What's Top-Rated About This? Part 2

Bad product photos and offensive policy statements scare away buyers.

by Brad and Debra Schepp
- Nov 12, 2010

In the past few weeks we've managed to regain our composure and recover from the simple but avoidable mistakes we found in so many listings from Top-rated Sellers. We've fortified ourselves, and we feel ready to go back for more.

Last time, we looked at things like spelling, the wording sellers choose and the attitudes they express as they "speak" to their customers. This time we'll revisit some of these attitudes, but we're also going to look at specifics such as photos and policy statements. Next month, we'll look at shipping and return policies.

It's still difficult to believe that so many Top-rated Sellers are placing their businesses at a huge disadvantage with policies and procedures that are so simple to fix and free for the taking. Let's start with photos.

Image is everything

Back when we first started to write about eBay, digital cameras were fairly expensive and the quality of the images they captured was quite variable. Many eBay sellers were still using film-based cameras and scanning the images once they had their photos developed. Even so, the first and most basic advice was to take lots of pictures and include many different angles of the piece you have for sale.

Also, consider background and lighting to ensure you're posting images that clearly represent your item as it is. Today, there simply is no excuse for not including great pictures, and lots of them. The camera on your cell phone is likely better than the digital cameras of just six or seven years ago! It simply couldn't be easier to capture, upload and list great images of your items. Yet…

A page full of purple text is going to be a real turnoff for someone trying to get the details of your listing

We found many listings with only one picture. Beyond that, one Top-rated seller listed a photo that was so fuzzy you couldn't even see the item clearly. We won't direct you to that listing, but if you search around, you'll see for yourself how poorly some sellers represent their merchandise.

Additionally, the background selections can be totally random. We were looking at a quite expensive comic book that was "slabbed" (encased in plastic) and professionally graded to ensure its authenticity. The comic was shown on a red and green tartan plaid that made the cover colors disappear. Not only that, the flash the seller used reflected against the Lucite slab to further obscure the image. How difficult would it have been to retake the shot? How could that seller not see the item was not showing clearly?

As long as we're on the subject of appearance, let's look at the fonts and colors people tend to use. You may think that purple is the absolute greatest color ever, and we may agree. But a page full of purple text is going to be a real turnoff for someone trying to get the details of your listing. We found one seller who alternated red and blue ink for an entire page of policies and rules, and all the type was uppercase and bold as well. We'll look at some of the language this fellow used in a moment, but his choice of colors and his screaming text was an immediate turn-off.

That's not to say we didn't find sellers using color effectively. We found one professional Top-rated Seller with listings that started with a green "sticker" stating "100% Satisfaction Guaranteed." Beneath are five gold stars and the statement "We strive to provide 5-star service." Throughout the listing that followed, some text was strategically placed in red, but that was only to indicate that a particular color was temporarily out of stock. It's not hard to see that a buyer would feel confident giving this seller a try.

Did you really mean to say that?

Top-rated Sellers say the darndest things! Let's look at some of the most outrageous. If we keep a sense of humor, we can learn a lot. First up, a seller who dealt in clothes and accessories, and we quote:

"They are in very good to like new condition, and I have searched them and do not see any stains, holes, etc… They are a bit wrinkly from storage, but otherwise excellent condition!"

Why isn't he using his listing space to better detail his product so buyers won't be unsure of things

OK, humor fading already, so let's get this straight. Here's a seller who wants to sell something she doesn't care enough about to break out the iron? Can you imagine the delight her customer will feel when she opens the box and pulls out something that looks like it was rolled up beneath a teenager's bed? If she doesn't care about her merchandise any better than that, how much care can she have about her customer? Still, this one is only a little mistake. Let's keep going.

Let's go back to the fellow who posted text in red and blue all caps and bold. Here are two sample paragraphs from his listing:

"I offer combined shipping. Please make your purchases and let me know when you need the invoices combined for a shipping discount. I do not refund if you pay first. Please if unsure of anything just ask. I am easy to get along with as long as no one insults my intelligence. Thank you!"

Thank us? What happens if we accidentally insult his intelligence? What, exactly, is he expecting us to say? Why isn't he using his listing space to better detail his product so buyers won't be unsure of things? Let's continue.

"All designer names that I sell are 100% authentic? I was born in the United States and it is illegal to sell fake items-punishable by a fine and jail time. It is also against eBay policy. I am not going to jail for anyone or any amount of money & will not jeopardize my eBay account."

We think he doth protest too much (sorry, Shakespeare). What is the purpose of this rant? First of all, is this seller saying that the just under 6 billion other people who live on the planet have no qualms about trademark violations? We've met many moral and ethical people from all over the world, but clearly, non-U.S. born people aren't likely to become customers here. Also, who asked him to risk jail time? All we wanted was to look at the purses he sells. Need we say more?

We know sellers' top goal is to build and strengthen their businesses, but is this something we all need to announce to prospective buyers?

What's in it for me?

We'll leave this discussion with one fine statement that appears on a Top-rated Seller's listing:

"My goal is to have my name and store strengthened by continuing a tradition and reputation for delivery of quality products and superior service to my customers."

Really? Just between us, we know sellers' top goal is to build and strengthen their businesses, but is this something we all need to announce to prospective buyers? Is it really the most important fact you want a buyer to read? How about, instead saying,

"My goal is your complete satisfaction with my products and policies."

Same message, but this way the seller would be putting the customer first.

We could go on, but by now we hope we've given readers the incentive to go back and read their own copy from a buyer's point of view. Next time we're going to continue this discussion and turn all of our focus on return and shipping policies. That includes both the policies themselves and the language Top-rated Sellers use to express those policies.

All we can say is fasten your seat belts. There's plenty of territory to cover in both of those subjects!

About the Author

Brad and Debra Schepp are the authors of 20 books, including eBay PowerSeller Secrets and The Official Alibaba.com Success Guide: Insider Tips and Strategies for Sourcing Products from the World's Largest B2B Marketplace. Their most recent book, which Deb co-authored with John Lawson, Kick Ass Social Commerce for E-preneurs: It's Not About Likes—It's About Sales, was recently named the 2015 Small Business Book of the Year in the social media category.

For further information, visit Brad and Deb's website, bradanddeb.com.

Opinions expressed here may not be shared by Auctiva Corp. and/or its principals.

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