2022 Winter Seller Update - What You Need to Know

eBay 2022 Winter Seller Update – What You Need to Know

This week, eBay surprisingly rolled out a major seller update across most of its marketplace platforms globally. I am going to look at what is changing and what it may mean for your eBay business.

But first I am going on a rant about this and other seller updates in general.

  • Why Now?
  • What are they now named differently?
  • Why do we still need them?

Traditionally, eBay released seller updates twice a year, usually one in the Spring and one in the Fall (Autumn for those outside the US). Occasionally, a Summer update popped up. But to the best of my recollection, I never saw a Winter update. But there had been early Spring updates that really showed up during Winter (February).

Of course, our friends in Australia would receive the updates based on their seasons as they are opposite from us in the northern hemisphere. They would receive an Autumn one when our Spring update was released and Spring when our Fall/Autumn was released. Ironically, the few times when we had a Summer update, they didn’t receive a Winter update.

For this one, eBay decided not only to move up the update to earlier in the year by releasing it in February but instead of trying to simplify the naming globally by using a month instead of a season, eBay confused the global seller world by releasing a Winter Update in North America (US & Canada) and February update in Europe and Australia.

The opportunity was squandered to just come up with one naming scheme for ALL marketplaces globally (such as the month) in favor of rolling out something that is even more confusing.

It really makes you wonder what some people do at eBay? They had time to rethink the naming convention of the seller updates and then came up with a scheme that is inconsistent and more confusing.

But this brings me to a gripe I have had with eBay for a long time. Why do we still have these “big” seller updates?

Online marketplaces such as Amazon, Etsy, including online commerce platforms such as Shopify and BigCommerce, release regular updates all year long. They are not being bundled into two major updates, that when you really look at them, with most features really rolling out over several months, not at the time of the update.

Sometimes, these updates even included features that had been announced and released!

In other words, there wasn’t one big date when the platform went from one version to another version. But instead, updates were released incrementally. That is again true for this Winter/February 2022 update.

So, why bother with these big updates? Why not just roll out features and changes as they are ready and announce them throughout the year?

15 or 20 years ago, these big seller updates made some sense, and eBay really only fixed bugs between updates and left the big changes for the major announcements. Those days are long gone as eBay has been releasing incremental significant changes throughout the year already anyway.

In addition, it’s not like these big seller update announcements are the same for all countries. Usually, each country’s seller update includes different items, some that would be the same globally, while others only applied to that country.

I say, let’s get rid of these big update announcements and instead focus on the monthly or as-needed updates when features are ready.

For big changes that involve policies, pricing, changes to categorization, item specifics, etc., eBay should provide at least a 30-day notice to allow sellers to understand them and make appropriate changes, if necessary.

This way sellers can focus on the announced changes or new features and not have to keep looking at the last big update timeline about what may come in 30, 60, 90 or more days.

Now that my rant is over about this big update nonsense (for now), let’s take a look at the eBay 2022 Winter Seller Update for the US.

eBay 2022 Winter Seller Update

eBay split the changes into three categories:

  • Running Your Business
  • Listing & Promoting
  • Fees & Financials

Running Your Business

Under the heading Running Your Business, eBay is making several major changes, and here is how they may impact your business.

Reducing unpaid items for accepted offers – eBay had launched a pilot program to accept payment and shipping details from select buyers before they made an offer on an item.

Sellers complained for a long time now that buyers would make offers using “Best Offer,” but when they were accepted by the seller, buyers wouldn’t pay for them.

eBay is expanding the pilot to include more sellers and by mid-year, the company plans to also collect payment and shipping details on Counteroffers and Offers to Buyers scenarios as well.

When this rolled out in October, some sellers didn’t like this program because they felt it reduced the ability for them to combine orders into one shipment, which could be more economical for buyers if the seller’s listing required payment for shipping.

However, I believe the Best Offer feature is really best for sellers that sell items with free shipping. And for this group, this change is great and long overdue.

This may be a classic example of where some sellers lose and others win. Sellers that charge shipping may have to change their selling strategy on eBay and avoid Best Offer if they routinely combine orders and offer a discount for shipping.

But considering that this change should eliminate virtually all unpaid items for Best Offers, Counteroffers, and Offers to Buyer scenarios, it’s a net positive for sellers and eBay.

Updates to how feedback is displayed and collected – There are really several changes under this heading. But in a nutshell, eBay is going to prompt buyers more frequently to provide seller feedback after an item was delivered. In addition, the company will use seller feedback to promote sellers on eBay and other third-party platforms to help drive traffic. That explains a change in the User Agreement I noted yesterday.

In addition, eBay is making changes to enable sellers to get ahead of possible negative feedback and try to resolve problems first. Buyers will be encouraged to first reach out to sellers before leaving negative feedback. But the language eBay used seems to fall short of saying this is mandatory. So, a bit of a mixed bag here.

The overall goal with the feedback changes is to help sellers build their brand on eBay by improving trust and visibility. eBay said it will experiment with displaying select additional seller information, such as sales history on stores and pageviews on listings, that may help drive sales.

Depending on how this will be implemented and displayed, it could favor larger sellers more. But then again, that is already the case with feedback systems on any platform.

I think larger sellers always have a leg up because they can wash out negatives and buyers tend to trust highly active sellers over someone that only sells a few items here and there.

Fee credit updates and Below Standard additional final value fee increases – Starting in May, eBay will issue a prorated fee credit when sellers issue partial refunds. This includes Promoted Listings Standard and international fees but excludes the 30 cents per-order fee, Promoted Listings Express fee, and Promoted Listings Advanced fee.

In March, eBay will refund the 30 cents per-order fee when the buyer requests the seller to cancel the order. Both changes are good for sellers.

However, for sellers whose eBay rating falls to ‘Below Standard’ in the US, there is a fee increase coming.

eBay is raising the additional final value fee from 5% to 6% effective March 1. This could impact some lower-volume sellers who more easily fall to ‘Below Standard’ because they do not have the volume larger sellers enjoy to reduce the impact of some negative feedback.

However, I also believe that some sellers just take on fights with buyers to extremes and end up causing their own problems. When sellers fall into the “Below Standard” category, there are other consequences that are far worse on sales than the final value fee increase.

Bottom line, do the right thing, don’t always argue on principle because you may end up causing more problems for your sales.

New messaging experience in the eBay app – Some sellers may already have received an invitation to try the new messaging experience in the eBay app. But if you have not, don’t fret, eBay is rolling it out to more sellers over the coming weeks.

This is a refresh and looks to be more in line with other messaging apps you would find on your smartphone. That’s good! It’s still a beta product and eBay said it is not changing the experience on desktop right now.

Listing & Promoting

Under the heading Listing and Promoting, eBay is eliminating a fee and expanding its services. All of these changes are good for sellers.

Selling Manager Pro features are now available free of charge – Free is good but the key here is that “many” of the previously subscription-only features will be free, not all!

eBay sellers without a Selling Manager Pro subscription will now be able to automatically leave feedback, automatically relist auction items through the seller hub, and the sales report in the Seller Hub Performance tab will have new features and detailed information.

That leaves really only one key feature in the Selling Manager Pro subscription, which is inventory management.

eBay said it plans to phase out Selling Manager Pro and those sellers that have access to Selling Manager Pro through a standalone subscription or through a premium store subscription will continue to have access to the inventory management feature free of charge.

However, after March 2022, new Store subscriptions will not include inventory management, eBay said. The company didn’t explain what will happen to inventory management down the road. Will it offer the feature as a paid add-on or will it just whittle away?

But by using the ‘free of charge’ terminology for existing store subscribers, it almost sounds like inventory management may re-surface as some form of an add-on option, but this needs clarity.

Promoted Listings updates and expansion – For sellers that use one of the many Promoted Listings options eBay offers, there are more features coming, including a new dashboard for Promoted Listings Standard.

Promoted Listings Express is expanding from the eBay app only to the desktop with new reporting features already available on the app, but will also be included in the desktop expansion.

For Promoted Listings Advanced BETA, eBay is introducing broad match that will surface more relevant listings to buyers. But eBay will also release new features that will give more control to sellers when their listings won’t appear, including negative phrase match keyword targeting.

Many sellers see these promoted listings options as an additional money grab by eBay to get a bigger share of the sale. In some ways that is true, but eBay isn’t the only platform that uses on-platform advertising programs to drive additional revenues.

Amazon has become the third largest digital advertising platform in the US, after Google and Facebook. In its latest earnings report, it broke out advertising income for the first time demonstrating just how important that revenue source is becoming for marketplace platforms.

As annoying as this may be for sellers to pay advertising fees on top of selling fees, it seems to be the way of the future and it’s not going away.

The good news is that eBay keeps expanding features that enable sellers to fine-tune their advertising strategy on eBay. The bad news is that sellers will need to experiment and learn what works best for them.

Unless sellers offer very unique products, they will have to become more affluent in understanding digital marketing to increase their success on eBay. The days of just listing something and waiting for it to be found and sold may be over on eBay and other online marketplaces as well.

Fees & Financials

This section leads off with a dreaded fee increase which will go into effect on March 1, 2022, and eBay is being a little sneaky about how it presents this change. Let me explain.

In the update, the company said, “final value fees for Store sellers will increase 0.3% in most categories.” Normally, that would be interpreted to mean a fee goes up by that percentage. For example, $1 would be $1.03, a three cents increase.

But eBay is actually increasing the fees by 0.3 percentage points.

In one example, eBay said the fee is increasing from 11.7% to 12% for Store sellers, “a difference of 0.3%.” However, that is really a 2.56% increase.

And in another example for sellers without an eBay Store, it said the fee is going up from 12.55% to 12.9%, “a difference of 0.35%.” Here again, that is really a 2.79% increase.

There is a difference between a percentage change and a percentage point change, yet eBay doesn’t make that differentiation in its wording but explains it in the examples. One would think that a math concept taught in elementary school would be described correctly by a global multi-national company.

Am I wrong?

The subtitle upgrade fee is also changing (does anyone really think they work?). The new fee is a 50 cents increase, which means for auction listings the new fee is $1.50 (previously $1.00), and for fixed price listings, the new fee is $2.00 (previously $1.50).

In addition, eBay is changing how it calculates the Promoted Listing Standard fee beginning on June 1, 2022. Here is how the company explained it.

“[T]he Promoted Listings Standard ad fee calculation will change to align more closely with how we calculate final value fees. Specifically, the ad fee will be calculated in all markets based on the total amount of the sale for each attributed sale, using the same basis we use to calculate final value fees (including applicable taxes, shipping and other applicable fees described here). Currently, in certain markets including the US, the Promoted Listings Standard ad rate applies only to the final price of the item.”

In short, the Promoted Listing Standard fee in the US will be based on the final price, taxes, shipping, and other applicable fees. This is a significant increase!

For example, if you sell an item for $100 and eBay collects 7% sales tax ($7) and you charge $10 to ship the order, you will be paying the Promoted Listings Standard fee on $117, a 17% increase.

I remember back when eBay introduced charging a final value fee on shipping in an effort to combat big shipping charges some sellers used to make the value of the item look cheaper in search results. Often, this ploy helped the visibility of items in searches, which is why it was a popular strategy.

This was also during a time when the company was trying to move sellers to offer “free shipping” or at least include it in the purchase price to make it look like they offered free shipping.

For competitive reasons, it made sense to discourage sellers from charging high shipping costs as buyers would abandon the sale. In some cases, buyers may even found the same item elsewhere on the Internet, priced appropriately, creating a negative sentiment that eBay has scammy sellers.

To further this clean-up of predatory shipping charges, eBay also adjusted its search results to consider shipping costs when surfacing top search results.

So, the combination of charging the final value fee on shipping charges and adjusting its search results slowly reduced the abuses of overly high-priced shipping costs and artificially reduced item prices.

That change made sense to me as eBay was trying to clean up and equal the playing field on its platform.

However, this new way eBay plans to calculate the Promoted Listing Standard fee is really a sneaky hidden major fee increase that has nothing to do with cleaning up bad actors or making the platform more equal for all sellers. It’s a money grab, pure and simple!

Yeah, on one hand, it’s an optional service. However, as more sellers need to be competitive and use eBay’s advertising services to market their listings, the company is imposing a big price increase on sellers who are already trying to manage new costs that weren’t necessary a few years ago.

Sadly, it seems when it comes to fees, eBay continues with being less transparent and prefers to try to sneak them by sellers.

In Conclusion

The eBay 2022 Winter Seller Update had a lot of good stuff, except for the fees section which in addition to making selling on the platform more expensive, continued on an old eBay “tradition” of lack of transparency.

Sellers are going to stew over the fee increases and a lot of the positive items from this update will be pushed aside or forgotten.

Which circles back to my opening, why does eBay still need these big updates?

Wouldn’t it make more sense to get the bad news (fee increases) out in a single shot without impacting the other items that are actually good for sellers?

When features are ready, announce and promote them, give them their own spotlight instead of being overshadowed by the anger and frustration of fee increases, especially when those are not presented transparently.

At times, I feel there must be a poster in eBay’s office with W.C. Fields’ famous quote, “If you can’t dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with bullshit.”

Visit this link for the complete eBay 2022 Winter Seller Update.

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6 Comments

  1. Sharon Lee Odehnal says:

    They are already charging us shipping fee’s now we get to pay MORE fee’s on shipping fees and my question is, is it legal to charge a fee on taxes? They are so underhanded the way they do things. As time goes on eBay gets darker and darker in it’s dealings.

    1. Yes, there are all kinds of services (payment processors for example) that charge fees on taxes. Even some government agencies charge a “convenience fee” when paying taxes through a credit card processor. I don’t understand why they would include taxes as that isn’t a “fairness” issue. I understand why they would add it to shipping fees as they want to equate sellers that charge shipping with those that offer free shipping.

      Richard

      1. Merredith Ahearn says:

        Dave,

        Regarding fees on tax: Since the seller is in no way involved in the collection of tax, it’s done strictly by eBay, how is that legal to take the tax fee from us? We are not involved in any way whatsoever.

        1. When you make a purchase at a retailer with a credit card, the same problem exists. Payment processors lump the entire charge into one fee. That is why it’s so important to deduct eBay fees from gross sales on your taxes and why 1099Ks issued by eBay or any other payment processor include the gross sales transacted, which is with taxes and shipping so that you can properly deduct these fees.

          If you are selling personal items at a loss, which generally have no income tax implications, then that fee is just part of the sale, unfortunately.

          If you are selling at a profit, but it was under $20,000 and you did not receive a 1099K and you did not report that income on your taxes, well…. that’s technically tax evasion.

          Richard

  2. Hi Richard,

    eBay’s 2020 Spring Seller Update was rolled out in February of that year. This year, they’re calling it a “Winter” update, which is confusing for the reasons you describe. At this stage, we have come to expect the first update in either February or March.

    Were eBay to move to a monthly or bimonthly rollout of updates (or simply as they occur), I can see the seller community up in arms over the “increased” number of updates — even though the impact of the updates is already spread out over the year. I think the psychological expectation of receiving what is felt by most as only two updates is preferable to updates that happen continually. If Google were to release its schedule of algorithm updates on a biannual basis, I’m convinced the SEO community would be a whole lot happier and much less speculative.

    I haven’t reviewed the most recent update from an SEO point of view yet, but the conversations we’re having with clients suggests that the Promoted Listings fee adjustment and resultant increase are the main concern in their minds.

    I’m happy to see your “two cents” again in your seller update posts. I hope it continues.

    P.S. We use subtitles sporadically. If a client has 200 listings for a particular item type, we may use them in two or three of those listings to highlight best sellers or popular features. Subtitles aren’t read by Cassini, so they don’t help for SEO. On the whole, however, listing “upgrades” like bolded titles and additional image functionality are a waste of money and entirely unnecessary for an optimized eBay listing. We once saved a client $65K annually for a client with only 550 listings by removing them.

    Peace,
    Dave

    1. Dave, you bring up valid points and we hope to continue our “two-cents” for this update and even on the “minor” ones throughout the year. I don’t recall that 10+ years ago eBay rolled out so many minor updates throughout the year as they do now. It seems they are using both strategies at the same time which IMO seems to just add more confusion. Maybe this is some kind of A/B testing 🙂

      Richard

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