Education & Training

Before the Auction: Selling for the Holidays

by Dennis Prince

Before you've even had a chance to carve up your jack-o'-lantern, the yuletide season already has arrived. Retailers look to the holiday season as their big time to make big sales, and usually roll out every hook and gimmick to get you into the spirit of giving...and buying. Though you may not yet have pulled out your plastic Saint Nicholas and eight "tinny" reindeer, now is the time to try some seasonal sales strategies. Here are some ideas on how to entice merry holiday bidders, bring smiles to your customers' faces, and ring up some tidings of great profit for yourself.

Do You See What I See?

A real key to holiday auction success is offering the products people want most but can't often find. Do your usual market research, trolling the auction sites to find out if what you'll offer is plentiful or plenty scarce. Remember that quality, condition, and completeness become ever so critical to hooking the holiday hunters. If you see other products like yours, but yours is clearly superior in condition and completeness, it probably will 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 seemingly plentiful in the auction venues, you'll be in competition with the other sellers to catch the bidders' attention. In these situations, you'll do well to lower your opening bid price and forego the reserve price option. If you've done your research well, you'll know what your product is worth and that bidders can be trusted to bring you a fair price. Bidders will be looking for a potential bargain, though most hot products with low opening bids often soar past those that have high opening bids or seemingly unreachable reserve prices. Try to resist listing a high opening bid or reserve price that could telegraph to bidders that the eventual price of your product might exceed their holiday budget.

Timings of Great Joy

Never is timing of such importance to auction sellers than during the holiday season--that's because timing is of critical importance to bidders this time of year. Bidders are looking for and bidding on products that can be won, paid for, and delivered in plenty of time before the big holiday arrives. Sellers can do well to foresee the shoppers' mire and take steps to make their potential win a smooth and easy task.

Every year folks shop and bid earlier and earlier in an effort to get the "work" of the holiday season out of the way. Shoppers already have mobilized in hopes of beating the crowds and finding the products they want most. If you have the goods that folks are clamoring for, get them listed now. Shoppers want to finish their buying quickly, and, if you wait too long, many of your potential bidders might already have completed their shopping tour of duty, leaving you with a potential decrease in bids.

Next, consider the day and time your auction will close. The holidays are a hectic time for most treasure hunters, and many will appreciate auctions that end at a reasonable hour (around 6 p.m. or 7 p.m. PT). Weekends are still the best days to end auctions, but remember that Sundays will find more and more potential bidders attending additional church and seasonal functions.

Lastly, don't forget to consider the duration of your auction. Though seven-day auctions often are most popular year-round, three- and five-day auctions become increasingly enticing to bidders during the holiday season. A shorter auction spells a quicker transaction and another checkmark of success on a winning bidder's shopping list. This is especially applicable in the last couple of weeks before the holiday arrives.

Oh Come, All Ye Bidders

If you give your product a clear and descriptive title, you'll likely find more bidders visiting your auction's doorstep. Bidder-shoppers often are looking for specific products--give them specific product titles that describe the product by name, color, style, or whatever. Try to use as many keywords that will show up in as many search "hits" as possible. Leave out useless tags like "hard to find," "L@@K," "great gift," or other such meaningless additions. If you have what bidders want, they'll already know how hard to find it is or what sort of gift it might make. Give them more definitive information up front and you'll find that more of them will give your auction a closer look. And, if you already have a great description and still have room in your product's title, squeeze in whether yours is a three- or five-day auction (if that's the route you choose). This is an immediate enticement to bidders who are running out of shopping days.

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