If you sell products on the Internet, there are some cardinal rules you must follow in order to make sales.

Unfortunately, eBay’s recent relocation of the “Ask Seller a Question” link from the top of the page, waaayyyy down to the bottom of the page breaks all 6 of these rules.

The end result? A message from sellers to buyers that says “Don’t talk to me!”

So before this damages your business on eBay, let’s talk about the cardinal rules of e-tailing and how to fix this problem in your eBay listings.

6 Cardinal Rules of E-tailing

Rule #1. Put the most important information at the top. People don’t read web-pages, they scan. According to web usability expert Jakob Neilson, only 16% of online users read a  new web page word-for-word. The other 79% scan the page, picking out words and phrases.

Rule #2. People need to know they can easily contact you before they purchase. Even if they never use that option, they want  to know it’s there before they buy.

Rule #3. Make it very easy for potential buyers to find your “Contact Us” information. They won’t look for it, they’ll just click away and go somewhere else.

Rule #4. The KLT Factor (know, like and trust) in e-tailing is king. Without that, buyers won’t trust you enough to buy.

Rule #5. Don’t make your buyers work for the sale. Buyers are busy, overwhelmed, yes even lazy. They won’t go to a lot of effort to buy something, even if it’s a product they really want.

Rule #6. The more a buyer has to click, the less they’ll buy. (See Rule #5)

Forcing ebay buyers to scroll in search of a hidden link breaks all six of these rules.

But it gets worse.

The link has been renamed with the vague words “Ask a Question” .

(Ok, who am I asking? the seller? eBay? Merlin the Mystic?). 😉  “Ask Seller a Question” was very clear.  “Ask a Question” is not.

And buyers must now click through a “pick-a-question” page before they can type in their actual question to the seller.

The Absent Minded E-tailer

In light of the above, one has to wonder why eBay would make it harder for potential buyers to ask eBay merchants a question?

Sellers didn’t ask for this policy change.

I  talked to eBay about this at one point, and was told that the link was moved because it was successful in “reducing seller questions”.

I responded “I thought the purpose of eBay was to sell products, not reduce questions.”  I didn’t get a reply to this comment. 🙂

All I can figure is that whomever came up with this new policy and signed off on it, was absent from E-Tailing 101 class that day. 😉

How to Combat This Buyer Unfriendly Policy

There are many things you can do to encourage communication between you and your eBay customers. I discuss many of these in my SMART Strategies for eBay’s Fall 2010 Changes training.

1. Put a bright, friendly “Have a question? Ask Us!” graphic (not a link) on the mid-to upper right hand quadrant of your listing.  (Some of you have templates that made this positioning impossible. Ask your designer to add a “Contact Us”  graphic in your template. 

2. Keep your listings short and scanable. Provide enough information to tell a potential buyer what they need to know.  Use bullet points to highlight features. Sub-heads to separate sections

3. Keep paragraphs to a maximum of 2-3 sentences with white space in between each paragraph

I go into the issue of the invisible “Ask Seller a Question link” policy move in my SMART Strategies eBay’s Fall 2010 Changes audio.

I also cover the other new eBay changes, that when implemented “out of the box” can hurt your sales.  If you sell on eBay and you don’t have a copy of my latest eBay strategy training, pick up a copy today. Your sales depend on it.

The Bottom Line

Ultimately,when you sell on someone else’s platform or transact business in someone else’s search engine (aka Google), their policies can affect your sales.

Sure, we can complain or express outrage. But at the end of the day, it’s up to each and every one of us to figure how to counteract bad policy changes made by 800lb gorillas who also happen to be our business partners.

Schedule an Action Appointment(tm) with yourself and take action to fix this issue today!