Turn Your WordPress Blog Into an eBay-Style Auction Site

Attention auctioneers: interested in ditching the third party marketplace and hosting your own bidding site?

WordPress as an eBay alternative
It’s time for youBay

You can use your WordPress blog to create an eBay-style environment, where you advertise goods for sale and flog them off to the highest bidder.

Using WordPress as an auction platform is an easy way to avoid paying seller fees and commissions to third party sites. Selling from your own website gives you full control over how you run your auction.

So how’s it done? If you want to save your pennies, a free plugin is the way to go. WP Auctions allows you to create a bidding system on your WordPress blog, using widgets and an AJAX popup form.

The plugin is written by Owen Cutajar and Hyder Jaffari from Weborithm, and the free version is available through the WordPress Plugins Directory.

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Setting it up

This is a step-by-step guide to installing the plugin and setting up an auction on your WordPress site. Note that you’ll need to be running WordPress 3.0+ for this plugin to work correctly.

You can upload the plugin via the WordPress dashboard or an FTP client. Once WP Auctions is installed, you need to activate it in the ‘plugins’ panel.

WP Auctions plugin for WordPress

From there, go to your widgets interface and drag your new WP Auctions widget into your sidebar (or wherever you prefer to place it – on some blogs it might fit better in the footer or header).

Create a bidding site with WordPress

WordPress auction siteYou’ll now find your new WP Auctions menu in the left sidebar of your WordPress dashboard.

Before you create an auction

In the ‘general settings’ interface of the WP Auctions menu, you’ll need to nominate a currency and PayPal account for your auctions, as well as contact details for bid notification. PayPal is currently the only payment gateway supported in the free version of this plugin.

You can add a custom bidding increment here too, so that each bid must go up by $5 or $10 or whatever you choose.

For added security, you can also require that all bidders have a registered WordPress account, which will reduce the number of fake and spam bids that your auction attracts.

This security feature is optional, however, and you’ll surely get more interest in your auctions if you leave them open to everyone.

In the ‘other settings’ panel, you can choose from one of five color schemes for you auction. The scheme shown in this tutorial is ‘earth’.

Creating an auction

Once you’ve got your general settings configured, you can create your first auction under the ‘add’ menu in WP Auctions.

In the ‘Auction Details’ panel you’ll need to specify the following information:

  • A name and description for your auction
  • Your starting price
  • The date and time at which bidding closes
  • How you will accept payment (only PayPal in the free version)
  • You also need to upload a photo for your auction

Auction products on your WordPress site

If applicable, you can include shipping information here too: where the product will be sent from, locations you are able to send it to, and how much extra it will cost.

The ‘optional settings’ interface allows you to set a ‘buy it now’ price for your auctioned goods, and post additional photos of the product you’re selling.

Once you’ve created your auction, this is what it will look like on your blog:

How to run an auction on WordPress

Nice and simple. Clicking on the ‘Bid Now’ button will take users through to this AJAX-powered popup screen, where they can place their bid and leave a contact email address.

Use WordPress as an auction site

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Embed your auction in a post or page

Instead of displaying your auction in a sidebar widget, you can embed it in a post or page of your blog instead. This might suit you better if the auction is a one-off event that will only run for a couple of days. It’s fairly straightforward to do this – instructions can be found in the WP Auctions FAQ.

This is what an auction looks like embedded in a blog post:

Run auctions on WordPress

Collecting payment

Use WordPress like eBayWhen your auction ends, an email is automatically generated and sent to the winning bidder. You can customize the message in the WP Auctions control panel in your dashboard. The email includes a link to a PayPal order summary, where the bidder can review their purchase and make payment.

From this point on, it’s between yourself and the winning bidder to arrange postage and shipment of the goods.

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The Verdict on WP Auctions

In three words: very, very simple. Whether this is a good thing or a bad thing depends on what you’re trying to do.

If all you want is a basic buy-and-sell auction system that fits easily into your existing WordPress setup, then WP Auctions has everything you’re likely to need.

The good points…

WP Auctions review The WP Auctions interface is intuitive and user-friendly. Even the newest of WordPress newbies shouldn’t have any trouble using this plugin.

Unlike some other auction and marketplace plugins, with WP Auctions you don’t need to modify the structure of your site or use a special WordPress theme. The plugin is designed to work harmoniously with any kind of site design.

On the downside…

WP Auctions plugin reviewThe main drawback of WP Auctions is limited functionality. The free version only allows you to run a basic “highest bidder wins” model, which is fine for selling physical products but doesn’t leave you with many other options.

If you want to build a reverse auctioning system for a job bidding site, like we discussed last week, you’ll need to upgrade to WP Auctions Pro.

As a free alternative, you could also check out the fairly new Prospress plugin. It offers more functionality than WP Auctions (reverse bidding included), but it’s more complicated to set up and manage. WP Auctions will appeal to those who want a low-maintenance system.

Have you used the WP Auctions plugin?

We’re always interested in reports from the field. If you’ve used a plugin to run auctions on your WordPress site, let us know about your experiences.

Thanks to Ryan Fanshaw, Thomas Hawk, Sergio Castro and E Monk for the photos.

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Comments (17)

  1. Hi Conor,

    That’s a good point you raise. There are probably very few WordPress sites out there that could match the traffic eBay gets.

    I think the WP Auction system is well-suited to a niche market, rather than trying to sell to a very broad audience. If you’ve got a loyal audience on your blog you probably know what kind of products they’d be interested in buying, and you can base your auction around this.

    Thanks for the comment!

    Cheers
    Tim

  2. Do these plugins both work well on multiite. This would be the only way I could see these being successful. For instance if you had a community site of gamers, these gamers could run their own auctions and sell to a community they know will be interested in what they are selling. SO low traffic (compared to ebay) but way more targeted.

    • Hi Neil,

      Yes – according to the authors of WP-Auctions, the latest release of the plugin now supports WordPress multisite. Haven’t tried it myself though.

      Very true about the traffic vs. targeting thing. To make a success of this I think you would either need a very large readership or a solid niche audience that you can effectively market to.

      Thanks for the comment!

      Cheers
      Tim

      • Cool well I might have a look see how it integrates and what tools it offers. It would be Uber cool if it pulled all the auctions from everyones multisite site and stuck em on a single page. Like an “ending soon” page. Bit of global exposure.

        It would be uber uber cool if it could recognise similar categories and group stuff in these too. Maybe getting a bit complex there though.

        • I agree – both those features would be uber cool. Feel free to email the plugin authors with some suggestions.

          If you do try WP-Invoice on a multisite installation, we’d love to hear how it goes.

          Cheers
          Tim

        • Hi Neil,

          Hyder from WP Auctions here.

          Yes, the latest version does offer multi-site compatibility and in essence could let you set up a system very much like wordpress.com with auctions.

          You could even use it in conjunction with a member plugin to make it a pay for use site, but that’s a bit more advanced.

          The other features you talked about would require some customization but it’s not something we offer out of the box.

  3. Thanks for the write up Tim.

    Just wanted to clear up one point near the end – “It offers more functionality than WP Auctions (reverse bidding included)” – While the free version does not have it, the Pro and Pro Plus versions offer a reverse bidding engine which can be selected on setup.

    We’ve been developing the plugin for over 4 years now and are constantly improving it thanks to write ups like yours and the feedback that it brings.

    • Hello Hyder,

      Thanks for the comment – good to hear from the plugin authors.

      If you look at the article again, you can see that I already mentioned upgrading to WP Auctions Pro to get the reverse bidding functionality. I also discussed Prospress as a free alternative for doing the same thing.

      Looking forward to the next release!

      Cheers
      Tim

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