Note from Liz - this post is not meant to be an exhaustive synopsis of the weekly chat. I've chosen to highlight topics I found particularly interesting - the full chat can be found here:

Community Chat, May 19 @ 1:00 pm PT - General Topics
Hi everyone! Thanks for joining us for the Weekly Chat with eBay Staff. We don’t have a specific topic this week, so feel free to share any general buying or selling questions you may have. The chat thread will remain open until 2 PM PT at which point we’ll close it from additional responses. Afte…

Category Changes & Item Specifics

While this week was a general chat, most comments were about category and item specifics changes - suggesting sellers are still experiencing technical issues or just struggling to adapt to the new structure.

wagnerjohn1 said

I sell 99.9% books.  Should I begin updating my 700+ listings with the new "required" item specifics (Title, Author, Language) even though it seems like all the bugs are not worked out and all my updates might disappear the next day (as this has been reported to have happened to several others in the community)?  You require this done by 12 July.  What happens if those listings are not updated?

shipscript replied

My recommendation is to capture all of your item specifics after you have them updated. If eBay makes further changes that eliminate your details, at least you will have a backup file that will be easier to update and upload in bulk. http://isdntek.com/ebaytools/ItemSpecificScanner.htm

glvonde-0 also responded saying

No, you should not waste your time. I have worked on a few listings. The "required specifics" are not even saving half the time. Furthermore, some of the required specifics are not relevant at best or require me to basically lie to buyers.

I have decided I will not update item specifics. I have requested that eBay revert those changes to the old listing system until they do two things:

  1. Ask the seller community if they want it. AND LISTEN.
  2. Then, actually test the listings to make sure it is not bugged and fails on roll-out.

Several sellers mentioned concerns about how the new categories and item specifics requirements were affecting third party listing management tools.

funsationalfinds

I am still struggling with item specifics and category changes for the last week. I use Inkfrog Open for my listings. I don't even know which listings are a problem until I try to change the price and get an error. I then find there is no category listed and I have to select another category. For most I am selecting

Toys & Hobbies > Stuffed Animals > Other Stuffed Animals

But then after I save the listing it does not show the new category. It might still be showing the old category but I don't know which category they were in.

Are my listings being found in search? Are my item specifics copying over or are they being lost?

clarkphilatelics

I create and maintain listings, including item specifics, in the SixBit database. SixBit bulk edit can be used to add item specifics and update selected listings. Pictures can also be stored or tracked by SixBit. I would not want to contemplate selling on eBay without SixBit.

There was also some discussion about what the end goal is for item specifics and whether or not the truly help buyers find relevant items in searches.

glasser

I see item specifics coming up a lot in this chat as well as the Boards in general. Could we get a real explanation for the need for this. eBay's specifics go way beyond what most ecommerce use. Many of the specifics where I sell antiques and collectibles show only a couple of hundred of searches by a specific and basically most are irrelevant by the way people buy in those categories'.

Most sites maybe have up to 5 specifics to narrow a search and that seems like a lot given the power of search to begin with. In fact, I fear specific over use will actually hurt sales. Part of shopping, for many items not all, is to exposed to possibilities.

Sure, if I am looking for a specific part or item number specifics can help (however, also solved by a good title and description). However, if I am looking for sneakers maybe if it gets too narrow I could actually miss something I might like.

Like so many things on eBay these days, I'd like the following answered in non-marketing speak: 1) what problem is item specifics solving ( data here not theory) 2) what is is the umber of specifics where adding more is a diminishing return 3) why do they have to mandatory? If in fact item specifics can increase sales, sellers will catch on and organically move to use them more. Early adopters will be rewarded and others will eventually learn. 4) some people will always just want to write titles. What's the harm its their business afterall, and

5) What's the long term plan? Clearly, this is headed toward something else. Transparency on forward movement seems something that should be shared with buyers and sellers who actually keep the platform a float.

To me yet another example of eBay becoming a party to the transactions.

shipscript responded

@glasser If I had to guess, I would say the increase in item specifics is directed more toward keyword search than to the lefthand filters. Item specifics might evetually eliminate scanning and indexing item descriptions (many of which are absurdly lacking in information).

However, I agree that structured data shopping is not how the just-out-browsing public purchases items. Like you, I hope eBay's programmers don't lose sight of that.

To which glasser said

@shipscript Exactly. Do I need any more than size, brand, and type of shoe (hiking, sneakers, etc.) to find what I want. Not likely. I suspect that eBay actually is forcing people to use specifics to help in some other way like matching ads on other platforms with searches.

for example, using all the structured data to show an add by search on Google or matching to someone on Facebook. If that's the case, eBay is forcing sellers to help eBay market itself. Yes, maybe a more direct route from the outside but is the cost in time and energy worth it to the seller. Remember they do the work not eBay

After the chat closed, eBay staff responded

brittanie@ebay

You're not wrong, we mostly hear about item specifics when there's a change to categories or other updates.

To answer your questions:

  1. Item specifics help increase the visibility of your listings on both eBay and on external search engines. The more data you give us about what you’re selling, the better we can match your item to what a buyer is looking for, either through query search, left-hand navigation filters or category merchandising pages.

  2. I'm not able to quantify that for you. The only time item specifics would harm a listing is if a seller is entering specifics that do not match the item listed.

  3. Ultimately as a platform, we want to connect buyers to your items. This includes making sure our search options can provide relevant items when they use filters. The most effective way to make sure the filters are working efficiently across items is to make sure all sellers are following this best practice.

  4. We're in the business to help our sellers make sales, so ensuring sellers are following best practices that we know will help them have a successful business is part of the expectations and requirements we set on the platform. We don't want our sellers to be discouraged and leave the site.

  5. The long-term plan is to make it easy for buyers to find the items they want and bring sales to our sellers. We'll continue to make improvements towards that aim, though the particulars aren't something I can share.

Despite the original request to answer the questions directly without a lot of marketing speak, the official answer from eBay seems to me to be a whole lot of marketing speak.

I think this seller is more than justified in asking what end is being served by these requirements and whether it is eBay's best interests or users' that are leading the way.

Many long time sellers are skeptical after being subjected to past eBay attempts at cataloging and structured data to "improve" search. eBay is going to have to provide more in-depth data showing the real benefits of item specifics to win those skeptics over.

Most other concerns about item specifics were answered with a generic "we've requested more information" or "I will get it forwarded to the structured data team so they can review and adjust as they see fit. You can also share your thoughts with them at sdsupport@ebay.com ."

Ultimately it seems eBay has their own reasons for moving in this direction and their position seems to be sellers must go along for the ride or take the nearest exit.