Online auctions once seemed a novelty. Then, eBay made things happen, and they are still the gold standard for overall needs. They spawned eBid, Webstore, Bonanza, and more. Each tries to differentiate itself with lower prices, processing, and seller fees. But, consumers “in the know” have found specialized online auctions focused on medical equipment, firearms, artworks, and so on.
Michael Seo writing for Huffington Post says, “Online auctions were supposed to change the way people shop. Technology enabled dynamic pricing would create an efficient way for demand to meet supply by reducing transaction costs (such as setting up a physical auction site) while increasing the pool of potential bidders.”
As buyer or seller, how can you master your online auction listings?
9 Tips For Owning Your Online Auction
Understand Automatic Bidding, Inside And Out
If you expect to win when bidding online, you must get your head around the system. The automatic bidding lets you make an offer and walk away until someone outbids you. Then, the automatic bidder makes a bid in your name according to the settings you enter.
You can set the automatic bidding how much to bid and when to stop. It will bid the minimum amount to keep you in the mix, and it “understands” to stop if bidding hits the maximum posted by the seller.
Optimize The Bid-Or-Buy System
Automating bids work best for buyers who know what they want and what they are willing to spend. Those folks who are addicted to auctions or buy as a business may want to keep a personal focus on their auction, but the average buyer will take advantage of the bid-or-buy system.
Again, the automatic bidding lets you do something other than watch the bidding. But, it also helps you participate in more than one auction simultaneously. Because you set the terms, you can let the “machine” do your bidding on as many items as you want.
You’ll find multiple snipping tools online. There are EZ sniper, Auction Sniper, Auction Blitz, and eBay has a complimentary snipping feature.
Where auctions end at specific times, focused buyers will wait until the deadline approaches. They will bid in the last sections to outbid anything going. This effectively blocks the competition even if they have been following closely and want to spend more. The advantage is the buyers’ because they only bid once and that’s at the last second.
Set Up Strategic Notifications
You can instruct the online auction to notify you about the bidding events. The notifications keep you informed and prompt you to stay ahead of the competition. The notices keep you posted, so you can act on the notice or ignore it and let your interest die.
Many shoppers work several auction sites at the same time. They tend to have firm maximum prices in their minds, so notifications let them proceed with their buying without paying attention to each bid underway.
Know Your Limits
Auctions have always been engaging and often exciting. Just about everyone has gotten caught up in the atmosphere, and some have overbid. Either they paid more than the item was worth, or they paid more than they can pay. Live auctions set up rules to require you to certify your ability to pay and the manner of payment.
You must discipline your spending online, too. The price for any item is the amount the customer is willing to pay, so that price will vary with your “willingness.” So, you must enter the auction with some spending ceiling in mind. You could check going prices on Amazon or the other retailers online. You should not bid more than the going price at Home Depot or Walmart. Instead, using the market price, you might set your maximum bid at 20 percent lower.
Stick With Who You Know
Some auction sites are set up to filter your searches to sellers in your geographical area. Being able to pick up an item or have it delivered personally can save significant shipping fees.
But, if you regularly purchase from online auctions, you should also favor sellers you have used before. Most auctions rate the providers, but if you have been repeatedly pleased with the price, quality, and service of a specific seller, you should continue to show you customer loyalty
Factor In The Shipping And Handling
You must include the shipping and handling fees in the price posted. If you bid on an ink cartridge because it is 10 percent cheaper than Amazon’s price, chances are the auction seller will add S&H costs that bloat the posted price.
The best known online auctions offer many items with no shipping fees or let you filter out those charging fees. But, you must ensure you’re not paying such extras. This can be a real problem when bidding on items from overseas. Delivery, returns, and exchanges with Chinese vendors, for example, can make your transactions pricey, inconvenient, and stressful.
Bid Dollars And Cents
Most competitive bidders offer round numbers. It’s easier and somewhat natural to bid dollars often rounded up the next ten. Offering an odd number, pennies more or pennies less than usual can put you ahead of your rivals.
For example, if you’re bidding on high-dollar items like used farm equipment, the winner will bid an odd number. The odd number could beat the competitor by as little as $.50 or a dollar, but history shows the winning bid will be an odd one.
Make An Early Statement
You can avoid much of the auction process if you don’t have the time or patience. You can let them know who you are and what you’re prepared to do from the start.
If you see an item you want, posted at a lower price than you think it is worth, you can make a move that tells others you are a serious buyer. The more bidders there are, the more attention their action attracts. You can catch their attention by bidding quickly at a price just short of the asking price. Your unexpectedly high bid should drive most of the bargain hunters away. It might not eliminate the competition, but it should reduce the players.
Selling And Buying Like Hotcakes
Customers and sellers have matched their needs with transactions counted in the billions. Some buyers and sellers make an enviable living operating online.
Buyers have only to outbid the competition. The individual occasional buyer doesn’t need to know much more. But, if success, affordability, and quality products are important, you should study how the respective auctions work, browse to find realistic pricing, discipline your buying behavior, and make a plan. Strategic planning should help you make better decisions, enter win-win purchases, and manage your budget.
Amateur or professional sellers know listing any number or types of items with online auctions will reach millions of interested consumers. Most of them, by simply browsing the site, had committed to buy a product they need.
- Still, sellers must set themselves apart. As a seller, you may specialize in auctioning real estate, heavy equipment, sophisticated electronics, high-dollar luxury items, and more. But, most sellers focus on selling books, CDs, clothing, electronics, and popular collectibles. Unique items don’t rank high on Amazon or eBay unless buyers search for the specific name.
- You might also focus on selling easily shipped items. If you can mail your products through your local post office, you will save money and time compared to packaging, insuring, and shipping with FedEX or UPS.
- Sellers should study. You should know how to price products well, fairly, and profitably. You must know what is going on at competitive online auctions. It’s important to know how online auction sites operate to seller benefits, and you must know how other sites price similar products.
- The major auctions offer lessons and tutorials, and you can learn much from related YouTube videos. Continuing education will keep you able and ahead of the competition.
- Use brief product descriptions, but the lead should include the keywords browse. If someone is shopping for a “Black & Decker Portable Drill,” that’s your lead. You won’t attract buyers with lists of benefits or uses. Your lead must match the words most customers would enter into their search window.
- Sellers must budget the auction site’s fees. Most sites have sliding scales on fees charged to you. The more items you post for sale each month, the lower the fees. Obviously, your item is more attractive if it has no shipping fees, but someone must pay those fees. And, if you are eligible to use Amazon’s offer to hold and ship your inventory, you must factor those fees into your posted price.
The IRS also reminds sellers revenues earned at an occasional garage and yard sales are not generally taxable. However, IRS.gov goes on to advise, “If your online garage sale develops into a business and/or you have recurring sales and are purchasing items for resale with the intention of making a profit; you may have started an online auction business.” That business might have deductible business expenses, but any income must be reported,
Buyer or seller, online auctions afford great opportunities in purchases and sales. But, it does take some learning.