Are You Ready for Mobile Buyers?

Learn how to optimize your listings for on-the-go shoppers.

by staff writer
- Jan 10, 2011

With more than 8.5 million iPads sold in 2010, another 19.4 million expected to be sold this year and millions of mobile phones being sold each year, one thing is for sure: The future is mobile.

eBay knows this. Gross merchandise volume of mobile sales on the site ballooned from $600 million in 2009 to $2 billion in 2010.

In view of this trend, eBay doubled the size of its mobile team in mid-December, when it acquired Critical Path Software, a company that develops mobile apps. The two companies had worked together to develop eBay's mobile app for the iPhone, and the acquisition emphasized eBay's commitment to mobile commerce.

"We're very serious about innovating in mobile commerce," says Mark Carges, chief technology officer and senior vice president of Global Products for eBay Marketplaces, adding that eBay's acquisition of Critical Path will be "a big win for mobile shoppers around the world." With this combined mobile development team, he claims, "We can make shopping and selling anywhere, anytime, for almost anything, even better."

What does this mean for you, as a seller? It means you need to take notice. You should be keeping mobile shoppers in mind as you create listings. These shoppers may be a slightly different breed, but they are still buyers. And if you're not sure how to cater to their needs or how to optimize your listings for mobile devices, read on. We'll give you a run down.

Millions in mobile

The fact is that consumers are embracing shopping on the go. More than 14 million versions of eBay's mobile app have been downloaded since it launched in 2008, eBay reports. And on Dec. 12, a day eBay dubbed "Mobile Sunday," eBay members spent close to $5 million on the site using their iPhones, BlackBerries, Androids and other mobile devices. Overall, mobile sales reached $1.4 billion in 2009 and were expected to surpass $3.4 billion in 2010, according to Internet Retailer.

Last year's holiday season proved to be good for mobile sales. Mobile-shopping searches were up 230 percent during that time, according to Google. This included searches for stores, items and prices.

And a new study from ForeSee Results finds that more than half of all shoppers either already, or plan to, use their mobile phones for shopping. So, as you can see, mobile should definitely be on your radar. Now let's see how you can get your listings mobile-ready.

Mobile shoppers will be viewing your items on much smaller screens than traditional displays

Simple is best

The first thing to keep in mind when creating a new listing is that mobile shoppers will be viewing your items on much smaller screens than traditional displays. iPads give a little more leeway, but, in general, people who use mobile devices to buy will only have a few inches of screen. That's not much, so it's important to keep listings simple. Following this rule will not only help your listings look their Sunday best on a mobile device, it will help you create efficient, streamlined listings that will draw buyers, regardless of the device they're using.

As you create or revise a listing for optimal mobile viewing, pay special attention to the title. You'll want this field to be descriptive and accurate, but free of unnecessary words or symbols.

Ginger Leishman of eBay's Mobile team suggests avoiding words like "wow" or "L@@K" when creating mobile listings. Shoppers don't search for these terms, so you'll be wasting valuable title characters if you add these, and you want to avoid that so you'll have enough space to create enticing titles that will sway buyers to click on your listings over a competitor's.

Succinct descriptions

Limited screen real estate also means mobile shoppers will want brief, concise descriptions with pertinent information and nothing else. Again, keep the text simple, resisting the temptation to use unnecessary language.

Shoppers want "short and sweet" descriptions, Leishman advises.

"Shoppers are going to read about your item on a relatively small screen, so keep it to the basics," she says.

"Buyers don't want to wade through paragraph after paragraph of useless information," adds Auctiva Product Analyst and Top-rate seller Rebecca Miller. "They just want to know what you're selling. If a listing is too cluttered, hard to read and makes them scroll and scroll, a buyer won't waste their time reading it, and will hit the Back button."

This is true even if they're looking at your item on a larger display, so keep this in mind anytime you create a listing, she adds.

As for the styling of your listing, opt for black text, writes Thomas McMahon of online marketing blog TopRank.

All text should be in its "most basic format. Forget about color and typography," he says. And remove any background color, as well as any flash or Java you may have on your site or listing.

Images appear differently on mobile devices, so sharp, professional photos are more important than ever

Photos that sparkle

Images are vital in a sale. Shoppers can't physically hold the merchandise they're considering buying, so it's up to you to provide them with photos that really capture the item from every angle. However, because of smaller screens, images will appear differently on mobile devices.

This means sharp, professional images will be more important than ever. So ensure your photos are free of clutter that distracts the eyes of potential buyers from the item you're trying to sell. It's best to opt for solid backgrounds, advises Auctiva EDU contributor Cindy Shebley in this article. She suggests using backgrounds in neutral colors like tan, silver or gray when photographing items if you sell a wide variety of goods. This way the background won't clash with the item you have for sale.

Top-rated Seller Miller goes a step further to suggest a black and white approach: Use a black background when you're listing light-colored items; opt for a white background when you have dark-colored items.

This, she reasons, will be especially helpful on a small mobile device. "You want your items to pop," Miller says.

And when you're getting ready to crop and upload photos, keep pictures in a square shape so eBay can adjust the size accordingly to fit various mobile displays, Leishman says.

Keep communication prompt

Finally, while you should always aim to respond quickly to inquiries from potential customers, be especially diligent in this age of mobile shopping.

"Mobile shoppers may be comparing prices while in a store or need an item urgently, so don't keep them waiting," Leishman explains. "If they have a question, answer it as soon as possible."

Mobile shoppers are also more likely to make an immediate purchase, rather than wait out an auction. So listing your item in the fixed-price format or adding the Buy It Now option to an auction listing could increase your chances of a sale with a mobile buyer, she continues. Having PayPal as a payment option is also beneficial here, as it allows shoppers to check out immediately, right on their mobile devices.

There you have it, a few tips to make your listings stand out on a mobile device—or any device, for that matter. Now off you go to get your items mobile-ready, and here's to many mobile sales!

About the Author

Auctiva staff writers constantly monitor trends and best practices of those selling on eBay and elsewhere online. They attend relevant training seminars and trade shows and regularly discuss the market with PowerSellers and other market experts.

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