to adhere to the new delivery metric so I’m not surprised that they’ve made it harder – because according to eBay there are too many top rated sellers at the moment and they want to raise the bar a bit, which I’m actually not complaining about!

And that’s it for the seller performance changes.

Moving on…

Category Changes

Now I’m not going to go over these changes in detail because they’ll bore everyone to death.

Like I explained earlier, eBay are just trying to align themselves to industry standards when it comes to product identifiers etc.

You can see a full list of the upcoming category changes here:

https://pages.ebay.co.uk/categorychanges/UK_Category_Changes.html

If you have a listing in one of the affected categories, then it’ll be moved over automatically when the changes take place in June 2017 and there’s really nothing for you to worry about.

There are only two changes that will result in a change in final value fees, and those are:

Seller Hub

We’ve already known this for some time, but in June 2017 eBay will stop supporting Turbo Lister.

This means no updates and no bug fixes, so if you haven’t already done so, it’s time to move over to Seller Hub or another third party tool – take a look at the post I did comparing the best listing creation options in the post Turbo Lister era: How to Create Beautiful eBay Listings without Turbo Lister

Other than that eBay are planning to slowly consolidate all seller tools to Seller Hub and also add new features, making it your one-stop tool, similar to Amazon’s Seller Central.

They’ve recently introduced the new Growth tab, with:

  • Insights on how to make your listings more likely to sell;
  • Data on the products you should be sourcing;
  • Price suggestions for products which include product identifiers.

I’ve been a big fan of Seller Hub from the beginning (in fact it’s something I’ve been asking for for a while now!) and I’m happy with the direction eBay is going with this – creating a one-stop seller dashboard from where we can do everything that’s needed to run our eBay business (just like it is on Amazon).

Policy Updates

Last but not least in the eBay Spring 2017 Seller Update, we have some policy changes to take a look at.

From September 2017 you’ll no longer be able to share contact information with buyers anywhere other than in the Business seller information section.

That means no contact information in your descriptions, template, images, store, seller profile etc. and this includes your telephone number and email – even if they’re for customer service.

This creates a BIG problem for any niche/product that requires that customers send you high quality photos for printing – be it custom shirts, mugs etc. because previously you’d link your email and ask them to send it to you like that. However, under the new rules you can no longer give your email, which means they have to send the picture via eBay messages, which will automatically compress it!

At the moment, there is no solution for this, but I’ll be sure to update this post once one is found.

Though annoying, the reason for these changes is obvious – eBay want to keep all messages and interaction between buyers and sellers on eBay itself. That way it’s easier to track and they also retain control over their buyers.

That also explains the other change coming in September 2017, in terms of linking outside of eBay:

“Links that direct customers to a site other than eBay will only be permitted from approved domains as long as they link to:

  • Information on delivery services.
  • Product videos, e.g. reviews, product demonstrations or installation.
  • Other legally required information.”

eBay have warned that breaking these rules will result in a negative impact on your listing from September onwards, so I recommend going through your listings now so that you’re prepared.

And there you go! That pretty much covers everything – there are a few technical changes to do with VAT and image opt-out but they don’t have any practical impact so I won’t bother going over them.

Conclusion

Overall I have to say that this has been a fairly uneventful eBay update but maybe that’s a good thing after some big changes over the last few years since eBay and PayPal split – Autumn 2016 eBay Seller News and Autumn 2015 eBay Seller News.

I have to say that I’m disappointed by how little is changing. There are still so many areas in which eBay are really lagging behind the competition and I was hoping for more. The main two areas of concern for me are:

1) Reviews – eBay’s product reviews still need a lot of work! The idea is great and reviews have been needed badly – especially with generic, unbranded products where reviews will really help give people the confidence to buy… BUT the execution is very poor and eBay simply aren’t improving this area.

2) Video Integration! I don’t know how many times I need to talk about video integration on eBay and though they promised an update with this a while ago now, there’s still nothing. Video is so important in ecommerce now and I just don’t understand why eBay aren’t pushing this more.

And that’s why I’m fairly disappointed in this update.

While there’s nothing hugely wrong, it’s very underwhelming.

Really the only thing that’s of much interest to me is the emphasis on and rewarding of sellers who offer buyer friendly returns, which is something that should benefit my business…

What about you? Is this update good or bad in your eyes? Do you like it when eBay don’t change much or do you think they should be doing more to improve the experience, for both buyers and sellers?

As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts so let me know what you think in the comments section down below and I’ll personally get back to you within 24 hours, Monday to Friday.

All the best,
Andrew

29 Comments
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  1. Hi Andrew,

    I’ve tried to reach you via Email and Facebook but unfortunately no answers from. I try my luck here now.

    This has nothing to do with the topic of this article:

    – I realised that you speak more about ebay more than Amazon and I was not sure if the course is something for me (I want to start an Amazon FBA business)

    – I just wondering if I should really start by registering my business with Hmrc or I can also do this later.

    – In your course do you teach how to source product without software ?

    – Do you recommend any software as well ?

    – Do you also speak about Arbitrage, Retail arbitrage, or only Import from China

    Sorry to drop these questions here. As I said this is maybe the only place to get an answer

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Alban,

      Thanks for your comment.

      I replied to your ticket on 29th May – please check your junk/spam mail folder.

      Thanks,
      Andrew

  2. Hi Andrew

    Concerning the telephone contact information and email addresses that need to be removed.

    If turned on these are available in your Business Seller Information which you are obliged to have. I have this turned on with my business terms and conditions. It sits nicely at the bottom of you listing under the footer where you would probably put your contact details.

    Is there is something wrong with telling customer via messages to contact you via you Business Seller Information located at the bottom of every listing? We will also have to take phone number etc.. out of email signatures if you have them too.

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Jason,

      Business Seller Information will stay in place, these changes DO NOT affect them.

      IN fact, eBay are making these changes so that the ONLY place you have your contact information in the listing is in business seller information block. So nothing changes there.

      Thanks,
      Andrew

  3. John Edwards

    Hi Andrew…

    Wow another update keeping me in the know! My question with this spring update is this?

    As regards the policy of linking to outside sources and websites…I’m assuming that eBay are only concerned with listings and sellers that offer links from within the listing itself?

    If not then are they referring to sellers that link to their *own websites* post sale…and while I’m on this…list building postsale via PayPal linked to say AWeber which of course is the same process as upselling direct to ones own eCommerce shop?

    Really glad that this was one of the points raised in this update…and your answer WILL nip the same curiousity in other sellers buds!

    Thanks again Andrew keep em coming John… 🙂

    This section particularly caught my attention to the extent that

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi John,

      Thanks for your comment.

      Yes, this update/new rules mean that we won’t be able to have links or even graphical links going OUTSIDE of eBay, included in our listings.

      As for building customer list post-purchase – this has always been prohibited by eBay, but everyone does it and for eBay there’s really no way to control this process. Unlike with links in listings – it’s very easy to spot them using automated systems.

      Thanks,
      Andrew

      1. John Edwards

        Thanks Andrew…obviously that means NO danger to any potential/in place post sale funnels cool…:-)

        1. Andrew Minalto

          Not more than it is right now, lol!

  4. Hi Andrew

    I love my template that you designed for me but it does have my email and phone number on it. I am in Australia. Will this affect me too ?

    If I have to get you to change it is there a way that I can easily update my listings ? I spend a long time on my listings and I dont really want to have to do them again but all the text and images etc is mixed in with the template. Will changing the template just change the top section of the html code as that is the section with details on ?

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Hayley,

      Yes, we should be able to fix this for you, without need for editing all listings.

      Please get in touch with me via my help desk for more info.

      Thanks,
      Andrew

  5. Paul Williams

    Hello Andrew
    I hope you are well.
    Thank you for the recent blog info regarding the new ebay changes.
    With reference to the change to personal info contained in listings. What do I need to do with regard to the shop template you designed for me when guiding me through my ebay shop set up a couple of years ago.
    My template included my phone number and email in the heading.
    I assume I will have to get a redesign to the html code for future listings. And for that matter update the listing I have at the moment.
    Best wishes
    Paul

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Paul,

      Thanks for your comment.

      Yes, that’s correct. We can do that for you and at same time we can make your template mobile responsive too.

      Yes, you’ll have to upgrade/edit current listings with the new template. Please get in touch with me to discuss further details:

      http://help.andrewminalto.com/Tickets/Submit

      Thanks,
      Andrew

  6. Hello Andrew

    Now that eBay has decided that they will not allow contact details in descriptions or templates what would this mean for the Spicy Auction Template I use for my ebay listings?

    What would happen to my listings that already have a template with contact details in the description area?

    Will SAT be creating new templates?

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Neudell,

      We have ALREADY updated all our templates! 🙂

      Login into SAT and see for yourself – all our templates are now mobile responsive and do not contain contacts block anymore:

      http://spicyauctiontemplates.com

      Thanks,
      Andrew

  7. “image opt-out”
    Is that mean any seller will be able to use our photos?
    Including Ebay, so we do the hars work taking good photos etc.
    and Ebay will get royalty free photos for evaryone to use.
    I think next step will be removing photomarks.

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Adrian,

      Yes, that’s correct. At least that’s how I understand it.

      eBay tries to copy Amazon on this (as on Amazon it’s same situation) but they forget that eBay works in totally different way as on eBay all sellers create their own listings, unlike on Amazon where there’s one listing only and everyone lists under it.

      Same story here is about reviews now – people get reviews from other listings, because the EAN code is same, even though the item could be different.

      It is a mess.

      Andrew

      1. What if you are using product images that are under licence from your supplier?

        1. Panic over…opt-out option found under Site Preferences.

          1. Andrew Minalto

            Hi Mike,

            It works now but as I explained, from 31st July that option will be taken down.

            So you’ll have no choice but to share your product images with eBay’s catalogue.

            Andrew

      2. John Edwards

        I actually see this as one of those *but wait a minute areas*…for example what if you have an established brand with logo on the product BUT originally the product was *unbranded* and that other sellers also sell that product but unbranded still.

        Surely eBay can’t make you *uniquely branded* product as part of the mainstream catalogue? After all that *specificlly is your brand* OR I wonder are they going to allow you to remain solo on this just like Amazon does with unique product listings?

        Look forward to your response Andrew cheers John.

        1. Andrew Minalto

          Hi John,

          They can and they will do that.

          It works exactly in same way on Amazon too – even with your own, branded products, nothing stops other people to list under that listing (it’s a huge problem right now on Amazon).

          If you’re selling your own branded products, make sure you have registered your brand as a trademark so you can take legal action against people who copy your products and if you sell on Amazon, make sure to register for Brand Registry (currently closed though).

          Thanks,
          Andrew

          1. John Edwards

            Thanks for your prompt reply Andrew. Wow I’m surprized at that…makes no sense why eBay/Amazon will do that? simply because your brand logo on the same product in that picture on somebody elses listing deems false advertising for that sale!

            Crazy that an online platform wants to incorp their policies right up to *industry standards*…including to my way of thinking copyright infingement…(of course as you say protect yourself)…false advertising to hardcore (your brand) buyers who think they are getting your brand cheaper (even though they are getting the same product cheaper they bought it on the strength of your brand from the comp)!

            Now don’t get me wrong one just gets on with it…it is what it is…but lets level the playing field…eBay has double standards on the strength of this if you think about?

            They protect the bigfish brands through the vero program (rightly so) but now to me not the smaller traders (minnows)!

            Maybe I’m blowing it out of all propotion…but its just food for thought on the wall!

            Thanks again Andrew damn you feed my mind cool John… 🙂

          2. Andrew Minalto

            They do this (Amazon) to decrease the size of catalogue.

            They want ONE listing for ANY given product – so that all sellers sell under same listing, for same product. This helps to reduce catalogue size, which then helps to give more varied resulst in search (and not show duplicates of same thing).

            Also, even if you’re the brand owner and only one who sells that item brand new, there could always be people, your customers who would want to sell off used item they bought from you. In this case they would list it under your existing listing on Amazon.

            So it does make sense if you think about it.

            Andrew

  8. I wonder if there is a way to consolidate listings into one?

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Maria,

      Thanks for your comment.

      No, unfortunately there’s no way to “consolidate” existing listings into one, with variations.

      You’ll have to start a new listing from scratch.

      Thanks,
      Andrew

  9. Hi Andrew,
    Does the linking ban include product photos with the sellers website address plastered all over the item in such a way as to guide them to purchase off eBay?. I ask this as I have seen companies that do this blatantly and after they build up a customer base they disappear from eBay to avoid any fees.
    With warmest regards,
    Steve..

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Steve,

      Yes, of course.

      In fact – this is ALREADY against eBay rules! 🙂

      Andrew

  10. Hi Andrew.
    I am an ex student of yours from about 5 years ago, Your help at the time was invaluable and I would like to recommend your services to all your readers.

    My question today is about the new ebay rules on active content.
    I dont believe i have any of this in my listings but would like to ask you about my template and does that count as active content.
    I paid for your designers to create my templates a few years ago and worry that it may contain this content as the coding will always relate back to my domain etc.

    Also when you designed my template you made it with my email and phone number on it.
    Now my problem is if ebay are telling us that soon this has to be removed, what do i do.

    Im not an expert and would not like to pay for the removal of my contact details etc but I dont want to lose my template etc as it was a very good design made by you at the time.

    Can you help me in the above issues please Andrew.

    Thank you

    Dave (Warrior Hunters)

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Dave,

      Great to hear from you! 🙂

      Your template does not contain any active content, so that’s fine. But as it was created years ago, it’s not mobile responsive. We do offer a service to upgrade old templates to mobile responsive ones. Please get in touch with me for more info:

      http://help.andrewminalto.com/Tickets/Submit

      And you’ll need to remove contact details from header. We can do this at same time of creating your mobile responsive template.

      Thanks,
      Andrew

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