The Secret to Using Your eBay Listing Design as an Effective Customer Support Tool

The Secret to Using Your eBay Listing Design as an Effective Customer Support Tool

By at - 20 Minutes

This post will focus on:

  • Perceived value in eCommerce.
  • Visual communication and online retail.
  • Negative eBay listing example.
  • Positive eBay listing example.
  • Listing design as an effective customer support tool.

A whopping 72% of consumers seek out visual content prior to purchase!

In other words, if you do not pass the ‘visual test’, most people will not read a word of what your listing says.

Source: Power Reviews

“I spend about 5 seconds looking at an eBay listing when I am shopping around for an item. When one or two listings catch my eye, I close the rest and focus on those”. 

Adapted from a telephone interview with serial eBay shopper Fay (no last name, as the customer requested to remain anonymous) based in New York. Photo by Atikh Bana on Unsplash

This priceless piece of information is true of Fay, as well as dozens of other eBay buyers I have spoken to over the years here at Subivi eCommerce CRM, and is backed by research (above). The key phrase used here is: ‘catch my eye’. Fay makes preliminary shopping decisions based solely on a listing’s appearance. Only once she gets rid of the unappealing listings does she start focusing on comparing her top choices.

Perceived Value in eCommerce 

Fay is a great example of current eCommerce shopping trends and tendencies. We will use her as a starting point for understanding important, actionable insights into the monetary value of:

  • perception
  • appearance

Now let’s explore this further with a quick, fun visual exercise. If you saw this image on an eBay listing, how would you perceive the:

  • brand
  • purse
  • clothing

    Photo by Melody Jacob on Unsplash

    What adjectives and emotions immediately jump to mind? 

    • Fun
    • Colorful 
    • Joyful 
    • Free
    • Bright 
    • Cool
    • Funky
    • Stylish 
    • Fresh

    These are, of course, subjective and individual, but I am sure at least one of these came to mind for you, and that is a sign of good visual communication. The photographer, stylist and brand all wanted you to think of and feel these emotions when viewing this image. They are trying to embody the items they sell with emotions and attributes that their target market idolizes and aspires to. They are using perception and appearance to sell you a lifestyle instead of an item. 

     eCommerce listing value perception 

    The ‘exercise’ I just had you do is very similar to what happens on eBay with any given listing. It’s all about:

    • visual perceptions
    • visual messages
    • visual subtext

    This ties in nicely with perceived product value and perceived seller trustworthiness, which are the two key elements when looking to sell items to online buyers who tend to make:

    • quick
    • emotional
    • visual  

    eCommerce shopping decisions. 

    The keyword here is perceived, and the reason is, since you have such a short window of time to leave an impression, it ‘doesn’t matter’ at that given moment if your product is in fact valuable or if you are trustworthy. Obviously for:

    • long term growth
    • good reviews 
    • loyal, returning customers

    these things are crucial, but in the moment when a client can either convert (i.e. buy your product) or not, it all depends on how your listing communicates visually. It is of the utmost importance that your product be perceived as valuable and that you as a seller are perceived as trustworthy. 

    Visual Communication and Online Retail 

    When you put a product on any eCommerce site, be it eBay or Amazon, you want it to:

    • Capture the viewer’s attention: You can do this by using humor, product placement, and color schemes, for example.

    Here is a great video which talks about choosing color schemes for a website – the same principles can be easily applied to eCommerce listings.

    • Look professional.
    • Provide the necessary information in a clear and organized manner. 
    • Don’t overstuff listings with information.
    • Have a defined product story, history or some background on the company or the manufacturing process. 
    • Have a clear call to action (CTA).
    • Have a unique sales proposition (USP). 
    • Fonts and font color. 

What Your eBay Listing Should Not Look Like

Here is an example of what you do not want your listing to look like:

What is wrong with this listing

A. It does nothing to capture the viewer’s attention. Selling a blouse should be straightforward and draw shoppers in, starting with the title and ending with the pricing. The top, ‘generic’ part of a listing is extremely important! If a shopper clicks on this, it means they are interested, but if you don’t maintain interest once they click on your listing, you will have a high bounce rate but low conversions. Let me address these points individually:

  • Title –  Currently, the title reads ‘New Ladies Womens Mock Neck Tops Stretch Sleeveless Turtle Neck Knit Vest Jumper’. First off, the title is downright unappealing as a title, not to mention the grammatical mistakes such as ‘Turtle Neck’, which is actually one word. Product titles should be both informative, simple and written in correct English, as such:
  • Price – Yes, people who shop on eBay are known to be bargain hunters more so than Amazon shoppers, but there is a difference between cheap and cheapness to the point of triggering a red light of untrustworthiness. What do I mean? Well, the median price on eBay for a blouse is currently (June 2019) between $10-20 US, but this blouse is going for $4.99. Being half the lower range makes shoppers feel uncomfortable. That’s why I would recommend reducing your prices no more than 20% below the lowest median range. In this case, that means $7.99. 

B. It does not look professional. Even if they decided not to use a model, the photography and angles are poor; they look as if they were taken with a cell phone (which can be stunning, by the way, but unfortunately this is not the case here). Beyond this, the listing itself uses multiple colors, fonts, highlighting, backgrounds and a host of other graphic/formatting elements which literally scream the word scam and send shoppers running for the hills:

C. There is no clear call to action, such as something that will push a buyer to make a purchase. This could be anything from a sale, special offer, or even using an item’s rarity, scarcity or seasonal value in order to push for a conversion. Instead, they decide to highlight in yellow ‘…trying to do the best to serve you. But sometimes things happen…’ Do me a personal favor, and never write this on a listing. Nobody wants to hear excuses before they have even made a purchase. Instead, for example, they could have offered a time-sensitive offer in order to create a sense of urgency :

‘Special spring offer – buy between May 10th and May 17th and receive a 10% discount!’

D. There is no unique sales proposition. Why is this turtleneck different than any other turtleneck? (I could not resist the Passover reference, sorry.) Why is it unique, better or more desirable than any other comp? The answer is nothing, and that is exactly the problem! If I were the seller, here is what I would write as my USP:

‘Handmade sleeveless turtleneck, made in China using techniques employed by ancient silk road fabric producers. We are one of the only manufacturers out there who has access to this technique, making your product unique and helping reclaim China’s reputation as a place that produces quality items.’  

Now they know why they should buy from you and not others, simultaneously addressing concerns in terms of quality and country of origin.

How to Make Successful Listing Design Decisions 

After looking at the previous trainwreck of a listing, let us explore a much more successful listing:

What is right about this listing ? 

A. Images – First of all, they have clearly invested in a professional model and photographer to showcase their product. Gender aside, if you had to buy either a blouse or a pair of shorts and were forced to choose between these two listings, most people would gravitate towards the latter, solely based upon appearance.The investment in images continues further down the listing, putting it center stage, looking professional, clear and simple:

B. The description – The listing itself is basic, but in my opinion it’s good. People are looking to buy a pair of pants, and they want and need the information to be quick, accessible and communicative. It is well-formatted, as they use a separate line for each new piece of information, which, similar to bullet points, makes it easier to read as opposed to a ‘wall of text’. Additionally, they have used a basic yet elegant template design, which makes them ‘appear more trustworthy’ and reliable. This includes the ‘new fashion’ graphic, which does not appear to be the clothing brand but gives a brand impression, which is important for impulsive shoppers who make purchase decisions based on superficial graphic elements.

C. It looks professional – It also provides pertinent information regarding sizes and colors:

D. ‘God is in the details’, as The New York Times attributed to the famous German architect Mies van der Rohe (1886–1969) in his ‘69 obituary. This is true not just in architecture but also in fashion. The seller here has dedicated an entire panel to details:

  • Fabric
  • Drawstring
  • Tailoring details and label

These details allow a potential buyer to fall in love with a product they have never seen or felt. They have a very real presence and tactility, which just gets the job done!  

E. Anticipated questions and information – Another great thing about this listing is, after you finish all the previous sections, you are bound to have questions as a buyer, and they address some of the most common customer service questions:

  • What payment methods are accepted?  
  • Where do you ship to and how long will it take to arrive?
  • How to get in touch

F. Call To Action

  • The truth is, this listing does not have a clear call to action. Something I would recommend using is:
  • Buy this item before the end of April and get a 15% discount.
  • Or let the buyers know that stock is low. This is actually a built-in function on eBay, but if you ‘play’ with inventory smartly and are on top of it, you can use this to drive sales:
  • Last one – What the listing does have is a tool which is built-in and allows a shopper to know that this is the last item remaining, thereby increasing the urgency of a purchase. I mean, who wants someone else snatching up an item they want? Consider using this or a similar tool to have a similar effect on your listings.

G. Their USP – or unique sales proposition, is not strong enough, though it is there and can be improved upon like everything in life. The seller mentions that the product is designed in Milan. However, if he really wanted to take advantage of this, I would highlight that this product is designed in Italy. This would be a great selling angle, as Italian clothing is considered very posh, high-end and desirable. This can set the product apart from all the made-in-China ‘competition’. The mere word ‘Milan’ has the power to conjure up the aromas of espresso, the feeling of a freshly pressed suit, and elegant window shopping in Victor Emanuel, the world’s first mall by most accounts (built in 1877) and situated in the heart of Milan.

MILAN ITALY – JANUARY 13 2015: Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II in Milan. It’s one of the world’s oldest shopping malls designed and built by Giuseppe Mengoni between 1865 and 1877.

Picture credits: City Wonders

I would suggest writing:

These Bermudas are designed in Milan by the finest atelier and represent the finest in Italian fashion. 

 How listing design can be an important customer support tool 

Ok. Fantastic. People are visual. Listings need to be tailored in order to make an ‘instant’ impression on the shopper. You are probably thinking:

‘But what does all this have to do with customer service?’

Good question. First and foremost, many customer service issues can be avoided before they even happen. It’s not so much fortune telling or prophecy as it is using your own or others’ customer support experience to your benefit. Here is what I mean:

A. Reliable product representation – Yes, you want your product to look good and be presented in the most professional light as possible. However, keep in mind that the product you photograph should be identical to the product you ship out to your client. Accurately representing your items in photos will prevent potential returns, complaints and negative reviews. This can ultimately save you hours of customer support work and hundreds or thousands of dollars in returns and potentially lost business.

Is this what the gloves and watch really look like, or are you photographing a grade A model and shipping grade B or C ?

Photo by Joshua Reddekopp on Unsplash

B. Including visual product demonstrations – This is not necessary for every product, but does apply to clothing, complicated gadgets or anything where a client could have questions which may prevent him or her from moving forward with a purchase. The men’s shorts listing above actually got this down pat.

They were successful, in my opinion, on a number of levels:

  • First off, they show you how the shorts look on a real person. Obviously, most people don’t look like the model, but you can automatically discern the cut and fit. 
  • Second of all, they use a secondary picture to show that the waist has a drawstring (above). Not all shorts have this, and it is an important feature for some guys. Without this picture, a potential buyer might get frustrated at not finding an answer to his question or this concern would result in a customer query, which would waste the seller’s time in terms of customer support and simultaneously delay the transaction. A simple picture solves this on a case-by-case basis. From experience, I am positive the seller started out with one or two regular pictures but due to the amount of buyer queries about the existence of a drawstring, they decided to include this picture. It is a very simple tweak, yet it is also a marvelously brilliant and effective customer support tactic. 

Another really clever and interesting example of this is the below picture, which demonstrates that this Samsung model is waterproof (why someone would squirt oranges on their phone is an entirely different question – I will leave some room for speculation):

Photo by Neko Tai on Unsplash

Pro hack – Start writing down your top 5 or even 10 customer support queries prior to purchase. Maybe customers ask if your product comes in red, or if you have a certain size, or if it is produced in Australia, or if it is made of real leather. Whatever it is, these are real client concerns. Take the time to highlight the answer to this question either visually or in clear bold words. For example, feature an extra model with the item in red or put a huge banner in the description ‘Made in Australia’. Based on the results, you can optimize these changes, but assuming you accurately addressed real buyer concerns, you should see a decrease in ‘conversion friction’ and less time spent on pre-purchase customer support. 

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

C. Having both positive and negative reviews – Ok, usually this is not much of a choice unless you dispute negative feedback, but research shows that showing negative feedback alongside positive feedback is actually perceived as more genuine by a potential buyer and can, therefore, result in higher conversion rates (Source: TLNT). From a customer service standpoint, allowing potential buyers to view issues that previous customers experienced can actually lighten the customer service load. Imagine someone who takes an XL reads a review that the XL is more of a European standard and actually anyone used to American standards should order an XXL. This kind of feedback can actually be constructive in avoiding future queries and complaints, pre- and post-purchase, respectively. Pro hack – On the same note as above. You should not only incorporate changes based on direct customer service communication, but also indirect ones. Collect all the negative feedback you have received in the last few months and see what changes you can make to your listing in order to optimize it. In this case, write in large letters at the top of the ‘size chart’ that sizes are a European standard and that guys who are used to American sizes are advised to order an XXL.

 Summing it up 

eBay listing design is supremely important in terms of conversions as well as passing the most basic threshold of a buyer’s preliminary filtering process. To make it into the final count and convert, your listing has to ‘pop’! 

Image taken from ‘Celebrating Art and Roy Lichtenstein’, Infinite Energy 

Beyond this most fundamental need to have stripes in a world rife with polka dots, the answers to buyer questions have to be apparent in visual form. 

Michelle, board: Event mood for Pinterest.                       George Clooney by Yayoi Kusama for W Magazine

Preemptive customer service is the wave of the future. Implementing the tips I provided for you here will put you a step ahead of the rest and improve your customers’ experience and your sell-through rates. 

Please share in the comments one recurring customer query which you used to change something in your listing and let us know what the results were. This can seriously help fellow sellers in the eCommerce community. 

Thank you 🙂 


Nadav Roiter

Nadav Roiter is a published writer and a Jerusalem Post freelance journalist. Formerly part of the CrazyLister content team, he is now the Marketing Manager for Subivi eCommerce CRM which has developed a customer support tool uniquely built to help eCommerce sellers offer stellar customer support while simultaneously maximizing profits.

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