Online or Offline Management

You may want to run your business from any computer, anywhere in the world. If that's the case, you might do best with an online service. But if you want to run your business from a fixed location, you might feel more comfortable with downloadable software that will handle most of the chores on your own computer.

Online auction management sites

Auction management Web sites handle almost everything, from inventory management to label printing. Some sellers prefer online (or hosted) management sites because you can access your information from any computer. You might use every feature a site offers, or you might choose a bit from column A and a bit from column B and perform the more personalized tasks manually. Read on to determine what service might best suit your needs.

Although quite a few excellent online services for automating sales are available, we have room here to show you only a few. Many services are similar in format, so in the following sections we point out some of the highlights of a few representative systems. Remember that by using an online service, your information resides on a server out there in cyberspace; if you're a control freak, it may be a bit much to bear.

When selecting a service, look for a logo or text indicating that the service is an eBay Certified Developer, Preferred Solution Provider, or API licensee. These people have first access to eBay's system changes and can implement them immediately. Others may have a day or so lag time to update their software.

ChannetAdVisor

ChannelAdvisor's founder Scot Wingo got into the auction business around the turn of the century. His first foray into the eBay world was AuctionRover, a site that had tools to perform an extensive eBay search, list auctions, and check pricing trends. The company's cute Rover logo was fashioned after Wingo's Border Collie, Mack.

Fast forward to today. ChannelAdvisor is a highly popular management service for all levels of eBay sellers. They supply listing and management services to everyone from Fortune 1000 companies to the little old lady next door. How? They offer three levels of software: Enterprise for large businesses who want to outsource their online business, Merchant for midsized businesses and higher-level PowerSellers, and Pro for small businesses and individuals. These powerful software suites help eBay sellers successfully manage and automate the sale of their merchandise.

Starting at the entry level, you can get the Pro version of ChannelAdvisor for $29.95 a month. Here's what they offer the beginning level seller:

0 Listing design and launching: Create your listings with their standard templates or use your own HTML to design auction descriptions. List your items immediately or schedule a listing. ChannelAdvisor will launch the auction when you tell them to.

Item and inventory management: If you want to keep your inventory online, you can create it on their system. If you want to input your inventory offline, you can import it from their Excel template. You can also import open auctions or store listings to your ChannelAdvisor account for relisting or servicing.

0 Image hosting: You get 250MB of space to host your images. You can upload images to the site four at a time, or use FTP to upload a large quantity.

Post-auction management: This function merges your winning auction information and generates customized e-mail and invoices to your buyers. You can print mailing labels too.

To tour the various offerings of ChannelAdvisor and find out about their free trial period, visit

www.channeladvisor.com

MarketWorks

A group of collectors who saw the need for power tools for PowerSellers developed this highly graphical site (www.MarketWorks.com). We think they've succeeded. (They were known in the eBay community as AuctionWorks, but changed their name in June 2004.) A high percentage of eBay PowerSellers use the site. They launch approximately two million listings on eBay every month. MarketWorks offers help links at every turn, a first-rate online tutorial, free tollfree support (that's a free phone call and free support), and free interactive training classes for registered users. Here are just a few features:

i Item and inventory management: Features the ClickLaunch Single Step Launcher, which launches individual items to auction while adding them to inventory. (The site also has bulk item-launching capability.) LaunchBots provides automated launching of your listings. You can import existing auctions from eBay and import them with their bulk inventory upload form in Excel and MS Access.

i Image hosting: Enables you to bulk upload 15 images at a time to their servers. The basic account allows 100MB of storage. If your images average 30K each, you should be able to upload almost 3500 images into the 100MB image hosting space.

i Auction reporting: Generates accounts receivable, item history, and post-sales reports from the Reports area. MarketWorks has its own Traction System for sales and item tracking. Reports include customizable views of your sales data; item and auction data; accounts receivable, and sales tax by state!

i Templates and listing: MarketWorks uses their own trademarked

Ballista template listing system. You can use their predefined color templates or use their macros with your own predefined HTML template, substituting the macros for stock areas in your template. By using their custom ad template option and well-thought-out macros, you can take your own HTML and make a MarketWorks template.

i Post-auction management: Sends out automated e-mail to your winners, linking them to your own branded checkout page. If customers want to pay with PayPal or your own merchant account, they have to link from there. MarketWorks combines multiple wins for shipping and invoicing. You have the option to set six different feedback comments, which you choose at the time of posting.

MarketWorks offers all their users a StoreFront with its own URL at no additional charge. If an item sells from your StoreFront, you pay the usual 2% commission. When you load items into inventory, you have the choice of immediately listing them in your StoreFront. All your items are seamlessly integrated. To get current information and sign up for a free trial, go to

www.MarketWorks.com

Dek AuctionManager

Dek was developed by eBay Titanium Power Seller David Hardin. Through his company's experience on eBay, he developed this service to fulfill all the needs of a high volume eBay seller, at a flat price of $50 a month.

^ Item and inventory management: Includes calendar- and time-based (dates and times for launching) auction scheduling, automated auction launching and relisting, the ability to import past or current auctions, and the ability to import auction data from a spreadsheet or database.

^ Image hosting: Offers space for storing pictures. You can upload bulk images to its Web site or FTP your images directly.

^ Auction reporting: Generates current running auction statistics — the total number and dollars of current and past auctions — and an itemized report of each auction.

^ Post-auction management: Allows you to send (manually or automatically) a variety of customized e-mails to winners and nonpaying bidders. Your invoices can link directly to PayPal.

The post-auction management features also include the capability to send automatic feedback — and to create mailing labels for each sale. If you want to make sure that feedback isn't posted until you're sure the transaction is successfully completed (wise move), you have the option of disabling the automatic feedback feature.

www.dekauctionmanager.com

Auction-management software

Many sellers prefer to run their auction businesses from their own computers. (Marsha happens to like the option of being able to reference old auctions on her backups.) Luckily, some valuable auction software programs are available to perform all the tasks you get from the online services. To those who would rather have the software at home, there are some solid choices other than the ones we examine in this section. You might also want to visit these other sites for their quality auction-management software.

You can accomplish almost all the same tasks on your own computer as you can with online services — except online auction checkout. (You can always use eBay's checkout as your final stop or include a link in your end-of-auction e-mail.) If you want, you can always set up a checkout page on your own Web site that gathers your auction information. If auction-management software sounds like the ticket to you, here's a quick tour of a few leading products.

Auction Wizard 2000

Way back in 1999, Standing Wave Software developed a product that would handle large inventories and meet the needs of the growing eBay population. Enter Auction Wizard. In 2000, the company introduced a more robust version, Auction Wizard 2000, to meet the challenges presented by changes happening on eBay itself.

This software is a tour-de-force of auction management, whose pieces are integrated into one program. Some of its special features enable you to i Handle consignment sales. Handy way to keep track of consignment sales by consignees, including all fees.

i Edit your images before uploading. The software allows you to import your images, and crop, rotate, or resize those images for your auctions.

i Upload your pictures with built-in FTP software while you're working on your auctions. This feature eliminates the need for another piece of auction-business software.

The program interface is straightforward. If you follow Marsha's style (always plunging into new programs without reading the instructions), we think you'll be able to use the program successfully right off the bat. It's okay if you don't make it do acrobatics in the first five minutes; Auction Wizard 2000 has so many features that not many sellers have time to study them all.

To begin using the software, simply download your current eBay auctions directly into the program. When your auctions close, send customized e-mails (the program fills in the auction information) and manage all your end-of-auction business. Some sellers launch their auctions using Turbo Lister, and then retrieve them and handle the end-of-auction management with Auction Wizard 2000. For a 60-day free trial, go to their site at

www.auctionwizard2000.com

eBay's Turbo Lister

We like Turbo Lister because it's simple and easy to use. It has a built-in WYSIWYG (what-you-see-is-what-you-get) HTML editor and makes preparing listings offline easy. So, when you're ready, you can just click a button and they're all listed at once. You can also stagger listings and schedule them to launch at a later date for a fee.

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