What QM Can’t Do (Part 1)

April 5th, 2011

Today we’ll begin a series of posts addressing a few common complaints we’ve received over the past two years. These posts will deal with behaviors that many subscribers often incorrectly assume exist or think should be implemented but which are technically impossible. Much of this is mentioned already in the documentation but we’ll be going into the issues in-depth. In part 1 we’ll address the most common question “Why did my listing end?“. Specifically we’ll be covering the situation where a buyer purchases all available quantity at once.

Why did my listing end?!?!?!

In almost every case we have examined over the years this is due to the simple misunderstanding in how QM works.  QM works after the sale, not during.  The events from purchase to quantity refresh occur as follows:

  1. Buyer makes a purchase.
  2. eBay decreases quantity available on eBay.  If 0 remain then mark the listing as ended.
  3. eBay notifies QM of the sale.
  4. QM refreshes quantity (if applicable).

Step #2 above is where the problem lies.  Because buyers can purchase any quantity available to them they have the option to purchase all within a single order.  When that happens eBay will end the listing before anything can be done about it. This is the reason why you cannot specify a Display value of 1 by default. A Display setting of 1 would result in every sale causing the listing to end and most subscribers don’t want that.

MVL listings do not suffer from this limitation in the same way since they contain one or more sub listings. As long as one variation has a quantity available of more than 0 at all times eBay will not end it. This allows QM to bring variations back from having a quantity available of 0 as long as that wasn’t the only active variation.

What can I do to stop this from happening?

There are a few actions that can be performed to avoid situations like this.

The easiest and most effective solution is to simply increase your setting for Display to a number higher than what your buyers commonly buy. If you sell something that people only ever buy singingly then it is probably OK selling with Display set to 2. But if buyers occasionally buy 2 or 3, experiment with slightly higher numbers. Over time the number of quantity sold (as shown by eBay to your buyers) will increase and as long as you have a quantity available of 10 or less, your listing will have the appearance of scarcity.

Another, often overlooked, setting is your buyer requirements. eBay allows sellers to automatically block buyers who meet certain criteria such as feedback and unpaid listings. eBay also lets sellers select the maximum number of items someone may purchase from you in a set period of time. This lets you choose a number purchased from 1 – 10, 25, 50, 75, and 100. Simply select a number that is one lower than your setting for Display and no single buyer will be able to end any of your listings. Just keep in mind that if your business depends on selling multiple different products to the same buyers this setting may negatively impact sales.

Buyer Requirements

The true cost of this happening.

In most cases a listing ending due to this situation doesn’t cause any significant harm.  A listing that ends will permanently lose its watchers, number of quantity sold, and the cost to relist.

The cost to relist for most sellers is between $0.03 and $0.20 depending on their store subscription level plus any optional features that had been added.  For eBay.com most optional (and expensive) features liked Featured First, etc have been retired limiting potential financial loses. The fee to relist was very likely already paid for by the sale that ended the listing.

Watchers, for the most part, are irrelevant to a listing because they rarely if ever come back to purchase.  The whole point of QM is to prevent them from adding your listing to the watch list in the first place and make their purchase immediately instead.  There are however cases where eBay will cross promote a listing for free inside competing sellers’ listings if it is one of the top 5 most watched listings in the same category.  If that applies to your listing then it is strongly advised that you perform one of the preventative measures mentioned above.

One thing that isn’t lost in this case is your best match ranking. As long as a listing is relisted within 7 days of ending its recent sales score will be carried over into the next listing. QM also has the ability to relist immediately upon ending due to this situation ensuring that your score is not lost.

Some sellers actually have found that having a Display setting of 1 paired with auto-relisting provides enough benefit to make up for any of these losses.

Will QM ever be able to work in this situation?

It is unlikely given the way eBay currently operates.

Most eCommerce sites end a listing immediately upon the quantity available becoming 0. Some sites like Amazon which doesn’t let sellers create actual listings does not have that issue. As eBay becomes progressively more like Amazon and moves towards everything being catalog based there may come a point in the future where it is possible.

eBay could also open their developer’s program to embedding functions into the eBay platform itself. This is even more unlikely though due to security and performance concerns.

How well does QM work outside of this situation?

QM has a very strong record of keeping listings active when excluding all cases where a single buyer purchased a quantity equal to Display in a single order. In most cases QM will refresh a listing in around six seconds after a sale has occurred with recent improvements making it as quick as four seconds in many cases. We spend several hundred dollars per month in hosting costs and infrastructure improvements to keep everything running as smoothly and quickly as possible.

From the period 11/25/10 – 12/25/10 (the busiest time of the year on eBay) QM failed to refresh a listing in time 0.006% of the time. In many cases the failure was due to a buyer accidentally duplicating an order within seconds or the seller accepting multiple best offers before waiting for QM to refresh the listing.

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