Thursday, January 17, 2008

Best Match as Default, Now Official.

Even though most of the seller community knew about this change several days ago, eBay has made it official with the announcement that they are running a test in 5 categories. (dejavu all over again).

Hi everyone...I'm Julie Netzloff with eBay's Finding team. We've been working to improve how our Best Match sort works to help buyers find relevant items more quickly. In the next few days, we're going to run a test where Best Match will be the default sort order in the following five categories:

Consumer Electronics
Computers & Networking
Cameras & Photos
Cell Phones & PDAs
Toys and Hobbies

If you prefer to use a different sort order (such as "Time: Ending Soonest"), you can change it by using the Sort By drop-down menu at the top of the search results. If you've already set your sort order preference using the "Customize Display" link (found to the right of the Sort By drop-down), you won't be affected by this test.

There have been numerous complaints about Best Match, but eBay is determined to make it the default search on the site. Hey when you've bet the farm on Finding 2.0 you have to make it work. I have no problem with it if it works.

Just my 5 cents.


Anonymous said...

Best Match makes sense for Browse and Fixed Price but it makes no sense whatsoever for Auctions which is eBay primary uniqueness.

Sue Bailey said...

@ "anonymous": How can best match make sense for browsing? How can one item be a better match for a category than another item? If I want to browse cameras, who are eBay to say that Nikons match that better than Olympus?! The whole point of browsing is to *browse*!

I don't like best match. I don't like eBay deciding what I'm looking for: for example, if I want a keyboard for a PDA (as I did the other week), I don't want eBay to insist that I'm looking for the PDA itself. I'm sure the rationale is that they'd rather sell an iPod than an iPod skin to someone who searches for "iPod", but if you're silly enough to put in such a generic search term, you shouldn't be surprised if you get a zillion results!

Oh, and auctions are hardly eBay's "primary uniqueness" any more: nearly 50% of sales on the site are buy it now these days; running the site to benefit auction listings should be a thing of the past, because that particular novelty has worn off.

Randy Smythe said...

Sue, Best Match has been the default in several categories at eBay UK, how are buyers reacting to it?

Best Match isn't going away unless it is a complete failure. The company has invested too much in it to toss it aside unless it is a total failure.

ONLYEBAY said...

I am against Best Match for auction listings, but for fixed-price listings, I see its merit.

Sue, I think that you are questioning the Best Match algorythm rather than the Best Match concept.

The example you give is just bad programming on EBAY's behalf. But if I search "nintendo wii console" I am clearly looking for the actual console. EBAY making sure my first few results are actually consoles rather than games and accesories that may just happen to have console in the title is probably a good idea.

On a side note, sorting fixed-price search results by time-ending soonest is just as random as anything else. Time-ending soonest for fixed-price items makes no sense to me, unless I missing something.

AuctionInsights said...

eBay is quick to claim that Best Match is about improving the buyer experience. Sellers are quick to claim that Best Match is about crushing the “little guy.” The truth of the matter is unsurprising. Raghav Gupta, the developer who created eBay’s Best Match algorithm states on his eBay Labs web page, “when used appropriately, this capability [eBay’s Best Match] will open doors to significant revenue opportunities, not just for eBay, but also for the vast network of affiliate developers.”

If it makes money for eBay, then you can be sure it's here to stay. What sellers need to do is start figuring out how this works and make it work to their advantage. For the most part it's just a search algorithm, therefore its subject to search engine optimization (SEO) techniques like every other search engine.

After some research online, I found the patent application for the Best Match algorithm. You can read about it, and learn how to optimize your auctions for Best Match at

Sue Bailey said...

Yes, OE, *largely* I'm questioning the algorithm rather than the concept. And in the example you give, of course you'd want consoles first. My question would be how many buyers would search for "wii console", and how many would just search for "wii". I think they'd search just for "wii". The current "filter page" that shows possibly relevent categories is FANTASTIC if you ask me - "yes, we have consoles and games and accessories; pick the category next". That part of the recent changes is great - it leaves the buyer in control. But just to say "eBay think you want consoles so here you go"... no, that takes all control away from the buyer.

Does ending soonest make sense for BIN items? Well... maybe. Often it makes as much sense as best match. To take a category close to my heart, lets say the buyer searches for "beads" (and yes, they do search that generally: my Omniture stats prove it). When a search result throws up thousands of results in a general "browsy" kind of category like that, buyers want to look through them. Yes, bead buyers do browse through pages and pages and pages of beads. But they can only manage so many at a time. So doesn't it make sense to show them the ones that are going to end soonest, before they get away? Because how on earth are you going to do a best match for "beads" when there might be 20,000 bead listings on the site?

In any case, buyers still do wait until the end of BIN listings to buy. I have listings on in Best Match-ordered categories where almost everything still sells in the last three or four hours of a 7/10 day listing. I even had a buyer (who is also a powerseller and therefore ought to know!) tell me the other day that she was waiting until the end of a GTC SIF listing to buy!!! I can't explain this, unless it's years of conditioning to snipe, but certainly waiting til the end is what buyers *do*. Upsetting that ingrained behaviour will be dangerous for eBay, if you ask me.

To anyone who's read any of Paco Underhill's books, it seems to me we're moving from a site that reflects the way women shop, to a site that reflects the way men shop: in short, from a browsing site to a searching/finding site. That might be good for wiis and ipods and specific gadgets. It's going to be terrible for clothes and jewellery and shoes and other "pretty things".

But finally (and Randy, I'm really, really sorry for the length of this comment!!!), what's really upsetting and confusing buyers more than any search result ordering is sticking third-party ads in BEFORE the "next page" links. As a buyer said to me the other day, "where have all the listings gone? I used to be able to spend a happy hour browsing eBay, and now it seems that whatever I search for, there's only one page of results". Quite understandably, she assumed that third party ads meant the end of eBay results. I'm rather afraid she may be right :-(