You’re listening to the AuctioneerTech Auction Podcast. Today is Friday, 11 December, 2009. auctioneertech.com – technology, auction and auctioneers, auction tech for the auction industry.
Hello and welcome to the 20th episode of the Auction Podcast from AuctioneerTech. My name is Aaron Traffas and today we’re going to talk about the trends and shifts in buyer behavior that find consumers looking for items instead of auctions and what we auctioneers should do about it.
It used to be easy. Bidders used to check the auctions section in the newspaper for something to do on the weekends. We used to put an ad in the classifieds that listed the type of auction we were holding, trusting that the customers wanted to come to the auction. If you hold it, they will come.
Not anymore. Now, instead of looking for auctions to provide needed entertainment and activity, consumers are taking every opportunity to find a gap in their busy schedules that might provide much needed rest. Weekends are for chores and sporting events and movies, not traveling somewhere in hopes that there might be an item of interest that may or may not sell to a competing bidder anyway. Regular consignment auctions everywhere are noticing a decline in physical attendance, and with a few exceptions due to asset type or geography, it’s becoming clear that the interest consumers have in spending hours at auctions is waning.
What does this trend mean for the auction industry? Does it mean we should pack up our gavels and Half Mile Hailers and go home? Of course it doesn’t. It means we must recognize this change in consumer buying habits and adapt. There is still value in the secondary market. Consumers are no longer looking for auctions, they’re looking for items and they don’t really care how the items are sold. If we present better information about the items to the prospective bidders, they’ll make the effort to make the purchase.
An auction event is a collection of auction items. We auctioneers realize this marketing tactic, and it’s what sets us apart from other one-off competitive bidding sites like eBay. It allows us to more effectively advertise and use economics of scale to keep our costs down and to do a better job for our sellers. What we need to understand and respect is that we must be more granular in our advertising and extend past the event and down to the item level.
The Internet is the obvious answer as a mechanism to list the items at our auctions. Since traditional media is becoming more expensive and less effective every day, our efforts should be focused towards driving customers from our traditional advertisements to our websites. Only there do we have the ability to convey the amount of information at essentially no cost to our clients.
What kind of information should we present and how should we present it?
The more information we convey, the better we can serve our bidders. Aspects such as year, make, model, style, color and condition are obvious components to a good description. If you list an item and someone asks a question about it, use that question as a tip to add the answer to the description so the next possible bidder won’t have to ask the same question.
Digital cameras are cheap, and so is the film. A big memory stick and some freely-available picture processing software makes it amazingly easy to present many pictures of each item.
Consumers don’t want to wait. While you don’t have to know the exact minute an item will sell, publishing a sale order on your website will let a bidder know when he’ll need to be at the auction or, in the case of Internet bidding, in front of his computer. Provide a sale order and don’t break from it.
While our websites are the most important places to present all of this information, they are not only places we should post our items. Internet auction calendars such as the National Auctioneers Association’s auction calendar, Global Auction Guide, the National Auction List and AuctionZip provide free or inexpensive venues to list our items. Craigslist, niche forums and bulletin boards are other places that may take a little more work but may generate a significant benefit for our sellers and our bottom lines.
The amount of information we can convey about each item is substantial. The more details we post for each item on our websites and those sites listed above, the more likely consumers are going to be able to find our items through auction- and non-auction search channels. If a consumer looks for an item using Google and we’ve posted that item on multiple websites with a link back to the auction listing on our site, that consumer is more likely to find our item and participate in our auction. If the item isn’t listed in the auction description, the consumer won’t know about it and will make a purchase from somewhere else.
It sounds like a lot of work. We can’t simply string out the items in a windrow on the lawn on the morning of the auction. Picturing, cataloging, data entry and item-level marketing are all important but labor-intensive and expensive components to modern auction preparation.
Buyers are looking for items. Our sellers are looking for buyers. Technology gives us new ways to advertise items to buyers for our sellers. The next generation of successful auctioneers isn’t going to be successful because those auctioneers have the best chant or the longest company histories . They’re going to be successful because they’ve figured out the most efficient workflow to present the most information in the most places about each individual item they’re selling.
That’s it for episode 20. Have a happy holiday season from AuctioneerTech and we’ll see you in 2010 with more episodes, interviews and the continuation of our video podcast series.
You’ve been listening to the Auction Podcast from AuctioneerTech. If you have suggestions, questions or comments, or are interested in being a guest, please let me know by going to www.auctioneertech.com/feedback and leaving a message. You can also post public comments about this or any other episode, as well as find show transcripts, on the Auction Podcast page of auctioneertech.com.