A reader sent me a screenshot of an eBay search results page for the term "sony ericsson w580i," writing that she believed it was the new "test" for merchandising placement. "The page takes triple the amount of time to load with this stuff on it," she wrote.
She had apparently used the "Refine search" feature to narrow the results to Cell Phones & Smartphones. When she did this, the results page came back with a section inserted above the listings called "Best Matching Products for sony ericsson w580i."
This isn't brand-new, but the reader was concerned that this type of search results page would become the default for all searches. I duplicated the search and also refined it by selecting Cell Phones & Smartpones, and I showed the resulting search results page to a colleague. He thought it was actual product listings - but looking closely, you can see that the items at the top are generic products to help users narrow results even further to the exact model they are looking to buy.
Clicking on one of those products - or models - brings you a "model" page that's even more interesting. For example, clicking on "Sony Ericsson W580i Walkman (AT&T)" brings you to a page with listings, but above the listings, there's a section to help you narrow your search even further, and in the left column, there's a complete product description, including the Manufacturer Part Number and Phone Model, for example.
And three tabs are located at the top of the model page: "Listings" (the page you are currently viewing); Product Details; and Reviews.
I did the same search on Amazon.com, and came up with similar results - the first page showed many listings - including some for accessories, not the phone itself - but by choosing "cell phones" under the category list in the left column, it then displayed a list of cell phone models and showed how many listings appeared for each model.
When I did the search on eBay.com for "sony ericsson w580i," the standard results page showed 5,371 listings. Once I refined the search by clicking on Cell Phones & Smartphones, it brought back a page with 387 listings, and I could have refined it further by model.
As I wrote at the end of the eBay Live conference in June, this is a catalog approach similar to Amazon and Wigix. It's not necessarily bad, and might be good - depending. Here are some questions I have about the feature.
Is this catalog approach going to be applied to all categories?
Why did it take so long for the catalog page to load for this user?
Will eBay continue to show the standard search results page (with listings), and show the catalog page only when shoppers refine their searches?
As for lessons for sellers, it's one more reason to use Item Specifics wherever and whenever possible!