Should I sell my items as an auction on eBay? Or as a Buy It Now listing? This is the most common question I am asked routinely by both new and longtime resellers alike. It may seem like a very simple question with an easy answer, but that, unfortunately, is not the case.
Some items will always sell best as an auction, while others will do far better as a Buy It Now format or a fixed price listing, as eBay calls them. There are, of course, other factors that must be considered, such as the value, scarcity, and overall demand of the items in question. Both formats have their own usefulness and can be effective tools when used properly. It will all come down to what you are selling, more so than anything else.
Prior to a decade or so ago, the only option that was available was an auction format. For the first ten or fifteen years of my reselling life, auctions ruled the reseller world. The Buy It Now format, or BIN for short, is a relatively new feature in reselling. When eBay first introduced the BIN format, many people were very reluctant to dive in, having seen so much success from running auctions for so long.
Auctions were also entertaining and a thrill for both the buyer and seller back in those days. Everyone loved watching the prices climb over the life of the auction. The potential buyer would be watching the auction all week long in anticipation, and in hopes of being the winner.
The seller, alike, would be fixated on their computer screens watching its progress throughout the week, but it was the last 30 seconds of the auction that was the most exciting. That is when all the action would start to happen. The last ten seconds of most auctions was purely exhilarating (most of the time) with many items shooting up hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars in just those last few seconds.
But times have drastically changed and so has the want and need to get your purchased items more quickly. Most buyers want their items now and not later. Waiting a week or more for an auction to end is just far too long to wait for most potential buyers.
So it all will come down to what you are selling. No one wants to wait a week for a hand-towel auction to end just to know if you won it or not, and then being forced to wait another week for it to show up in the mail. The reason someone is buying those items online is usually to save money, but they also want them right away. The buyer must weigh his savings versus the length of time it will take to get the item.
I would suggest you ask yourself a simple question when deciding on a format: Can I buy this item easily right now, locally? If the answer is yes, then I will almost always list that item as a BIN. Most household items, such as pots, pans, kitchen utensils, towels, socks, and batteries are good examples of those sorts of items.
I personally use the BIN format for the vast majority of my more common and lesser valued items. You can easily determine which option is best by digging through Terapeak, which is now a free tool available to all resellers on eBay. As eBay describes it, “Terapeak Product Research uses recent eBay supply, demand, and pricing data to help you determine what to sell, when to sell it, and at what price” and is available under the “Research” tab in Seller Hub.
With Terapeak, you can sort by format, and easily see which option has the best success rate. You can also see which option will give you the highest return on your item.
In most cases, I have found that the items we routinely sell will almost always sell higher as a BIN than as an auction listing. Many times, a BIN listing can sell for 20%, 30% or even more than what an auction listing may sell for. The data also shows that BINs are the vast majority of all sold listings in most categories on eBay, even though both options can be freely used equally.
You can also add a Best Offer option to you BIN listings, which gives a potential buyer an option to make the seller an offer on that item. A large portion of all items I have sold were sold with the Best Offer option, either as an offer from a potential buyer or as an offer I sent out to watcher on one of my listed items.
Another factor is the length of time a BIN runs versus how long an auction can run for. A BIN will automatically run for 30 days, and will automatically renew until it sells, or you end the listing. An auction, on the other hand, will only run for up to 10 days at a time, and would need to be manually relisted by the seller.
So, the length of time a listing is up can play a big part in how much you sell an item for. If you list an item as a seven-day auction, only those potential buyers who happen to see your item in those seven days can bid on the item. But, if you run the item as a BIN, it will be visible to everyone until it is sold. A BIN listing can be live for years, while an auction is very limited, but both take the same amount of effort and time to photograph, and list.
On the other hand, auctions can be a great tool to sell rare or scarce items for the highest ROI (Return On your Investment). If the supply of an item is very low but there is a large group of people wanting that specific item, many times it will sell far higher running it as an auction rather than a BIN.
A signed first edition of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein from 1818 would be a good example of this. It is so rare and sought after that, even if you were to list it for a one-day auction, it would still sell for a phenomenal price, due to the demand of the book in the collectors’ market.
Besides the rare and in-demand items, I also use the auction format to liquidate some items that have been up for a very long time, and that aren’t worth a lot of money to begin with. I have found that the auction format works for these items because it creates a sense of urgency for the buyer. The buyer will only have a limited time to bid on the item. These sorts of items are usually priced to liquidate as well, which gives me a higher sell through rate when using the auction format in this manner.
While the Buy It Now option is by far my favorite, and what I recommend most of the time, I do still routinely use and recommend the auction format for many specific types of items. But, as long as you are doing your research, you should be able to effectively use both formats to advance your business, and to maximize your profits.