Keeping Your Listings Clutter Free

Give buyers the goods without distractions.

by Dennis L. Prince
- Oct 14, 2009

Sooner or later, it seems almost every seller gives in to the temptation of jazzing up his or her listings to the point of sheer excess. Whether you've just learned HTML, found a great bunch of animated GIFs or simply think you must have the nicest display on the cyber-street, it's not uncommon to get… well… a bit carried away.

Unfortunately, overdoing the eye candy will often shoo away the very customers you're trying to impress. Take a lesson from those who have overdone it before you: Keep it simple, keep it quick, and keep your customers focused on buying your goods rather than fending off your frills.

Back to basics

If you've been selling online since the mid-1990s, you'll know that the earliest listings consisted of only simple item titles and plain-text descriptions. To see such listings without accompanying imagery and design elements might seem practically prehistoric, yet time has shown that the simple approach is still the best.

Before you consider piling on a stack of virtual images and dolling up your listing with colors and fluff, put your initial efforts into crafting effective item titles (incorporating the best and most-frequently used search keywords for what you're offering) and then following on with useful and accurate descriptions that offer full disclosure of your wares. Often, over-expressive (and even neo-expressionistic) sellers get so caught up in virtual neon that they fail to give the basic definitive item details shoppers are seeking, first and foremost.

With the basic needs well served and easy to find—item title, description and terms—now you can cleverly inject a bit of well-placed style

Only after you have a solid item title and description should you turn your attention to the images that will accompany them. Be sure to provide clear and true images of the item, depicting as many angles and details as possible and/or appropriate. Crop out unnecessary background clutter and only enhance the image in order to brighten or color-correct. Beware of over-enhancing a photo to the point that it no longer looks like what the buyer will ultimately receive; that leads to customer dissatisfaction.

Finally, make sure your sales policies and shipping methods are easily found and clearly stated, ensuring your customers will know what to expect, should they decide to buy from you. As a time-honored point of contention for some, difficult-to-find sales and shipping terms can be the bane of a seller who might soon hear protests of "you never made that clear" from dissatisfied buyers. Make those policies easy to see and easy to read, something you definitely don't want hidden within an onslaught of fancy formatting.

A bit of personality still helps, though

While it might seem that the gist here is to be anti-expressive, understand it's not necessary that your listings be bland as room-temperature tapioca. With the basic needs well served and easy to find—item title, description, and terms—now you can cleverly inject a bit of well-placed style, the sort that can effectively enhance your item's appeal and brighten your customers' shopping experience.

Utilize some simple HTML to add special fonts, colors, simple backgrounds and interspersed images in a way that complements your items and showcases them in a visual theme to entice visitors to stop, shop and buy. It's the same subtle tactic big marketing brains use—and it works. When used in moderation, your custom listing designs can lure otherwise apathetic shoppers off the street and into your virtual storefront.

Time is money—theirs and yours

Back to the cautionary appeal, understand this fact: The more you adorn your listings, the longer it will usually take them to fully display for your customers. Bidders and buyers are a busy lot; they don't have all day to wait for twinkling lights, clever animations and blaring Muzak to download to their monitors.

Few Web surfers and shoppers will wait beyond three to five seconds before they decide to bolt for another destination

Research has shown that few Web surfers and shoppers will wait beyond three to five seconds before they decide to bolt for another destination. And not every potential customer has the benefit of viewing the Internet via high-speed rates, even though we live in a time when DSL, cable or other high-octane connections seem to be the norm. Believe it or not, some are still using a dial-up or low- to no-cost commercial-laden cheapie providers.

To you, the ultimate loss of excessive designs could be three-fold: the loss of the sale, the loss of your listing fees and the loss of your valuable time spent over-decorating what could have been a simpler and more enticing listing. Oh, and consider the loss of the customer, one that you might never have opportunity to entertain again. That's probably the costliest loss.

Perfect it, then project it

OK, now that you've come this far and you've taken care and consideration in developing a truly efficient, yet engaging listing style, it's time to bottle it. That is, once you've designed and perfected your effectively descriptive and demurely decorated listing design, save yourself additional effort over the long run by capturing it in a template that you can re-apply time and time again. It's definitely a time saver when you only need to "plug in" item-specific information, weaving it simply among the design elements of your chosen style.

Of course, be sure to investigate the many template providers and design helpers available—many are quite good. Take care, however, to ensure that the provider's own brand isn't upstaging your business and what it is you're working to sell.

That said, when you invest in developing your own unique template, you stand to make yourself and your listings more identifiable to repeat customers, who will soon recognize you—and that's a well-metered design approach that's good for your business.

About the Author

Dennis L. Prince has been analyzing and advocating the e-commerce sector since 1996. He has published more than 12 books on the subject, including How to Sell Anything on eBay…and Make a Fortune, second edition (McGraw-Hill, 2006) and How to Make Money with MySpace (McGraw-Hill, 2008). His insight is actively sought within online, magazine, television and radio venues.

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

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