Sunday, October 23, 2011

Renewing Postings on Craigslist

Craigslist's "renew this posting" feature adds a whole measure of convenience to selling an item, but even more headache. You have it, and so does every other seller out there. It's a nice feature, but it does nothing to give anybody a competitive advantage. This means that listings fall off the first page of any given search relatively quickly, forcing you to refresh every few days to keep your posting near the top of the list where the eyeballs are. I'm not a big fan of it, since the constant churning of posts is bad for both buyers and sellers.

Before it was this easy to renew listings, buyers could judge the worth of an item by the amount of time that had passed since the last post, and the market demand for that item by how often an item would need to be re-posted. A popular item like a Nikon 35mm AF-G DX would usually list once, and within a day or two, would be gone from the listings. Less popular lenses like the 24-120VR would often require the post to be renewed once or twice, but the time in between would be weeks, not days like it is now. With the constant churning of posts, a buyer has to spend more time each day watching the postings go by to gauge the market in the same way that we used to do before.

For sellers, the extra time spent on renewing posts and checking for price competitiveness is an added inconvenience. Price-wise, I do think that the new environment favors buyers, since the extra listing churning seems to encourage discounting on the part of sellers. The reason why this is so is because the more often the buyer sees a listing renewed, the more likely they are to assume that demand is not as great as the seller would hope, hence, greater bargaining position price-wise.

There is one group that benefits from the "Renew" button... and I hope Craigslist takes note. It's the keyword spammers. I've been seeing a lot of garbage clogging up the listings lately... input "Nikon" as a search term and you get a page full of listings for cell phones, with some photographic equipment interspersed.

As a seller, these are things to keep in mind in the new environment:
  • Price your item as competitively as possible. Gone are the days when you could list at a price that is obviously above market and then wait for it to be knocked down in negotiations. With the faster flow of postings, the chances are now greater that you will be undercut by another seller.
  • When you renew, change your listing pictures every so often. Craigslist gives you four pictures, keep two or three the same, but change the last one week to week so that you can give buyers a reason to look at the add again, and to also telegraph the fact that you are a living person and not some phishing-bot run from out of town.  

Otherwise, the key points are that you want to have the basics of a good posting down. What the renew button does is that it makes it easier to either grab the attention of a buyer or to wear out their interest. Naturally, a good posting should fall in the first camp, while being mindful of the second.

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