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Merchant News from TIAS.com for May 16, 2007
Merchant News from TIAS.com for May 16, 2007
In this issue
1. What's happening with online sales of antiques and collectibles?
2. So what do you do when sales get slow?
1) What's happening with online sales of antiques and collectibles?
For the past 12 years, as one of the founders of TIAS.com Inc, I've had the unique opportunity to closely follow sales trends from hundreds of online antiques and collectibles shops as well as track eBay sales. I've seen average sales prices for antiques and collectibles drop on eBay as well as the fixed price stores that sell online.
In the beginning of the dot com era there was a gold rush mentality for sellers of antiques and collectibles. You could rip a vintage ad out of an old LIFE magazine, stick it in a frame and sell it on eBay for $30. Sellers with dreams of easy money, rushed to eBay and other Internet venues and flooded the on-line market with merchandise. Prices on many common antiques and collectibles plummeted as millions of items hit the market. Today on eBay, you would be lucky to get $3 for that same framed ad.
From a buyers point of view, it was faster and easier for them to find what they were looking for online. In just a few seconds an online buyer could search through thousands of items from hundreds of different merchants. The result was that brick and mortar merchants suffered. Over the past 12 years, many brick and mortar malls, shops and antique shows went out of business.
As prices dropped online, the margin for profit also dropped. Many online sellers from the early "Gold Rush" days are now gone.What we have been seeing over the past two years is the emergence of a more savvy and efficient online seller. Instead of just selling on eBay, it is now quite common for an online dealer to have several stores in different locations on the Web. In many cases, the dealer does not list on eBay at all, because the profit margins are no longer high enough to warrant the effort.
As the "easy money" in selling antiques and collectibles online has disappeared, sellers no longer have the incentive to flood the online market with merchandise so prices are no longer dropping. In my opinion, after 12 years of massive fluctuations, online prices and sales have started to stabilize.
What we will now see for the first time is a mature online market for antiques and collectibles. I'm looking forward to seeing how dealers adapt to this new "mature" market over the next 12 years.
How do you feel dealers will adapt? Drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
2) So what do you do when sales get slow?
Here are some ideas to help you improve your online sales. As we move into the spring and then the summer, online sales slow down, because people are doing things away from their computers. Earlier this year we published a list of marketing ideas. By popular demand, here they are again. Most of these are free or inexpensive. Your cost for most of them is just taking the time to implement them. They are in no particular order. Pick and choose what you think will work for you.
1. MSN, Yahoo, Google and AdBrite all offer Cost Per Click (CPC) advertising programs. What this means is that each time someone clicks on your ad on their ad network, money is deducted from your advertising account with their company. We've experimented with these programs quite a bit over the years and they don't work for our mall because we have to use general terms for the broad categories of merchandise that we sell. These general terms don't convert to sales.
However, if you specialize in a specific category of merchandise, you might want to try running ads for very specific terms related to your merchandise. Some of our merchants have mentioned that they have better sales conversion from cpc ads that are very specific, to the point of almost advertising an item in their store. Buying broad terms like "Antiques" is a waste of money, but something like " Allertons Blue Willow Cup and Saucer" might generate some sales.
3. Are you an expert in regard to what you sell on your Web site? Then write about what you know and post it online with links back to your store. This could be in the form of a Wikipedia article, Blog, or press releases about your special topic.
a) Wikipedia is located at
. Marketing hype is completely unacceptable on this site, but you can use your article to link to examples on your Web site. In general Wikipedia articles seem to get great placement in the search engines.
b) There are lots of blogging sites. One of the most popular is
. Start a blog about a topic related to your Web site.
c) For press releases there are a large number of free press release distribution sites. A site that specializes in the antiques and collectibles trade is
. Other sites include:
Just use the free press release distribution at these services. You can give the same press releases to each one as well, which will save you a great deal of time. Remember to keep the press release in an editorial style that is interesting to read. Don't fill it with marketing hype like you are trying to sell the reader something, it won't get read. These press releases do get picked up by other Web sites as well as Google news. They have a long term benefit of pushing up your Page Rank in the search engines.
An additional advantage of these non commercial articles is that you can post links to them on sites like the eBay forums and other commercial sites that would not usually allow you to post commercial copy online. Lets say you do an article on McCoy pottery that contains links to several examples on your Web site. You could probably post a link to that article on the eBay glass and pottery board without a problem.
4. We do sell display ads on the TIAS home page as well as the showcase section if you are looking for additional traffic. Several TIAS merchants have taken advantage of this feature over the past few years. It's quite affordable and are rates are much lower than most of the search engine ad programs.
5. Publish your own newsletter. A weekly or monthly newsletter of information related to the merchandise you sell on your Web site. You can build your mailing list based on your previous customers. Aslo encorage visitors to your Web site to subscribe to your free newsletter.
6. Link exchanges do work, but you have to spend the time finding good prospects to exchange with. I also find that calling people or mailing them a letter rather than sending them an email request for an exchange is much more effective. When looking for link exchange prospects, use keywords searches on google, MSN and Yahoo! that pertain to your Web site. You'll probably have more luck with sites that are non commercial than sites that compete directly with you. In some cases it may be worthwhile paying for the link.
7. Keep your inventory fresh. If you want people to return to your site, add fresh inventory and keep your older inventory new by lowering prices, adding new photos and updating descriptions. The most common complaint we get from customers over the past 12 years has been that items that have been sold are still listed on the Web site. As soon as you sell an item, remove it from your inventory as soon as you possibly can. When customers feel that your inventory is constantly being refreshed and up to date, they will keep coming back to check on the latest items you are offering. If you don't refresh your site, there is no reason for them to come back.
8. Good photographs and good descriptions. Your photos need to be in focus, well lit and the object in the photo needs to fill the entire frame. More help on taking photos can be viewed here
Your descriptions need to be complete and well written. For more information on writing descriptions, go to
Most buyers finds your merchandise based on your description. The more detail you give, the better your chances are of finding the right buyer.
9. Craigs list. Several sellers have been using this venue to help drive sales to their Web site. You need to be very careful about how you promote your site using Craig's list or you might end up getting your listing removed. Pick a few major cities to list representative samples of your inventory, then use those listing to drive traffic back to your Web site.
10. When you post to boards and forums, use a signature file that gives info about your Web site or links back to your Web site.
11. If you have sold, are selling or are about to sell an unusual item, let the media know. The antique and collectible trade publications love this stuff, but the business section of your local paper is probably going to be interested as well. The only way they are going to find out about it though is if you tell them. In addition to contacting them directly, don't forget to publish a press release as well. See #3.
12. eBay as a marketing tool. If you sell on eBay, don't forget to have an "About Me" page. You can place prominent links from your auctions to your "About Me" page on eBay. From your "About me" page you can have links that point back to your TIAS store. Many sellers use eBay as not just a way to sell items, but as a way to drive traffic from eBay to their other online sales venues. I know some sellers who take a loss on their eBay sales just because they use their listings to drive traffic to their Web site.
13. TIAS classified. TIAS does have a classified ad section. Premium classifieds run in our newsletter which goes out twice a week to 270,000 subscribers. This is a great way to promote your site to new buyers as well as a way to get new inventory. I know of several dealers who have been quite successful finding fresh inventory this way. Go to
for more information.
14. Share your marketing ideas with us and we'll share them with our subscribers. Send your marketing suggestions to email@example.com and I'll include them in the next ABN newsletter
Questions? Comments? write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org
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