eBay places a premium on maintaining and improving the positive buying experience. Their continued existence depends on reducing the amount of fraud that is associated with the site. One method to achieve this end is found in the Best Match algorithm. eBay has developed and instituted metrics such as Feedback scores, Detailed Seller Ratings, and Buyer Satisfaction Ratings to identify sellers who are doing well and those that aren’t providing the kind of buying experience they desire to foster. Accordingly, Best Match rewards reputable sellers – specifically “Top Rated Sellers” – with increased visibility in the search results and provides incentives for poor sellers to improve.

Seller Performance

According to eBay, “Sellers with excessive claims, negative or neutral feedback, or transactions with low DSRs below the new minimum standard for all sellers may receive lowered search standing, possible limits to further selling, loss of PowerSeller and Top-rated seller status and discounts, and in some cases account suspension.”1

Feedback

Your feedback score is a significant factor influencing your rankings in the Best Match search results. Resolve issues before they result in negative feedback. Frequent and clear communication is often the key to preventing the misunderstandings that often result in negative or neutral feedback.

Detailed Seller Ratings

Like feedback scores, Detailed Seller Ratings (DSR’s) are a medium through which buyers can evaluate sellers. Unlike feedback, DSR’s are anonymous and rate specific aspects of the transaction. Detailed Seller Ratings are graded on a scale of one to five stars with five being the highest score.

The specific criteria of the Detailed Seller Ratings are as follows:

  • Item as Described – How accurate was the item description?

    • 1 Star = Very inaccurate

    • 2 Stars = Inaccurate

    • 3 Stars = Neither accurate nor inaccurate

    • 4 Stars = Accurate

    • 5 Stars = Very accurate

  • Communication – How satisfied was the buyer with the seller’s communication?

    • 1 Star = Very unsatisfied

    • 2 Stars = Unsatisfied

    • 3 Stars = Neither satisfied nor unsatisfied

    • 4 Stars = Satisfied

    • 5 Stars = Very satisfied

  • Shipping Time – How quickly did the seller ship the item?

    • 1 Star = Very slowly

    • 2 Stars = Slowly

    • 3 Stars = Neither slowly nor quickly

    • 4 Stars = Quickly

    • 5 Stars = Very quickly

  • Shipping and Handling Charges – How reasonable were the shipping and handling charges?

    • 1 Star = Very unreasonable

    • 2 Stars = Unreasonable

    • 3 Stars = Neither unreasonable nor reasonable

    • 4 Stars = Reasonable

    • 5 Stars = Very reasonable

DSR’s are evaluated over a 12-month period unless the seller has had 400 or more transactions over the most recent three calender months. In which case, the most recent three complete calender months comprise the DSR evaluation period.

As of April 2010, the following are the minimum quality standards sellers must meet in order to not be disadvantaged in eBay’s search results:

● No greater than 1% of transactions rated as 1’s or 2’s for the metric Item As Described.

● No greater than 2% of transactions rated as 1’s or 2’s for Communication, Shipping Time, or Shipping and Handling Charges.

eBay has established a minimum number of instances for these penalties to take effect. That means if you are a low volume seller, it will take a minimum of three transactions rated as 1’s or 2’s in Item As Described and four instances in the other categories before a you start seeing your listings fall in the search result.

Also, according to eBay, “sellers with excessive claims, [and] negative or neutral feedback … may receive lowered search standing.” 2

Improving Your DSR’s

The guidelines eBay provides to buyers regarding DSR’s is somewhat misleading. According to the criteria above, a grade of 4 stars refers to a transaction that met expectations. By definition, it means: the item description was accurate, the buyer was satisfied with the communication, and the buyer felt the item was shipped quickly at a reasonable cost. According to eBay, a 4.0 average DSR places the user in the bottom 10% of all sellers. So you want to avoid scores that fall within that range whenever possible.

Accordingly, many sellers include a quote similar to the one below in all of their listing descriptions, email correspondence, and as an insert with their shipment.

Your input as a buyer is very important to us! If you feel that our seller performance is less than a 5-star rating for shipping cost, shipping time, item description, or communication, please contact us first, before leaving feedback. We want to improve our service to you and future customers.

Additionally, after receiving confirmation of delivery, sending an email similar to the following as been effective in resolving issues early and improving the communication DSR scores.

Dear ________,

I notice that you recently received the ____________ you purchased from me through eBay. I wanted to take this opportunity to thank you again for your purchase and follow up with a question. Did the ___________ meet your expectations? If not, please let me know at your earliest convenience by responding to this email.

If you were satisfied with the transaction, I hope you will take a moment to leave feedback for me on eBay. It will help other potential customers evaluate my trustworthiness as a seller.

Thanks again,

____________

Buyer Satisfaction Rating

The Buyer Satisfaction Rating is a calculation eBay uses to evaluate you as a seller. This rating summarizes your feedback score, your DSR’s, and whatever buyer protection claims may exist on your account (such as complaints from buyers). According to eBay, “Your Buyer Satisfaction Rating measures your level of customer service. This summary helps you [and eBay] keep track of how well you are providing members with positive buying experiences.”3

The Seller Dashboard

Interested in knowing how eBay rates you as a seller? Want to evaluate your DSR’s against the average of all the sellers on eBay? The Seller Dashboard is your resource for these functions and more.

Seller Dashboard http://cgi6.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?SellerDashboard

Note: eBay requires sellers to have at least 10 DSR’s over the previous 12-months in order to access the seller dashboard.

I find two features of the Seller Dashboard to be extremely useful. The first is the Dashboard Summary which tells me at a glance if my DSR’s and Buyer Satisfaction Rating qualify me for elevated visibility in Best Match. The other chart is a useful comparison of my Detailed Seller Ratings against the site average:



The Top-Rated Seller Program

In September 2009, eBay.com rolled out their Top-rated seller program. “Top-Rated Sellers” who meet volume and quality thresholds will receive increased exposure in eBay’s search results for fixed-price listings, a fancy badge distinguishing their listings, as well as discounted fees.

To qualify for the Top-rated seller program, you must meet the following criteria:4

PowerSellers of all levels, from Bronze to Titanium, can qualify as eBay Top-rated sellers if they have at least 100 transactions and $3,000 sales in the past year, and low DSRs (1s and 2s) on no more than 0.50% of all transactions with U.S. buyers on each of their 4 DSRs.

To ensure that lower-volume sellers (fewer than 400 annual description, or communication, transactions) can be included as Top-rated sellers, two instances of 1s or 2s on each of the four DSRs will be allowed before the 0.50% requirement is applied.

The time period over which a seller’s low DSRs are evaluated will depend on sales volume: For sellers with 400 or more transactions over the past 3 months, it’ s 12 calender months.

Include a Return Policy

An eBay Chatter Blog post mentions, “Having a return policy is good for raising item visibility in Best Match.”5

Accordingly, it’s important to specify your return policy on the Sell Your Item form when creating your listing. If you have a return policy, but only identify this fact and provide details in your item’s description, the Best Match algorithm isn’t going to give you credit for it when it determines the search results sort order.

How to Specify Your Return Policy

In the “Additional Information” section of the Sell Your Item form, take the following steps:

  • Select the “Returns accepted” from the drop down menu.

  • Select the time limit within which the buyer must return the item to you.

  • Select the type of refund you will give if the item is returned.

  • Enter all other details about your return policy in the Return Policy Details text box.


Conclusion

Check your seller dashboard frequently to maintain a continuous pulse on how you are performing in the trust factors aspect of Best Match. While there are no quick fixes for trust factors such as feedback, DSR’s and the Buyer Satisfaction Rating, taking the time and energy to improve them are well worth the effort. Improving the buying experience is so important to eBay’s business model, you can expect that eBay will continue to place additional emphasis on this aspect of the Best Match algorithm.

1 eBay.com, “eBay SellerUpdate: July 2009 – Frequently Asked Questions,” http://pages.ebay.com/sell/July2009Update/faq/index.html#1-5, July 2009.

2Ibid.

3“About Your Seller Dashboard,” http://pages.ebay.com/help/sell/seller-dashboard.html accessed 10 December 2008.

4eBay.com, “July 2009 Seller Update,” http://pages.ebay.com/sell/July2009Update/Details/#1-2, July 2009.

5Ninad, Best Match Demystified, http://ebaychatter.com/the_chatter/2008/06/best-match-demy.html (Accessed June 2008).