Will Seippel | March 14, 2023

chat gpt
Are AI product descriptions a practical solution for resellers?
Image: Shutterstock

It was only a matter of time before the ChatGPT mania led to AI product descriptions becoming a hot topic. Shopify offers descriptions powered by Shopify Magic. Copy.ai has a product description generator, as does Rytr.com. The list of providers is endless. If you google the search term “ai product descriptions,” you will get pages of results. All these sites have one thing in common: they want to sell you their AI services. Their claims must be tested.

Writing Used Merchandise Descriptions Is Time-Consuming

I get why dealers lean toward AI product descriptions. Antiques & Collectibles sellers sometimes upload dozens (hundreds?) of listings at a time. The work is grueling. Even shortcuts like copying & pasting successful listings or using a cross-platform listing service like List Perfectly take time to research and execute.

So, I decided to take AI product descriptions out for a spin. For this project, I used the new Microsoft Bing chatbot. Initially, I entered this prompt:

“Can ai write product descriptions for eBay?”

Here’s the response:

“Yes, AI can write product descriptions for eBay. There are some online tools that can help you generate unique and engaging product descriptions using AI. However, you should also follow some best practices when writing product descriptions for eBay, such as:

  • Use keywords that match what customers are searching for.
  • Make it easy to skim and read by using bullet points and short paragraphs.
  • Keep it short and avoid unnecessary details. 
  • List product benefits at the top and explain how your product solves a problem or fulfills a need.
  • Include images that show your product from different angles and in use.
  • Create an eBay description template that you can customize for each product.

Then the AI asked me:

“Do you have a specific product that you want to write a description for?”

Here’s where it got interesting. The AI volunteered to step up and prove itself. So, I asked:

baacon belmont banjo
A 1960s Gretsch Bacon Belmont banjo
Image: WorthPoint

“Write an eBay description for a vintage Bacon Belmont 5-string banjo in good condition.”

AI responded:

Vintage Bacon Belmont 5-String Banjo by Gretsch

If you are looking for a classic banjo with a great sound and a stunning look, you will love this vintage Bacon Belmont 5-string banjo by Gretsch. This banjo was made in Brooklyn, NY, in the 1960s and features a sunburst finish and pearloid veneers on the headstock, resonator and pot. The headstock has the Bacon Belmont logo and the serial number is #9542. The neck is made of maple and has an inlay on the heel. The banjo has Scruggs-style tuners on G and B strings, a 5th-string capo, a clear head and a 5/8″ bridge. The banjo has a bright and crisp tone that is perfect for bluegrass and folk music. The banjo is in good condition for its age, with some minor wear and tear. It comes with a period-correct chipboard case for safe shipping.

This is a rare opportunity to own a beautiful vintage banjo that will make you stand out from the crowd. Don’t miss this chance to add this gem to your collection!

Do you have any questions about this product?

In analyzing this description, the AI failed to follow its “best practices” recommendations. It’s also unlikely that the product details are correct (potential errors are highlighted). The AI simply made up some facts.

Let’s look at the original listing description. It didn’t use bullet points either, but it resulted in a $1,050 sale.

Vintage Belmont Bacon 5 String Banjo. In good condition especially for its age. Originally produced in the 1940s these Banjos are like classic gems worthy of any picker or grinner. Has some wear and a few blemishes but overall a winner. Pictured as many sections as possible. Gretsch produced these banjos for Montgomery wards a fine quality product. They were produced 1942, 43 and post-war through 1946-68. Own a piece of history and pick like you were live on stage in Nashville. Comes with a hard case that could very well be the original.

I like the human description better. It tells what it is, describes the condition, gives a bit of its history, and closes with a call to action: “Own a piece of history and pick like you were live on stage in Nashville.”

human product descriptions
For used merchandise, human-generated product descriptions are best.
Image: Shutterstock

AI Product Descriptions May Be Useful in Experienced Hands

AI descriptions aren’t completely useless. As you can tell from the AI banjo description above, the writing is usable. It’s the facts that are wrong. Used merchandise is unique. Even products of the same make and model vary by condition and provenance. The human touch of a knowledgeable seller is needed. AI-generated descriptions may sound good, but they can’t match a detailed description written by a human. It can’t use touch, smell, taste, sight, or sound to evaluate objects. Neither can it determine condition and provenance, so product descriptions written by AI are always incomplete and inaccurate.

The number-one reason for product returns is that the item does not match the description. According to EcoReturns, “product description not matching expectation” is a primary driver for returns.

This is why it’s essential to provide accurate descriptions of used merchandise. It takes a lot of time and effort to write accurate descriptions. It requires knowledge of the product, its condition, and its provenance.

I would love to explore easier ways to write product descriptions. But today’s AI doesn’t make the cut. For now, I will continue to write product descriptions the old-fashioned way.

Will Seippel is the CEO and founder of WorthPoint®, the world’s largest provider of information about art, antiques, and collectibles. An Inc. 500 Company, WorthPoint is used by individuals and organizations seeking credible valuations on everything from cameras to coins. WorthPoint counts the Salvation Army, Habitat for Humanity, and the IRS among its clients.