eBay Deprecating Wildcard Search Functionality
Most successful online retailers have learned to follow the various golden rules of 4th quarter, one of the most important of those being “thou shalt make no drastic site or functionality changes”. Recently, eBay announced that their user front end search will no longer support wildcards in queries. While likely a very small percentage of “regular” eBay users are even aware of the various search operators one can use on on the site, “advanced” users and advertisers have long utilized the wildcard to easily surface the optimal listings they’re looking for. At the time of posting, there is no official statement from the eBay Partner Network on if these changes will impact searches for the ePN Custom RSS and/or the Finding API. Since these two tools have character limitations, there may not be a fix for this, even if you applied all the possible descriptive variations to the query. My hunch is that every search method will be impacted, and they’re just trying to figure out how to package this change as a positive one with some PR spin on their recent cataloging efforts or something similar.
eBay relies on sellers to properly list and categorize the items they want to sell, and for a variety of reasons, this makes it hard for a potential buyer to surface every listing of a specific item(s) they’re looking for. One of the best examples of use case here is searching for items from specific years. Say I wanted to find all the Led Zeppelin shirts for sale from the 1970s. By using the wildcard I can just do this original led zeppelin shirt 197*, instead of searching for original led zeppelin shirt (1970,1970s,1971,1972,1973,1974,1975,1976,1977,1978,1979). Or maybe I’m looking for a Led Zeppelin hoodie, I could just use led zepplin hood* and catch all possible variations like hooded, hoody, hoodie, hoodies, etc. Unfortunately, at some arbitrary point in the near future, during holiday shopping prime time, eBay is going to deprecate this feature. One can only imagine the potential hang ups in other product verticals. From car parts to camera equipment, this change could be very difficult for sellers, buyers and affiliates. We’re crossing our fingers in hopes that this change only impacts the main site search and not API calls.