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Old 10-16-2009
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Default eBay Tests Store in Search, Boosting Search Results

On Wednesday, eBay users began writing on discussion boards that searches were suddenly bringing back many times more listings than usual - one seller said a search he usually conducted brought back 14,308 results instead of the usual 1,300. eBay posted an announcement 24 hours later acknowledging it was conducting a test of Stores in Search.

Typically a small number of Store inventory listings (which are much cheaper for sellers to list) are shown at the bottom of "core" search results. eBay's current test displays all relevant Store listings in search results for "a small percentage of traffic."

After 24 hours of speculation on the discussion boards before eBay confirmed it was running a test, sellers responded to eBay's announcement. Said one, "As a side note, perhaps in the future, ebay could consider notifying us of such tests before causing anxiety and speculation among sellers?" Another said, "The announcement only came late today which was way past due. I guess they saw all the posts that were spreading like wildfire on all the boards and figured they needed to address it after the fact."

eBay's announcement advised sellers not to change listing formats or practices in any way "due to the limited duration of the test," and said it would not make any "permanent or significant changes in the way search results handle various listing formats without notifying sellers well in advance."

Sellers were wondering why eBay decided to test Stores in search after having tried it in 2006 and declaring it a disaster.

eBay Stores in Search 2006
eBay had rolled out Stores in Search in February '06 - giving Store items exposure in core search results. They rolled it back in March, and a few months later, told sellers that the volume of Store items had hurt the core marketplace and instituted a fee increase on Store listings "intended to rebalance the overall eBay marketplace." Many sellers had said they liked the Stores in Search experience and reported increased sales, and Store owners were upset when eBay hiked Stores fees that August in an effort to "rebalance the marketplace."

eBay's head of North American Marketplaces at the time, Bill Cobb, said the 2006 Stores in Search experience resulted in:

  • buyers exiting the site more often;
  • buyers watching fewer items;
  • buyers returning less often.
At the time, auctions accounted for about 91% of the gross merchandise value sold on eBay.com. The company also said at the time that while eBay.com core listings typically sold in about two weeks, Store Inventory listings on average took 14 times longer to sell.

Former CEO Meg Whitman had said that Stores in Search had overwhelmed the marketplace "with identical, often poorly-priced items that have diluted the magic of the eBay experience."

Sellers are now wondering what has changed 3 years later and are offering theories on forums and blogs. A poster on the AuctionBytes blog said some collectibles categories are very empty, and wrote, "Including store items in search would give the appearance that there are more of certain collectibles items for sale. For certain searches in my collectibles category, the only items available are in stores."

Meanwhile, sellers continue to cope with the new Top Rated Seller program launched earlier this month that affects their placement in search results, along with changes to the Best Match search algorithm.

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