How to Unlock the eBay ‘Product Based Experience’ with the API

Traditionally, when searching on eBay, shoppers look to find items listed in the marketplace that are organised nicely into categories on the eBay site. A few tweaks of the item filters later and the shopper has narrowed their search sufficiently in order to peruse a range of highly relevant choices.

Now this is great when shopping for more generic/commodity items such as ”red dress” or “Rolling Stones memorabilia”, but what about when searching for a particular make and model of MP3 player or GPS for example? As these items belong to a catalogue of products they carry standardised and specific product information like; image, specification, colour variations etc.

So why can’t we use this product information to help make the shopping experience a lot quicker and easier? Well now you can and eBay are already busy rolling out Product Based Experience pages (PBE) for several key product categories! Starting with MP3 Players, GPS devices and DVDs - this will later roll out to Photography, Video Game Systems and more.  You can find a full list with category IDs here.

So what is the Product Based Experience on eBay?

Shoppers will first discover the new experience in the search results (see example below). This new way of displaying results on eBay will help shoppers find the exact product they are looking for much quicker as it minimises the need for filtering a list of items.

Now, for each version or “generation” of the iPod, there is a dedicated product page available with very specific data about the product sought.  If you click the image above you will be taken to the product page for the Apple iPod touch 2nd Generation (8 GB). Not the 16 GB version, not the 1st gen version, just the 2nd Generation 8 GB version. The shopper can then compare prices for new, refurbished, or used items; check its price trend over time, read an accurate product description specification, compare against other variations… all from just one page!

We won’t cover all the features here but we highly recommend you explore the pages yourself. Go ahead, see how quickly you can find a brand new, buy-it-now, 2nd generation 1GB pink iPod shuffle using just two keywords; “Pink” and “Shuffle.”

Sounds great, how can this help improve my earnings on eBay Partner Network?

  1. Conversion Rate: If shoppers can find the information they need more quickly and easily, they are much more likely to complete a sale in the session and more quickly. This will assist in improving your EPC!
  2. Higher Earnings: An improved conversion rate and EPC means each click you send to eBay is more valuable.
  3. Better User Experience: The more shoppers like using your site and the sites where you send them, the more likely they are to come back.

The pages are great, I’m sold! How do I send my traffic to them?

You can generate a custom link to anywhere on the eBay site using the Link Generator tool, but if you are looking to display the products in a content unit or widget, the best way is to use eBay’s API. To assist you find all the right information and calls, here is an overview of what is available from the Finding API and what the calls can do:-

I want to find and display products with the API:

The “FindProducts” call allows you to specify keywords to find matching products, or to specify a single product with a product code (ePID, EAN UPC etc, more on these later). This will then return information about that product such as stock photos, number of items currently available for sale (stock), reviews and links. This call will also return information about specific items, but we recommend using the latest version of the “findItemsByProduct” call as it returns more specific information (see below).

This call would be ideal for a product level comparison table so shoppers could compare product information and specifications.

http://developer.ebay.com/DevZone/shopping/docs/CallRef/FindProducts.html

I want to find and display product items with the API:

Similar to the above, but drilling down a layer further to the actual product “stock items”. These can include listings from either private, top rated, or outlet sellers in any selling format depending on what you want to show.

The “findItemsByProduct” call allows you to return all items currently available that match a specific product code. This could be used alongside, or even to replace, category filtering as a way to improve relevance.

This is perfect for displaying individual items for a product review page within a price comparison table.

http://developer.ebay.com/DevZone/finding/CallRef/findItemsByProduct.html

So what are product codes?

These are the unique product identifiers in the API and are the global reference ID for a catalogued eBay product.

The product codes currently available are; ePID (eBay product code), ISBN (10 or 13, used for books), UPC (media items such as cd’s, dvd’s, video games and so forth) and EAN (used for books, and more common in European countries). The complete list of ePID codes is being expanded all the time, and as such the best way to find out the ePID codes for your needs is to make use of the “FindProducts” call (link above)

How many products are included in eBay’s catalogue?

Of course, a product-based experience is not always desirable where, for example, shoppers are seeking generic or commodity type items. Also it takes a lot of cooperation from the sellers to complete the necessary information when listing items. This is a challenge eBay are meeting with the seller release and subsequent support announced earlier in the year. You can read and hear about from eBay legend, Jim “Griff” Griffith here.

So while not every product is or will be covered, the products catalogued and listed in the API enable eBay partners to take advantage of the improved relevancy and improved landing pages afforded by PBE.

In the event your campaign covers products not included, we strongly advise using a regular backup call for any items that are not product specific. This can be done by defaulting to a regular “findItemsAdvanced” call if there are no product ID’s or results available:

http://developer.ebay.com/DevZone/finding/CallRef/findItemsAdvanced.html

So what do you think? We'd love to get your thoughts below.