Solution for eBay’s “Pogosticking” Problem

Posted By Debbie on April 18, 2011

In early April 2011, an eBay staffer gave a talk at the Product Camp conference. Part of his presentation was talking about a problem eBay was seeing, which they called pogosticking. This is where a shopper is on eBay search results. She clicks on an item to view the item’s individual page. She spends less than 2 seconds there. She goes back to search results. She chooses another item. She spends less than two seconds there. Et cetera. How do you get shoppers to more quickly find the right items for them, and cut down on this behaviour?

As the top expert on eBay shopper behaviour on the planet, I know I can improve and possibly solve this one. Say you’re looking for a Sprint Overdrive on eBay. OK, you know what you want. You are looking for which seller has it in the condition in which you expect it, for a price you’re willing to pay, who will get it to you quickly, and stand behind it if there is a problem. Here is what eBay search results look like now (click to enlarge):

How much of what makes or breaks my decision appears there in search results? Not that much, unfortunately. The obvious solution seems to be to just add more information to the search results… but what information? And how will we present it? Well, let’s start with what info a shopper is unlikely to need to see.

  • The shopper doesn’t need to see the seller’s feedback. You can opt in NOW to see that in search results, and I guess many people didn’t know they could do that, or felt that they didn’t need to see it. But when I see the Top Rated Seller ribbon, I know this is supposed to be one of eBay’s best sellers. It may not matter if the feedback is 2000 or 40,000. This is a person that eBay is pretty sure will make me happy.
  • The shopper doesn’t need to see the name of the seller OR the name of the seller’s store. You can opt in now to see those too. While I wish eBay sellers got a bit more play with their own branding, I know that a shopper’s decision is not made or broken on what the seller’s name is, or what the seller named his eBay Store. I am just as likely to buy my Overdrive from “Bob’s Bargains” as I am from “Electronics Neighbourhood Warehouse.” I made up both names. Sorry if any eBay seller is using those. 🙂

Just so you can see that there are options to show this now, you can see from this screen shot that if you click Customize View (on the right side, above search results), one set of options has to do with displaying seller info (click to enlarge):

So getting back to our search results, how do we build in the info the shopper needs to see? With as few words as possible. People hate reading. It needs to be visual, and tell the story at a glance. So I worked up a visual wireframe. No, I wouldn’t expect the final product on eBay to look like this. But this is where I would be going with a UX/UI project that aims at fixing this issue. After the image (click to enlarge), I’ll give you some points on my intentions for what you’re seeing.

I actually reworked a lot of what you’re seeing. Here are some points, and note that I didn’t fully work up the second search result’s appearance:

  • I added the Top Rated Seller badge to the item thumbnail. If eBay thinks that shoppers are concerned about picking out eBay’s best sellers, then let’s drop that badge out by where the eye is naturally going.
  • I put the item title and subtitle on one line, not wrapped. Easier to read.
  • Made the price larger. Moved Buy It Now, Best Offer, and bids right under it. Those two things go together.
  • Made FREE SHIPPING into a happy, glowing green delivery truck. Shoppers will only need to look for glowing green delivery trucks to know this is an item with free shipping. Drab blue delivery trucks mean the seller is charging for shipping. eBay’s trying to push sellers more and more into doing free shipping, so having a happy truck on your search result might help inspire a seller too. I put the shipping price right into the search results for the second item. When I clicked into it, it told me $10. So eBay knows this, which means it can be put on the search results page. I know that many sellers get “dumb” questions like what do they charge for shipping. Hopefully, something this visual and hard to miss will be an upgrade from how shipping is shown/hidden in search as well as on the individual item page. I didn’t work on that one yet, but the shipping price can be easy to miss, leading to customer service questions that waste the seller’s time since the info IS there!
  • I made it clear from where this seller ships (NY), when he will ship (2 biz days), and how. You now have a good idea of when you’ll get this. But if you go into the individual item page, eBay will tell you a range of days when you can expect to get this in your hands. That’s why…
  • The calendar is a placeholder for something way more advanced. The calendar would NOT show one day. It would show a range. eBay is calculating what days you’re likely to have this in your hands for the individual item page. So this image will show in an bold and hard-to-misunderstand way, “APRIL” at the top of the calendar on the red, and then “24-27” underneath (it would be more of a rectangle than a square to make room for the numbers). Boom. Obvious. No need to read much or think. This is when you’ll get this! When you eyeball all the search results, you’ll quickly see who is getting this to you fastest. Sure, you can read that it’s the guy who ships soon from near you, or in an expedited manner.

How long did it take you to figure out what I mocked up? Zero seconds? Was it just darn obvious? Did it leave you with questions or doubts? I think it’s fairly solid. It’s really just a slightly-designed wireframe, but I have confidence in it! I think this would be way better than eBay just slapping non-urgent info there, like the seller’s store name.

Will this idea solve every problem? No. For a collectable, a shopper will still want to go into the item, review lots of pictures, read about it, etc… Nothing we can put in search results to explain what this is in the detail it deserves. For a used or refurbished item, I’m going to go in and want to see more pics (is there damage?) and read about the condition (does it totally work)? Another concern is if a used item is guaranteed, warrantied, or can be returned. That might be nice to bring out into search since it CAN make or break a decision. But before I bring more info into search results, I’d love to see eBay test an idea like mine. I’d like to see if pogosticking goes down, and if not, I want to conduct interviews that find out WHAT info these people needed to see, and how they found it so quickly (if they’re staying less than a few seconds on an item before leaving).

Publicly-stated problem. Publicly-stated answer. I hope eBay will give this a try.