As a Web-enabled travel agent, online auctions offer an opportunity
to promote your business in a new venue and market to an entirely
different customer base.
Granted, such sites are not the best places to try to market
your highest-margin movers. But they do offer an opportunity to
unload slower-moving, slim-margin offerings while simultaneously
gaining exposure for your own business Web site.
If you’re making your first foray into online auctions, you’ll
find much of the pioneering groundwork has already be done for
On any given day, there are now more than 12 million items in
more than 18,000 categories up for auction on eBay alone the
largest online auction site on the Web according to Kevin
Pursglove, an eBay spokesman.
EBay’s market site alone registered $14.87 billion in gross
merchandise sales for last year.
And not surprisingly, the travel industry is already
well-represented on such services. A recent search of eBay, for
example, revealed 1,299 offerings under the keyword “travel
agency,” and nearly 28,000 offerings under the keyword
Some in the industry who’ve already made the leap to auctions
include All of Us Travel, which offers cruises and travel insurance
on eBay, as does ATN International Cruises and GTS Cruisequest, a
division of Gayety Travel Service.
Meanwhile, TimeshareBiz regularly offers timeshare auctions, as
does BidTime Sales, a division of RCI, a Cendant company.
“Online auctions are the hottest emerging trend in dynamic
pricing,” says Dennis L. Prince, an online auction analyst and
author of Official Guide to Online Buying and Selling, published by
Course Technology (www.course.com). “People drop by to see what’s
happening, and bid, bid, bid.”
The auctions have also orchestrated an unintended side-effect:
Many consumers who previously may have felt uncomfortable making
online purchases have been converted to the online buying
experience after participating in online auctions.
The reason: Many auction sites keep a running history of
customer comments on the sellers’ performance. Indeed, some
mega-sellers on eBay receive written endorsements from satisfied
buyers records that sellers in the brick-and-mortar world would be
hard-pressed to replicate.
Of course, as with most business transactions, things can get
ugly fairly quickly if there are unscrupulous buyers or sellers.
Ditto for buyers and sellers who don’t understand how the auction
works, or don’t communicate well in an online environment.
So if you’re looking to make the plunge into online auctioning,
you’ll want to know your way around before you get in too deep.
Generally, offering your own items and services for auction on
services like eBay requires all of the same best practices that any
decent seller cultivates in the brick-and-mortar world.
First and foremost: Be sure to turn around a response to every
e-mail within 24 hours. Sometimes bidders who ask questions are
testing the water. “Your responses beckon, ‘Come on in, the water’s
fine,’ “ says Prince.
And, as in the brick-and-mortar world, you’ll want to clearly
state the terms of the sale, including your policy regarding
returns and the rate you’ll charge if any shipping is involved.
A hint on shipping: You can save a number of superfluous e-mails
about shipping costs by posting the shipping dimensions and weight
of your item, and then offering links to the shippers available
such as United Parcel Service (www.ups.com) and the U.S Postal
Potential buyers can calculate the exact shipping costs by
entering your ZIP code and theirs.
Of course, if you’d rather not sweat the cyber-details, some
online auction sites including eBay offer the services of
independent agents who will handle all the particulars for you.
For a model of how such services work, check eBay.com’s Trading
Once you’ve gotten the hang of online auctioning, you also may
want to use such services to find your own bargains.
If there’s any negative feedback posted against a seller on the
site, you’ll want to ask for an explanation, Prince says.
Inevitably, high-volume sellers will most likely encounter a
percentage of negative comments but be wary of any seller that
generates a pattern of negative feedback over time, Prince
Meanwhile, you’ll also want to stay on the lookout for bid
shilling, or the placement of bogus bids by the seller in an effort
to drive up an item’s price.
You can minimize your exposure tactics by watching for recurring
user IDs that are used to place bids on several auctions run by the
same seller, Prince says. Also, monitor recurring patterns in which
the same bidder or bidders place last-minute bids with auctions run
by the same seller.
Ultimately, both as a seller or buyer, you’ll find that online
auctions are a tool of competitive advantage that are well worth
the time and effort to add to your Web arsenal.
Making Markets: How Firms Can Design and Profit From Online
Auctions and Exchanges, by Ajit Kambil and Eric Van Heck, published
by Harvard Business School Press (www.hbsp.harvard.edu).
The Auction App: How Companies Can Tap The Power of Online
Auctions To Maximize Revenue Growth, by Leland Harden and Bob
Heyman, published by New Riders (www.newriders.com).
Official Guide to Online Buying and Selling, by Dennis L.
Prince, published by Course Technology (www.course.com).
Starting An Ebay Business For Dummies, by Marsha Collier,
published by John Wiley & Sons (www.wiley.com).
Online Auctions Network,an online auctions directory and
meta-search engine that searches for auction sites based on product
category and offers special tracking of auction sites featuring
computer equipment (www.online-auctions.net