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Smart Tools for Listing Products What to know when to list something and how much to ask for it? Try these handy market research tools.

By Mark Henricks

entrepreneur daily

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

After collecting '60s music and memorabilia for threedecades, René Klaassen is using eBay to turn all thosememories into money. Key to his efforts are market research toolsthat help him determine what's likely to sell and for how much,what the best dates and times are to list certain items, and othervaluable information.

Case in point: a Pink Floyd 45 rpm record he recently decided topart with. "I didn't know what to expect," saysKlaassen of Los Angeles. "I was hoping for something in thehundred-dollar range." Typing "Pink Floyd" into amarket analysis tool from Terapeak revealed to Klaassen that Sundaylistings did better than Tuesday listings, listing an item at 10a.m. beat listing it at 5 p.m., and 10-day auction-style listingsfared better than those lasting only seven days.

Klaassen (eBay User ID: heineken) fine-tuned his listingaccordingly. The result: He sold the record for $285."It's quite nifty," Klaassen says of hismarket-research capabilities. "Rather than just grabbing an LPor 45 off the shelf [to sell], I immediately go to Terapeak andlook for sales history."

Similar market research tools, both from eBay itself and fromthird parties that license data on sales closed on eBay, can helpmany businesses on eBay outperform expectations. Victoria, BritishColumbia-based Terapeak starts with data licensed from eBay andallows sellers and buyers to conduct research such as looking backat completed items over extended periods of time to find pricetrends for specific products. "If you sell Nike Air Jordans oneBay, you can go to www.terapeak.com, type in 'Nike Air Jordans,'and find out how they have been doing [over] the past 30days," says Dave Popowich, Terapeak's marketingcoordinator. The online subscription service costs $16.95 per monthand provides trend data going back as far as a year in somecases.

HammerTap's DeepAnalysis market research software runs on auser's own PC. For $17.95 monthly or a $179.95 annual licensefee, HammerTap can do a number of powerful analyses, suchas studying how starting prices relate to bids and determiningwhich category is best for an item based on the number of bids orselling prices in different categories, says Jen Cano, director ofPR at the Orem, Utah, company.

Other popular research tools come from ándale, a MountainView, California, company whose products help eBay sellers identifywhat's been hot in the past six weeks, determine prevailingselling prices, count the number of sellers of specific items andmore. ándale's $7.95 per month Research tool even givesusers recommendations on such crucial criteria as the price,category, day and time for a given listing.

The new kid on the block is eBayMarketplace Research. John Bodine, eBay product marketingmanager, says, "Marketplace Research can help you understandsales and price trends within categories, as well as provideinsight into new products you may wish to source andsell."

Specifically, Marketplace Research provides consolidated metricson up to 90 days of completed listings. That's a considerableimprovement over the previously available eBay completed listingsinformation, which only showed 15 days' worth of data.

Marketplace Research allows for more sophisticated analyses oflong-term data. Users can, for instance, see how completed listingsof collectibles related to the Chicago White Sox Major LeagueBaseball team rose steadily until the end of the 2005 World Series,then, following the White Sox victory, fell sharply. Those kinds ofinsights can help a seller decide whether to sell White Sox-relatedproducts now.

Marketplace Research is priced in three tiers. Fast Pass isdesigned for the casual user, who will pay $2.99 for two days'worth of unlimited access to the subscription services. Fast Passusers can tap into 60 days of historical data and see an item'saverage sold price, sold price range, average Buy It Now price, BuyIt Now price range, last sold price, number of completed items andother metrics. Basic level, at $9.99 monthly, offers additionalmetrics, such as information on an item's start price range,number of successful sales and average shipping costs. Both theFast Pass and Basic packages allow users to save up to 10 searches.At $24.99 a month, Pro level allows users to search 90 days ofhistorical data, save up to 100 searches and research internationaldata. It also includes more charting options and advanced filters.All three provide information on the top searches performed bybuyers on the site.

The world of market research on eBay has come a long way in ashort time, and it's still evolving. One significant limitationis time. For example, eBay Marketplace Research is initiallylimiting its data to 90 days, Bodine says, in part because of themassive computing power required to analyze millions of dailylistings over a long period. However, given the annual cycles onwhich many businesses live and die, year-long market trends are ofvital interest.

Even with their limitations, market research tools are wellworth the cost to most sellers, who find that using them oftenresults in faster sales at higher prices. "Prior to Terapeak,I didn't have a way of seeing what the market could bear,"says Klaassen.

That cuts both ways, Bodine notes: Market research makes eBaymore useful for both vendors and purchasers. "Research beforeyou buy," he says, "and research before yousell."

Mark Henricks writes on business andtechnology for leading publications and is author of Not Just a Living.

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