Quick summary and thoughts on eBay’s Summer release (aka the 10.2 release)

Yesterday (April 27, 2010), eBay announced the set of changes that will roll out this Summer (July 27, 2010) – this is their second set this year and they are already talking about a third set coming in the Fall. I would classify this release as very incremental – nothing earth shattering here, but as a package there are some good improvements that have a (hopefully) minor impact on sellers and a large positive impact on buyers.

There’s a lot of material available on the changes so I’m going to focus on highlights –  if you want details:

  • eBay announcement is here
  • eBay details are here
  • Auctionbytes coverage is here
  • eBay blog coverage is here

Summary of changes

  • eBay is adding buyer claims to the eTRS designation in addition to the DSR stars
  • eBay is making item condition required
  • They are eliminating featured first – thus putting the final nail in the coffin of all featured listings.
  • They are making email communications anonymous (this is the third time on this one, maybe it will stick this time)

Impact on sellers

The macro impact on sellers for this release is pretty minor.    If you are a seller that doesn’t respond to claims, don’t provide condition and drive a lot of sales off featured first listings, this is a bad release for you, but frankly that’s probably a good thing – that’s a good transition to the buyer view.

Impact on buyers

If I had to give a short summary of 10.2, I would call it the “catching up on the buyer experience” release – especially around the trust side of things.

Some of these probably surprise many people that aren’t hard-core eBayers that they are holes that were not plugged already.  For example, why would you ever allow a seller to list an item and NOT provide condition?  Certainly that sets up buyer expectations to be horribly missed.

As eBay focuses on NPS (more details on this later), I think they are finding some common themes that I would call legacy loopholes and are working to close them.

Deep thoughts on 10.2

I’m a software guy, so I think in terms of major (2.0 -> 3.0), minor (2.0 -> 2.1) and very minor (2.01 -> 2.02).  This is a ‘very minor’ release in my view.  That’s not a knock on eBay or anything – it’s very hard to do three major or even two major and a minor release a year at eBay’s scale. It will definitely be interesting to see if the last (10.3 or ‘Fall’) release is minor or major (I doubt it will be ‘very minor’).

In isolation, it’s great that eBay remains focused on improving the buyer experience and that they are fixing some of these long standing problem areas.

I’m also glad to see featured finally get phased out (although this view isn’t popular with a lot of sellers).  My reasoning is that the family of upgrades like ‘featured’ exist to subvert the relevancy of the eBay search engine.  If the search engine is doing it’s job (ahem), then the best items will automatically be surfaced and featured will, by its very nature, be less relevant.  Google has proven over and over again that relevancy is what searchers/buyers want and respond to and it’s great to see eBay getting this religion finally.

All that being said, I continue (starting to feel like a broken record here – sorry long-time readers!) to believe that the eBay search engine isn’t improving at a pace it needs to.

Out of isolation, eBay is losing share in e-commerce and massively to Amazon. The search experience is the key to closing that gap and it’s disheartening to have a release where search hasn’t taken a step forward (other than the minor featured piece).

In fact, with the 3/31 changes that rolled out, eBay’s search engine took some steps backwards as the flood of listings came on the site out of the store format.  But that’s a tale for another post (coming soon).


SeekingAlpha Disclosure -I am long Google and Amazon. eBay is an investor in ChannelAdvisor.