The Web Retailer News Digest for May 7th, 2021

An investigation by Business Insider has found that online marketplace Etsy has listings for a multitude of products that are banned on the site.

Etsy has eight categories of prohibited items and the report found 800 listings covering almost all of them, including dangerous weapons, pornography, poisonous plants, pet remains, miracle cures and more. The products could be found with ordinary keyword searches, and many showed no attempt to hide what was being sold.

The site, which regularly touts its strict policy on handmade goods and dedication to small crafters, was also found to be “awash” with mass-produced products, including charging cables, massage tools, air fryers and wholesale clothing.

Etsy’s corporate PR machine rushed out a response just before the Business Insider article was published.

The angel of ecommerce falls to earth

Alongside the largest online marketplaces Amazon and eBay, Etsy has always portrayed itself as the grassroots alternative, full of lone crafters pouring their hearts and souls into uniquely handmade pieces. You can go to Amazon if you want plastic gizmos mass-produced in China, or instead head to Etsy to purchase a one-of-a-kind item that supports local artisans.

But the report from Business Insider found something very different. Even after they informed Etsy of the prohibited listings, which were then taken down, many more near-identical listings could still be found on the site.

Some of the items found were drastically at odds with Etsy’s homely and self-righteous image. You could buy spiked clubs, concealed knives, resin daggers and brass knuckle dusters, despite Etsy’s policy on weapons. You could find a ghoulish array of preserved animals and animal parts, which are also banned. Searches also revealed listings for tobacco, items bearing the Confederate flag, drug paraphernalia and hardcore pornography. Etsy even had uranium for sale.

The list goes on and on. It includes prohibited items, counterfeit goods and mass-manufactured products of every type. The latter is not just about factory-made items presented as handmade, but also obviously mass-produced products. Many identical items were found, listed by multiple sellers using different photos and descriptions. Everything sold on Etsy is supposed to be handmade, vintage or a craft supply.

Etsy identical sandals
Identical items found on Etsy, all claiming to be handmade.

Etsy published a blog post the day before the Business Insider report, setting out their increased investment into trust and safety. The company said that reports of “noncompliant” listings increased fourfold to 4 million in 2020, with breaches of its handmade policy the most common. The majority of those reports – 80% – came from Etsy’s own automated tools. Etsy said it is investing $40 million in policy enforcement this year, after nearly doubling the size of its Trust & Safety team within the last two years.

Etsy also released the results of its 2020 Global Seller Census this week. The number of sellers on the site almost doubled in 2020, and nearly half of those new sellers started their business due to COVID-19.

Read more at Reddit and Business Insider (subscription content).

Amazon news

Confirmed: Prime Day is coming early this year

Rumors of an early Prime Day have now been confirmed. Amazon has said that Prime Day will be held in the second quarter this year, after the usual July slot was moved back to October in 2020.

An exact date has not been given, but it seems almost certain that Prime Day will be in June, the last month of the second quarter, given the epic rush that would be necessary to run the huge sales event this month.

A number of reasons were given for an earlier Prime Day, including the Tokyo Olympics, postponed vacations and simply the desire to experiment with different timing.

Read more at CNBC.

Amazon adds option to block shipping by Amazon

Amazon is making changes to its Multi-Channel Fulfillment (MCF) service, which allows sellers to use FBA to fulfill orders from other sales channels, including their own ecommerce websites and competing online marketplaces.

One surprising new feature is the option to block orders being shipped by Amazon Logistics, the company’s own parcel carrier, for a 5% surcharge. Amazon says this is to allow buyers to sell directly on other sales channels, specifically eBay and Walmart, who prohibit the use of Amazon Logistics.

However, Walmart’s Shipping Methods & Timing Policy does not actually prohibit the use of Amazon Logistics. Instead, it says orders “cannot be shipped in competitor boxes or packaging”. Avoiding Amazon Logistics will mean that orders are not delivered by Amazon-branded vehicles, but it will make no difference to the packaging.

eBay, in contrast, allows the use of FBA everywhere except Australia. eBay does not allow online arbitrage, where products are bought from Amazon (or other online retailers) to fulfill eBay orders, but that is completely different to using MCF.

Amazon is, however, also running a beta test of unbranded packaging – boxes without the Amazon logo – which will probably be of greater interest to retailers using MCF. Unbranded packaging was available as an option for MCF several years ago.

It’s something of a surprise to see Amazon bringing out new features for MCF, as the service has been rather neglected and Amazon’s fulfillment capacity for orders placed through its own site is strained. Perhaps the various investigations into anti-competitive behavior has motivated Amazon to show that FBA is genuinely a separate service, and not just an add-on for marketplace sellers.

Read more at Amazon seller forums.

Collectible condition banned in multiple categories

Amazon will no longer allow the “collectible” item condition in many product categories, reports EcommerceBytes.

Sellers of products listed under Video Games, Kitchen, Outdoors, Patio, Lawn & Garden, Tools & Home Improvement, and Appliances will now have to choose only “new” or “used” as their item condition.

Those with collectible inventory stored in FBA will have until June 30 to sell their items, then will need to create a removal order and pay to have them sent back. Presumably, they could choose to downgrade the condition to “used”, but that may not be an attractive option for genuinely collectible items with premium pricing.

EcommerceBytes pointed out that while most of these categories have few collectible products, collectible Video Games are very popular. It appears that this product niche will simply cease to exist on Amazon.

Amazon’s reason for no longer allowing collectible items in these categories is not clear, although perhaps the challenges of authentication weighed on the decision. Authentication of collectible items has become much more commonplace across all online marketplaces, as you will see at the end of this article.

Read more at EcommerceBytes.

Other marketplaces

eBay is working on three new ad types

eBay has revealed that it will be piloting three new types of ads, on its recent first quarter earnings call with investors. CEO Jamie Iannone said that an announcement would be made later in the current quarter, but went on to outline the new options being tested:

  1. An advertising placement for auctions
  2. CPC-based ads
  3. Off-eBay advertising

eBay only has one advertising option for sellers currently, called Promoted Listings, which works on a revenue sharing basis in addition to the standard eBay final-value fee.

Iannone summarized by saying:

Overall, when I look at advertising, it’s still only 1% of GMV and if you look at benchmarks there’s significant opportunity above that. As long as we continue to add value to sellers we think there will be a continued opportunity.

Sellers should be under no illusions about eBay seeing advertising as a major growth area. If the company’s plans work out, there will be more advertising-driven competition and sellers who are not willing to dig deeper into their pockets are likely to lose out.

eBay is also looking into accepting cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin as a payment method in the future, according to a report by Reuters.

Read more at eBay (webcast).

Russia’s Wildberries plants seeds in the US

Russia’s leading online retailer and marketplace has launched a version of its website targeted to US customers.

The new site has been translated into English but otherwise appears to offer the same range of products, from the same suppliers, as the main Russian store. The localization does not extend to product reviews, and poor automatic translation appears to have been used for product attributes.

For example, a pair of joggers includes these attributes:

Wildberries joggers

Shoppers who are fans of mermaids, are both tall and short, and like their clothes to come without hair will be well served by Wildberries new venture into the US market.

Wildberries now has 14 localized versions of its website, mainly covering European countries.

Read more at Digital Commerce 360.

Newegg expands into auto parts

Electronics retailer and marketplace Newegg now sells automotive parts including components for brakes, engines, transmission, drivetrain, steering and suspension.

The new category includes a year/make/model parts finder and Newegg says it already has 1.5 million different items available to buy. Automotive parts sales have grown rapidly online, and it is one of the few product categories where eBay still holds the lead over Amazon.

We assume that Newegg will be accepting meme-inspired cryptocurrencies such as Dogecoin as payment in this new product category.

Read more at Business Wire.

Webinars in the week ahead

For everyone

May 12: What to expect from Prosper Show 2021 (Teikametrics).

Various dates: Amazon advertising’s global webinar program rolls on with 20+ webinars scheduled, covering Sponsored Products, Sponsored Brands, reporting, optimization and tips (Amazon).

For US sellers

May 10: Amazon automated pricing tools (Amazon).

May 12: Amazon business-to-business sales (Amazon).

For UK sellers

May 12: Amazon basics – account setup and Brand Registry (DIT and Vendlab).

May 12: Preserve and grow your business with the EU (Institute of Export).

And finally…

eBay sneaker sniffer: “it smells like a wet puppy”

The BBC recently reported on the sneaker resale market, with coverage of eBay’s authentication scheme.

One of eBay’s authenticators explained to the venerable British broadcaster how the shoes are authenticated, including checking that the model number matches the box, that the stitching is perfect, and that all accessories are included.

But the first step, of course, is to give the sneakers a good sniff.

Apparently, a Nike SB Dunk Low Grateful Dead Bears smells like paper or a wet puppy.

I would prefer it to smell like the thousand dollars (or more) that this particular pair usually sells for.

Read more at the BBC.


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