Online auction prices depending on the time of day and day of the week

For anyone thinking of starting an online auction resale business, would be interesting to know what is the best time or the day, where chances of getting a better final bid are the highest. To make the analysis the data from the largest online auction – eBay – will be used. The previous post eBay Prices for iPhone 5c vs iPhone 5s describes in details how the data was gather and what it includes.

After the the initial data cleaning was done I was left with a total of 1495 auction only listings. The figure below shows how the time of the most listings being successfully sold. Based on that data, the chart showing the most successfully ended auctions by day time for both iPhone 5S and 5C models and their average final price was build:

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On the above chart it is clearly seen that the highest prices (blue bars) during the iPhone auctions was achieved during slowest times, when the least number of auctions was active (represented by green line). Between 02:00:00 –  05:00:00 Pacific Day Time, the prices on average were 520 USD, compared with the daily average of 457 USD, a difference of about 14%, or 63 USD. This information contradicts with what many of online resources claim – listing an item at 19:00 – 20:00 to get the best results for the auction.

While the audience of the website is indeed the biggest during this time, it seems that the number of auctions closing is also the highest as well. This creates the situation where a lot of sellers start to compete with each other. Such situation is also known as Excessive Entry’s Impact, analyzed in research paper “eBay’s Crowded Evenings: Competition Neglect in Market Entry Decisions”. The analysis objects of that study were DVDs. Among other factors, researcher analyzed the probability of getting higher prices for DVDs during the peak evening hours. His findings were that at times of day when sellers disproportionately enter the single-DVD market, both prices and probability of sale show a marked decrease. Prices around 8 p.m., for instance, are $0.38 lower than around noon, and probability of sale is around 14 percentage points lower (Uri Simonsohn 2010, 1067).

The impact of international shipping

However it is worth pointing out, that iPhones are not DVDs – they always sell, it all depends on price. To further analyze the anomaly of higher auction prices during nigh time, I’ve came to conclusion, that the main reason for that are bidders located abroad the US. See the table below:

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In the above table all items sold above 500 USD were analyzed whether they could be shipped outside the US or not. Such analysis is needed to understand, whether the items sold at night fetched higher prices due to the fact that they were bought by foreigners. There is indeed a difference in final price for items sold only inside the US and for items sold internationally. The difference is was about 7% or 41 USD on average. For the seller there is no additional cost, so it always makes sense to allow for international shipping, as it could result in the higher sales price.

Day of the week analysis

Another thing that could be analyzed is the day of the week, when the seller has a better probability of selling items at a higher cost than the average. For that the both auction and buy now listings have been analyzed.

The chart below shows that the highest volume days (blue bars) are Monday and Wednesday. At the same time Sunday is neither a high volume day, nor it provides seller with the best returns, as it is usually perceived. As per this data, the best days to sell on eBay are Tuesday and Friday, because of the higher price premium during these days. The worst one is Saturday, with the highest chances of selling items for the lowest amount.

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Summary

While this research is based only on iPhone data on eBay, there is some common sense among the data. It is not surprise Saturday is the worst day for auction listings, as potential buyers tend to relax, spend time with the family, and not thinking about buying thing online. It is recommended to do it on other days, as the data shows during the week, with the best day being Tuesday.

As for the time, when the listing should end, it needs to be considered, what type of product is being sold. If it is a highly sought and recognized item, that everybody wants, then the best time would be when there is not that many competing offers, but still many potential bidders. However, if the item is of lower value and the goal is to generate more views and exposure, the best time would be 19:30 – 20:30. The worst time would be right in the morning hours before work and right after work.

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