I use the term backwater trader a fair bit. In part it is a mildly self-conscious excuse for the level of income I earn; in part it is just to differentiate myself from those Trade Hub warriors who crow of their easy made billions and never having to undock.
So what does my Trading alt do? (Answering a question no one has asked..)
I’ve mentioned the region I operate in before. It has no trade hubs, and its only real claim to fame is an empire highway that runs through it. I live in one corner and limit my buy orders to 4 jumps. This area covers only 14 stationed systems and doesn’t cross into low sec. (Up until a week ago it was 3 jumps and 10 stationed systems, but I updated all of my buy orders as I have gotten into an efficient pattern and wasn’t finding the hauling as arduous as I once did.)
One of those systems has a School station, and that plus one other tend to be relatively busy. (30+ pilots logged in most times.)
I generally trade in about 30 different things – with maybe a core dozen that I constantly turn over, while the others ebb and flow depending on competition and volumes moving. At the moment my trade basket is around 80 items, but that is unusual and related to the Christmas Gifts. Mainly I deal in cheaper ship hulls, common T2 Modules, and what I call convenience items (things you can get much cheaper elsewhere, but which I put on the market to save people the long trip if they prefer.) I can also flip Minerals and PI goods if I feel inclined, or do some small specialty run of items like implants, BPO or skill books which I will grab from other regions.
I usually place buy orders for under build cost, or around 50% of selling average. I will also manufacture small volumes of items at times – but am pretty selective when I do so. (Outside of tT2, the margins are commonly just not there.) I will also occasionally take stock from trade hubs.
I update my prices as little as once a week, although can do several times a day if the item is particularly profitable and moving in volume.
I collect all buy orders from the area and sell them from the one station. I do this run around once a week, but will go more frequently for relatively expensive items.
In some regards I price gouge – my common margin on what I buy v what I sell is around 100%. My sell prices are however generally the lowest in the region, and normally within 50% of the trade hub prices. Where the regional price seems too excessive, I will compare them to the Trade hub price and adjust accordingly. I use the term convenience above – and it fits in well with how I view my approach.
You can get more for your item by selling it yourself, or travelling to a trade hub – or you can sell it to me and get some cash immediately. I’m the one who has to haul it, play the 0.01ISK game and carry the risk of it not selling. You can also buy my more expensive item, or spent 20 minutes going to a trade hub instead to get it cheaper. I am not so much providing a service as a convenience.
I don’t scam or stack the markets – and will on occasion go out of my way to mess up someone else’s attempt to do so.
It fluctuates, but I have between zero and half a dozen traders in competition for each item.
I have been active in the area for about two years now. I think there has only been one, maybe two long term competitors who have stayed the distance – buying out of the same station with the same pattern of products and when they update. Occasionally someone will come in, put up a couple hundred buy orders and aggressively update. They mostly give up after a week or three due to the low volumes and move on.
On occasion I run up against market bots – where they update their orders within 5 minutes of yours, constantly, at any time of day you care to test it. These are generally only for hot items like minerals, and they tend to only stick around for a couple of days before disappearing.
There is a level of communication with the competition – although not directly.
I have over time identified many of the individuals or corporations which are in competition – buying from or selling too them, researching them, adding them to watch lists and so on. They do the same in return. One in particular is well known for updating his buy orders immediately after I log off. So I watch when he logs off with another alt, and then log back in to update my orders again.
Some play the 0.01ISK game. Some deliberately adjust a further digit to try and trick you into doing the .01 update to find yourself still below them. Some try to blow you out of the water with big updates. Some give you space – with ranged orders that don’t overlap, or regional buy orders that sit under your prices, leaving you to your little pocket.
In many areas I have – over time, worn down the main competitors, and have the market pretty much to myself. Because I keep prices to a somewhat reasonable level, the old competition doesn’t often return.
In 2011 I made around 1B ISK in profit from my trading endeavors. In 2012 I made more of an effort, and made over 3B ISK in profit just from the 3 jump range I operated out of. (Plus more again for some short term stuff I did in other trading hubs.) I am not doing this for the riches – it is because it fits in well with my play style, it is easily interrupted or can be left for long periods of time without updates, and because the process keeps me amused. It is certainly PVP – in a non-weapon related sense, of a level I think most players don’t fully comprehend.
It is also amazing to see how much of a person’s personality can come through their market updates. It would be nice to think that my own competition view me as stubborn, resilient and persistent – with some odd sleeping hours.
This is just one of the many little roles you can find for yourself in the game called EVE Online.