Timing is Still Everything

Learn how to choose the right duration for your listings, and for your wallet.

by Dennis L. Prince
- Aug 18, 2010

Savvy sellers know that strategic timing—in terms of when and how long an auction will run—still has significant impact on their ultimate sales success.

With that said, do you know which day of the week is best for starting or ending an auction? For that matter, do you know how long to run your auction to ensure the best results? Have you discovered the magical hour for ending an auction to ensure more bidders will bid more—even the big-spending snipers?

If these are your questions, here are your answers.

Too long, too short, or just right?

Begin with understanding the options and effects of using different auction durations. At eBay, you have several choices, allowing you to run your auction anywhere from one to 10 days. Which duration is best? Let's see:

  • 1-day auctions: These are best suited to time-sensitive offerings such as concert or sporting event tickets.
  • 3-day auctions: Again, good for time-sensitive listings but sometimes suitable for general merchandise, especially around the holidays (such as when you have the must-have-it Christmas gift and need to give anxious buyers the opportunity for a quick purchase).
  • 5-day auctions: A good middle-ground choice, providing enough time for folks to find and bid up your listing, but also short enough to turn a reasonably quick transaction.
  • 7-day auctions: Still the favored choice, since it gives bidders more time do discover your item and enough time for back-and-forth bid battles, yet wraps up within a week.
  • 10-day auctions: This one's just too long for most buyers and sellers. Over the course of 10 days, it's likely that interested bidders or buyers will discover something else (maybe better), and choose to bid or spend elsewhere.

As you see, the generally held opinion is that it's still best to let auctions run for the seven-day stretch. Granted, this might still be considered a long wait for sellers anxious to close a deal or for buyers eager to get their hands on the goods.

Even so, the seven-day period allows you to span two subsequent weekends, still the best time to have your auctions seen by the most people possible. To this point, you can be similarly successful with the five-day auction, but be sure to start the auction on Tuesday or Wednesday to ensure it ends on one of the upcoming weekend days.

Opinions vary, but Sunday is still widely considered the best day to end an auction

Which day is best for an auction?

With the duration decided and with that hint of best days to end your auction, now you need to calculate when to start your listing. This is where you'll establish when your auction will end, targeting the highest-traffic days in the auction space. Although opinions have varied over this matter, Sunday is still widely considered to be the best day to end an auction. Start and end your auction on a Sunday (using the seven-day duration), and you'll tap a full week and weekend's worth of exposure. Again, weekends tend to bring out the bidders, especially for those who still don't enjoy the luxury of surfing the 'Net mid-week (during working hours).

Are there bad days to end an auction? Yes! Fridays can challenge your profit potential, since your listings won't benefit from an end-of-auction weekend surge. And, folks who elect to start an early weekend might be away from their computers on Fridays and Saturdays. By ending an auction on a Sunday, though, you can still entertain those folks who've been away for most of the weekend yet are ready to go online upon returning home Sunday afternoon or evening.

What about those holidays? Most sellers agree it's best to avoid ending auctions on a holiday, especially extended holiday weekends. Since many folks are either traveling or are otherwise occupied by festivities, auction traffic historically dips during these times.

Is there a best time of day to consider?

Perhaps the most crucial consideration in establishing your timing strategy is the actual time of day your auction will start and ultimately end. Most agree the best time to start or end an auction will be in the evening hours, a time when potential bidders are best able and most likely to browse (and bid) for extended periods of time.

It's key that your bidders will have their best chance to actually be "in attendance" to bid fast and bid big during your auction's final minutes (the modus operandi of the bid-slinging snipers).

Of course, be sure to consider time zones in your planning. Choose an evening hour that allows West Coast citizens enough time to get home from work before your auction ends without compelling East Coast bidders to stay up all night. (Hint: between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. Pacific Time is usually the best).

Some listing services, such as Auctiva, provide scheduled listings for no additional charge

Take a worldly approach, while you're at it

Some sellers have wondered how to accommodate their global customers, those who literally live on the other side of the world. As all of eBay's listings are tracked in Pacific Time, it's practically impossible to satisfy stateside bidders and overseas customers simultaneously.

The solution: Cater to the largest audience. That is, if ever you find your goods are of particular appeal (and with greater earning potential) to customers elsewhere on the globe, position your auctions to end in the same manner previously discussed, yet adjusted for the appropriate global time zone.

You may even consider hosting concurrent auctions for the same items, with some timed to satisfy U.S. bidders, with others catered to offshore buyers. Thanks to eBay's scheduled listings feature, you can list your items at a time that best suits you, yet instruct eBay to launch them at a later time that best suits your customers. Keep in mind, eBay charges an additional fee for this convenience. However, some third-party listing services, such as Auctiva, provide scheduled listings for no additional charge.

A better way to do business

A smart auction timing strategy takes your customers' surfing, bidding and living habits into account. As you can see, it's relatively easy to accommodate bidders' schedules and locations. Some bidders even regard this as a heightened form of customer service, praising their favorite sellers for staging auctions that are easy to bid on, thanks to customer-considerate timing.

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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