Timing Your Auctions

Scheduling your auctions for best results

by Auctiva.com staff writer
- Mar 28, 2008

Timing, as they say, is everything. This ancient aphorism holds true whether you're taking a picture, swinging a baseball bat or baking a soufflé.

For the online seller, timing—that is, the time your listing is set to end—can mean the difference between an auction that sizzles and an auction that fizzles.

No matter when an auction was launched or how long it's been underway, bidding usually starts to heat up in the last 24 hours. And the last few minutes—or even seconds—can get pretty frenzied for really hot items. But if your listing is scheduled to end at a time when most bidders are asleep or away on a long holiday weekend, your auction could fall flat.

When deciding the timing for your auction, there are three key elements to consider:

  1. The time of day
  2. The day of the week
  3. The duration of the listing

eBay auctions can be scheduled to last one, three, five, seven or—for an additional fee—10 days. Your listing interval should be as much a part of your strategy as timing, but knowing when to have your auction end is essential to creating the best odds for a successful sale.

The idea is to allow the largest possible number of eyeballs to view your listing at the right time in order to make the most of the last-minute flurry of bidding. Peak time on eBay seems to be between 6 p.m. and 10 p.m., PST. More than half of auction listings close on a Sunday, a day when more people are likely to be home and logged on.

For the majority of items, timing an auction to end at 7:30 on Sunday night might be the better approach. But it helps to know your market. If the product or service you are selling appeals to stay-at-home moms or retirees, you might get more bids on a listing scheduled to close mid-morning on a Tuesday. If you're targeting college students, closing on a Friday or Saturday night is probably not a good bet.

Note: Avoid ending your auction on a holiday or a long weekend. Fewer people are likely to be online.

Time on your side

As a general rule, the time you start your auction is the time it closes. So if you post a seven-day listing on Saturday at 5 a.m., it's going to close the following Saturday at 5 a.m.—when a large segment of the U.S. population is either still in bed or fumbling for their morning coffee. The wee hours are an ideal time for bargain hunting on eBay but, for the same reason, not a great time to end an auction.

Research shows that most buyers don't think a week is too long to watch an item before bidding

For 10 cents more, eBay does allow you to schedule your starting date and time up to 21 days in advance. If you plan to be on vacation or won't be online when you want your auction to go live, it may be worth the extra dime in fees to take advantage of this listing upgrade. Or better yet, a good auction management solution, such as Auctiva, should allow you to schedule a listing for free.

Duration contemplation

The standard on eBay is the seven-day listing. Using this option, you can start an auction on Sunday at 6 p.m. PST, and buyers will have a full week, including the weekend, to view and bid on your item. Research shows that most buyers don't think a week is too long to watch an item before bidding.

One- and three-day listings are most successful for items that are hot sellers. These short auctions are quite effective during the run-up to a gift-giving holiday, when shoppers are more likely to be in a rush to buy. Newbie sellers won't have the one-day option, however. You need to have a feedback score of at least 10, or 5 if using PayPal as a payment option.

Five-day listings give buyers an extended shopping weekend. These are useful when you don't want to commit to a longer auction, or if you want to end your auction on a Sunday to get in on the weekend shopping surge, but were late getting your listing up.

The longest listing duration on eBay is 10 days. This is the only type for which eBay charges an additional fee. Many sellers find 10 days to be too long, and worry their listings will get lost in the fray. But if you're selling rare items, collectibles or art, the longer listing allows buyers more time to do research and place a better bid for your stuff.

Also, if you're selling to a small target audience (e.g., 1967 Winnemucca City College grads who've lost their sophomore yearbook), a long auction duration gives your listing a better chance of being seen by someone interested. Plan it right and a 10-day listing can provide an entire week of viewing time, including two full weekends.

Perfect auction timing largely depends on your market and what you're selling. Understanding your customers—and their shopping preferences—is the best way to ensure you time it right.

About the Author

Auctiva staff writers constantly monitor trends and best practices of those selling on eBay and elsewhere online. They attend relevant training seminars and trade shows and regularly discuss the market with PowerSellers and other market experts.

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