What eBay Should Do With Best Match

Friday, 30 January 2009 at 3:00 am Pacific USA Time.

Best Match. I hardly know someone who is happy with it, buyer or seller. In that case, something needs to change! Let's start with where it is now.

As of when I'm typing this, Best Match is the secret algorithm that determines what gets high placement in eBay search results. Here is what we do know:

  • Seller reputation figures in. DSRs, disputes, and suspensions can raise or lower you.
  • Multiple quantity available and "recent sales" now figure in evidently higher than seller reputation. Clients have reported to me that competitors who had worse feedback and DSRs showed up higher than they did in search when the competitor offered more quantity or seemed to have a recent sale.
  • Strategy spotlights and "best practices" are self-fulfilling prophecies. eBay says that you should use free shipping because shoppers like that. That's a suggestion! When eBay tells the algorithm that items with free shipping get higher placement, then those are more likely to be bought, and there's your prophecy that these will sell more… fulfilled. So if you don't use the latest strategies, you can expect potentially poor search result placement.
  • Paying for something like Featured Plus can raise you to the top of search results if your seller reputation marks don't make eBay want to lower you. We had a client who was "lowered" in search, and paid for Featured Plus, but only showed up at the top of page 8 as Featured. Not helping!
  • eBay says that fixed price items have to "earn" their way to the top of search results. Featured Plus and Featured First let you pay to be at the front of the line whether or not Best Match might say you deserve it.

OK, that sounded a bit lumpy! What should eBay do about this? I believe that search results should be tuned to what shoppers really want rather than feeding them what we want them to do.

  1. I think that it should be clearer that you can re-sort your search results. I'd like to see what shoppers do if they are fully aware that they don't have to look at "Best Match."
  2. I think that if eBay's focus really isn't auctions, or auctions are some sort of format that just gets mixed into this pile, then when a listing ends is mostly not relevant. 
  3. I think that if I told an eBay shopper that by default, they are shopping by seller reputation and whether or not the seller is using what eBay says are the best strategies, they'd question that second half.
  4. I think that in this economy, people are looking for the best deals. They want a trustworthy seller who has the best price. 
  5. Most eBay sellers are great. But I have bought from people who were at the top of Best Match, and turned out to be total jerks. So I wasn't necessarily fed the best people. I still have to do my own checking and reading to determine who I'm going to trust.
  6. Recent Sales don't necessarily mean that's the best item from the best seller. I don't believe in the wisdom of crowds. History has shown us some really bad crowds. :) So I think the whole Recent Sales should be gone. If you're going to do the wisdom of crowds, then show me what people who bought this also bought and loved. But let me find the right item first!

I just searched "John Cleese" on Amazon, and I can't tell how items are sorted. We know time ending doesn't matter there, and seller reputation probably doesn't enter into it if I can have all these items shipped from Amazon's warehouses. It wasn't by price since the prices were definitely in no particular order. It wasn't alphabetically. It wasn't by ratings. The first thing I was shown had an average 3-star rating from 2 people. The second thing I was shown had an average 5-star rating by 370 people! It wasn't by type of items since I had DVDs, then a book, then DVDs, then books, etc… It wasn't by how many were available "used and new" from other sellers since those numbers were all over the place. And it wasn't by when the book or DVD were published as those dates were all over the place.

OK I'm stumped! I can't tell how Amazon's search results are sorted. I don't know if they're sorted in the best way for me. Then again, Amazon combines multiple sellers' items into one result and listing page. eBay might have hundreds or thousands of listing pages for one item. So it's going to be different, and that's OK!

How would I do it? I'd make the default search results "price incl
shipping – lowest first" or whatever you want to call it. I think most
people shop by price. And anybody with all DSRs that are say 4.7 or
higher might show up with some sort of logo of a top seller if we want
to highlight those people. I'd then give people check boxes to ask if
they want things figured into their search results.

I think that all in all, this needs more testing, and I'd like to see
testing that's not just one choice. Like I don't want, "Here's our
search results, what do you think?" I'd rather see them ask big eBay
shoppers to design their own search and how they want search results
sorted. I can't imagine that in 2009, eBay shoppers, given the chance
to understand what's going on, want things sorted by Recent Sales.

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Categories: Just An Observation

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One Response to “What eBay Should Do With Best Match”

  1. ebuyerfb says:

    I’m probably the only person happy with best match though I have my own reasons. This reminds me I have an email to finish.