I got an email from eBay recently saying I'd achieved Top-rated Seller status, followed by a package encouraging my success. Though I always earned great detailed seller ratings, I was surprised to achieve an award I hadn't set out to gain.
Now that I've been pinned with the badge, I feel pressure to maintain it, but what value does the Top-rated Seller badge really have these days and is it worth it?
How do you become Top-rated?
I've been using eBay for three years. Until recently, it's been more of a hobby than a drive for income. And since I don't sell a lot of inventory every month, I never had a goal to achieve Top-rated Seller status—especially with the risk eBay might make further changes that could affect the status.
I never had a goal to achieve Top-rated Seller status—especially with the risk eBay might make further changes
Currently, to be a Top-rated Seller your eBay account must be active for at least 90 days, you must have a minimum of 100 transactions and $1,000 with U.S. buyers in sales over the past 12 months, and your positive feedback rating must be no less than 98 percent. Additionally, 90 percent of sales in the previous three months must be processed within your specified handling time.
Perks of the badge include reportedly better exposure in Best Match search results and, for Top-rated Plus sellers, a 20-percent discount on final value fees (not including shipping costs).
Over the years, eBay has tried to revamp the requirements to achieve Top-rated Seller status, says Stephanie Inge, an eBay education specialist and e-commerce consultant. In doing so, it's become harder to achieve the badge and much harder to lose it once attained.
On the flip-side, it's still difficult to maintain the status from month to month.
"Especially with changes to the search algorithm and free listings for everyone, which dilute the marketplace," she adds.
It's a balancing act
Janilyn Rose understands this dynamic. She became a Top-rated Seller after she sold more than 100 items. She struggled to keep the status at first, but has since been able to maintain it for the past two years. The owner of Designer Rose Boutique says she appreciates that small merchants who don't do high-volume sales can attain Top-rated Seller status.
Some high-volume sellers flood search results and can absorb a lot of negative feedback, while being praised as a Top-rated Seller
"They may have a small niche market and deserve to be recognized [along with] all the high-end sellers, as long as they are providing top-quality service and have a rating to show for it," she adds.
Yet some high-volume sellers flood search results and can absorb a lot of negative feedback, all while being praised as a Top-rated Seller. Rose gives an example of one of her competitors in the clothing category who has more than 400,000 listings, low DSRs and 1,200 negative feedback scores in the past year.
With such a high volume of sales, the merchant ignores quality customer service and maintains Top-rated Seller status, she reports. As a small online merchant, Rose takes pride in her attention to detail and communication with buyers, but her listings can easily get lost in search results despite her badge.
Top-rated comes with pressure
Thanks in part to my mother and her friend—both of whom have done some consigning with me—I sold more than 50 items in the last three months. Compared to many eBay sellers, that's not a lot, but it's half of what's required to qualify for the golden badge.
And now that I've been pinned, I feel some pressure to maintain the award. There's pressure to increase sales and retain high DSRs. More professional sellers can also identify with this sense of burden.
"Having extremely high expectations for myself as an eBay community leader and certified eBay instructor, I put undue pressure on myself to try and maintain this status," Inge admits.
Top-rated pushes you to be better
The underlying benefit of being a Top-rated Seller is it makes you a better business person. The focus becomes more about quality products and service
The value of the Top-rated Seller badge is two-fold, she notes. The first is the obvious benefit of the 20-percent discount on final value fees, but there's also the pride that goes along with the status.
In fact, Inge thinks buyers don't pay much attention to the Top-rated Seller designation, but sellers strive for excellent customer service and eBay encourages them to keep doing that, she says.
When Rose first learned about the program, she worked hard to become a Top-rated Seller.
"It gave me a challenge to be the best I could in all areas of my business," she says.
When her DSRs fell short, she took it to heart and made the adjustments necessary to keep the badge, and she continues to work diligently to improve her standing as a seller and maintain the badge.
"[Sellers who care about their statuses] take pride in their business to provide the best customer service and quality as possible," Rose adds.
I suppose that's the underlying benefit of being a Top-rated Seller; it makes you a better business person. The focus becomes more about quality products and service, and it encourages you to sell more. Thus, sales increase, fees are trimmed and bank numbers rise.
The badge highlights your reputation as a seller, and if eBay's regular changes in rules don't break you, they will only make you stronger.