Get the Most from Your Holiday Sales

Tips for attracting Yuletide buyers

by Dennis L. Prince
- Nov 20, 2008

After the dog days of summer have finally passed and the crispness of fall is in the air, astute online sellers know the urgency to have a solid Yuletide plan in place, even before they've carved their jack-o'-lanterns. The holiday season is practically in full swing well before trees begin to drop their leaves, and seasoned sellers know they need to roll out every hook and harbinger quickly to get customers into the spirit of giving—and buying.

Here are some tips and tactics you can include in your selling plan to entice the most holiday bidders possible, bring smiles to your customers' faces and ring up some tidings of great profit for yourself.

Do you see what I see?

A key to holiday auction success is offering items people want most but can't often find. Do your usual market research, trolling eBay or your other chosen auction place to find out if your offerings are plentiful or plenty scarce. Remember that at this time of year, quality, condition and completeness become even more critical to hooking the holiday hunters, those who seek out the best items to ensure recipients are overjoyed with their auction-sourced gifts. If you see other items like yours, but yours is clearly superior in condition and completeness, it will probably be the one that gift-givers will want to give.

The price that entices

If the Hallmark keepsake you're offering is sold out in stores but plentiful at online venues, you'll be battling with other sellers to grab bidders' attention. In these situations, consider lowering your opening bid price while foregoing the reserve price option. If you've done your research well, you'll know what your item is worth and can expect bidders to bring you a fair market value. Bidders will be looking for a potential bargain, although most hot items with low opening bids usually soar past other similar listings with higher opening bids or seemingly unreachable reserve prices. Try to resist mandating a high opening bid or reserve price since this often indicates the eventual price might exceed a buyer's holiday budget.

Timings of great joy

Every year folks shop, and bid, earlier and earlier to get the "work" of the holidays out of the way. Shoppers have already mobilized in hopes of beating the crowds and finding the items they want most. If you have the goods folks are clamoring for, list them now. Shoppers want to finish their buying quickly and, if you wait too long, many of your potential bidders might have already finished their shopping, leaving you with a potential decrease in earnings.

Most important, don't forget to consider the duration of your auction. Although seven-day auctions are often most popular year-round, three- and five-day auctions become increasingly enticing to bidders during the holiday season. Shorter auctions spell quicker transactions and another check mark on a winning bidder's shopping list. This is especially applicable in the last couple of weeks before the holidays.

Oh come, all ye bidders

Sometimes offering fast shipping options may determine whether a bidder will bid on your item or shop elsewhere

If you give your item a clear and descriptive title, you'll attract more bidders. Since shoppers are often looking for specific items, give them specific item titles that describe your goods by name, color, style or whatever. Try to use as many keywords that will show up in as many search result lists as possible. Leave out useless tags such as "hard to find," "[email protected]@K," "great gift" or other meaningless additions. Instead, give buyers as much definitive information possible and more will flock to your listing for a closer look. And, if you already have a great description yet still have characters to spare within your item's title, squeeze in whether yours is a three- or five-day auction (if that's the route you choose); this will immediately entice bidders running out of shopping days.

North Pole or bust

Be sure you state your shipping terms clearly in your auction's description so bidders know if they can expect to receive their winnings in time for the holiday. During this time of year, make special shipping methods available to your bidders (FedEx Overnight, UPS Second Day or USPS Express Mail). Sometimes offering fast shipping options may determine whether a bidder will bid on your item or shop elsewhere. And, more than any other time of year, be sure you and your buyer agree to the shipping method and delivery expectation before the package leaves your hands.

Damage claims and post-holiday returns

With all those packages being shipped about, damage could strike something, somewhere. Encourage buyers to pay for insurance and clearly state that you will not be responsible if they waive the extra protection.

Then, whether you'll open a virtual returns desk or not, be sure to clearly state your return policy in your item description. During this time of year, many bidders are prone to impulse bidding and buying, some changing their mind after the item is in hand. To protect yourself from those who may bid today and refund tomorrow, be clear about what your policy will be if a buyer has second thoughts.

Post-holiday sales

And lastly, consider this: Hasn't there been a holiday in your past when you didn't get everything you were wishing for? The same goes for many auction-goers out there today, and there will be hordes of them looking to fill that empty spot on their wish list. After the holiday passes, sellers can typically find a resurgence of bidders still looking for the stuff they really wanted, as well as post-holiday bargains. Unless you need a holiday break yourself, keep those listings coming. And if you're looking to unload a bunch of stuff you want to get rid of before the new year, list items with low opening bids, no reserves and let the bidders do the rest.

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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