Reporting From eBay Live in Chicago

eBay announces more changes amid some seller discontent.

by staff writer
- Jun 21, 2008

This week, thousands of eBay users—who spanned the gamut from PowerSeller to newbie—descended upon Chicago's McCormick Place Convention Center to attend eBay Live, the company's 7th annual community celebration. The event included dozens of exhibitors, including Auctiva, educational sessions taught by eBay staff and other experts, an impressive lineup of guest speakers, and several forums in which eBay users could interact with company personnel as well as with each other.

Coming on the heels of significant and controversial site changes, the event was not only the site of much user enthusiasm—a hallmark of the eBay community—but also seller unrest. During an educational seminar, one eBay employee and session moderator referred to the recent feedback changes as "the elephant in the room."

Indeed, several seminars that ended with a Q&A session devolved into heated debate between attendees and eBay staff about the changes to the sites feedback system, including the adoption of Detailed Seller Ratings (DSRs), and their use as a factor in eBay's new Best Match search sorting algorithm that penalizes under-performing sellers with decreased exposure for their listing. During the event's keynote address by CEO John Donahoe and President of eBay Marketplace Operations Lorrie Norrington, the mention of the feedback system overhaul elicited boos and jeers.

eBay certainly was not surprised with the concerns over their recent changes, and to its credit, event organizers developed numerous programs at eBay Live to help users adjust and improve. During the aforementioned keynote, Norrington also tried to make the case that these changes were made with sellers in mind, as promoting a better buyer experience on eBay should translate to more buyers, greater demand for products listed and therefore better profits for sellers. During a Saturday educational session led by Todd Lutwak, eBay's Senior Director of Seller Development, Lutwak admitted, "I don't think eBay did as good of a job explaining the reason for these changes as we should've."

Notwithstanding this serious sense of concern and emotional fervor over recent changes, the vast majority of attendees (most of whom are primarily sellers) seemed enthusiastic and very motivated by both the direction they received from the event's educational programs and the success stories shared by the scores of full-time PowerSellers at the convention.

One announcement that was certainly well-received concerned an expansion of eBay's discount program for its best sellers. Norrington Announced that PowerSellers with a minimum of 4.9 rating in each of the four DSR categories will receive a 20 percent discount on Final Value Fees begining with their July invoices. Some detractors suggested this threshold was unreachable, but Norrington stated that 16 percent of all PowerSellers already qualify. She also said early data suggests the new DSR system is working as planned toward strengthening eBay's future. She pointed to statistical data that showed DRS of 4.6 or greater grew from 60 to 67 percent since the adoption of the system in January. DSRs of 4.8 or greater, she said, grew from 15 to 33 percent over the same period.

Norrington also announced expanded seller protection through PayPal for all U.S. sellers. She said the enhancement came with no cap on purchase price and was absolutely free. Norrington also said that all PayPal addresses will now be confirmed.

Finally, eBay announced plans to start rolling out a newly designed Item Page. eBay says the new design will provide room for larger photos, a tabbed structure to better organize shipping and payment information, and modules that will display the seller's other items, as well as recently viewed items. eBay plans to phase in the new design to fewer than 1 percent of users during the next week. The new view will offer a feedback link that users selected for the first phase of implementation can use to share thoughts with the company. Also, users will be allowed to opt out of the newly designed page if they wish.

The event is set to close with a gala highlighted by a performance from Grammy-nominated singer and songwriter Chris Isaak.

About the Author

Auctiva staff writers constantly monitor trends and best practices of those selling on eBay and elsewhere online. They attend relevant training seminars and trade shows and regularly discuss the market with PowerSellers and other market experts.

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