Mistakes Sellers Make, Part 2

Pros give tips for getting your listings right.

by Brad and Debra Schepp
- Feb 14, 2014

Your eBay listings speak directly to your customers from the very first click that leads them to your item.

Sellers have long focused on the best ways to represent their 3-D items in a 2-D medium. Listing practices have evolved over the years we've spent in e-commerce, but it seems that mistakes still abound. Of course, what constitutes a "perfect" listing for one seller may look ridiculous to another, and listing practices are bound to vary depending on the item sold and the branding of each seller.

The first article in this three-part series addressed overall business mistakes sellers may be making. For this article, we went in search of a variety of opinions about what makes a great listing, and we found many varying opinions. We'll let you sort out the ones that sound right for your business.

Listing products on mobile devices has led some sellers to skip too much of the description, leaving customers with too few details

Are descriptions too long or too short?

It doesn't seem possible to give your customer too much information about the product you sell, but as it turns out, more than a few people disagree with this philosophy.

It's one thing to tell all the details about an item, but it's quite another to give so many details that you leave out vital information about the one particular thing you may be trying to sell. Likewise, overloading your descriptions with too much technical detail can leave you too little opportunity to personalize your business message to your customers, omitting vital information that might make shoppers more willing to give you a try.

"The biggest mistake eBay sellers make is to use stock descriptions from manufacturers," says Nick Whitmore, managing director at False Eyelashes. These descriptions might include every possible detail, but then you might not have space to describe what your particular item comes bundled with or details about the item's condition.

"The example I always use is for PlayStation 2 consoles," says Whitmore, who sells on eBay under the name ohbeauty. "The technical description fills up half the page, but it means very, very little to most people. It's important to spend a little time writing a custom description."

On the other hand, some sellers told us eBay descriptions have gotten too brief in some cases. The quick-and-easy way of listing products on mobile devices has led some sellers to skip too much of the description, leaving customers with too few details to make a decision.

"eBay has made posting items via a seller's mobile phone extremely easy," notes Jordan Malik, who operates under several eBay seller IDs, including jordansautoaccessories. "The downfall is that sellers are making their descriptions much too brief." Malik further notes that listing via desktop or laptop computers allows sellers to easily cut and paste their previous descriptions, policies, fonts and colorful templates.

Of course, these opinions can be very specific to each market area. When it comes to clothing, sellers seem to feel the need to include not only more description, but also more specific descriptions for an item.

The biggest mistake a lot of eBay sellers make is to over-decorate and give too lengthy descriptions for the product

A spokesperson for WordLister, a free cloud-based application "that makes creating listings easy," notes that "Clothing items are hard to shop for because there are so many sizing options that vary from one brand to another."

"Being a size 6 in one brand doesn't mean you're a size 6 in every brand," the spokesperson adds. "Buyers want to know some basic measurements, such as sleeve and inseam length, and sellers who don't provide these types of details have lots of competition from sellers who do."

Be informative, but not overly creative

Almost every seller who spoke to us warned against too much gadgetry for eBay listings. An overly designed presentation has long been considered a bad move, but the maturation of the online shopper has made these types of mistakes much more apparent.

"You never know what you're going to get," notes the WordLister spokesperson. "Some users only write a one-sentence description and post one photo. Other users might have all sorts of bells-and-whistle plugins with scrolling images, font size 36 with pink and purple cursive text, and all sorts of borders."

These techniques, although they might stand out in a shopper's memory, can make it way too complicated and time consuming to find the details that lead to a purchase.

"In my opinion, the biggest mistake a lot of eBay sellers make is to over-decorate and give too lengthy descriptions for the product," agrees Annkur Agarwal, co-founder of location-based search engine PriceBaba. A self-proclaimed "eBay seller all my life," Agarwal recognizes that online shoppers are different today from what they were years ago.

"A lot of online buyers are used to a professional catalog from Amazon and other sites," he says. "Large fonts and too many images inside the description is clutter that confuses the buyer. To-the-point information, in my opinion, results in better conversions."

Buyers expect high-resolution photos they can zoom in and out of and get detailed angles of the product

Above all, quality and value

So how do you make your listings distinct enough to represent your brand, but not too fancy that you lose sight of the item and the sale? All of the people who spoke with us addressed focusing on quality over decoration, and value over hype. This was especially apparent when it came to photos and shipping policies.

It's long been an eBay standard that good clear photos, and a lot of them, are essential to a successful listing. That has never been truer than it is today when clear, high-resolution images are so easy to capture. Thanks to technology, most of us carry a better camera in our pockets than we used five years ago to capture images.

"Buyers expect high-resolution photos they can zoom in and out of and get detailed angles of the product," Malik says. "Still," he notes, "Many sellers swipe standard catalog photos from another website or listing."

These are generally not of very good quality, and they may not represent the exact item listed for sale. "Sellers can generally enjoy higher selling prices and shorter sales cycles by providing close-ups and high-resolution photos, regardless of the product," Malik says.

Now that we've looked at your business as a whole, and your listing techniques in detail, our next installment will address how you manage your business after the sale is completed. Yes, we'll look at shipping, but we'll also look at taking care of your customers and using your successful sales to advance your business and build your customer base.

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.

Other Entries by this Author

Follow Us