Education & Training

Before the Auction: Building Feedback

One of the most common pieces of advice for online auction newbies is to avoid doing business with users who have little or no feedback. Feedback, after all, is how buyers and sellers rate one another and determine whether they want to conduct a transaction with a particular user--think of it as the checks-and-balance system of online auctions. But there's a bit of a catch-22 here: As a new seller, how can you amass feedback when people are less likely to bid on auctions from sellers lacking feedback? So what should you do if you're a new seller looking to get your feet wet in the online auction world? Read on for advice on building feedback as well as how to develop buyer trust.

Buy First, Sell Later

Feedback is like a resume -- it's the first impression a seller makes on a buyer. That said, the simplest way to avoid listing a product and having to endure the scarlet letter of a goose egg next to your username is to become a buyer first. When you settle on your auction site of choice, go ahead and place some bids and make a few purchases; then leave your feedback, and, hopefully, the sellers will reciprocate and leave you feedback as well. That way, even though the feedback relates to your buying activities, your potential buyers will at least know they're dealing with someone who followed through with multiple transactions and can be trusted.

Up Close and Personal

Once you take the plunge and start listing auctions, there are some other things you can do that won't actually increase your feedback but will assuage fears and hesitations that buyers might have about bidding on products from a seller with little or no feedback. Consider putting together a personal or AboutMe-style page. Basically, you want buyers to become familiar--and comfortable--with who you are and how you present yourself as a seller. Personal pages offer a glimpse of the "face" behind the auction.

Work extra hard to let buyers know that you're a seller they'll want to do business with. Respond to emails quickly and always be forthcoming with information and help. Offer perks, such as free shipping or an additional product, to lure in possibly reluctant bidders. Sometimes that little extra incentive is enough for a buyer to get over any reservations he or she might have about your lack of feedback. Be specific on shipping and auction terms, be flexible with your payment options and time-frame expectations, and write engaging and accurate auction titles and descriptions. In short, do all the things that a good seller should do. But in the beginning it's especially crucial to establish your professionalism. This will help bidders get over their understandable concerns about buying from an unrated or low-rated seller. You don't have a past record to lean on, but you certainly can prove to buyers that they're dealing with a top-notch, albeit beginning, seller.

The Don'ts

When it comes to building feedback, there are some dishonest tactics that you'll definitely want to avoid--namely, feedback shilling and feedback padding, both of which involve the posting of false feedback to inflate a user's feedback rating. Don't obtain multiple IDs and post feedback for yourself, and don't ask friends or associates to leave you fraudulent feedback (in response to this problem, many sites allow transaction-based feedback only). These are major no-nos, and if you engage in such practices, you'll get feedback all right--but it will be of the negative variety. Worse, if caught you could face expulsion from the auction site.

Don't feel like you have to resort to such dastardly tactics--you don't, even though the situation might seem to call for drastic measures. Yes, it will take a while to build up your feedback record legitimately, but realize that it's just part of the process that all newbies must go through--we've all been there before. Be patient. At some point in time, every seller had to start with a 0 feedback rating.