Whether you've been selling on eBay for a while or you're just starting, you've probably wished more than once for additional tools or information to help improve your sales or streamline your listing process.
There's no shortage of third-party software available to help eBay merchants, though many of these programs are geared toward very high-volume, multi-channel sellers-and are priced out of range for the average eBay user.
eBay itself provides some tools on a subscription basis; some for free and others for a fee. But with so many options available, it can be difficult to determine whether the price is worth the service. To help you sort it out, we've summarized the subscription services eBay offers, their costs and their relative value for the price.
To sign up for any of these extras, navigate to your My eBay page, click on the Account tab and select Subscriptions.
What it's for: Saves time when creating and organizing listings and sales data. File exchange allows sellers to load and manage inventory in one file. Listings can be created, revised, relisted and ended using an Excel-compatible format. However, the data can't be used with the import function on other eBay seller tools. The program automatically creates a file template with columns for item specifics based on the eBay category selected. Download sales status information for active and historical listings, and get a summary of listing fees to manage your profit and loss.
Value: High if you have a high volume of listings and aren't already wedded to a third-party listing service. But similar functionality is available to all users of Auctiva's free listing management software.
What they're for: Provide a branded Web site within eBay in which sellers can house fixed-price inventory at low listing fees. The trade-off here is higher final value fees11 percent and upand less visibility in Best Match searches. Depending on subscription level, store owners get access to some degree of eBay market analytics, certain sales management tools and dedicated customer support. eBay also provides limited internal promotion of stores and store inventoryagain, the higher the subscription level, the greater the benefitsbut leaves the heavy lifting to subscribers to market their stores. Some tools are available to make this chore easier. The Stores to Go widget lets sellers showcase their listings on a blog, Web site, MySpace or other site outside of eBay. eBay also enables sellers to send product data to customers or comparison shopping sites using RSS feeds.
Price: $15.95 to $299.95 per month
Value: Mixed. A lot depends on your sell-through rate and average selling prices. Now that eBay has opened the 30-day fixed price format to all members at a flat rate of 50 cents, there seems to be little value in paying the additional monthly fee, unless you sell a high volume of low-priced items. For most sellers, the "extras" the basic package provides may not be worth the price. Use that money instead to subscribe to market research from Terapeak or Hammertap.
However, if you're selling at the Platinum level or higher and have a lot of inventory turnover, it may be worth paying the big bucks for a featured or anchor store to keep front-end fees low and get more exposure.
What it's for: Gives eBay users real-time access to eBay from their cell phones or handheld PDAs. Though it's primarily aimed at buyers, sellers can use it to keep track of selling activity through My eBay.
Price: Free for the application. Check with your wireless provider for any additional service charges.
Value: Low for sellers unless you're away from your desk for hours at a time and want to keep tabs on your listingsor your competitors' listings. Not much seller-oriented functionality here.
What it's for: Primarily for creating and managing listings in bulk, and tracking post-sale status. The Pro version enables sellers to create profit-and-loss reports, track sell-through rates and average selling prices, as well as export data to QuickBooks using the Accounting Assistant.
Price: $4.99 basic; $15.99 Pro per month
Value: Low. Auctiva's listing management software provides the same basic functionality for free. If you sell enough that you need the analytics to keep track of your success rate, third-party providers such as Vendio can supply similar data for around $6 a month.
Who couldn't use a little extra insight into how well their items are selling, and a digest of what it's costing in fees?
What it's for: This all-in-one software package, formerly known as Selling Assistant, is geared toward sellers who list 25 items or more per month. It's a desktop application that lets sellers create listings in bulk, track sales status and manage buyer communications and feedback. The Pro upgrade adds the ability to create consignment plans and track suppliers.
Price: $9.99 basic; $24.99 Pro per month
Value: Low, unless you absolutely must work offlinea lot. Save your cash and use Auctiva's free Web-based listing management tools instead.
Sales Reports Plus
What it's for: Provides in-depth analysis of sales performance by category, format, category-plus-format and ending day and time; available to users who have 10 or more feedbacks, and have sold at least one item in the past month. Also tracks buyer counts and gives a detailed report of eBay fees and unpaid item credits. Previously, eBay offered this as an upgrade from the basic Sales Reportswhich provided a high-level overviewbut now Plus is the default.
Value: High. Who couldn't use a little extra insight into how well their items are selling, and a digest of what it's costing in fees? It's also one of the few services eBay provides to sellers for free. This one's a no brainer.
What it's for: Gives sellers a place to upload and manage a library of pictures instead of uploading one at a time. Subscribers can add multiple images to listings without paying an additional 15 cents per picture.
Price: From $9.99 for 50 MB up to $24.99 for 1GB per month. Price is discounted for premium store subscribers, and it's free for anchor store subscribers.
Value: Low. It's not difficult to find free eBay image hosting services on the Web. Auctiva users get unlimited storage and up to 24 images per listing for free.
eBay Motors Local Market
What it's for: Allows automobile dealers to create listings that are visible only to sellers within a 100-mile radius. eBay designed the program to help used-car sellers reach the growing number of consumers who car-shop online but prefer to deal with a local entity. Dealers using the Local Market option select from a handful of eBay-certified vehicle listing services to list inventory in bulk online.
Price: $1,000 per month covers unlimited vehicle listings with no additional insertion fee. Successful listing fees are reduced to $50 per listing.
Value: High for dealers who list more than 50 vehicles a year.