Make More on eBay: Get the ‘Consumer Surplus’

A recent study by statisticians from the University of Maryland found that eBay sellers (both individuals and small business owners) missed out on an estimated $19 billion in potential revenue last year, simply by undervaluing their products and accepting bids lower than what the consumer was actually willing to pay:

The independent research by two statisticians from the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business found buyers saved $7 billion that they might have otherwise been ready to pay in a study of eBay auction behavior in 2003.

Applying the same analysis to 2004 buyer data, consumers saved $8.4 billion, said Wolfgang Jank, one author of the study. A linear projection of the research findings would mean consumers saved around $19 billion during 2007, Jank said.

The study seeks to calculate what economists call “consumer surplus” — the difference between the top price buyers were ready to pay and what they actually ended up paying. E-commerce sites provide a treasure trove of data that allows researchers to test out theories of consumer behavior.

“Consumer surplus is usually very hard to measure,” said study co-author Galit Shmueli. “The problem is that it is hard to ascertain how much a winner or a bidder or a user would have been willing to pay for a certain item.”

For online sellers to maximize their profits they need to drive more buyers to their auctions, and the best way to do this is by presenting the product in the best possible light, a process which starts with the best possible product image. To accomplish this, many sellers have turned to a new software application called from Vertus called Bling! It. While other online sellers are literally taking pictures of products on the kitchen table, which does not lead to the most professional-quality images, Bling! It users are turning average photos into profit-maximizing ready-for-eBay product shots in minutes. With only a digital camera, Bling! It enables users to remove the background of a photo with just a couple swipes of the mouse and replace it with a more appealing backdrop, before adding drop shadows, highlights and a personal or company logo.

Recent customer feedback has shown that online sellers who “Bling” their product shots are realizing an increase in the click-through-rate from thumbnail images, generating more competition and ultimately resulting in higher achieved sales prices.

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