eBay has often been described as a “garage sale” experience although with at least 25 million sellers and 6 billion products on its Marketplace platform, it is a fairly large garage. Like a garage sale where one can “poke around” and find great deals, eBay has followed a somewhat similar format. The drawback to such a model is that for those that are not looking to “poke around” or spend a long time searching for a great deal, eBay at time provided a frustrating customer experience. Sellers on eBay need to manually enter all of the relevant information which creates discrepancies in data, making it difficult for buyers and sellers to find products using specific keywords.
Multiple sellers might list the same product, but describe it differently, making the eBay’s left hand filtering ineffective. As an example, a pair of Ray-Ban sunglasses might be listed as “Ray-Ban sunglasses” by one seller, while another might have the specific model number listed, while a third would list the UPC code and a full manufacturer description. Finding a treasure at a garage sale can be a rewarding experience, but for those looking for a specific product, or trying to compare prices, the experience can prove frustrating.
eBay is moving to address this issue by requiring sellers to follow a uniform structured data format when listing their products. eBay’s goal is to transform it’s gigantic marketplace into a uniform digital catalog that buyers can easily browse through. Price comparison will be more reliable since all identical products can be compared using product identifiers that are now mandatory in certain categories. Sellers benefit by having their products clearly attached and displayed in relevant searches both within eBay and on search engine results, increasing visibility, traffic, and sales.
What are these new requirements, and what do they mean for eBay sellers?
First announced in March of 2015, and implemented in June of 2015, eBay began requiring sellers to include product identifiers (MPN, GTINs, UPCs, and ISBNs) for single items in selected categories. On September 1st 2015, eBay expanded this to included products with variations as well. The categories that require product identifiers are:
- Books, Comics & Magazines
- Business, Office & Industrial
- Cameras & Photography
- Clothes, Shoes & Accessories
- Computers/Tablets & Networking
- DVDs, Films & TV
- Health & Beauty
- Home, Furniture & DIY
- Mobile Phones & Communication
- Musical Instruments
- Pet Supplies
- Sound & Vision
- Sporting Goods
- Toys & Games
- Vehicle Parts & Accessories
- Video Games & Consoles
The requirement is currently only for branded products which are listed as new or manufacturer refurbished items. Sellers who list used, collectable, vintage or one-of-a-kind products will not need to include product identifiers. Around 80% of all products listed on eBay are new, so this change will have a significant impact on the majority of products sold on eBay. As of February 29th 2016, eBay officially started to enforce this requirement.
Sellers are able use the eBay app to scan a barcode and have the full product information completed, including brand, model, dimensions, etc. While this may be helpful for new listings to ensure that product identifiers are included (and help build the “catalog”) , there are many sellers with hundreds or thousands of existing product listings that all now require product identifiers. Has eBay considered the challenge this requirement will place on these sellers?
An initial look at how eBay enforces these new requirements indicates that eBay has considered the challenge this new requirement poses to some of their sellers. Given that some eBay sellers have hundreds if not thousands of products this is not a quick process, however sellers also have a vested interest in ensuring their products have these identifiers – aside for helping them display better on eBay, these product identifiers (which are universal) can also help achieve better search engine results. Additionally, product reviews can also be linked since the reviews can be connected to the product identifier.
There has been some initial negative feedback in terms of sellers complaining that some of the products that eBay requires product identifiers for are not readily available, or that the eBay app has issues scanning some of the codes, however we are still in the early stages of the roll-out, and these may just be some kinks in a new system. It remains to be seen if this change will allow eBay to compete more effectively with the likes of Amazon (or Alibaba), but at the very least, this should make for a more streamlined “catalog like” shopping experience.