Education & Training

Before the Auction: Controlling Costs

by Dennis Prince

Though many sellers feel they are at the mercy of auction venues and the expenses that come with doing business there, it might be comforting to know that many auction-related costs can be reduced and managed with a bit of foresight and careful planning. If you feel your profits are starting to slip away, consider these tips about the fees you pay and how to keep them under control to the benefit of your business' bottom line.

The Fees That You Need

Be realistic--you will pay some sort of listing fee if you intend to sell at a decent site and with the aid of decent tools. The free auction sites (there are few to be found these days; even Yahoo Auctions started charging listing fees) often don't have the necessary number of bidders that will translate into the level of sales you likely seek. Running auctions at sites with little traffic and few bids might save you a few bucks in listing fees, but in the end it might cost you far more in lost opportunity and time wasted.

And while many argue that fee-based sites are getting rich because of their tariffs, the money you pay provides the needed capital to fund useful features, infrastructure, and user services and tools. As the venues grow, they need to reinvest to ensure they can satisfy the needs and wants of the more sophisticated online seller. The listing and usage fees wind up being a small price to pay for the ability to list, sell, and collect at active sites, while advanced methods and tools will save you time, effort, and, yes, money in the long run.

Little Pluses = Big Minuses

But there is a lot of fluff out there and you can cut costs by carefully selecting which features and services you'll use in your listings. In fact, after doing some research and investigating, you might find that although some adornments and extras add plenty of eye-candy, they also might offer little true return on the investment.

Cast a frugal eye on these questionable, and often costly, listing enhancements:

Title Enhancements: Be it bold, highlighted, or whatever, few bidders really pay much attention to the visual style of your product's title. Save a buck and make conservative use of capital lettering (not exclusively, though) to highlight the key element of your title. Make sure you use plenty of good "hit words" since most products are found via keyword searches.

Special Icons: Whether it's a birthday cake, a Christmas tree, or a firecracker, when it comes to added title icons who cares? When did you last leap at a product because of the cutesy little GIF that accompanied it? Again, save the buck.

Home Page Featured Placement: This is one of the most expensive listing options out there and, unless you've got a product that will gain you thousands of dollars in high bids or if you're continually selling a product in volume, it's best to bypass this one if you're trying to cut costs. Again, it's typically the keywords that get noticed, not the site real estate where your product is listed. Also, some auction sites allow you to bid for featured placement on category pages, which is a much better value.

Cross-Category Listing: This is a newer feature you'll find, and the jury's still out whether the double fee you'll pay ultimately will pay off. However, didn't you do just as well listing in the category where most similar products were to be found? If so, why change your strategy now and why pay twice the fees?

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