On eBay you run your auction for a specific duration. Currently, the options are 1, 3, 5, 7 or 10 days.
But which duration is best for your auction?
In this article, I'll give you some pointers designed to assist in answering the question.
You might wonder why you would ever wish to have less than the maximum exposure ie 10 days? Surely running your auction for the longest time would give bidders more opportunity, and therefore a higher sale price would result? Certainly eBay.com would appear to think so, as they currently charge a fee of $ 0.20 for the privilege of operating a 10 day auction.
However, if you have a very popular item or if you have many identical items to sell, it may pay you to have a shorter auction duration. Also, it pays to consider the end point of your auction very carefully. In addition, if you are running a Fixed Price Auction, there's a little trick you can employ to give you extra exposure.
So, let's review the elements to consider in the setting of your auction duration.
a) Start / end day of auction
In my experience, for most categories, the weekend is by far the busiest viewing period on eBay. I would estimate that around 50% of views of my auctions take place on Saturday and Sunday. In setting auction duration, therefore, the weekend peak could be important to your success.
If you can arrange to end an auction on Sunday night, you get the benefit of those who wait until the end of the auction to bid, plus the enhanced viewing traffic numbers which appear during the weekend.
This means if you're posting an auction on Tuesday night, a 5 day auction could be good.
Having said that the weekend is the busiest for most categories, some could benefit from a midweek closing date. Items in this category would include those in which goods are offered for business users.
If your item is targeted at businesses, you want people to bid for your item while they are at work. In these instances, make sure your auction covers working days, and concludes during work time. It has also been found that office equipment and supplies sell well in the morning.
Be conscious of the time when you post your auction, as this is the exact time it will finish a number of days ahead. There's potentially a great deal of difference between an auction closing at 10 o'clock on Sunday night, and 10 o'clock on Sunday morning. If you can pitch your auction to be the former, you could benefit significantly from those extra weekend viewers. (Note the section on Time Zones later.)
b) Known popularity of the item
If you know your item is very popular, and your past experience shows that you will always sell at or more than the price you want, even outside of normal peak periods, then a 1 or 3 day auction could be appropriate. The benefit of a 1 or 3 day sale is that you can sell more items, more quickly.
c) Awareness of eBay sort facilities after searching
Whenever eBay's search is used by an eBayer, the default is that it returns auction titles in the order of how long auctions have left to run. Auctions which have minutes, or seconds to run, will appear first in the returned list. Auctions which have 9+ days to run will be at the end. And the list may run to many, many pages.
Experience has shown that eBayers tend to look only at one or two pages in returned lists. This means it is important you get your auction onto these first two pages at some point in its life – another reason why a 1 or 3 day auction might be better than a 7 or 10 day duration.
Be aware too that a high proportion of bidding activity takes place towards the end of an auction. This is natural. Buyers are on the lookout for bargains. If they can nip in with a bid at the end of the auction, they might get the item at a good price and there may not be time for others to top their bid. (Buyers can also use "sniping" software, designed to place a bid at the latest possible time on auctions which are of interest to them.)
However, the searcher can easily re-order the returned titles list. A popular option is to re-order the list into "newly listed" sequence. The top of the list will now show auctions which have been newly added to eBay. This is why there is sometimes a blip of bidding activity at the beginning of an auction as well as at the end.
d) Time Zones
eBay's default is to commence your auction from the time you submit it. As you know, this means it will terminate at that exact time, the number of days ahead that you select as the duration. However, if you're offering your item internationally you should give consideration to the time zone you're aiming for in terms of auction finish point.
For example, in the USA half of all eBay members reside in the Eastern Time Zone. So an auction ending at 10pm Pacific Time is fine for west coast eBay members, but over on the east coast this is 1am! So you're effectively losing around 50% of potential bidders at a critical point in your auction.
eBay does provide an option whereby you can schedule your auction to commence at a specific time (and on another day). In fact you can set your auction to start at any time and day up to 21 days ahead. This means you can commence your auction according to the timing you believe will attract the most viewers. There is a small fee for using this feature.
This is a useful capability if you want to create your listings in advance, and then have them released onto eBay in a phased sequence.
e) Fixed Price auctions – Single Item
I mentioned a little trick earlier. Well, here it is. With a Fixed Price Auction for a single item you could consider managing your auction duration dynamically. You need to be monitoring your auctions closely ie throughout the day, to undertake this technique.
When bidders do a search on eBay, you know the auctions with the least amount of time left appear at the top of the returned list. So it is advantageous to keep the remaining time on your auction as short as possible. This is a way in which you get four bites of that cherry for a single listing fee.
1. Start your Fixed Price single item auction off with 1 day duration. Wait for someone to buy.
2. When the auction has just over 12 hours left, go in to the auction and revise the auction duration to 3 days. Yes, you can do this – as long as there is at least 12 hours left. Wait for someone to buy.
3. When the auction has just over 12 hours left, go in to the auction and revise the auction duration to 5 days. Wait for someone to buy.
4. When the auction has just over 12 hours left, go in to the auction and revise the auction duration to 7 days. Wait for someone to buy.
5. When the auction has just over 12 hours left, go in to the auction and revise the auction duration to 10 days. (Don't forget this will cost you a small fee on eBay.com) Wait for someone to buy.
6. The auction concludes naturally.
This might look complicated, but it isn't really once you get the hang of it. Of course, at any point during the above process someone could buy your item and your auction closes automatically. If you have another of the same or similar item to sell, you can re-list it.
f) Fixed Price auctions – Multiple Items
With a Fixed Price Auction for multiple items, I would recommend you set the auction duration to the maximum – 10 days, or 7 days if you're not prepared to absorb the extra fee on eBay.com.
When you have multiple items it is not advisable to use the ploy described above for Fixed Price single item auctions. This is because as soon as you receive a bid (in this case it would be a Fixed Price sale), you are unable to modify the auction duration even though you may have many of the multiple items still to sell.
If you sell all your items within your chosen 7 or 10 days, then the auction closes automatically anyway.
g) Value Based Formula
If you are happier using a value based formula in setting your auction duration, here is my rule of thumb for items that I have not tried to sell before:
Min Bid amounts Set Auction duration to
£ 5 - £ 25 ($ 10 - $ 50) 5 days
£ 25 - £ 100 ($ 50 - $ 200) 7 days
Over £ 100 (Over $ 200) 7 - 10 days
If you're selling items which from experience you know will definitely be bought at acceptable prices, then you can reduce the duration.
I hope this outline of selecting the best auction duration proves useful to you.