Friday 12 April 2013

Market Orders - Posting Strategy and Tactics

Expanding upon a previous post, I wanted to talk more in-depth about the posting strategy and tactics I use to "make so much ISK in so little time". This is turning into a very long post so I'll just cover the basics today and go into more specific details on tactics, exceptions and examples another time.

My overall market strategy is extremely simple but the details are complex. I use a lot of different methods (tricks, tactics w/e you want to call them) to facilitate the overall strategy.

No-Lifers and Bots

I can't really talk about my order posting strategy without touching on the biggest underlying reason behind it. Competition from no-lifers and bots. They are a huge problem not just in Eve but in any online game that has a market or auction interface players can use to sell each other items in game.

No-Lifers spend excessive amounts of time online obsessing over babysitting market orders, trying to ensure they always have the lowest sell order and highest buy order on every single item they're working.. They're online 12-16 or even more hours a day and rarely take a day off. They're constantly undercutting sell orders and overcutting buy orders by the minimum possible amount (0.01 ISK in Eve).

Bots are even worse. They do exactly the same thing as no-lifers except they can be online indefinitely (virtually forever) and can cut even faster with inhuman machine like precision. At least no-lifers have to take a break occasionally to eat, sleep or w/e,  can only post/update orders so fast, and even the most obsessive, sleep deprived no-lifer can only run so many clients at once. Bots on the other hand take no effort on the part of the player running them other than configuring the bots initially, can post/update orders with unbelievable quickness and can run as many clients as the botter's hardware can handle.

Overall Strategy

My overall strategy is really pretty simple. Following the KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid) principle I use easily implemented systems and simple rules of thumb to keep things running smoothly without requiring hours spent obsessing over details.

1. Squeeze the competition from both ends. I raise buy prices and lower sell prices until margins are low enough most of the competition (no-lifers and bots in particular) leave the market and I get a fair share of it. Margins on my best, most profitable items are rarely more than 20% (there are exceptions) and most of them are usually in the 5-10% range.

2. Aggressive pricing. I use big cuts on both buy and sell orders. Usually around 10% of the difference between the lowest sell order and the highest buy order.  There are of course exceptions. Sometimes when a particular market is ridiculously high I might cut by 50% or more and obviously when margins are extremely tight cutting by 10% might not be very smart (though sometimes it's the right move to correct a market).

Huge Cut on a ridiculously overpriced item

3. Buy in bulk amounts when possible. Terms like bulk and high volume are relative and don't even apply to some things. The absolute values of terms bulk or high volume are very different for ore and minerals than they are for implants or modules going for over 100 million each. High end officer mods don't drop in sufficient numbers to even supply a bulk market in the first place.

4. Concentrate mainly on the best sellers, expensive, high volume, high profit margin items and characters in the most profitable locations. Which items and characters those are can and does change frequently, however some items and some characters are better than others. I tend to focus primarily on those items, prioritizing working the Big Head over the Long Tail.

5. Post "guard" orders on items with extremely slim margins. Anything with under 2% margin between buy and sell orders isn't worth bothering with, especially when considering taxes and broker fees eat up a big chunk of that 2%. When a guard order gets filled that's usually my first indication the no-lifers and bots have abandoned a market, margins are rising, and it's worth working again. With higher volume items I'll often put up a second set of middling volume orders at price levels a bit higher and lower to catch the wave when margins inevitably increase.

6. Check inventories frequently, post recently acquired items and update or post new buy orders for the same items. This is a very important, high priority step. Basically, combined with the less important step #5, it's my inventory control. I don't have to worry about losing track of an important item and not having any buy orders up for it because I always go through station inventory as one of the first things I do when logging onto a toon. That way I find newly acquired inventory from buy orders, post them for sale and update or post buy orders at the same time. No spreadsheets or inventory tracking software required.

For the most part I pay decent prices for the items I buy. I have to be careful not to get greedy and try selling them for too much profit though. Whenever the margin between buy and sell orders gets too high the no-lifers and bots jump all over it and I get very little if any business. When it's in the sweet spot I buy and sell in bulk for big overall profits.


  1. I've always avoided market pvp, thus I traded in a different way when I was margin trading in Jita. Small volume, even spread (so when I had 350 orders I'd aim for about 10m per buy order), high margin, if competed with 0.01 isk to clear inventory but choose a different product with wide margins.

    Seemed to be always possible to find some sleepy commodity with no one actively trading it, just natural buy orders from people who actually need the item and sell orders from ratters who found some.

    1. "I've always avoided market pvp"

      But, but... I thought Eve was a PvP game?

      hehe, sorry I just couldn't resist that.

    2. Lol, a point to you, my friend.

      I suppose it's still a kind of pvping - I avoid hitting them where they're looking and hit them where they're not looking.

  2. Sure that works but it's working the low end of the market. Low volume, low income items hardly anyone bothers with. Margins might be impressive but total profits aren't.

    Practically everything I sell now goes for over 1 million per item (in sell orders anyhow) and anything I sell that's that cheap is high volume. Most of my items are over 10 million each and the best items are mainly in the 50-200 million per item range.

    I generally aim for buy orders worth a minimum of 100 million now. There are exceptions of course but I'm slowly working the cheap ones out of the system. I'm in no rush though it's just part of my regular order posting routine. When cheap orders run out I post new larger orders for items I still consider worth buying while other less worthwhile items get dropped.

    1. Sure but for me it's mostly been about isk per click as I play the game in other ways than trading most of the time. For example I had buys on racial capital skill books, usually around 420m. No babysitting. One got filled about once every three months. Sold for around 480m.

      Very slow capital turnover but putting up four orders would fetch me 60m while I was playing the game in other ways.

      I'm not really a trader in the way that you and Gevlon are. I was at one point but I'm not now.

    2. If you don't mind doing a little travelling to pick items up lowball orders in remote spots work great that way.

      Post full regional orders to buy expensive items dirt cheap and just let them sit there until one gets filled. You might have to travel 10 or 20 jumps to pick it up but you make a huge profit.

      I don't do much lowballing anymore but I bought plenty of Tycoon books when I was starting out for 1 mil or less. My most profitable lowball ever was a titan book I bought for under 5 million.

    3. It's even better when you can put regional buys out in Null :)

    4. I know. I had some in goonspace for months. No need to dock with remote skills. :)

  3. When you post new sell orders, how do you prevent competition with yourself? If you have a rolling buy/sell model going then eventually you'll end up facing yourself. Do you just wait until the sell order is fulfilled before dumping more on the market?

    1. Depends on the item, market volume, how aggressive the competition is and all kinds of factors. Some items I just post one buy, one sell order and don't post new ones until the old one is finished or nearly finished. High volume, heavily camped items often have multiple buy orders, multiple sell orders or both.

      Many of my most profitable items have at least 2 buy orders up (a high station order and a somewhat lower regional order).

      Sometimes I'll cancel an order that's almost finished and just replace it with a bigger new order.

      Stuff like that is really tactics though, not strategy. Different tactics work better depending on the item involved and market variables (location, price, competition, trends, volume, etc.).

    2. In fact, multiple orders often increase profitability... It's harder for the no-lifers and bots to 0.01 ISK cut you out of business when you have a station order for 2 at 2-5% under the lowest sell order and a regional order for 5 at 10-20% under.

      Not saying all my orders are like that, by far they are not but several are and all of them are very profitable.