Image representing eBay as depicted in CrunchBase

Image via CrunchBase

eBay announced the 2013 Spring Seller Update earlier today and there’s a lot to talk about. Rather than give you a ridiculously long blog post, I’m going to split my analysis of these updates into two updates. You can read the full release from eBay here.

The headline grabber this time out is the new fee structure and the changes they’re making to eBay stores so I wanted to address this first. There’s a whole separate release from eBay that just covers these new fee changes in detail but I’m going to try to give you the highlights.

Free listings for everyone

You know how eBay users without stores used to get a bunch of free listings every month? Well now everyone does! Starting this May, sellers at every level get a certain number of items a month (auction or fixed price) on which they don’t have to pay listing fees.

Regular eBay users without a store get 50, Basic Store owners get 150, Premium Store owners get 500 and Anchor Store owners get 2,500 free listings a month.

My take? I like it. There’s long been speculation that eBay may do away with listing fees entirely and, in a way, they have. They really seem to have set these levels to cover the average number of items a seller at each level might list a month, effectively doing away with listing fees unless you go over that limit. And if you’re regularly going over the free item limit, there’s now a great incentive to upgrade. For me, this will mean a significant fee decrease because I will almost never pay a listing fee again. Good stuff.

Standardized Final Value Fees

I’ll let eBay explain this one in their own words. If you’re a store owner, “Final value fees will be simplified to just five flat rates—as low as 4% and never more than 9% of the total amount of the sale—with a maximum fee of $250” regardless of the format while non-store owners pay a flat 10% fee no matter the format or category.

Their stated reasons for this change is to simplify things.

My take? Every time eBay mucks with fees, it’s usually to increase them. And, depending on what you sell, this may end up being a fee increase for you. But what’s interesting about this change is that, for some formats and categories, this will actually be a fee decrease for many sellers. So whether you’re fees will go up or down really depends on the kind of items you sell and whether you prefer to list auction or fixed price.

But, let’s be honest, the Final Value Fees were getting ridiculous. There were different fees for every category, different fees for each format, different fees depending on how high the final value fee was and it was just getting insanely confusing. Now there’s just one flat rate. Much simpler and you no longer need a degree in advanced mathematics to figure out what you owe. I think I’m for it even if it does mean an increase on some listings just because it’s so much more user friendly.

Store Subscription Fees Go Up… Kinda

Store subscription fees are being increased… but only for sellers who opt to pay them month-by-month. If you pre-pay the whole year in advance, you’ll keep the current price.

My take? Prices did go up. That’s the simple fact. But most of us will probably opt to pre-pay for the whole year to keep our current rate which will mean prices will stay the same so it’s not really an increase.

But, dang, the sticker shock. Instead of parceling the stores fee out over 12 months, we’ll have to shell it out all in one lump sum. Imagine being an Anchor store and having to shell out $2,159.40 all at once instead of the $179.95 a month you’re used to. If you’re used to being able to cover your store subscription fee out of your sales from the month, you’ll need do some re-budgeting to take this big yearly expense into account.

While they don’t say why they did this, I suspect it’s because people would upgrade or sign-up for stores as needed and then drop down again. I know I’ve recommended to clients to sign up for a store just for the holidays and then downgrade in the off season to save money and I’ll bet I wasn’t the only person with that idea. If people were upgrading just for a month here and there this would force them to commit to a level for a year or pay the increased rate. While this change will screw you over if this was your strategy, it makes sense from eBay’s standpoint and lets them profit off these a la carte sellers.

So either pay for the year up-front and pay less or pay more for the flexibility of going month by month. This is, incidentally, how the payment structure at my gym works so my brain is already used to it.

Listing Scheduling is free?

The release says, “Get the listing scheduler FREE and control when your listings start and end.” This sentence appears under the section for non-store owners so I’m not sure if this applies to store owners too. It would be pretty stupid of them to charge store owners for something they are giving non-owners for free so I’m going to assume it’s free for everyone.

My take? Yes! It always annoyed me there was a fee for this and I’m glad to see this will finally be free. I do wonder what it will do to the auction culture on the site but since auctions play such a reduced role now it shouldn’t be that massive a change. It will certainly give me a lot of freedom as I do a lot of auctions and like to list them at a certain time of week.

Overall? Color me surprised but I think this was mostly all good news. While my fees will go up slightly on my busiest months, the amount they’ll be going down the rest of the year makes up for it. And while paying for the whole year of my store up-front will be annoying, it’s not as annoying as the price going up so I’m fine with it.

Looking at the big picture, I think this means really good things for the marketplace in general. With so many free listings no matter your seller level, it will encourage everyone to list more and the more items for sale on the platform, the more buyers it brings in. I also think the new simplified Final Value Fees are a great idea because I know first hand from my work as a Trading Assistant that the over complicated fee structure scared would-be sellers off. This new structure is more welcoming and will encourage not just more sellers but more listings too.

While I’ll be back with another post on the rest of the update, let’s talk about these fee changes. What do you think of these changes? Will your fees be going up or down? Are you happy or angry at these changes?