Thursday, March 25, 2010

Interesting eBay dynamics

I recently made a little purchase from eBay.

Before I did it, I watched some of these sell on eBay.  It's interesting... these things retail for $259 from Amazon today.  The shipping is free too.  But they used to be $359, then they were $299.  Some people obviously bought theirs at the previous prices, because they're listing them on eBay for way more than $259.  Why anyone would pay MORE to get a product from eBay than they would to get the new one from Amazon is beyond me.

Then, as I watched a couple of auctions for the reasonably priced ones, I noticed that the auctions that closed earlier in the evening would have a lot of competitive bidding at the end that drove the price up by sometimes more than $15.00 in the last 5 minutes of the auction.  The ones that closed later (Pacific time) had fewer late bids so the final prices were lower.

I also noticed that some people charged shipping, while others didn't.  But, the final bids seemed not to account for shipping at all.  People would bid up to $240ish, which might have been an okay deal if the shipping was free.  But with shipping at $13, it's no deal at all.  For a few more dollars, they could have gotten a new one from Amazon.  Either people can't do math, or they get caught up in the emotion of trying to beat everyone else and lose all sense of reason.

Granted I picked one product and only watched it sell for only a few days.  My research is nowhere near conclusive.  But it seems like if you're going to sell something on eBay your best strategy would be to:
  1. Be aware of what time your auction will end.  Specifically, you probably want folks in the Eastern time zone to be at home and still awake when it ends in order to maximize your bidders nationwide.
  2. Separate your shipping fee.  Don't offer free shipping.  People apparently can't do math - they just bid on the product and think of shipping costs as an afterthought.
  3. Include a real blurb about the specific item the buyer will receive.  So many people just use stock photos and copy-and-paste product descriptions.  People know they're buying used, so they want to know about the minor scuff mark on the back, or that the product comes in the original packaging.  The stuff that seemed like it was being sold by a real person received the most bids.  30-50 in some cases.  The auctions that were not unique with rubber stamp photos and descriptions would get 9-15 bids.
 Once my Kindle 2 arrives, I'll have to post a review.  It was a tight race between it and the smaller, sleeker, but less featureful Sony PRS-300.