Why item specifics are so important

No primary category set

Back on 30th September Internet Retailing held a Jump Start event focusing on eBay trading. The aim of the event was to educate retailers considering eBay as an additional platform and to make them aware of the opportunity and challenges they will face setting up on eBay. The presentations from the event are now available online.

One of the most interesting facts from Joe Tarragano of eBay was the size of the eBay marketplace. In that week eBay captured 21.4% share of the UK ecommerce market with the 2nd placed website being Amazon with just 6%. That means despite Amazon’s prolific growth eBay is almost four times as large in terms of UK ecommerce.

The most interesting presentation was from James Scott of ChannelAdvisor. Although James talked about how ChannelAdvisor (or other 3rd party management tools) can assist in managing your eBay business the main focus of his talk was on the data you send to eBay.

He focused on item specifics and how being too accurate can be a disadvantage, for instance your product data may have colours such as Crimson, Navy Blue and Ivory, but eBay only display colours such as Red, Blue and White. Using the wrong item specifics means your products simply won’t be surfaced in search results.

The presentation,illustrated with real eBay searches, is essential viewing for all sellers if you sell in Clothes, Shoes and Accessories or similar categories with many item specifics. The message is that not filling out item specifics will hurt your sales, but possibly sending the wrong data is worse than no item specifics at all.

The other presentations from the eBay Jump Start day are on the Internet Retailing website.

Disclosure: ChannelAdvisor advertise on eBay

18 Responses

  1. For me, the over-reliance on item specifics (and the ultimate item specific: catalogue) highlights the inadequacies in the eBay search product.

    Google doesn’t require the world to neatly classify its information in boxes for it to pick-up and categorise. It uses what categorisation we provide and then does the hard work to provide a good user experience.

    Where the marketplace makes the ability to be found conflict with the need to describe accurately, it is to the detriment of the marketplace and the buyer: sellers are left with a dilemma about whether to behave like spammers or like honest salesmen.

    Whilst in the short-term, changing seller behaviour as James suggests is a sticking plaster solution, the long-term solution for the marketplace is to improve its search facility. Enormously.

  2. Use the item specific 100% Cotton when the shirt is only 80% cotton and watch the buyer dissatisfaction come rolling in.

    Buyers, in my opinion, put more weight on what is given in the item specifics rather than what is given in the item description. (above the fold/below the fold).

    The eBay pie is big but for many of us the problem is that more and more of the pie is being eaten by fewer sellers.

    Other pies may be smaller but for some there may be better opportunity to get a good piece.

  3. @David – “Google doesn’t require the world to neatly classify its information in boxes for it to pick-up and categorise.”

    Whilst your comment is true for general SEO, Google actually requires an even more complex data structure than eBay for its Product Search feed (which is what all online retailers use to tell Google about the products they sell). And based on conversations I’ve had with Google recently, they are going to be asking for even more data in that feed so that they can improve the overall ‘Shopping’ experience on Google.

    @Jimbo – “Use the item specific 100% Cotton when the shirt is only 80% cotton and watch the buyer dissatisfaction come rolling in”

    You make a valid point. The trouble is that the item specific is simply labelled ‘Cotton’ – not ‘100% Cotton’, which means that most buyers would expect to see shirts which were mainly, but not necessarily exclusively, made out of cotton. And for the shirt I highlighted in my presentation (which was 80% cotton and 20% polyester) I actually did a separate test where I ticked BOTH the ‘cotton’ and the ‘polyester’ filtered search options and the shirt STILL didn’t appear in the results!

    Yes, eBay needs to work on its search engine – but retailers are going to need to provide more structured data if eBay, Google and others are going to provide buyers with the most relevant results.

  4. it would help if ebay got it right too!
    we sell an awful lot in the vintage and antique fine jewellery Cat,
    where they do not have an item specific for rings,
    every flaming thing else but,
    not a mention of a ring is barmy, and what is even dafter, is you can get a Ring specfic in Vintage Costume jewellery

  5. The item specifics are full of Americanisms. If they were UK English rather than USA English it would be an improvement but as they are they do seem inapropriate at times for a UK audience. For that reason it is concerning that eBay put such a high weight on these.

  6. Ebays football club specifics always amused me. The B’s had options for Benin , Belarus , Bosnia , Barbados , but not for the little known footballing nation of Brazil.

  7. Specifics have to be used correctly by both the seller at input stage and the buyer at search stage to be 100% effective. In my opinion it’s just more stuff for both buyer and seller to get wrong and aids prevention of a sale.

  8. I did a search for “tunnel” the other day in the model railway section.

    1 “tunnel” and 35 “bridge” items came up.

    Not one “bridge” listing had “tunnel” in the description!

    The issue is eBay classify “bridge” and “tunnel” in the same item specific.

    This type of issue is the biggest issue with item specifics and makes eBay search a bit of a nightmare as a result.

    eBay should not offer up a search result that includes items which have an item specific keyword match.

    Search should be based on title and description only. Then it would make more sense.

  9. The point is the typical eBay buyer is not going to faff around plonking all these special characters in to try and find what they want.

    Instead they will be totally frustrated and think they are doing something wrong with the higgaldy piggledy mish mash results that appear when they do a simple basic eBay search.

    From the typical eBay buyers perspective enter the same words into Google search without all the faffing and it delivers.

    eBay search is absolutely pants and the article above by Chris Dawson reinforces that view!

    Accuracy is a disadvantage? Sad but true!

    And being innacurate which is an advantage does not help eBay search so it brings up even more improbable results. So its all a big downward spiral.

    Those who do auctions which have a maximum 10 day window and rely on maximum exposure are at a serious disadvantage.


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