eBay 2021 Spring Seller Update Details

This morning, eBay officially released the details of the 2021 eBay Spring Seller Update with changes in four primary sections: Listing & Promotions, Fees & Financials, Running Your Business, and the User Agreement. Let’s look at each section and what is changing and how it may affect your business.

Listing & Promoting

Category Changes – Starting in May 2021, eBay will make adjustments in select categories and release the changes here. Most sellers that use listing tools or services will see the category updates in their tool. eBay will automatically move active listings to the most relevant category when the updates are available, but sellers may want to do this manually. The company warned some category changes might result in fee changes.

Our Take: Lacking some details here from eBay, this seems to be primarily a housekeeping update. eBay keeps making adjustments to categories, and for most sellers, this has little impact. We think sellers should move affected listings to the new categories instead of letting eBay do. This ensures the listings end up in the correct category. eBay warned of potential fee changes when moving to other categories, and sellers should look at that to understand the impact. However, we also suspect this warning may have more to do with other changes we will discuss later in this post.

Item Specifics Changes – Also starting in May 2021, eBay is adding new items specifics to the following categories:

  • Clothing, Shoes, & Accessories
  • Collectibles
  • Media
  • Musical Instruments
  • Parts & Accessories
  • Sporting Goods

A complete list of changes will become available at this link soon. eBay reminded sellers that if they had not updated Item Specifics from the February changes, they should do so now. Sellers who use listing tools should receive automatic updates to Item Specifics in their tool.

However, sellers who list directly on eBay may want to check out this free tool from Optiseller with whom eBay has partnered to help sellers identify missing Item Specifics. The Optiseller tool will remain free until at least June 30, 2021.

Our Take: Providing good and relevant data in Item Specifics can only help the visibility of your listings in search on- and off-platform. eBay’s on-platform search considers item specifics to surface listing to buyers and may also use it to group listings in results.

Before Item Specifics, successful sellers would keyword spam titles to improve their listings’ visibility in search results. Today’s search on eBay is more sophisticated, and old-school tricks don’t have the same impact. The catalog is more extensive, the competition is greater, and eBay’s search considers many more factors in determining which listings to surface in search requests. Item Specifics are a crucial piece of that puzzle.

But it’s not just search on eBay that is positively affected by providing relevant Item Specifics data. Search visibility on Google or Bing is improved significantly with better data, which improves the SEO of your listings.

New Unified Listing Experience – The new listing experience was released to a limited number of sellers back in January but is now available to all sellers. Sellers who use eBay to list items will see the option “Try the new listing tool” where they list, and sellers will be able to switch between the old and new listing experience until at least mid-May 2021.

Our Take: Like any major change on the platform, some sellers will love it, and others will hate it. Also, it’s new, and it’s going to have some bugs! Hopefully, the big bugs have been resolved in the early limited release, but as more sellers try the new listing tool, more “undocumented features” (bugs) will appear. That’s the nature of software development.

Given that it is new, that doesn’t mean sellers shouldn’t try it or give it a spin to become familiar with it. Unlike the eBay Managed Payments early rollout, this time, eBay is providing the option to go back to the old listing experience, at least until May.

New Promoted Listings Automated Campaigns feature – This new feature will go live in April. It will allow sellers who use Promoted Listings to set specific criteria to manage their advertising campaigns on the platform automatically. Sellers will be able to automatically add or remove listings from campaigns and adjust ad rates, all according to the rules they set.

Our Take: Promoted Listings is another love/hate feature on eBay. Some see it as a money grab by eBay to squeeze out more revenue from sellers; others see it as a way to improve sales. The fact is on-platform advertising is growing on all marketplaces, and it’s being led by Amazon, which is now the third-largest digital ad platform in the U.S., behind Google and Facebook.

Think of Promoted Listings like the free tasting samples you may get at a grocery store. Similar concept, you are already in the store shopping for groceries, and a brand is paying the store to promote their product to you with a sample, hoping you will buy it once you tasted it. Promotions at the point of sale can be very powerful, and that is what Promoted Listings can do for sellers on eBay.

Obviously, with any form of advertising, the key is to learn what makes financial sense to maintain your desired profit margin. That can be tricky and may lead sellers to overspend, lose money, and become frustrated.

The new automation features for Promoted Listings can’t help with the latter; that can only come from experience and some trial and error. But for sellers who have developed a profitable advertising strategy, this new feature will be a big help.

Sellers new to Promoted Listings need to walk first before they run and gain more “manual” experience before jumping into automation. That’s the downside of automation; it can become very costly quickly with the wrong criteria driving the promotion.

Introducing new coded coupons -Coded coupons are replacing codeless coupons sometime this spring. (Why can’t eBay be more specific here…?) The coded coupons give sellers more control over their promotions, and sellers can experiment with various coupon codes to see how they may improve sales (i.e., A/B testing).

Our Take: This falls into the “better late than never“ category. Shoppers are familiar with coded coupons; they seem to work as many online stores use them; the only question is, why did it take eBay so long?

New seller guidance features in Seller Hub – eBay is expanding its Terapeak features to bring more data and analytics to sellers, including a new Sourcing Insights Tool, enhancements to Product Research, a new Product Research User Interface, and updates to the Listing Quality and Traffic reports.

Our Take: More data to keep you awake at night! Right? Ok, more data is good, but it’s also essential you don’t overanalyze data to the nth degree. However, with this update, eBay provides sellers actionable data to find more opportunities to fine-tune their listings and business. It’s all good.

Fees & Financials

eBay Store Subscribers get more zero insertion fee allotments – Starting April 1, 2021, eBay will offer new zero insertion fee allotments for sellers that use eBay Managed Payments for payments.

  • Non-Store Sellers go from 200 Auction + Fixed Price listings to 250 Auction + Fixed Price listings.
  • Starter Store Subscribers stay the same at 250 Auction + Fixed Price listings.
  • Basic Store Subscribers go from 350 Fixed Price listings to 1,000 Fixed Price listings.
  • Premium Store Subscribers go from 1,000 Fixed Price listings to 10,000 Fixed Price listings.
  • Anchor Store Subscribers go from 10,000 Fixed Price listings to 25,000 Fixed Price listings.
  • Enterprise Store Subscribers stay the same at 100,000 Fixed Price listings.

Our Take: The Premium Store level is getting the biggest bump with 10x more zero insertion fee listings. Likely, that is the most popular store subscription level, and eBay probably believes that drastically raising the zero insertion fee allotment at this level will result in sellers adding more listings to the platform.

Certainly, that would make sense because the price difference between a Premium Store and an Anchor Store is $240 per month (as of today), so that would be a significant bump for sellers just to get more free listing insertions. While there are other differences in features between the two store levels, the added zero insertion fee listings should entice more sellers to list more items on the marketplace.

Except for Starter and Enterprise Store levels, every store level wins, but Premium Store owners appear to be the biggest winners in this update.

Upcoming fee and credit adjustments – Effective April 1, 2021, eBay will make an adjustment to final values fees in select categories. Please see this link for the details as there are many changes.

Our Take: Adjustment is usually code for “increase,” right? Even eBay admits the fee increases result from the company moving away from upfront insertion fees. There is logic to this, but each seller has to do the math to see how it will affect their business. Again, this appears to favor Premium Store subscribers, but mileage will vary. Unfortunately, it will probably take a few months of selling to learn if, on average, the “adjustment” helps or hurts.

International expansion of sites sellers can list on when eBay manages payments – eBay is expanding international sites that sellers can list on when eBay manages payments. Sellers who offer to ship internationally will have their listings appear in buyer searches on supported international eBay sites.

Sellers can also create listings on select eBay sites outside the U.S., such as Germany and the U.K., and funds from sales on those sites will be disbursed to sellers in USD. eBay will continue to add more countries to eBay Managed Payments and expand international selling opportunities as they go live.

Our Take: eBay is making it sound like this is only possible because it introduced eBay Managed Payments. But in reality, they are just catching up to what was possible previously with PayPal. “Feature” announcements like this just continue to highlight how poorly planned out the program was.

Promoted Listings Store credit and eBay Top Rated Seller credit retirement – Starting April 1, 2021, eBay will retire the existing Promoted Listings promotional credits. To date, they’ve offered a quarterly $25 Promoted Listings Store credit and a quarterly $30 eBay Top Rated Seller credit.

Our Take: This looks like another area of how eBay will financially make up the additional zero-fee insertion allotments in most eBay Store subscriptions. As we said about the fee increases, simplicity is good, but how it may affect sellers will probably vary.

More eBay Stores updates will be announced soon – Later this year, eBay will announce additional eBay Store optimization features for mobile and desktop to help Store subscribers target and engage with buyers and drive repeat purchases. Updates will include:

  • A modern storefront with more merchandising options and improved Store Search.
  • Simplified eBay Store management in Seller Hub.
  • An improved newsletter feature you can use to send targeted communications to your buyers.

Our Take: These features sound good, and let’s hope the implementation will be smoother than the rollout of eBay Managed Payments. What we don’t get, why talk about it now if there is nothing concrete to announce?

eBay Managed Payments – The only real update to this program is the international expansion already mentioned above. eBay used the Spring Seller Update to glowingly summarize features of eBay Managed Payments. In other words, keep pushing positivity about this program, even if its community forums are full of sellers complaining about problems.

eBay did say that over 1 million sellers have already registered globally, with 38% of eBay’s on-platform volume being processed through the program. The company is making progress on adoption, despite the conmplaints.

More importantly, eBay reiterated that it will require all sellers where eBay Managed Payments is available to sign up with the program in 2021.

Our Take: eBay Managed Payments kind of reminds us of a car manufacturer that decided to remove power windows and replace them with new super smooth and effortless power-assisted hand cranks. After a couple of years, they bring back power windows with easy-to-reach buttons on doors and tout their benefits. Meanwhile, other car manufactures have introduced voice-controlled power windows. Maybe it’s us…

The bottom line, eBay Managed Payments continues to be maligned by longtime sellers who keep pointing out technical, workflow, and cashflow challenges. eBay with PayPal wasn’t perfect, but it seemed to work better for most sellers. With that said, eBay still has a lot of work to do to regain the trust of sellers regarding this program.

But, it is also abundantly clear that eBay Managed Payments is here to stay, and eBay will not return to a PayPal-centric payment system. It’s time for sellers to make a decision. If they wish to continue to sell on eBay, they will have to join the program or leave the platform and move on.

With just under ten months left before the deadline to signup with eBay Managed Payments, sellers need to look at either the best time to make the switch or leave the marketplace. There is no reason to hold out to the bitter end and then scramble to go and list products elsewhere or learn how to handle the challenges eBay Managed Payments brings.

Running Your Business

New cancel function for unpaid items – Starting in early April 2021, eBay will begin introducing a new cancel function for unpaid items. Sellers will no longer have to file unpaid item claims or send payment reminders. Instead, eBay will proactively remind buyers if they have a payment due, and sellers will be able to manually or automatically cancel an order if the buyer hasn’t paid after five calendar days.

Also, eBay will give sellers the option to relist an item automatically. They will block that buyer’s ability to leave feedback and, if they’ve already left feedback, eBay will remove it.

Our Take: This adds more automation and simplicity to the process, which is good for sellers. The only slight caveat is for sellers who use third-party listing tools as they need to ask their vendor how the optional automatic relists would impact their inventory management.

Manage all your post-sale requests and cases in Seller Hub and My eBay Sold – Starting in late April 2021, eBay will begin allowing sellers to manage post-sale requests and cases from one centralized location in Seller Hub and My eBay Sold. Sellers will be able to view and manage all returns, “item not received” requests, cancellations, payment disputes, and eBay Money Back Guarantee claims from Seller Hub or My eBay. They will no longer have to take the extra step to go to the Resolution Center.

Our Take: eBay is streamlining the workflow, and that is always a welcome positive.

New partial refund option on auto-accepted returns – Beginning spring 2021, eBay will give sellers whose payments are managed by eBay more flexibility to handle return requests by allowing them to offer partial refunds on automatically-accepted returns.

In most cases, when buyers open a return request in line with the listing’s return policy, eBay will continue to accept the return automatically. That won’t change. But starting in spring, sellers will have the option to offer a partial refund on opened returns with the understanding the seller will not receive the item back.

When the partial refund option becomes available, sellers will see a new button in the Return flows titled Refund Options. This will take sellers to a page where they can choose to offer a partial or full refund.

Sellers will only be able to offer a partial refund using the new Refund Options button as long as the buyer has not shipped the item.

Our Take: This is eBay’s way to introduce sellers to a new eCommerce trend where merchants tell customers to keep the product they wish to return. The idea is that the cost of managing the return outweighs the cost of just giving a refund.

Of course, there is potential for abuse, but eBay does not force sellers to offer this option. Larger sellers, especially those with repeat customers, may see a case-by-case advantage with this option. So, it’s good that eBay is enabling a way to offer this option if sellers want to use it.

User Agreement UpdateNew user agreement will become effective April 2, 2021. The update includes:

  • A new address for eBay Canada.
  • Changes to seller responsibilities regarding eBay content policies.
  • A revised arbitration policy.

Our Take: Lots of legal and complicated language that gives you a headache 🙂 It is what it is if you want to sell on eBay.

In Conclusion

This update is more significant than we have seen from eBay over the last few years. Besides the now almost standard category and Item Specifics updates, Seller Hub is growing up to have more data and information in one place while eBay is also tweaking other areas to bring more automation and workflow efficiencies to sellers.

Marketing and promotion features got a boost, and sellers who actively promote their products on the platform will find a lot to like here.

Sellers will be skeptical about the fee adjustments (increases?), and it will take a few months to see how that may shake out for everyone. We suspect this may be the most contentious part of this update.

The other one that we believe will get a lot of attention is the new listing experience. At least eBay offers a bit of a grace and experimentation period for sellers to get used to that one.

There is not much more we can say about Managed Payments but that the service has to stop looking like a beta release. If the goal is to bring more Consumer to Consumer (C2C) sellers to the platform, as eBay CEO Jamie Iannone said recently, it will be paramount to improve the program.

Small sellers with minimal resources already complain about the slow payouts and the impact on their cash flow. Consumers will join that choir if there are no improvements to those pain points.

By now, most people are used to the speed and convenience of PayPal, Apple Pay, Venmo, Google Pay, and similar payment services. eBay Managed Payments has a ways to go to be able to compete competently with those brands.

There is one other item that made us scratch our heads. On Friday, eBay announced major changes to how it will invoice sellers. Why was that kept separate from this seller update? Almost like, that is really not a positive, so, let’s hide that change as much as possible… Just sayin’

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2 Comments

  1. As an eBay seller with 99.9% of our sales on eBay motors, I am curious if there is a time frame regarding our being forced to move eBay Managed Payments. We sell motorcycles as well as parts & accessories. Thank you

    1. This is a great question and one which we haven’t seen a definitive answer to yet.

      From the last information I can find, they are still saying to not use managed payments for the time being as it’s not compatible. https://community.ebay.com/t5/Payments/bleep-Managed-Payments-restricts-motor-vehicles-from-eBay/m-p/30935118#M71516

      I can only assume that once they have a workaround or process figured out they will update you directly. Vehicles and vehicle parts are a big part of their business and I am 99% sure they will not be restricting those categories from eBay.

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