By now, most eBay sellers have heard about the new Top Rated Seller program, and if they haven’t – geez where ya’ been, under a rock?
Essentially eBay is seeking to improve the buyer experience on their site by showcasing sellers that meet certain criteria that they feel are all integral factors to determining if a seller is “top-rated” or “if you’re not top-rated, then you know what you are.” How they implement this “improvement” is to add a new search filter which limits a buyer’s search to only those items available from sellers with the TRS designation. (With an acronym like that, gamers have got to be wondering if someone in the seller experience team is an oldschool Tandy Color Computer user. I keep expecting to read about the TRS-80.) For example, a search for “Sony PlayStation 3 System” yields 1251 hits using the standard search. Clicking on the TRS filter brings only 300 hits. That’s a pretty vast difference. It’s more noticable with items that have less sellers selling them. For instance, “Six Million Dollar Man Action Figure” gets 59 hits on a standard search, but only 7 hits with the TRS filter activated. Uh oh.
Of course, there are few Top Rated Sellers in comparison to everyone else, which means that the buyer’s search will be severely limited. In fact it’s quite possible that should they choose to activate the TRS filter, buyers will not find “IT” on eBay at all. The real kicker is that unless you close your browser and/or delete your cookies, that pesky filter sticks around for the rest of your searching experience. That’s right: Hello TRS, bye-bye everybody else.
I know that John Donahoe likes disruptive management, and wants eBay to reinvent itself continuously, but, honestly, did anyone actually think this one through? It hasn’t been that long since Griff was “crying” over the amount of listings shown in the Stores in Search (SiS) program. Remember that? When sellers everywhere were reporting sudden increases in sales because their exposure had increased. Obviously buyers were able to find what they wanted. Well, maybe not the stupid ones, which leads us to what eBay did next: remove SiS and throttle back search results. What a brilliant idea that was. The outcry was tremendous, and many people left the eBay venue for other platforms. Amazon would not be the force it is today (and Bonanzle wouldn’t even exist) had eBay not pulled this stupendous gaffe out of their hat. Had they not messed with their search engine, I’ve no doubt at all that eBay would be the overwhelmingly dominate force in the Internet sales market, rather than just a major player.
You’d think that after such a debacle the power-that-be in San Jose would have learned their lesson. No one likes to see a drop in their net worth like the entire corporate team saw in the wake of the SiS removal. But, Mr. Donahoe doesn’t like lessons from the past. He’s a visionary, and visionaries look only to the future. So away with all this gloomy Guss talk of SiS, plummeting shares, and seller exoduses. Bring on the dancing girls singing about how it’s really all the fault of bad sellers. La-la-la, I can’t hear you!
So here we go again. Someone comes up with a half-baked idea in San Jose, and thousands of sellers pay the price for it until someone gathers up enough hard data to show that maybe that wasn’t such a good plan after all. This is getting old, people. How many times does one company need to repeat the same mistake before it finds itself looking ahead at its competitors, rather than seeing them in the rearview mirror?
The way I see it, this new initiative will have one of three results:
- Buyers will not find what they’re looking for and will find it on another site. eBay will quietly remove the filter and explain away the loss of revenue as the fault of anything but the filter.
- Buyers will still buy, but only from top rated sellers. Other sellers will have to look elsewhere to sell their wares. Eventually someone in eBay will notice the decline of available inventory online, and, again, the filter will quietly be removed. See #1 for the reason eBay will give for its sudden removal.
- Buyers will ignore the filter altogether, and this will end up being another eBay tempest in a teacup. With all things eBay, you never know.
What’s a busy holiday season without a fundamental eBay policy shift, right? I don’t know why, but this video just seemed appropriate – enjoy!