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:
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:
- UK and Ireland
- Germany, Austria and Switzerland
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.
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:
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:
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).
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.
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,