Choosing Your Listing Format

Each sales approach brings its own potential benefits.

by Dennis L. Prince
- Sep 16, 2010

Whether you're new to the eBay marketplace or a seasoned seller, it's important that you carefully and continually evaluate which listing formats are best for your business. With several choices available—traditional auctions, Buy It Now offerings and classified ads—chances are you'll find the need to use different formats for different purposes. Just as your customers appreciate a variety in the items you'll offer, they'll also appreciate variety in the ways they can purchase from you.

Here's a look at the different listing formats and how each can translate into better business for you.

When you consider your goods for sale, think about employing a listing strategy as diverse as the items you'll offer. Even if you deal in a single sort of product or commodity, recognize the benefit of offering it in as many ways as there are buyers who are—or aren't—motivated by a given sales approach. As noted before, there are several different ways to list your items for sale and, as you'll discover, each brings its own potential of best results and better earnings.

Here's the run down of the listing formats available to you on eBay:

Ascending-price auctions

This is the "traditional" auction format, the sort in which bidders bid incrementally until the auction has ended and a highest bidder prevails. This format is of terrific value to the seller who has a highly desirable item for sale, and can expect a vigorous bidding war to ensue right up to the final seconds of the auction.

From the bidders' perspective, this is the most recognized listing format and best understood in its method and outcome.

Don't let anyone convince you that risk management is against the rules of online auctioning

Reserve-price auctions

Don't let anyone convince you that risk management is against the rules of online auctioning. Sometimes, sellers need to ensure they don't take a loss on a listing that might not reach its market value or recoup an original investment.

Reserve prices attach a "will not sell lower than" price to an auction listing. By this method, if the bidding in an ascending-price auction fails to meet the seller's pre-determined reserve price (secret information not visible to the bidders), then the seller is not compelled to sell at the final high-bid price.

If not used greedily (that is, when a seller might be tempted to set a reserve price that far exceeds current market value for an item), this auction format variation works well to guarantee a seller doesn't take a loss on an item offered for bid.

On a cautionary note, however, many bidders avoid auctions with reserve prices for fear of potential greed abuse. For this reason, sellers might consider delaying listing an item if current market prices are lower than desired, thereby requiring a reserve price. Perhaps delaying listing of such an item until its demand is on the rise would be a better approach. Even so, if you feel it necessary to use a reserve price, use it appropriately, but use it with confidence—after all, it's your prerogative.

Fixed-price listings

Yes, it's true—some folks simply don't like competitive bidding. Some motivated shoppers will actually shrink away from the back-and-forth tussle for an item, electing to do without rather than engage in what they perceive as combative consumerism. For these folks, consider offering an item at a fixed price with a first-come, first served sales method.

Of course, you wouldn't want to select this format if your item is in high demand and short supply. In these instances, it's likely most beneficial you utilize an ascending-price auction format. On the other hand, if you're motivated to make a quick sale without waiting for an auction cycle to run its course, this is a great alternative to make a fast transaction.

This method works extremely well for trendy goods that will bear an above-market, buy-it-now price. This is also the format of choice for those gotta-have-it-tomorrow items, which are usually most wanted around the holidays.

Many sellers have found that utilizing several different formats increases sales and profits

Classified ads

Finally, you can also elect to create a classified ad on eBay and have it remain visible to potential buyers for 30 days. As with traditional classified ads, these are best utilized when offering goods within a locale, making it easy to prospective buyers to visit, examine and purchase an item. Additionally, classifieds allow sellers of digital products, such as downloadable e-books, to offer such goods in a classified manner.

Use the best format for your situation

As mentioned from the beginning of this format review, you'll be best served when you make use of all formats, based upon your particular listing situation. Many sellers have found that utilizing several different formats increases sales and profits above and beyond a steadfast adherence to only a single approach.

But not only does adjusting the format suit a best profit potential of an item up for sale, it also provides a variety of purchasing methods to buyers. Offer a continual mix of for-bid and for-sale listings and you'll stand a better chance of seeing your sell-through rates increase.

So, if you're new to the online marketplace or you simply wonder whether you've slipped into a rut in the manner in which you sell, review all listing methods available to you. If you haven't reaped the full benefit of the various listing formats offered, take the opportunity now to adopt a couple of different approaches the next time you list. Chances are good you'll find new ways to increase your bottom line while also attracting more buyers who'll help you grow your business.

About the Author

Dennis L. Prince has been analyzing and advocating the e-commerce sector since 1996. He has published more than 12 books on the subject, including How to Sell Anything on eBay…and Make a Fortune, second edition (McGraw-Hill, 2006) and How to Make Money with MySpace (McGraw-Hill, 2008). His insight is actively sought within online, magazine, television and radio venues.

Opinions expressed here may not be shared by Auctiva Corp. and/or its principals.

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