It’s been said that “a rising tide lifts all boats.” By that reasoning, as the economy improves, all of us should be seeing greater sales revenues. Of course, the “rising tide” of the economy also increases our taxes and expenses, so, relatively speaking, we may not be any better off than we were at low tide. What’s needed for our individual businesses isn’t a rising tide, but a tidal wave in our particular niche. Or, if not a tidal wave, at least a wave big enough to catch with our “fiscal surf board” and ride to Fat Bank Account beach.
This article originally appeared in Antique Trader magazine
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How do we spot “waves” that we can ride to greater revenues? With the Internet, it’s easy: We look for trends. On the Web, a trend is an indication of search volume over time. When search volume over a period of time rises, search engines interpret the rise as a trend.
Trending topics that are both within and without our product niche can help our sales. The key to using trends is to know where to find them, how to interpret them and how to apply them. Let’s explore this topic a bit: We’ll start with several easy-to-find antique industry sites, and then look at a way to create a custom analysis to spot trends for the products you sell.
One of my favorite industry sites for checking “what’s hot and what’s not” is
www.kovels.com. Kovel’s publishes a monthly list of the “Top 20 Antiques and Collectibles” searches on their site (http://bit.ly/17ds6jj). The list publishes mid-month, and lists the results of hundreds of thousands of searches on the Kovels site that were done in the previous month. When the list publishes, the information is a couple of weeks out of date, but that shouldn’t matter if what you’re looking for are trends. It’s easy enough to transfer the Kovels data to a spreadsheet and track it over time to spot a trend. From time to time, Kovels publishes a “what’s trending” list. To fully access the data on Kovels (including sales reports and a price guide), a subscription is needed. Although a basic subscription is free, premium subscriptions will cost $39 or $59 per year.
If you’re not averse to paying a subscription fee to mine data, you will find Terapeak to be helpful. Terapeak analyzes sales results from both eBay and Amazon; I’ve never used the tool for Amazon, but have used it for eBay quite a bit. In addition to the usual price, supply and demand data, Terapeak offers users a “Hot Research” feature to assist in spotting trends. Terapeak lists trends in five views:
• Hot categories
• Hot media
• Popular keyword searches
• Best selling products
• Best selling titles
If you’re not inclined to pay a subscription fee, a search of watchcount.com will display the total number of auction watchers in each of eBays categories. Individual items can also be searched. Though this tool won’t show trends, it will show you how much interest exists for a particular item at the current point in time. Experienced eBay sellers know that the number of “watchers” doesn’t necessarily translate into sales, but with regularly viewing of Watchpoint users can develop insight into what’s trending.
Another good industry site is www.liveauctioneers.com. Whereas Kovels Top 20 lists categories of items (Fenton, furniture, Occupied Japan), liveauctioneers.com lists the number of views for specific items that were offered at auction. The data may be sorted and viewed by four parameters: today, this week, this month and last month. Though the time span covers only two months, if you have matching items to sell, the
data supplied can tell you whether interest in your item is waxing or waning.
Search volume for a specific term (regardless of the source of the data) can be a bit misleading; a search for “Fenton” may include results from folks wanting to buy Fenton, sell Fenton, check a price for Fenton and travel to Fenton, Missouri. Consequently, it’s necessary to interpret the data you find. For this reason, my favorite tool for finding and interpreting trends is a simple one: Google Trends (http://www.google.com/trends/explore#cmpt=q).
Google Trends allows users to explore long-range and short-range trends for specific or general search terms. In the Google Trends page menu, one may specify any time from 2004 to the present, in increments of one or more years, 90 days, a month or a week. For our purposes, antiques dealers should specify the category “Antiques and Collectibles,” which is found under the “Hobbies and Leisure” heading in the “Categories” menu.
When using Google Trends, it’s important to be as specific as you can be when exploring trends; if you want to find trends in selling antiques, “sell antiques” is a better search term than just “antiques.” Google Trends offers a page where the results of various search terms and related searches can be compared.
When comparing two or more search terms, Google Trends will offer an option to compare your item to the overall trend for the Antiques and Collectibles category. In the accompanying graph, I have compared the terms “buy antique furniture” (line with triangles) and “sell antique furniture” (line with dots) with the overall Antiques and Collectibles category (plain line). From spring to late summer of 2014, interest in buying antique furniture out-paced searches for selling antique furniture. Demand was high, and prices were likely to be “up.” If you had antique furniture to sell, this would have been a good time to advertise it. But in the fall of 2014, interest in buying antique furniture plummeted (though it didn’t disappear altogether). Fall of last year would have been a good time to buy antique furniture. Compared to the overall Antiques and Collectibles category, antique furniture maintained better-than-average interest throughout the entire year.
When using Google Trends, to the far right of the “compare to category” checkbox is a “forecast” checkbox which, when checked, extrapolates the future trends for your search terms, based on the term’s past performance.
Staying on top of industry trends gives a dealer a competitive edge in both buying and selling. As with other markets, timing is everything: For best results, one must “catch the wave” (trend) as it swells, rather than on its way out. Using the above tools can help a dealer accomplish this.