eBay Auction vs. Buy-it-Now Options

The Disadvantages of One and the Benefits of the Other

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When eBay started back in 1995, the only way to sell an item was by auction. Now auctions are all but dead on eBay. Unless a seller is listing a rare or highly collectible item or offering something limited in number like event tickets, that format doesn't work like it used to.

Why Auctions Are Becoming a Thing of the Past

This diminishing popularity is largely due to the sense of urgency of buyers. They simply don't want to wait seven days for an auction to end. Buyers may need the item right away and if they can't get it on eBay quickly, they can go to Amazon and purchase it with the Prime membership and two-day guaranteed delivery. 

This is why eBay has moved more towards a retail-style, "buy it now" fixed-price format. eBay also encourages sellers to offer free shipping and the company has added a money-back guarantee to compete with Amazon's liberal return policy. 

Other Disadvantages of Auctions

The immediacy of delivery for buyers is just one reason that auctions are less preferred to fixed-price listings. For sellers, auctions present even more drawbacks, while fixed-price listings have a number of distinctive advantages.

  • Lack of Indexing on Google: For sellers who run their eBay store like a brick and mortar establishment where inventory is for sale all the time, indexing on Google is a good thing. But, auctions aren't live long enough for that to happen. Auctions run in durations of three, five, seven or 10 days, and it usually takes 30 days for something to start showing up on Google.
  • Limited Visibility: Auctions don't reach a large number of people like a fixed-price listing would over a period of time. The right person might not see the item while the auction is live. The odds of an item selling are greatly increased when the duration of the listing is longer. 
  • Lack of Automation: Auctions have to be managed. If an item is unsold, the seller has to decide what to do with it—leave it in unsold item folder, re-list it, or discard it. While there are some automation preferences for managing auctions, they are generally a time suck to manage. 
  • Slow Payment: Auction buyers can take their time to pay, up to four days. Likewise, if buyers bid on multiple items from the same seller and want a combined invoice, the seller must wait until all auctions are over to send an invoice to the buyer for final payment. 

Advantages of Fixed Price Listings

Fixed price listings are the same as an in-stock retail item that can be purchased immediately, shipped quickly, and there is no price haggling. This option is attractive to buyers because of the speed of delivery, and it's attractive to sellers for these reasons:

  • More Automation: Fixed-price listings are like inventory at a traditional retail store in that everything is for sale all the time. When a seller has an eBay store, they can use a feature called Good Til Canceled (GTC). With this feature, items renew automatically every 30 days. This makes managing a store easier. Listings can be tweaked with the Bulk Editor, so making global changes to listings is easy and fast.
  • Best Offer Feature: With fixed-price listings, sellers can enable the Best Offer Feature so shoppers can submit offers for the seller's consideration. The seller has full control to accept, decline, or counter the offer. Best Offer empowers buyers to start a conversation with the seller and negotiate.
  • Markdown Manager: This feature gives sellers the ability to run sales. Sellers can markdown items in a category or with a keyword by a certain percentage. Markdown Manager can accommodate 200 listings at a time.
  • Immediate Payment: Non-Paying bidders are the biggest hassle with auctions. Fixed Price and GTC can include the immediate payment feature. A buyer can click on the Buy It Now button, but the item will stay available for someone else to purchase until payment is issued. If the item sells on Best Offer, the immediate payment option goes away.