As the fall 2011 seller changes make clear, eBay's marketplace site is moving toward a more retail-like experience. This means that as eBay tries to reduce the emphasis on individual listings it is trying to increase its emphasis on selling easily identifiable consumer goods through a single per-make/per-model "product page."
For this to happen, sellers are going to have to come to terms with the need to sell common name-brand products through eBay's existing set of item categories. Sellers that do this will be feature on the product pages for the product in question and will see their search placement enhanced.
eBay's Product Categories
For many sellers, this change is a bit confusing, since it represents a new kind of "category" that has never existed on eBay before. Always in the past, sellers listed their product in a general category, like:
- Cell Phones & Smartphones
- Golf > Clubs
- Inside the Home > Kitchen, Dining & Bar > Small Kitchen Appliances > Blenders
Now, however, a much more specific, per-make/model product category will also be available to sellers:
- Apple iPhone 4 - 16GB White (Verizon) Smartphone
- Nike VR Pro Hybrid Fairway Wood Golf Club
- Blendtec HP3-A 4-Speeds Blender
As a seller listing an item, both sets of categories will be available to you. The second set of categories remains optional (i.e. the first kind of category is enough to list your item for sale), but only sellers that specifically categorize their products will receive the full slate of eBay promotion and search placement advantages.
eBay's Item Specifics
In addition to much more specific product categories, many kinds of products (i.e. men's shoes, chaise lounges, computer equipment) now include an assortment of seller-selectable "item specifics" drop-down lists on their listing forms. For example, in the case of chaise lounges, as a seller you can specify:
- Type (Chaise, Loveseat, Sectional, Sofa, Sofa Bed, Sofa Set)
- Style (Casual, Cottage, Contemporary, Mission, Rustic, Shabby Chic,
- Main Color (Beige, Black, Blue, Brown, Burgundy, Gold, Gray, Green,
Orange, Pink, Purple, Red, White, Silver, Yellow, Multi-Colored)
- Material (Fabric, Leather, Microfiber, Suede)
- Brand (Ashley Furniture, Avenue Six, Bassett Furniture, Bernhardt,
Catnapper, Coaster, Crown Mark, Ethan Allen, Handy Living, Homelegance,
IKEA, Jackson Furniture, Klaussner, Leg Daddy, Luke Leather, Pottery Barn,
Poundex, Simmons, Soflex, Tosh Furniture)
- ...and so on.
An increasing variety of categories (of both kinds) now cause eBay to include one or many item specifics drop-down lists of these kinds on the selling form.
Understanding the Changes
Both of these growing eBay trends must be respected if sellers want to make the most of their listings. That is to say that as a seller, you should make every effort to list your item as a specific product by make/model and to completely fill out the item specifics lists for your item on the selling form if you want to be seen by the greatest number of buyers.
This change has everything to do with the changing way(s) that eBay offers to buyers to find items. More an more, eBay offers shoppers unified "product pages" for a particular make/model of product that gather all of the listings from eBay sellers selling an offer of that kind together, much like Amazon.com's product pages do. The item specifics are increasingly used as a part of the left-hand sidebar search refinement tools to allow buyers to narrow down their choices when shopping.
Though in most cases you don't currently have to use either of these features to sell your item(s) on eBay, if you opt not to do so you'll simply be invisible to many of the buyers looking for products of the kind that you have to offer. Instead, they'll have to find you and choose you through very specific keyword searches that match your auction listinga mode of shopping that eBay seems to want to emphasize less and less as time goes on.
Tips for Maximizing Visibility
To make use of these changes and maximize your visibility as a seller, here are some things to keep in mind:
- Use ISBN or UPC (bar) codes when possible. If the item you're
selling or its box and/or packaging are market with ISBN, UPC, or other bar
code(s), either enter this code into the selling form when you perform the
initial product search (before you even select a category) or be sure
to "scan" (photograph) your bar code if you're
selling using the eBay Mobile app(s). This will automatically ensure
that your item is listed as specifically as possible using eBay's make/model
- Search for your product even if the code doesn't work. Sometimes
there are just too many slight variations of a product for all of the bar
code(s) to be recognized. That doesn't necessarily mean that eBay doesn'
thave a make/model page for your product. If the bar code doesn't work but
eBay offers you a second search opportunity for your item after you select a
general category in which to sell, be sure to take advantage and try to find
your product or a very close match in the list.
- Submit a new product if you'll be selling multiples. Rather than
simply ignoring the make/model catalog system, if you'll be selling multiple
instances of a product it's to your advantage to ensure that eBay creates a
page for it. To add a product to the eBay catalog, visit
addproduct.ebay.com and fill out
the form there.
- Answer all item specifics questions. Don't leave any "item
specifics" questions unfilled on the selling form, even if there are a lot
of them. Each answer that you provide allows you to show up in an additional
set of shopper searches or refinements.
- Avoid filling in your own answers for item specifics. Though it can be tempting to fill in your own answers for "item specifics" drop-downs (and you're generally given the option of doing this), you should avoid doing it, since your own answers will not be featured in search refinement toolsmeaning that there's effectively no point from the visibility perspective for entering your own answers at all. Stick to eBay's answers whenever possible, even if they're not as specific as they could be. Use your item description area to make clarifications.