Review: Using inkFrog Auction Tools for Princely eBay Profits

Third-party platform inkFrog integrates with eBay to help you list, showcase and manage your sales so you can leap ahead of the competition.

While many eBayers successfully sell on eBay without ever using anything but eBay's own online auction tools, some may not realize there are outside services that are designed to seamlessly integrate with the eBay platform. Called online auction management providers, these are third-party companies that offer sellers a variety of software and tools that are fully supported by a particular auction site. While at eBay Live this year, one such firm, inkFrog, caught our eye, and we decided to take an in-depth look at the company's services — and after taking it for a test run, would recommend it.

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Why Use Third-Party Tools?

But first let's just go over the advantages of using off-site tools in general. It's important to note that by choosing to use an auction service provider, you are not giving up any flexibility in terms of running your business. Sellers can choose to keep using the eBay listing tool if they are more comfortable with it, but at the same time they can use other third-party auction tools, such as image hosting and gallery slideshows, from other companies. This is a benefit to any seller, as it lets you work with a mix of auction tools that best suits your own eBay business and listing needs.

For the most part, sellers choose to use these types of auction management services because they offer listing tools, features and options that eBay doesn't have, or simply because it makes it easier for them to list and sell on eBay.

inkFrog is one of several online auction management solution providers designed for use by eBay sellers of all sizes. Because the service is fully integrated with eBay, when you create an eBay auction, fixed price, or eBay Store listing through the inkFrog Web site, using their custom tools and software, the listing is automatically listed on eBay.

Leaping Ahead with inkFrog

Some of the main auction services and tools offered by InkFrog include image hosting, sales management, site counters and even an eye-pleasing gallery showcase that you can automatically embed right in your action listing to show prospective buyers other items you currently have listed on eBay. Here we take a look at the different tools offered by inkFrog and highlight how to get started when selling on eBay.

Setting Up an inkFrog Account
The first things sellers will need to do is to create a user account with inkFrog. After you have verified your e-mail address you can log in and edit your preferences and settings. Here you will want to link your inkFrog account with your eBay UserID, set choices for auto e-mails and adjust basic profile settings, such as your time zone and auto feedback preferences.
Once you setup your account preferences, you can begin the process of uploading auction images and listing on eBay from the inkFrog Web site, using their customized auction management tools.

Services, Tools and Software Options
The inkFrog auction service offers seven main tools that are available to eBay sellers at a price of $9.95 per month. Here we've outlined what you can do with your eBay item listings when you use inkFrog's.

Image Hosting: Using the image hosting service lets sellers upload auction images and then manage them from the inkFrog Web site. There are three different ways to upload, including a bulk FTP upload option. Once your images are online with inkFrog you can use their image management software to sort and preview, or use an online image editor for image cropping, resizing, rotating and other basic manipulation functions.

Lister / Schedule: InkFrog offers an integrated eBay Lister that lets you use their site for creating your listings. You can use as many images as you want and set preferences for scheduling, automatic re-list, and winning bidder notifications. If you use inkFrog's lister you can also choose a template to match your item type or category. The lister can be used for any type of auction including fixed price, standard auctions or even store inventory. It supports listings on eBay.com, eBay motors, eBay.co.uk, eBay.ca, eBay.fr, eBay.au and other global eBay sites.

Sales Manager: The Sales Manager is an interface that is integrated directly with eBay Checkout. Sellers can use this to manage their sales tasks, such as tracking which items need to be paid, which items need to be shipped and which buyers require feedback. InkFrog's Sales Manager software can be set to automatically send out e-mails to your customers and send eBay invoices directly through the inkFrog system.

Inventory: The inventory system, designed primarily for large sellers, lets you track what items you have on eBay, it alerts you to when you need to order more items, and also tells you when you should list more items. Using the auto listing option, high-volume sellers can have their items listed automatically based on inventory level.

Showcase: InkFrog's Showcase tool is a gallery, designed to work like a virtual store that allows buyers to browse all of your eBay items directly from your listing page. This Flash-based tool is automatically inserted into all of your eBay listings and shows thumbnail images of each of your auctions or fixed price listings. Buyers can click on any image to view that eBay listing.

Counters: There are several types of auction counters to choose from, including hidden counters, so sellers can easily keep track of hits to their auction pages to see which items and what time of day the listings get the most views.

Importers: The importer tools let you import all of your current and closed eBay listings into inkFrog's system. Once you have the information imported, you can then use inkFrog's management tools for re-listing. You can also import your Turbo Lister listings into the system using a bulk import tool.

Extras: Filed under the Extras category, other inkFrog tools that sellers can take advantage of include auto and bulk re-list, auto e-mails, custom HTML templates and product support.

Creating a New eBay Listing
To create a new eBay listing using inkFrog, You upload you auction images to the system. The image uploader is simple to use and provides automatic options for embedding a text watermark to protect your images and also has automatic image optimizing functions.


inkFrog
Leap ahead of the competition when listing with inkFrog.
(Click for larger image.)

After you upload some images for use in your auction listing, you can then go the Lister Tool and create a new listing. When creating a new listing you will start by selecting an auction type, the auction site you want to list on, and then choose to use a new or inventory item to list. In the same initial listing screen you will also provide the following details: auction title, start price, duration, quantity and buyer requirements. Here you can also set preferences, such as private auction and best offer details.

The form also prompts you to enter more than basic listing details. You move on through the listing form and include your item images, enable the inkFrog showcase, choose from a rather nice selection of listing templates, add a counter, and, of course, enter in your item description and provide more in-depth shipping, payment and return policy information. Once you have your item ready to list, you then can preview the listing, even choosing different templates in which to preview the auction. Next, you can double-check that there are no errors, just in case you should happen to overlook an important or required input field. Before submitting the listing, you can also confirm what eBay's insertion fee for the listing will be.

After you hit submit, your listing will be placed on eBay, and you will be able to track it through your "My eBay" or seller dashboard, or you can use inkFrog's own dashboard and tools to monitor the listing and to complete the transaction should you have a successful bid or purchase.

Overall, most sellers, including novice eBay sellers, will be able to quickly set up and use inkFrog's software. And, for some tasks, such as listing an item for the first time, you may even find the form and interface more user-friendly than eBay's own offering. For sellers who have an eBay store or those who tend to keep several listings on eBay at all times, you can choose the cheaper inkFrog plan and just take advantage of the showcase and image hosting tools that will enable you to promote all your eBay items within each active item listing you have.

What's the Cost for Sellers?
InkFrog offers two member plans for its sellers. The first, priced at $6.95 is an image hosting package and includes the showcase gallery service. For $9.95 per month you can access all the services including image hosting, Listing Tool, Sales Manager, Inventory, Showcase, Counters, Consignment tracking, as well as a selection of Extra services and support. Member accounts can be cancelled at any time and they work on a monthly billing basis.

For those wanting their own first-hand look at inkFrog, a two-week trial is available. On the inkFrog Web site you simply choose the plan you are most interested in and register an account with the service. Be sure to cancel the account before two weeks has passed, should you decide you do not want to continue using inkFrog.

Vangie Beal is a seasoned online marketplace seller, frequent contributor to ECommerce-Guide.com and avid online bargain hunter. She is also managing editor of Webopedia.com.

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