Monday, April 14, 2008

Ebay Selling Strategies - React or The Long Tail

So many in-hands ... so little time to figure out which ones will give you maximum profits. By the time the card is ready for delivery, the player's "it" factor has died down, it's that player's off-season and you'll be selling in a buyer's market.

So what's the point? Why bother? Keep your cards in a monster box under your bed for x months before the season starts again, right? Nothing will sell. Waste of money with all those listing fees, right?

This is exactly what your competition wants you to think: inside the box.

The famous writer James Joyce was once asked what it takes to be a writer. He said exile, patience and cunning.

If you have the latter two, you will find a way out of this box.

Some of the easy ways of knowing on-line what to sell when are:
  • ebay's completed listings search engine - here you get a good idea of what's selling over the past two weeks. But remember, just because it's not listed doesn't mean it won't sell. If you find listings that didn't sell of the card you want to list, look at these listings and look at each one to see why they didn't sell - poor listing quality, low seller feedback rating, etc.
  •'s home page - they list the top ten selling players in the sports card industry. It changes each week and will give you an idea of who is selling. Of course not all of those players will be what you can sell but it is a good starting-off point.
  • Read other message boards, get outside the etopps bubble and see what is selling.
  • Follow the sports of the players you have in-hands. How well are they performing? Pick the best three and see if they sell.
  • Significant event - Is someone breaking a record? Track that player and list when they are about to break it. The more significant the record the better(...unless they are alleged to be using steroids!). Also if a player is retiring, watch their cards spike. We saw this recently with Brett Favre cards.
  • Playoffs & Finals - a player's performance will get more recognition and interest can peak for a player depending on how well they do. The MVP of a Sports' Finals is a sure-thing when it comes to selling their card as well as players who will awards for their performance.
  • Follow the Hype machine - especially before a season of a sport begins, there's focus on who can/will be good in the upcoming season.
All of these ways have one thing in common: you are reacting to what the latest demand is. If you time your core listings right, you can do well but if you miss, you can see listing fees go up without anything to counter them. While watching the Super Bowl in 2005, for instance, I sold a bunch of Steelers in-hands during the fourth quarter and right after the game.

Another approach to take I call the low road: set up a wide enough net to appeal to just about anyone interested in the sports that you are selling cards.

In my ebay store, for instance, I have set up categories for each team in baseball and football so the buyer can easily maneuver through the left-side navigation area to find cards of their favorite team.

While the low road will cost more up-front to get a net as wide as you want, you will not need as much energy to keep up with all the trends going on in sports and sports collecting. Since etopps cards in-port are mostly cheap between 2002-2005, you can cast a very wide net to cover fan favorites of these years. You may not get many sales of one particular card but you can get accumulate sales from many different cards over time. In e-commerce, this is referred to as "The Long Tail." (click this term for the wikipedia explanation)

This is a lot easier with an ebay store now that ebay charges 3 cents per listing.

Probably the best way of selling in-hands is a combination of these two strategies.

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