Online Auction Software - 

Choosing the best option that fits you needs  

My search for the perfect online auction software was forced upon me about three months into building my eBay business. Up until this point, I'd been using eBay's free tool, TurboLister, combined with a ProStores subscription. I would bulk-upload the products to ProStores and then cross-list them on eBay using the built-in function.

I quickly realized that ProStores wasn't the best eCommerce solution for my purposes. When I moved the store to another platform, I had to find a new way to bulk-upload products because all my listings were created in and stored in a spreadsheet.


I thought that using TurboLister would continue to be the best online auction software option, since they have a feature that allows you to bulk-import from a .csv sheet. Unfortunately I couldn't make this work - the import to TurboLister from .csv was broken. Thus my search began. Over the course of a month, I took the "Free Trial" of 6 different online auction software programs. Here's what I found out:

Creating your Online Auction Software wish list

First and foremost, if you don't know what you want you'll end up paying for more than you need. When choosing an online auction software program, the varieties are vast and each one has it's own speciality features. You need to know what ones are essential to you and which ones won't ever get used. In order to even begin choosing which one you should use, you will need to create a list of what you're looking for and which features are most important vs. which ones you can compromise on. Here's a list of somethings you might want to consider when making your list:
  • Which websites will you be listing on? Ebay, Half.com, Overstock.com, Amazon.com, WeBidz, uBid, eBid, etc... If you're listing on multiple sites, you'll want an online auction software program that works with them all. Conversely, if you're only working with one, you'll want a program that specializes in getting the most out of that one.
  • Do you need/want a listing designer? Some sellers rely heavily on these, some (like me) almost never use them. If you do, choosing an program that comes pre-loaded with listing designer templates or whi
  • Where and how will you host your pictures? This will be a major determining feature for most people. 1GB doesn't go very far if you're doing 3+ pictures per item and want them to be high-resolution.
  • Do you need a bulk-edit feature?
  • Do you need to list multiple variations (sizes, colors, etc) of the same product?
  • How will you track/manage your sales
  • How many people need to have access to editing your listings?
  • Where will you edit and post your listings? If you're just using your home computer, a local software program is fine, but if you're planning on editing from lots of different places then an internet-based program is better.
  • How will you back-up your listings?
  • Do you need to sync with multiple accounts?

Auctiva

I already was using Auctiva's free scrolling listing advertisement bar, so I chose to try out this giant in the Online Auction Software industry first. It didn't provide me with the bulk-upload feature that I wanted, but I think that for small-volume or high-ticket-item sellers it would be a great addition. Auctiva's photo hosting option and pre-designed templates are professional looking and easy to use. What I didn't like was the inability to do bulk uploads or bulk edits and their pricing structure that was based on the number of listings. Also, you have to do everything online (which has pluses and minuses).

However, they've changed their pricing structure (only one 'tiny' plan for folks who don't list much such as casual sellers) and with the addition of their Auctiva eCommerce store included this would have been a better place to start than the ProStores/eBay combination that I tried. Also, they've done a GREAT job of integrating product variations (such as sizes) into their listing now that eBay is expanding this offering. They're the leader in online auction software on this front. Plus, their unlimited plans include Sellathon analytics tracking so you can know who and how folks see your stuff. (note: if you have an eBay store, you already get some Sellathon access).

Finally, their customer service was very pleasant and responsive and didn't try to hard-sell me when I canceled the trial (which reverts automatically to their free level that gives you the scrolling cross-sell bar).

Overall, while I love the scrollbar (and since I'm not an eBay affiliate I don't care if Auctiva's getting a commission from click-throughs) I didn't find $20 per month worth of additional features. Much of Auctiva's features are included (all be it on a less-pretty interface) with an eBay store subscription. However, eBay stores aren't for everyone so for non-store sellers, this could give you some good benefits.

Great For: Photo hosting, listing designs, cross-selling and listing variations
Not For: Bulk uploading, Bulk edits to listings, large eBay stores (in my oppinion)
Other Features: Inventory management, Auctiva Marketplace Store, personalized auction emails

Do you use Auctiva for creating your listings? We'd love to hear your experience!

GarageSale

Ok, so I'm not totally familiar with this because I use a PC. However, if you work on a Mac, you need to be using GarageSale from what I've heard. This is really the only contender out there in the Mac offline market for online auction software. TurboLister, eBay's free program, is only available for PC so this online auction software for Mac is really the best option if you'd be using TurboLister otherwise.

I played around a bit with this on my friend's MacBook Pro. It was a VERY intuitive and beautiful (of course) interface. I hear they also have an iPhone application, but I've not had a chance to play with that one. They do have a bulk-upload feature and a bulk-edit feature.

Overall, it is just another reason I wish I had a Mac. But I'm not due for a new computer till 2012. If I go with a Mac then, I'll do a full GarageSale review at that point, you can count on it.

Great For: Mac users and folks who would otherwise use TurboLister
Not For: PC users? Um, yeah...

Have you used Garage Sale? Tell us about it!

Vendio

I almost went with Vendio - this online auction software choice drew me like a bee to honey. Like Auctiva, they offer an online store and marketplace. Unlike Auctiva, this functionality is their 'free' loss leader item. Like ProStores, they allow for easy push-to-auction functionality. Like desktop-based systems they also provide that functionality for non-eBay systems. They do have the ability for bulk-upload that I had been looking for.

Vendio has a free 60 day trial option, and it's a great way to start selling on multiple platforms and get your store up and running if you've been thinking of doing this. Unfortunately there's not a good 'preview' of what one of their stores will look like before you sign up, but for 60 free days, it's worth it. If you've NOT been thinking of doing this, you should be - with eBay taking down the ability of you to submit your own feed to shopping engines, you'll need an independent store to drive this traffic to. Vendio doesn't have any fees associated with their stores, so it's a great way to get started.

I have a love/hate feeling with their add-ons. Most people won't need them, but all the good ones cost money. If you want tracking, more images, etc. you'll need an add-on. Personally, I prefer an all-inclusive solution if you're going to pay for it, but if you like to order a la carte then this is perfect for you.

I thought about using them for my store system and listing system, however in the end I wanted to build an independent store on my own domain and hosting for SEO purposes instead of using a hosted store option. Since there is no way to use Vendio simply for listing management, I opted against going with them - I didn't want my store content to appear in two separate places on the web for SEO purposes again.

Great For: Free Store, strong hosting, photo hosting, a la carte extension options
Not For: Use simply as an auction lister without a store

Do you use Vendio? Tell us your story!

inkFrog

Looking for a more listing-centric online auction software program I gave inkFrog it's 15 day trial. This is a very powerful listing system that works VERY MUCH like Auctiva. I kept thinking that if I had been using Auctiva but gotten frustrated with their editing of existing products, then inkFrog would make sense. Their biggest draw is their Bulk Edit feature, which allows you to search and edit all your stored inventory and listings in one fail swoop.

I found their user interface a little unwieldly to use, but that's mostly because I use Chrome for my browser and it was having problems with their site. When I tried it on Firefox I didn't have a problem. While their bulk edit and bulk import from Auctiva features were great, I was shocked that they didn't have a bulk upload from .csv option. This, combined with the Chrome problems, is why I didn't end up going with them.

One thing I liked about inkFrog's online auction software instead of Auctiva or Vendio was their approach to the whole webstore thing. Instead of setting you up with a whole store, inkFrog just gives you what they call a "Showcase." This showcase drives their cross-sell platform on your eBay listings (like Auctiva's scrolling bar) and gives you a place to drive traffic to if you wish. However, they're not trying to be a store. I like this because it gives you the easy option of having another store somewhere else, or adding a link to your Showcase from your website. No separate cart, separate orders, etc. to manage. Just a way to drive more traffic to your listings.

inkFrog is clearly intended for eBay-centric listers. This online auction software package doesn't link to other listing services. However, what they do, they do very well.

Great For: Ebay sellers who list a lot of items, cheap image hosting, bulk edits
Not For: Listing outside eBay, product feeds

Do you use inkFrog? Let us know what you think!

AuctionWizard2000

When I gave up on inkFrog because of it's lack of a bulk-import feature, I decided to focus on desktop listing systems. These are online auction software packages that reside on your local computer where you create listings and then upload listings directly to eBay and other listing sites. AuctionWizard2000 is the heavy-lifter in this field, don't let their 1999-style website fool you, this is one feature-packed product.

Which can also be it's downfall. AuctionWizard2000 is great for companies and businesses with an IT department (or computer-savvy staff) who can set it up correctly so that everything integrates really well with all you're doing. That said, once you've integrated you'll have shipping, inventory management, FTP photo uploading and all sorts of cross-platform accessibility. It can even generate a HTML site with your products for you.

It's even comparatively cheap when you hold it up against the online systems - only $100 a year for the license (that's less than $9 per month) and then $50 each year after that. However, the license is only good for one computer, so you'll probably need multiples. You can, however, try it free for 60 days. By then, you'll probably get it all figured out and be cruising along at warp-speed.

Overall, the whole time I was trying it out, AuctionWizard just felt like overkill. It's the monster truck of Online Auction Software. It was unwieldy to set up, and I'm quite proficient with computer and networking things. There were many cool functions that I just never got set up, and I un-installed it before my trial was done. I might go back to it later though if I eventually add cross-platform listings and need an online auction software that can handle it.

Great For: Auction-selling powerhouses. Folks who want to scale to huge proportions.

Not For:
Anyone who is intimidated by the "advanced set-up" tab of any other program.

So what did I eventually choose?


TurboLister

Yeah, I went back. It's not surprising to me that the big boy in the online auction world, eBay, makes a good piece of online auction software. I just really liked the ease of use and integration with eBay that TurboLister provided as well as the bulk-import feature. I hated it when it didn't work. Which took FOREVER to fix. If you're having the same problem, here's why I couldn't import a .csv file into my TurboLister : you HAVE to use Microsoft Excel to create and modify your file. If you use any other system (I tried OpenOffice and Google Docs) it'll crash out or not work because of how those programs format their .csv. It's a glitch that took a month of working with TL support to figure out how to recreate. When we figured it out, they assured me that they'll be working on fixing the glitch for one of the future releases, but that I needed to use Excel if I wanted it to work immediately. So I finally knuckled down and bought Office2007. I like Office2007 and it's functionality for other things, so it wasn't a huge investment although every other option I tried would have been cheaper than this one solution.

So sometimes free isn't really free. But I do really like TurboLister and I was familiar with it as I've used it for listing products on and off for 5 years. If you're new to auctions though, the lack of customer support (they have it, but it's slow and hard to use) might be a huge deterrent for you.

Great For: Offline editing, bulk edits, syncing easily with eBay, ease of use
Not For: Image hosting (use a URL instead), use with other auction sites, folks who need hand-holding customer support

Do you use an Online Auction Software program you love?

How do you list your Auctions? Do you use an Online Auction Software Program? If so, we want to hear about it!


Return from Online Auction Software to the Make Money on eBay page


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