Most of us put a lot of thought into the titles for our eBay auction listings. After all, the title is usually the first thing potential bidders see. But the browsing buyer doesn't always parse what's in the title, especially when she's been scanning lists of auctions for an hour. Sometimes not even the most attention-getting words or phrases will arrest the eyes of a weary or distracted searcher.
Fortunately, there is another element of listings that buyers see at the same time as the title, and it can be more attention-getting than the title. I refer to the opening bid. Numbers, especially numbers preceded by a currency sign, can draw the eye faster than text. And numbers are faster and easier to comprehend.
The obvious way to get attention with your opening bid is to make it outrageously low. Perhaps $0.01. (This assumes that you aren't trying to insure yourself against a low bid by adding a $20 handling charge to, say, a small item that costs only $2 to mail.) There's nothing like a leading zero to make the scanner pause. However, a lot of people use this trick, perhaps so many that it's not as effective as it once was. The same is true of $0.99, which to the seller is the same as one dollar, while supposedly fooling the buyer into thinking it's much less.
But you can still play around with prices for effect. Try jarring buyers' eyes with some unexpected numbers in an opening bid, like $0.43 or $0.37. Since a low opening bid is in effect a token bid, $0.43 or $0.37 is the same as $0.01 from the seller's perspective. But either of these is new, or at least different, to buyers - different enough to make them notice.
Odd numbers in higher opening bids can get attention, too: $7.38 rather than $7.50, for example. Because of the retail pricing structures we all grew up with, most of us have a tendency to use -49, -50, -95, -97, -98, or -99 when we set a dollar fraction in a bid, so any number other than those is likely to stand out.
If your opening bid strategy turns out to be ineffective and you have no bids after two or three days, don't despair. You can use price changes to get buyer attention. Try lowering the minimum bid (or Buy it Now price) by a few cents, or maybe a dollar or two. When a buyer encounters your listing for the third day in a row, he will be less likely scan on past it if it has a different bid.
You can use this tactic alone, or in conjunction with altering the listing title. It can be particularly effective when people have your auction on their watch lists. A new price may jar them into going ahead with a bid, especially if the decrease is significant. This may lead to a cascade of bidding as other watchers see that they may lose their chance at the item.
Lowering your minimum bid repeatedly may also generate some excitement, especially if you note in your auction description and/or title that you will be dropping the minimum daily. Lower the amount in small increments. Doing the same thing with a fixed-price or Buy it Now listing can prompt buyers to jump in and grab the item before someone else gets the sudden bargain.
Alternatively, you can raise the minimum bid. As with lowering the amount, the number change can catch the eye. There may also be a psychological effect; sometimes people think that a higher price means greater value.