Will "bid groups" revive the auction format?
If you already use third party sniping software, you’ll probably be familiar with the concept of “bid groups”. You can select a number of listings for the same type of item, set your maximum bid, and the software will try to win the first in the group. If it doesn’t, it will move on to the second, and the third, until you’ve either won an item, or discovered that your maximum bid really is too low.
Though eBay are generally dismissive of third-party sniping tools, it seems that they’re happy to adopt the idea of bid groups with Bid Assistant. This allows you to select up to ten listings and set maximum bids for each. The software will then bid for you on one auction at a time, stopping when you’ve won.
Bid Assistant isn’t a replacement for sniping software: from the Bid Assistant help pages, “You cannot schedule bids to be placed at a specific time”, and it appears that the first bid is placed immediately. “If you get outbid on an item, eBay will wait until that item closes before bidding on the next item in your group.” This should allow for other bidders who cancel their bids and leave you the high bidder again, or allow you to increase your high bid manually.
Though it’s not quite as sharp as some third-party tools, what Bid Assistant should cure are those buyers who bid on a dozen items when they only want one, and then either retract the bids or refuse to pay. That eBay have created the tool in the first place is a step forward: though they offer many listing and auction management features for sellers, comparable features for bidders have been non-existant until now.
eBay’s push towards reviving core listings has been all about sticks for sellers, so it’s nice to see a carrot being offered, and to buyers too. Personally I doubt that *anything* can revive the auction market for the low-cost repeatable items that I sell personally, but I can imagine that buyers of more expensive collectibles would like this. If active bidding replaces putting things on a watch list and forgetting about them, that has to be a good move. But sadly, like all the good stuff, this appears to be for the .com site only: I can’t find anything comparable on .co.uk.