Tweak Your Listings for Mobile Shoppers

eBay on the cell phone

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With the exploding popularity of mobile shopping on eBay, for which we have ample evidence, savvy sellers will begin to think about optimizing their listings for mobile shoppers.

Though many of the troubleshooting basics are the same, there are a few important additional things to focus on if you hope to appeal to mobile buyers and win the battle for their bids. Most of these have to do with convenience and accessibility.

Here are questions to ask yourself for mobile-friendly listings.

Are You Overdoing It in Your Descriptions?

Detailed item descriptions remain a good thing, but in the new age of mobile, there's such a thing as too much detail or too much formatting. If you've been a longtime user of HTML colors and formatting and have thrown everything but the kitchen sink into your descriptions, consider simplifying. Remember, mobile buyers are looking at your description on small screens where your long prose and heavy formatting won't look great and in the worst case may render your description illegible. Stick to black text on a white background, using bold text where appropriate, and bullets to enumerate lists. Avoid pages and pages of text.

Are Your Images Tight and Well-Focused?

All of the rules for great images still apply, with an added emphasis on eliminating empty space or unimportant details around your item(s). Zoom in tightly so that your product(s) fill the entire image, edge to edge, don't waste space. Avoid very cluttered images as well; rather than the classic "layout" photo showing (for example) the tablet PC, the box, the manuals, the cables, and the software all arranged nicely on a surface, take an individual, full-frame image for each item in the group. Once again, mobile shoppers are operating with small screens. Very cluttered images or images in which the item doesn't fill the entire frame aren't showing mobile viewers much. Instead, they're going to bid on the item that appears large and clear on their tiny display.

Are You Focusing on Fixed-Price Listings?

Though some people are true thumb-jockeys comfortable with text entry on mobile phones, most mobile users prefer not to have to enter much data due to the tiny keyboards and fiddly nature of mobile use. In order to bid on an auction format listing, your buyers will have to tap in an entry box, then tap on multiple numbers and a bid button. Make it easy on them by offering fixed-price items on tap to buy.

Accepting Paypal

PayPal is eBay's most controversial holding, its biggest engine of growth, and the dominant payments provider in the eBay marketplace. More importantly, however, it is tightly integrated with eBay's mobile apps and doesn't force users to enter piles of credit card data in order to make a purchase. Think about the following scenario. To make a purchase from Joe, who accepts PayPal, a buyer walking down the street with their phone in hand needs just one hand and a couple of taps.

To make a purchase from Amy, the buyer needs to carry the mobile in one hand, pull out their wallet as they walk with the other hand, perform sleight-of-hand to find and extract a credit card from it as they move, then juggle three items (phone, wallet, card) as they continue to walk while entering a sixteen-digit number, expiration date, their full name, and a credit card verification number. Who gets the mobile impulse buy? It's Joe, who accepts PayPal.

Using Links Appropriately in Your Descriptions

eBay's policy on links is a fairly draconian one, so it pays to be careful here, but there's no doubt that mobile users will have little use for item descriptions that supply URLs or web addresses that aren't made into links they're simply not going to copy, switch over to their browser, paste, etc. on a mobile device. On a separate note, if a nice, informational link for a product exists and fits well within eBay's links policy, consider using them instead of including the additional data in your description, for reasons outlined above.

Are You Using Category and Item Specifics?

eBay has encouraged (and for some categories required) the use of catalog data in listings, but it's in eBay's mobile app where the benefits are most apparent. Catalog and item specifics data appears in a compact, tightly formatted pane all its own in eBay's mobile app, making it easy for buyers to compare features between items and get an overview of what's being sold. If you're forcing buyers to read through your description to get the same details, you may be losing sales to someone else that is using catalog and item specifics data in their listings.

Is Your Shipping Simple and Clear?

eBay's mobile apps put your shipping costs and your shipping method front and center in the listing, meaning that it has a much bigger psychological presence for mobile shoppers. While free shipping and clear shipping details are a win for web-based shoppers, too, for mobile shoppers it could mean the difference between a buy and a skip.

How Accurate Is Your Location Data?

It's not clear just how this one will sort out, but most mobile devices how have location services built into them, and eBay's mobile app makes item location prominent, at the same time making it easy for mobile buyers to search for items near them as they carry their devices around with them. There are more buyers in major cities, so there may be a win to claiming that your item(s) are located in a metropolitan area, but what's clear is that those that have violated eBay's policies by choosing far-out or unusual item locations for purely fun or marketing purposes may find these tactics to be unhelpful in an era in which buyers increasingly want (and have an easy way to search for) items that start the journey near them.

Buyers shopping by location (and there are likely to be increasing numbers of them) are also likely going to be more and more annoyed to find that an item takes seven days to reach them rather than one because the location was incorrectly entered.

No doubt other mobile strategies will become clear winners as time goes on, but for now what's increasingly clear is that e-commerce has entered a new era of mobile buyers and sellers, and eBay's unique platform presents unique problems and opportunities to sellers ready to make mobile-friendly adjustments.