Debbie Levitt's company, As Was, has been helping e-commerce merchants design effective listings and websites since 1995. The company works with everyone from mom and pops to internationally known corporations. Here, Levitt generously shares her tips for creating great listings, including mobile-friendly ones, for new and veteran sellers alike.
Planning is the key
Schepp: How long have you been in the e-commerce business and associated with eBay?
Levitt: I started As Was as a website design company and "mini agency" of sorts back in April 1995. We built our first completely custom e-commerce site in 1997. Back then, you didn't just install someone else's system or sign up for Volusion. We built it from scratch! I started buying and selling on eBay in 1998. In 2001, I changed As Was to focus more on eBay and online sellers. We still do websites, but are best known for helping eBay sellers with design, marketing and strategy.
Schepp: What does it take for a seller to be successful in 2013's ultra-competitive eBay selling climate?
I'm surprised how many sellers I meet [who] don't have enough storage space, enough staff [and] don't keep good records
Levitt: Really good planning. I'm surprised how many sellers I meet [who] don't have enough storage space, enough staff [and] don't keep good records. [They] don't really know how much profit they have! [They] don't know what items are top sellers and which are mostly dead in the water.
What these all have in common is a need for focusing on the planning and strategy of your business. Outside of that, you still need to get everything else right: great items, great price, great shipping, great customer service, etc.
Separate yourself from your listings
Schepp: What elements need to be there for a listing to be as effective as possible?
Levitt: Start by putting yourself in your target customer's shoes. What does he or she need to know or see to fall in love with you and this item? What pictures tell the story? What information is helpful, compared to what info looks like [filler] and is not necessary? What policies will make them like you? Make sure those policies are in the listing.
Not all shoppers know where to find things that can make or break their buying decisions, such as how and when you ship. Plus, we now have to think about desktop experiences as well as mobile ones—tablets and phones of all kinds. That means no flash [multimedia software]. It means putting pictures inside the description and in eBay's hosting. It means getting policies into the description.
Make sure everything people want to see and know is right there, and easy to find. Don't make them hunt for it. They won 't take the time!
Sellers can do better by learning to separate what they like—as individuals with opinions—from what the audience likes
Schepp: In your experience, what do most new sellers get wrong when creating listings?
Levitt: I think the biggest mistakes sellers make have to do with not stepping out of their own shoes. They think that because they like pink or comic sans, or waving American flags, or checkerboards that it's a great listing. Think about your shopper and what that person is like. Imagine they may not like everything you do. They may not want to see your cat in all of your product pictures. They may find giant maroon comic sans writing to look unprofessional.
Sellers can do better by learning to separate what they like—as individuals with opinions—from what the audience likes. Learn to build up your business' brand, which means a professional look, mood and personality, which may not be a mirror image of you!
Schepp: Your company deals with a lot of more experienced sellers, also. Where do they need help when it comes to their listings?
Levitt: Sellers of all experience levels make the mistake of not stepping away from the mirror. What you like, what you think is cool, what you think is funny, what you think is cute: These are just not going to be the same for everybody! The best you can do is to be professional and cater to your audience. Plenty of experienced sellers are not presenting themselves or their items professionally. It's all about trust. If I don't trust you, I'm not going to buy. Do you want to run the risk that I don't trust you because your listing is overly cutesy?
Make your listings work for mobile
Schepp: How can sellers maximize the effectiveness of listings for mobile?
It's OK to not be your own customer! But then, especially, make sure you are thinking about your target customer when we look at design or other areas of your business
Levitt: Once upon a time, we were all afraid of mobile because things loaded so slowly. People were afraid to put in too many pictures or get a custom-designed template. Now, it's different. I was just showing some of our well designed clients' listings inside eBay Mobile, and they loaded really fast—as in a few seconds. So the best mobile tips are: no flash, no mouseovers (where you put your mouse over something and it pops up or changes), and don't be afraid to get good pictures and a good listing design in there.
These will all show up on phones and tablets, and loading isn't as slow as you think it is. Effective listings will be effective no matter where, so get out of the mirror and create a listing that has the info and pics your shopper needs, in the order he or she needs to see them.
Listings you should check out
Schepp: Can you provide some examples of sellers whose listings stand out (in a good way), and what you like about them in particular?
Levitt: It's too hard to pick one of our clients. [That's] like picking one of your kids! I think one we've been really proud of for years is Lingerie Outlet Store. That's a seller we watched from starting out and being small to moving into a retail store, then a bigger retail store and next a whole new set of product lines. We're so proud! People love the listing template. It really works for the personality of the business and who the shopper is. It loads well on mobile. And we have a cool "shop by brand and size" feature in the middle. I like how organized the policies and info are.
Schepp: Is there anything we've missed about creating great listings?
Levitt: A lot! But my main tips today have to do with stepping away from the mirror. I remember years ago, we were designing a listing for a woman selling expensive rings. She seemed to not like every design we showed her, even though I liked each of them and thought they'd really work for her target audience and the products.
I finally asked her if she buys/wears these rings herself. Her answer was, "I don't buy this crap!"
It's OK to not be your own customer! But then, especially, make sure you are thinking about your target customer when we look at design or other areas of your business. Once we were able to "get her there," she was much happier with the designs. She could then see how they work for her shoppers even if they're not a match to her personal tastes.
Schepp: We thank Debbie Levitt for the advice!