Tools Help eBay Sellers Adapt to GTC Mandate

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Tools Help eBay Sellers Adapt to GTC Mandate

Third-party tools can help sellers deal with some of challenges caused by eBay’s recent mandate that all fixed-price listings be 30-day Good Til Cancelled (GTC) format. Here’s a look at some of the tools along with how (and why) sellers are using them.

eBay sent sellers scrambling in March with a major change to how listings work on its marketplace, and third-party developers had to make adjustments to their tools as well. In the process, developers created ways to help sellers automate some of the tasks involved in adapting to the new reality of “Good Til Cancelled” (GTC) duration for all fixed-price listings – including helping sellers avoid auto-renewals if they choose.

eBay’s GTC mandate eliminates duration options (previously sellers could run fixed-price listings with a duration of 1, 3, 5, 7, 10, or 30 days, with 30-day GTC an option). It also results in all fixed-price listings automatically renewing, thus incurring listing fees every 30 days (beyond however many free listings sellers are entitled to receive, which can vary).

eBay provided reasons why GTC listings are better – one powerful claim: better exposure in search results. Nevertheless, sellers have described situations where a set-it-and-forget-it GTC listing strategy would not work for them or for certain types of products they sell.

Sellers who say GTC doesn’t work for them are now either manually cancelling GTC listing before they auto-renew, or they are turning to third-party tools to automatically do it for them, in some cases simulating shorter duration listings, too. We spoke to some of developers and sellers to learn more.

When to Use the New Mandatory GTC Listings
Despite a lot of pushback against the new mandate, many believe there are situations in which a seller is better off with the new eBay 30-day auto-renew “Good Til Cancelled” listings.

One reader told us she believed the “permanent” nature of GTC links (URLs) might be a positive when it comes to social sharing. That’s because once a listing is ended, eBay redirects the link to an active listing of rival sellers. “I have a feeling that since the items will have the same listing number, that sharing them on pinterest.com may actually get better results than the listings that expire in 30 days,” Kathy McCloskey said.

“I don’t know also if this will somehow improve Google searches finding my items,” she added, “so I am also watching my traffic to see where they are coming from,” though she noted this will be difficult due to the lack of analytics features available to eBay sellers.

SixBit Software Lead Developer John Manning compared eBay’s GTC listings to Amazon listings. “If the seller doesn’t want to manage relisting at all, eBay’s GTC listings would behave more like Amazon listings that are up as long as they have quantity to sell.” And, he said, “those sellers can use the new Item Promotions and Promoted Listings features to promote stale listings.”

Chavi Rastogi, the founder of WonderLister, said sellers who have a constant supply of products coming in would also benefit by using the GTC listings for multi-quantity listings. This way, “the seller does not need to worry about editing the listing at regular intervals.”

Inkfrog Product Marketing Manager Christian Little said a majority of sellers who offer replenishable product such as brand owners, private label sellers, and wholesalers were already using Good Til Cancelled, so they would be minimally impacted by eBay’s policy change.

When to Avoid Mandatory GTC Listings
There is no shortage of reasons sellers give for wanting shorter duration listings or avoiding auto-renewals. WonderLister’s Chavi Rastogi said his customers who sell OOAK (one-of-a-kind) items often wish to make adjustments to their listings before renewing them. If a OOAK listing is not sold within a specified duration, sellers may need to edit the listing’s pricing, photos, description, item specifics, and even title, he explained.

SixBit Software’s John Manning said some sellers make a practice of evaluating listing performance on a monthly basis to decide whether to adjust prices or to move non-performing listings to another platform. SixBit offers a feature that automatically drops the price of an item upon relisting, using the listing expiration as the trigger.

Another important reason to avoid auto-renewing listings is for products that have an expiration date, Inkfrog’s Christian Little said.

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“If you are selling anything with an expiry date on it then it doesn’t make much sense to have a listing automatically renew every 30 days when it’s close to its expiry date,” he said. “Food, chemicals, anything that can expire – there is potential for problems with the new policy, as you don’t want to sell an expired product to a customer.”

Another issue that many sellers raised on the boards: the cost. “If you have a large number of fixed priced listings and were just putting them up on eBay to see if they get an traction, you might not appreciate getting 1000 more insertion fees when the listing automatically renews with this policy when you didn’t want GTC in the first place,” Little said.

While the longevity of Good Til Cancelled URLs may help sellers market and promote their listings, some sellers are concerned about the potential negative impact of GTC listings on visibility.

John Nash of More Commerce, which offers Auctiva tools for eBay sellers, said that concern is valid. “We’ve been suggesting that Auctiva sellers use our SEO (Search Engine Optimization) listing tool to increase listing visibility in search results and boost sales. We know that structured data is an important part of increased listing visibility on eBay, and the auto-generated item specifics the Auctiva SEO tool provides makes the process of adding item specifics as easy as clicking a button.”

Seller Explains Why Auto-Renews Are Unwelcome
A seller who wished to be identified as DT said he had already been using 30-day duration for all his listings before the GTC mandate, but objects to the mandatory automatic renewals. He always ends his listings at the end of 30 days in order to review the item, take new pictures, adjust pricing, or hold off on relisting until they are more in demand – for example, seasonal items.

DT sells used unique and collectible items and new discontinued items found at estates sales, thrift stores, yard & garage sales. He sells up to 1,000 listings a month on his Premium Store on eBay and also lists between 100 – 200 listings on Mercari and Bonanza.

His biggest concern with auto-renewal: “eBay’s failure to properly address the 30 day GTC not corresponding to the billing cycle, setting up some listings to be auto-renewed TWICE in one month, thus incurring extra fees for the seller.” That’s a reference to the fact the 30-day auto-renewal period doesn’t sync with eBay’s monthly billing cycles. Since some months have 31 days, a 30-day automatic renewal for all fixed-price listings will result in double-billing for some months. eBay executive Harry Temkin told sellers he was looking into the matter.”

As a customer of SixBit, DT said he was happy about its new feature. “SixBit’s allowing you to schedule cancellations when you desire releases the user from eBay’s micro-management of listing durations,” he said.

And, he said, “Users of the tool who routinely like to schedule their listings to end on Sunday night, for example, can post listings all week long and just schedule them to end on THAT night just by selecting 7,6,5,4,3,2,1 durations.”

Seller Says Good Til Cancelled Eliminates Sense of Urgency
Rick McMahon of Rhonda Anne Jewelry sells store display merchandise purchased from Macy’s and Bloomingdales on eBay and Bonanza. He uses InkFrog’s GTC Watchdog to end all of his nearly 3,000 listings prior to the 30-day renewal. That way, he can refresh his inventory and believes it helps with search visibility.

“We have found that we have gotten effective results from fresh promoted listings every 30 days – AND when an item is re-listed, it comes up as a NEW listing in the search engine, which a lot of eBay users use as their search algorithm choice.”

McMahon said it appears to him that eBay is trying to evolve to become more like Amazon – more about selling the same item over and over rather than single one-off items. “However, he said, “it takes away the time-limitation urgency that most small sellers think they need.”

“The GTC Watchdog allows us to continue to operate the way were up till 30-day fixed price listings were changed to Good Til Cancelled. eBay told us that all items that were already in Promoted Listings (eBay’s paid advertising program) when the GTC program started would continue to be promoted – but that only makes sense if you have a continuous supply of the item.. We cannot afford to find out otherwise, so we continue as we always have using the GTC Watchdog.”

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Developers Take Different Approaches to GTC Adaptation Features
The developers with whom we spoke took different approaches when developing features in response to sellers’ feedback about the eBay GTC mandate.

SixBit Software’s “Custom Durations” feature lets sellers set a custom duration when they list. “We understand that not all businesses operate the same way, so when an eBay change interrupts our customers workflow, we will do whatever we can to solve the problem with the least amount of interruption to their routine,” Manning said. “That’s why we made the implementation as simple as possible. Since we already have task checkers running, setting the duration this way seemed the least amount of effort for sellers to use it. It also worked well in tandem with the Allocation Plan relist/price reduction option that the GTC format was breaking for our sellers.”

WonderLister’s “Prevent auto renewal of GTC fixed price listings” feature allows sellers to check a box to indicate they want the listing to end before auto renewal is due by eBay. “Even if this option is checked, we END the listing ONLY if there is no sale against it, and we end it 10 minutes before the auto renewal is due,” Rastogi said. “We strongly believe one-size-fits-all doesn’t work, sellers are better off when they are in control and have suitable options to decide the best course of action for themselves. GTC was already an option, why make it mandatory? Let sellers decide based on their specific situation and needs.”

InkFrog’s “GTC Watchdog” feature is rules-based. “You get to create rules which will End Early a listing if certain conditions are met, so you could create a rule saying to End Early listings in your account which are in the Skin Care category, for example,” Little said. “You then specify how far in advance it will end the listing. The feedback we’ve received so far is users are setting rules to end items 1 day before the listing will automatically renew. They can then decide if they want to relist it manually or move the product onto another sales channel or whichever other options they are considering.”

Another eBay listing tool, GarageSale for Mac, is currently beta testing version 8, which will have a “GTC Auto-Cancel” feature. Ilja Iwas said version 8 will be released this week. “For GarageSale 8, the GTC auto-cancel feature will be a regular feature for our users and is included with the regular price,” Iwas said. “The user enables the feature and selected many hours before the GTC listing ends it should be auto-canceled. GarageSale will cancel the listing at the computed auto-cancel date.”

While sellers may resist the change that eBay forced on them on March 18th, it’s important for each seller to consider their own circumstances and decide what is best for their own business. But if you decide you don’t like the idea of “parking” your listings on eBay with recurring billing, you have some choices to automate “auto-cancelling” GTC listings and to mimic shorter-duration listings.

Ina Steiner

Ina Steiner

Ina Steiner is co-founder and Editor of EcommerceBytes and has been reporting on ecommerce since 1999. She’s a widely cited authority on marketplace selling and is author of “Turn eBay Data Into Dollars” (McGraw-Hill 2006). Her blog was featured in the book, “Blogging Heroes” (Wiley 2008). Follow her on Twitter at @ecommercebytes and send news tips to [email protected]



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