eBay test hiding descriptions on desktops

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See Full Item DescriptioneBay are currently running tests in the US, hiding seller’s descriptions and replacing them with a button reading “See full item description”.

This is an interesting one as it’s aligning the desktop view with the view that you’ll see on the eBay mobile app. On a mobile you never see the item description unless you specifically click the description link and, in the test, that’s what buyers are seeing across all platforms.

Whether this is a good thing is a moot point – sellers are likely to claim that buyers need to see their carefully crafted descriptions (often for casual sellers with a ton of information which isn’t descriptive of the product but is their terms and conditions or aims to tell the buyer what a great seller they are). Buyers on the other hand are likely to be more prosaic and I have to admit to rarely bothering to read item descriptions these days.

Whereas once upon a time I’d have to read a description to check if the product really is what I thought I was buying, today with multiple gallery images, title, condition, item specifics, and sometimes multi-variation drop downs, I should have more or less all the information I need at my finger tips. I don’t need to be told “From a non-smoking pet free home”, I assume you’re not going to send me a flea ridden stinking jumper when you’ve described it as “new”.

What do you think about hidden descriptions? Do you honestly read every description when you buy something on eBay, or do you only refer to the description when you need more information? Do you use the description button when buying on eBay mobile? Would you be desperately concerned if it became a permanent feature of eBay desktop the same as it already is on eBay mobile (remember something approaching 60% of all eBay sales are touched by mobile).

Probably the two groups of people who will be most pleased/upset are the scammers who put in their description “You’re only buying a picture of the iPad” or “Please note this is a fun auction for an iPad box” and the companies who have built their businesses around eBay template designs and widgets to embed in eBay listings.

25 Responses

  1. In theory the description is superfluous. But really don’t we want to give every chance of the transaction going well?

    If we think that ‘item as described’ is a key reason for buyers leaving (and that’s the excuse for beating up sellrs about it), then let’s throw everything at helping the seller communicate the description. Leaving it to the clunky item specifics might be ok if the buyers are robots, but why take the chance?

  2. It’s all very well but who picks up the tab when a buyer thinks something is what it’s not and has to deal with the fallout, because people are buying with only one part of the information they need to make an informed choice. Are eBay going to pay for the return postage? no they’ll give the buyer every chance to lie, cost the seller money and pick up defects as a bonus. Nice way to treat sellers who are ultimately eBay’s customers.

    I wish they’d stop tinkering and messing about trialing all these daft things, just fix what’s broken, of which there’s many things, and let us both get on with making money.

  3. its hidden on mobile by defailt, as screen “real estate” is a premium.

    why hide it on a desktop when the average screen size has steadily increased from 19 inches a few years ago, upto 22 inches (late last year the last time i researched this). and will keep increasing generation by generation.

    theres plenty of screen size, so its trival to skip past if you dont want to read, why make it default to hidden.

    is ebay trying to get their “webpage visit times” up!

    this will backfire for desktop / pc, as the research is solid, if they (websurfers and in this case buyers) dont see what they want within 3-10 seconds, they will go elsewhere. again this is only gonna diminish as the web evolves.

    more than enough time to load amazon (with full descriptions) !!

    if it aint broke, dont fix

  4. Many of the changes ebay makes erode sellers attempts to stand out or be unique. Feedback scores have all but vanished and now it looks like descriptions are going to be banished. Pro sellers are individual businesses and want to have something that makes them different to the rest. Amazon doesn’t really allow individuality it is this uniqueness that is one of ebay’s USPs. Lately search has become more skewed to push listings that garner the most sales (Cassini) with Best Match. I am deeply uneasy about where ebay is heading and how it is leaving behind many of it’s founding principles.

    OK, so, people don’t read descriptions and ebay needs to adapt, but there are a lot of auctions on eBay (that’s where it all started) and these often have a lot of essential info in their description. Furthermore most of my defects are due to buyers not reading descriptions that point out any faults in items or give a clear impression of what exactly is for sale. Photos are paramount and item specifics are important for search but the description is VERY important. It serves to give buyers valuable information about what they are buying and can give clues about the quality of a seller. Without that and without any emphasis on feedback good sellers are the same as bad ones. eBay are VERY concerned about buyer experience. Surely help identifying the quality of a seller helps the buyer experience?

  5. I use extra images, sometimes up to the max to show our charms against a ruler and different angles. This is fine in the countries that allow it for free but when I queried webinterpret about why our extra images were not showing in some countries they said that some ebay sites still charge extra. Thankfully I STILL include the images with my description so the customer can see lower down.
    This is then great for those countries that don’t allow FREE extra images BUT if the description is going to be less easy to locate, there’s more chance of the my favourite negative and neutral “SMALLER THAN I THOUGHT” or the question “HOW BIG IS IT”.

    Maybe ebay want a little more space for advertisers blurb.

  6. I don’t know if I agree or not but I guess the reason behind this is that buyers just are not looking at this anymore.

    This is where you need to add item specifics more, such as size and you can easily add your own, but make sure they are simple!

    Also you can easily add anything in to the item condition box if you want to make sure a buyer is going to see this.

    As a buyer, if I see a long description with lots of words, pictures and design it turns me off buying. I want to quickly see what’s going on, not read a novel about it.

    But everyones different!

  7. I sell children’s shoes that are not standard UK, EU or US sizes. They are marked with the same numbers as you would expect with UK, EU or US sizes but the internal measurements are different. So I need the description to inform customers of the difference and to let them know how to choose the correct size for their child i.e. how to measure a child’s foot and then how to match it against the correct shoe inner length, rather than relying on the measurement they may have recently had at a local shoe shop.
    If the description is not prominent then the chances of a return (a bad customer experience) are increased, my profits reduce, eBay’s profit reduces when it returns my fee. No one wins.
    I really hope that this trial does not prompt them to reduce visibility of the description. It would be just another nail in their coffin.

  8. Based on previous experience of buyers using the mobile app and not reading the description I believe this is another bad idea.

  9. buyers not reading descirptions is a massive problem.
    ebay only encourages this problem.

    listen, its fine if you sell paperbacks, or keyrings. how many returns have you had for “didnt fit” (i.e. didnt bother to read description or dimensions)?

    its fine if you get a paperback returned because it didnt fit, you just sell it again.

    i sell flat-pack furniture, i get back half a box thats completely useless to anyone. cant be resold, cant be re-used, not because the size was wrong, but because the person who bought it just couldnt be bothered reading, i’m out of pocket by £200 – £1000 or more.

    my chances of challenging this are nil, because ebay really dont care in the slightest.

    – half of them will just claim faulty, so i need to pay another £100 to go collect it from them, even though theres nothing wrong with it.

    its a daily insult from ebay that they just dont care enough about sellers to address any of this, they just want to make my life harder.

  10. ~
    eBay stand to lose shed loads of inventory variety because of this and other current policy issues yet no-one seems to have the ability to think it all through.

    With a company of the size of eBay it actually must be the case that they have thought it all through and want to shrink the inventory.

  11. I think this is a bad idea on ebay’s part. I sell personalized items and the description is the only place I can define to the buyer the personalisation details I require from them to process their order which results in delay to dispatch and delivery times. I have received a number of INR on my defect report because I am unable to dispatch items without any personalisation details.

    Also this is where I clearly state the size of the item – to TRY to avoid feedback of ‘ smaller than I thought’!!

  12. I think it’s a bad idea, I sell camera lenses and in the description we provide compatibility details, which is not possible to provide in item specifics.

  13. buyers only use descriptions as a stick to beat you with. to chisel a discount
    if you say round they insist its oval, if you say square they claim its oblong
    so we find the less said the better

  14. If an item is a brand new item then I can kind of understand why you might not need a description and a simple (i.e. dumbed down) system of title, picture and BUY BUY BUY!!! button makes some sort of sense.

    However, for anything “used” the description is essential and by hiding it on the desktop as well as on mobiles eBay are effectively telling anyone who is not a business who sells brand new items to get lost (yet again) as they don’t want you clogging up their site. If a description is hidden then 99% of people won’t bother to try and read it. They can buy the item and then get their money back 100% guaranteed if there’s something they don’t like about it due to the completely one-sided nature of eBay.

    Rather than breaking more stuff they really need to focus on getting the feedback sorted as I’m only getting about 1 in 10 people bothering to leave any nowadays. It’s getting stupid as more and more people join eBay and don’t “get” how it’s supposed to work, but most of that blame can be placed squarely at eBay’s feet with their constant tinkering and the fact that the site is simply nothing like it used to be. Auctions are pretty much gone and it’s no longer individuals trading on the world’s biggest car boot sale, it’s big firms selling stuff and that’s it. Oh, and of course avoiding VAT too, but that’s another story….

  15. Just bought something last week and the seller put the wrong item specifics and his description was correct. Needless to say I didn’t read the description but that was seller negligence rather than buyer.

  16. I sell in a specialist area of vintage collectables, 50% plus of the item specific tick boxes bear no relevance whatsoever to the items I am selling but they still have to be laboriously filled in “not applicable”, otherwise I get endless reminders from e-Bay to enhance the buying experience.
    High time that put some effort into improving the selling experience.
    In my listings the description is all important & customers appreciate & compliment me on them.
    Item specifics suck!!!!


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