Finding it on eBay should be easy

No primary category set

eBay have today announced another fifty-seven categories in which item specifics have been introduced. Over the last two years eBay have been introducing them in more and more categories, and then soon after amalgamating subcategories to make one larger category.

In some categories this can be an advantage, for instance do you search for a shoe size “10.5”, “10 1/2” or “10 ½”? By using item specifics all sellers use the same terminology with the aim of making it easier for buyers to find what they’re looking for. However it does make categories larger and can make items more difficult to find. To illustrate I’ll look at one product in categories I trade in – A Multifunction Printer/Fax/Scanner/Copier.

There used to be a “Multifunction” subcategory of printers which no longer exists. This leaves buyers searching for “All in one“, “Allinone“, “Multifunction” and “Multi function” as separate searches. Simply browsing the category is no longer a realistic option due to the sheer volume of listings and this is just one example of where items specifics aren’t working.

Printers FinderThe issue is further exacerbated with item specifics available when listing an item, but not appearing on the drop downs available for buyers to search. For instance I can specify a particular printer has copier, fax and scanning capabilities built in, but the buyer can’t select those options to search on – they’re only viewable when they click into a particular listing. The “Printers Finder” on the left shows just how few options are available to search on in a category (that previously had eight subcategories) to enable buyers to narrow their search to the specific type of printer they are looking for.

Item specifics are great once a buyer arrives at your listing, they provide a quick summary of the main features and attributes that your product has to enable them to make a quick decision to read further or to click back and look for an alternative. However removing subcategories and rolling them in to super-sized categories may not be the best way to help buyers find what they’re looking for.

A recent example of super-sized categories is clothing, mens and womens clothing now have 149120 and 428582 items in single categories. A category with almost half a million listings is far to big to browse, and item specifics are often too clunky to use in lieu of subcategories.

Sellers are concerned over lost visibility on, the thorny issue of Shop Inventory Format listings – the highest fees with the lowest visibility since they were introduced and traffic to shops down with eBay dropped from Google Search results. eBay are examining the finding experience and how to introduce smarter technology to assist buyers. Item specifics are a great way to give a buyer instant information regarding a listing once they click on it – I’m not convinced it’s the best way for a buyer to find a product in contrast to more in-depth categories enabling buyers to drill down to the type of product they’re looking for.

Finding is key, if buyers can’t find what they’re looking for sellers can’t sell it. Is an eBay full of super-sized top level categories what buyers really want?

2 Responses

  1. Item specifics can be and are changed by eBay with not only no prior notice, but no announcement at all, e.g. there was one in mobile phones this week or last week – “battery” was changed to “additional battery”. Suddenly buyers were expecting a spare battery from sellers who had simply listed their phone as coming with a battery (as you might expect it would). I really don’t like the idea that eBay can change *my actual listings* with no warning, and that buyers will expect me to make good on that.

    For another example, a while back clothing listed on with the colour specific as “beige” appeared on .com as “nude” – the two colours are totally different. On that occasion, Richard the Pink said that “Every country is free to set up its own specific names for categories and for item-specifics – for example, the UK ‘Duvets’ category is ‘Comforters’ in the US; ‘Heels’ in item-specifics in the UK becomes ‘Pumps’ in the US and so on.”

    With either of these scenarios, the potential for confusion is immense, and unless eBay pay it more attention than they have done up until now, with greater reliance on ISs, it’s only going to get worse.

  2. Talking of the US – they still have printer subcategories AND mens and womans clothing subcategories to make life easier for their buyers.

    No problem finding Multifunction Printers on – it’s just that seem to have a desire to stamp out subcategories 🙁 The big question is are they testing fewer but larger categories in the UK prior to implementing them in the US, or are the countries just carving out the shape of the sites independantly?



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