How should eBay optimise descriptions for mobile? #EUCatalyst

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Angus McCarey, UK Retail Director, eBay, today confirmed eBay’s future direction at the ChannelAdvisor Catalyst conference summing up with his three top takeaways:

Tailored Shopping Experiences – eBay already have a tailored shopping experience markedly different from buying on the rest of eBay, for the Fashion and Electrical categories. They are currently working with selling in the Motor Accessories category migrating listings to “Fitment” listings which will allow buyers to search for parts which specifically fit their vehicle and soon we’ll have a new tailored shopping experience come to Home & Garden.

Mobile – The second takeaway is mobile, eBay are rapidly introducing and developing mobile apps for both payments and buying. New features such as swatch matching for Fashion are being introduced. Without a doubt there is a whole generation who live on their mobiles both for telephony and Internet and the days of a fixed telephone line are declining (The only reason I have one is for broadband, but I could just as easily use 3G and do so whenever I’m away from home).

Cross Border Trade – There are many more customers in Europe and around the world who want to buy from the UK. One of the themes running through the whole Catalyst conference has been the opportunity for increasing trade simply by selling overseas.

Mobile eBay listing description optimisation

The thing that struck me the most is that with the importance of Mobile, is what are eBay doing to help sellers produce mobile optimised listing? There are two things needed, free photos so that sellers can afford to display multiple images in the gallery view. This will enable buyers to instantly gather more product information without having to dive into the description. Everyone confirms that better, larger, clearer and critically more pictures are a good thing. However whilst the already have up to 12 free pictures per listing the UK doesn’t appear likely to get them any time soon which is a shame.

The next part of the listing which needs to be optimised for mobile is the description. Whilst a rich templated description is a great user experience on eBay, on a mobile it’s a mistake. Check out some listings on the eBay mobile platform and you’ll find the best ones are those which are text only without a ton of T’s and C’s to scroll through.

Text only descriptions aren’t going to happen whilst sellers have to use HTML to bury images into descriptions. They’re also not particular desirable for buyers viewing on larger laptop or computer screens. However there are two ways eBay could help. They could either automatically strip out all HTML from listing descriptions when formatting for mobile devices or eBay mobile apps. This is the less desirable solution as results are unpredictable, but on the plus side it involves no work for sellers and minimal work for eBay.

A better solution requiring more development from eBay would be to host two listing descriptions. Sellers could load a full rich formatted HTML templated description for normal viewing. eBay could then allow sellers to upload a simpler text only description in a separate field for mobile buyers.

A separate mobile description would be fairly simple for most larger sellers who use 3rd party tools. Solutions such as ChannelAdvisor already host descriptions separate from templates, which are simply wrapped around the description at the time of listing. A dual description would result in a rich viewing experience on eBay and a slimmed down text only mobile optimised version for mobiles.

There’s still a lot of work to do before eBay are fully mobile optimised, and much of the work needs to be done by eBay themselves. Mobile traffic will continue to increase so expect at some point in the future that eBay will address listing descriptions and have more stringent rules on the formatting for mobiles.

Which solution would you prefer eBay to adopt to optimise your listings for mobile? When you’re browsing eBay with a mobile app or on a mobile device what type of listing description do you prefer to be presented with?

3 Responses

  1. What concerns me from the above is “This will enable buyers to instantly gather more product information without having to dive into the description”.

    This seemingly discourages buyers from looking at relevant descriptions which more than likely would contain item size and/or other important information which could not be shown in any photograph.

  2. And how does all this affect the feedback and rating system?

    And on the subject of cross border trade the latest massive price hikes by Royal Mail has had a serious impact for me. And if I am affected others will be to. I am now wondering if it is worth wasting time calculating and entering overseas shipping prices.

    What are overseas buyers actually buying given that a 2kg package now can cost approaching £30 to ship with even small low cost lightweight items now starting from around £5 to ship.


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