Archive

Author Archive

Auction Flex Tips and Tricks for Before Auction Day

March 21st, 2017 No comments
Watch this short video to learn a bunch of handy Auction Flex tips and tricks that you can use before auction day. [embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wkdswn3mucg[/embed]
Categories: Software Tags:

Auction Flex Tips and Tricks for Auction Day

March 10th, 2017 No comments
Watch this short, rapid-fire video to learn a bunch of handy Auction Flex tips and tricks that you can use on auction day.   [embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Dr1tB6jtLk[/embed]
Categories: Software Tags:

Online or Live, Musser Bros. Relies on Auction Flex & HiBid

February 21st, 2017 No comments
Musser BrosScott Musser grew up calling bids and like most former IAC Champions, he’s very good at it. But these days, he spends more time watching the bidding on a computer screen than looking out over an audience of live bidders. That’s because Musser, like many other auctioneers, conducts many of his auctions online. For that, he depends on the reliability and service of Auction Flex and HiBid, which have been powering Musser Bros. auctions since 2008. “We hold the majority of our personal property auctions online because we get far better results -- double or triple the participation of a live auction. It’s a no-brainer,” said Musser. Musser Bros HiBid AppIn more than eight years, the relationship between Musser and Auction Flex hasn’t soured a bit. “Back when we started, Auction Flex was basically just for clerking, accounting and checkout. Apps, online bidding and many other features came later. Over the years, they have added features constantly, responding quickly to client requests. Their service is world class by any standard. Because the software is so powerful, there are a lot of features to discover and learn so they have a multitude of ways to reach them. There’s not a single issue we’ve posted to them that they haven’t had a response for,” he said. Scott Musser CallingMusser is also pleased with the results he is getting using the company’s custom app. “When we do a push, we’re getting about a 25 percent conversion. It’s pretty phenomenal to have that many people responding and coming into the app when they get that notification,” he said. "The company still conducts most of its real estate auctions live using HiBid’s simulcast and absentee bidding features,” Musser said.
Categories: Auctions Tags:

Auction Flex and HiBid let DreamDirt “play with the big boys”

January 24th, 2017 No comments
Four years ago, Jason Smith’s DreamDirt was a scrappy little company in Mondamin, Iowa, trying to make a name for itself in an agricultural auction market dominated by the big companies. He was looking for a leg up that would help him go head to head with much bigger companies. Now, DreamDirt has operations in Missouri, Nebraska and North Dakota, with no plans to slow down. The turning point, he says, came in 2013, when DreamDirt first began using Auction Flex Auction Software and HiBid Internet Auctions. The change streamlined the grunt work of auctions and freed him to spend more time building his company and boosting his marketing. “When you’re the little guy, you have to be  aggressive. Everybody has to pull their own weight and then some. And every piece of your marketing program has to do the same. If something’s not working, you have to change it before it sinks you,” says Smith. Auction Flex and HiBid have fit perfectly into the DreamDirt philosophy, says Smith. “We do all our clerking, cashiering and settlement through Auction Flex, right down to printing out the invoices, paying vendors, you name it. I’d say it reduces the work of an auction to maybe 10 percent of what it was before,” Smith said. Smith said Auction Flex works equally well for live, webcast and online auctions, all of which DreamDirt uses. “The custom DreamDirt app (for iOS and Android) that Auction Flex built is an incredibly powerful tool, allowing people to bid from anywhere in the world. The push notification allows us to send out a notice that an auction is about to begin in, say, two hours. We learned the hard way that when we send a push notification, we have to have people ready to answer the phone, because it starts ringing like crazy. We’re able to watch our analytics in real time and see where the traffic is coming from,” said Smith. Jason Smith“For a small startup like mine, Auction Flex’s whole technical package levels the playing field and allows us to play with the big boys. For just a modest cost, we can have every tool they have, and there’s nobody who can beat Auction Flex’s customer service. That’s a big deal to me, and it’s why we’ve never even thought about changing,” Smith said. I love the idea that when we suggest improvements, Auction Flex is right there with their ears wide open.  100% of the interactions I’ve had with Brandon and his staff have been positive.  I really sense their interest in making us successful and partners like that are really rare.
Categories: Auctions Tags:

Cataloging with a Smartphone

November 16th, 2016 No comments
Cataloging is one of the most time consuming activities auctioneers do. With Auction Flex Mobile you can use your smartphone or tablet to accomplish this task quicker than you ever thought possible. Auction Flex Mobile works on your local network; absolutely no internet required. Or, if you are using Auction Flex in the Cloud, Auction Flex Mobile works anywhere you have an internet connection. To download the free Auction Flex Mobile app visit the Apple App Store or Google Play Store. To read more about Auction Flex Mobile visit our website. Watch this video to see Auction Flex Mobile in action. [embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0lQydfmwVx8[/embed]
Categories: Auctions, Computers, Software Tags:

Exclusive Contracts – What Are They Good For?

January 8th, 2015 1 comment
Globe Surrounded by Laptops - XSmall Exclusive Contracts More and more online bidding service providers are aggressively pursuing multi-year exclusive contracts with auctioneers. If you sign that contract you've handicapped your business and this blog post explains why. Lost Opportunity ABC online bidding provider comes to you and offers you a great 3-year deal (lower setup costs, lower percentage) and you think, heck, why not? You only use ABC online bidding provider right now anyway. If you sign that contract you have now gambled your future that nothing significant changes in the next 3 years. What if a few months from now you have a golden opportunity to conduct an auction with different types of assets where ABC online bidding provider isn't a good match? Now you're regretting that exclusive agreement, you don't have the ability to utilize the best tool for the auction, and you're stuck with that decision for 33 more months. The other variable here is change on the provider's side. What if you sign that 3-year agreement and you get your prices locked in but then they change something else? What if they stop collecting bidder payment information so you're left to hope for payment after the auction? What if they start an auctioneer ranking system that penalizes you for not meeting their arbitrary guidelines? What if they enact a new rule that prohibits you from posting links back to your home page? What if they start restricting your ability to make catalog changes after bidding has opened? The list goes on and on, but once you've signed that exclusive contract you're tied to that ship, wherever it decides to go. Your competitor didn't sign that exclusive agreement and, by contrast, your competitor is able to use the best tool for each auction. They use a mix of ABC, OPQ, and XYZ bidding providers, whichever works best. Because they use the best tool for the job they achieve higher hammer prices, put more profit in their pockets, and in a matter of 3 years your competitor goes from being smaller than you, to being the big dog. just_say_noJust Say No We have never believed in exclusive contracts and never will. Our job is to give you the tools you need to succeed, one of which is our private-label online bidding platform Bidopia. Bidopia is a modern, low cost (no percentages), private-label, non-exclusive online bidding platform where you drive your own traffic and build your own brand. Bidopia offers Webcast, online-only, and internet absentee solutions. While it may work for many auctioneers and many types of auctions, we fully understand that Bidopia is just a tool in your tool box. We do not ask for exclusivity and Auction Flex has built in tools to allow you to quickly and easily export your catalog to any online bidding platform of your choosing. The Insanity We've heard more than one auctioneer say, 'ABC provider brought me 50 bidders'. Yet, after a brief discussion we learn that the auctioneer is sending all their bidders from their website and marketing to the ABC provider's site. To clarify, the auctioneer is driving their bidders to ABC provider's site and then giving them credit for it! The auctioneer is then paying ABC provider a percentage of the successful bid for the bidder they delivered. That's like bringing bread to the bakery and then buying it back! To add insult, ABC provider doesn't even provide the auctioneer with bidder info on all of the registered bidders; they restrict access to only the winning bidders. As if all that wasn't enough, ABC provider will then giddily send the auctioneer a report claiming credit for all of the internet bidders regardless of how many were truly driven from the auctioneer's own marketing. And the auctioneer says, wow, ABC provider brought me 50 bidders! The insanity knows no bounds!!! Webcast Profit Center Remember that without exclusivity you can utilize multiple webcast providers. You can use Bidopia and ABC online bidding provider and XYZ online bidding provider. Since you don't pay a percentage with Bidopia you send your bidders from your website and your marketing to your private-label Bidopia page. Just because you're not paying a percentage doesn't mean you stop charging the higher internet buyer's premium. The difference is that instead of paying out the extra buyer's premium to ABC provider that extra BP becomes a profit center for your company. By not sending your bidders to ABC provider's site you've made that provider earn the percentage they charge on winning bids. In 2014, the first year Bidopia Webcast was available, the Bidopia Webcast platform saved auctioneers ~$500,000 in fees. That's an extra $500,000 straight to our customers' bottom lines. Internet-Only Auctions With internet-only auctions it's important to point out that, unlike webcast, you can only use a single provider. With the low cost of Bidopia (no setup cost & no percentage) there's a HUGE difference in what can be a profitable online-only auction when you're only paying the Bidopia $75 maximum bidding fee per auction vs. what ABC provider charges ($500 setup + 5% or even $300 + 3%). In 2014 the Bidopia Internet-Only platform saved our customers millions in fees! absolutely_nothingWhat Are They Good For? When an online bidding provider tries to entice you into signing an exclusive contract they are looking out for their best interest, not yours. Let's be honest; if they were truly the "best" marketplace then they wouldn't need that exclusive agreement now would they? The fact is they make the bulk of their money by taking a percentage of successful online bids. If there is less competition from other platforms' bidders, they stand to make more money, even as your hammer price and commission fall. Exclusive contracts. What are they good for? Edwin Starr said it best, "Absolutely nothing."
Categories: Auctions, Software Tags:

Gmail For Your Business

October 16th, 2013 1 comment
Google Apps for BusinessCompany Branding In talking to auctioneers I've found that most think that if you use Gmail your email address has to end in @gmail.com. For example XYZ Auction Company would have [email protected] as their email address.  While this is certainly an option, it's not the ideal one. With Gmail your email address can be branded to your existing website domain name. For example if your website is www.xyzauction.com Gmail can handle your various @xyzauction.com emails ([email protected], [email protected], etc.). It's important to note that it doesn't matter where your website is actually hosted, Google can still handle the email for your domain. More Than Gmail Google has an entire suite of products that is collectively known as Google Apps for Business (GAB). This suite of products includes:
  • Gmail - email
  • Calendar - calendar
  • Drive -  cloud file storage
  • Docs - word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, etc.
  • Hangouts - text, audio, and video conferencing
  • Sites - internal websites for your company
  • and more
Here's the best part about GAB: it costs $50 per user per year. That includes 30GB of Gmail and Drive storage! To sign up for Google Apps for Business visit https://www.google.com/enterprise/apps/business/ Introductions Are in Order
  • Gmail - When a new email shows up in your inbox you have two options on what do with it; you can either archive it or you can delete it. If you archive the email you will always be able to go back and find it. If you delete it, it will go to your Trash folder; after 30 days in your trash folder it will then get permanently deleted. Gmail has two ways to archive: you can click the archive button or you can assign a label to the email. A label is like moving the email to a named archive folder. You can then browse that named archive folder. For example, any time I book travel I label the confirmation email as Travel. Now, any time I want to retrieve any travel info I simply browse my Travel folder.
  • Calendar is an absolute pleasure to use. As you might guess Calendar allows you to set and keep track of your appointments. Each appointment, in turn, can have one or more reminders scheduled (I really like this feature). Let's say I have a meeting next week that I will need to prepare for. I can set an email reminder 24 hours before the meeting which serves as a reminder to prepare and I can have a second  Pop-Up reminder 15 minutes before the meeting which is a reminder to actually get to the meeting. Google Calendar also makes it easy to view the calendars of your other team members which is very handy when you need to coordinate with your team. One of my favorite tricks with calendar is that I use it to email myself future reminders; here's how: Let's say next Wednesday I need to remind myself to publish a blog post. I create a zero minute calendar appointment for next Wednesday at 8 in the morning, and set a single email reminder for it. Now, next Wednesday morning at 8am an email reminder magically appears in my inbox reminding me to publish a blog post. I use this trick constantly!
  • Drive is GAB's cloud storage which serves as a central place to store your files. Regardless of what device you're currently using (Android phone/tablet, iPhone/iPad, Windows PC, Mac PC, etc.), everything in Google Drive is accessible. Google Drive even has an off-line mode so that you can make certain documents accessible even when you don't have internet access.
  • Docs is a lightweight replacement for the Microsoft Office suite. Docs includes word processing (think MS Word), spreadsheets (think MS Excel), presentations (think MS Powerpoint), and more. These are all light versions of what Microsoft Office offers, the advantage being that they're often easier to use because they don't do as much.
  • Hangouts allows you to group chat with your entire team simultaneously. This could be text chat, audio chat, or video chat.  It's very slick and works very well for group video conferencing.
  • Sites allows you to create simple websites that are only accessible by your team. Imagine that you're coordinating an auction with your team. You could setup a site for the auction and keep the master check-list, schedule, etc. on it.
  • And More - GAB includes other features and capabilities but these are the big ones.
Synchronization All of the GAB features and data are available no matter what device you're using. Windows PC's, Android phones/tablets, Mac's, iOS devices, etc. GAB essentially works on everything. For Android users: Since Android is a Google product you can guess that Android phones and tablets work very, very well with the entire GAB suite of products. Backups Admit it, you're bad at making backups. With GAB the days of remembering to backup your data (Outlook, Word, Excel, etc) are over. You can rely on Google's extremely reliable infrastructure to keep your data safe and secure. One of the unique features about working with GAB is that everything is saved automatically as you're working. You never have to explicitly click a save button! This takes some getting used to. Sharing One of the more overlooked features is the ability to easily share documents. Say I'm working on a spreadsheet to estimate the cost of doing an on-site auction for the Smith Estate. I need to collaborate with an associate who lives down the street or across the country; it doesn't matter. I can simply share my spreadsheet to the associates email address. I have the option of granting read-only privileges or I can allow my associate to modify my spreadsheet directly. We can even modify the spreadsheet simultaneously and the changes will show up in real-time on both computers! MX What? I left this part for last on purpose. Warning, tech jargon ahead (don't let this part scare you)!  To make Google responsible for handling your domain's email ([email protected]) you have to setup an MX record on the DNS server that handles your domain. For this part you probably want to hire some technical help. If you are tech-savvy this is something you handle on your own; a little Google-Fu will yield the requisite information. Round Off Reasons to switch:
  • If your email is currently handled by your Internet Service Provider ([email protected]) switching to GAB will give you better branding and allows you to easily switch internet service providers in the future.
  • If your email is not branded to your website ([email protected] or [email protected]) switching to GAB will give you better company branding.
  • If you're a road-warrior switching to GAB will give you an easy central place to store nearly everything.
  • If you have trouble collaborating with your team switching to GAB will give you tools to work better together.
Google Apps for Business is good enough that it's worth the effort of switching. I switched Auction Flex to GAB about a year ago and while there are a few things I miss from our old Exchange solution, I'm definitely happy with all that GAB offers.  
Categories: Software Tags:

Catalog by Barcode Images Revisited

September 17th, 2013 2 comments
Auction Flex has had barcode image recognition built-in since April, 2008. It has come to our attention, however, that most of our customers are not aware of this feature or the improvements made to it over the years.
What Is Catalog by Barcode Images?
In short, it's a super-fast way to build a catalog. You can pre-print barcode labels from within Auction Flex, affix the label to the lot, and then take a picture of the lot label. Now you can take as many subsequent pictures of the lot as required. Repeat this process for each lot. When you plug that camera (or memory card) into your computer Auction Flex will read the barcodes from the images and import all the non-barcode images into the correct lots automatically (no manual entry required).
v8.01.04 Cha-cha-cha-changes! (song)
In Auction Flex version 8.01.04 we made a few more changes to the Catalog by Barcode Images capability. Firstly, we made the feature more prominent by adding a dedicated button directly on the  Auction Lots & Preview form (screenshot below). Auction Lots Catalog by Barcode Image The second change we made was to add a new lot label that is specifically optimized for barcode image recognition. You can find this label in Auction Lots & Preview->Reports->#70 . This new lot label report prints on Avery 5163 size labels - 2" x 4" (screenshot below). AuctionLotsAndPreviewReport70 The third change we made was to tweak the barcode image recognition settings for the new label. Auction Flex can now analyze around 350 images a minute. The fourth change we made was to enhance the user interface of the Catalog by Barcode Image form to make the cataloging process a little easier. Below is a screenshot of the primary data entry screen. There are subtle changes here from the previous version that will speed up your data entry. Catalog By Barcode Image In the above screenshot you will notice that the barcode was read from the first image and automatically excluded from being assigned to the lot. The second image, which is the first real image of the lot, is used to enter the consignor code, inventory type, description, and other relevant info. Each additional image can be used to type additional description from the image. The thumbnail on the left is automatically blown up on the right when that row has focus. This allows you to see additional detail from the large image. Additionally, there is a built-in image editor for cropping, rotation, and adjustment of brightness/contrast. To open the image editor simply double-click on the thumbnail image.
The Process
The process for cataloging by barcode images is very simple.
  1. Start by pre-printing the barcode lot labels. To print them go to Auction Lots & Preview, click Reports button at lower left, then select report #70 "Catalog by Image Barcode Labels (Avery 5163)".
  2. Change your camera to use a very low quality setting (1 or 2 megapixels is fine). Remember that unless you are taking pictures to be printed in professional glossy catalogs there is no reason to take huge 8+ megapixel images. The consequence of taking unnecessarily large pictures is that they will take longer to transfer from the camera or memory card, they will slow down the barcode image recognition, and they will slow-down the automatic web compression built into Auction Flex.
  3. Affix the label to a lot (or lot tag).
  4. Take a fairly close picture of the lot such that the lot label takes up about 1/4 to 1/3 of the image area. Do NOT use macro mode on your camera. Barcode Label 1
  5. Now take one or more pictures of the lot trying not to include a visible barcode. Violin face Violin side
  6. Repeat steps 3 -5 for as many lots as you care to do.
  7. Connect your camera or memory card to your computer.
  8. From Auction Flex go to Auction Lots & Preview and click the Catalog by Barcode Images button.
  9. Step 1 in this form allows you to choose the folder where the images are stored. Click the ... button and select the appropriate folder location. Then click Next Step. Catalog by Barcode Images Step 1
  10. Now you are on the main data entry screen where you fill in the lot info (consignor code, quantity, inventory type, lead, description, etc.). Once you're done with the data entry click Next Step. Catalog by Image Lot 1
  11. The final step is to click the Import Images button. Auction Flex will then create your lots, attach the images, and automatically optimize your images for the internet.
That's all there is to it! If you want to upgrade to this latest version just shoot us an email and we'll send you the download links (version upgrade eligibility required - rental customers always receive upgrades for free).
Questions?
In closing it's important to note that no single cataloging process works perfectly for every auctioneer. That is why Auction Flex offers many different ways to build your catalog. For questions on this process, any other cataloging process, or anything at all, please don't hesitate to contact us.  
Categories: Auctions, Software Tags:

The Great Sliding Scale Commission Debacle

January 7th, 2013 5 comments
Taxes and Sliding Scale Commissions; they both cost you money. One of them can be entirely avoided (legally). There are 3 basic types of commission structures:
  • Fixed rate - a single rate charged regardless of how much a lot sells for
  • Sliding scale - a variable rate charged on the selling price of a lot
  • Incremental - a multi-level rate charged in increments based on the selling price of a lot
Fixed rate is simple. Sliding scale is bad. Incremental is good. Let's put together some real world examples of sliding scale and incremental to see why.
  • Assume a commission structure of:
    • 30% up to $100
    • 20% up to $1,000
  • When a lot sells for $100?
    • Using sliding scale = $30 commission
    • Using incremental = $30 commission
  • When a lot sells for $110?
    • Using sliding scale = $22 commission ($110 * 20%)
    • Using incremental = $32 commission ($100 * 30%  +  $10 * 20%)
  • When a lot sells for $150?
    • Using sliding scale = $30 commission ($150 * 20%)
    • Using incremental = $40 commission ($100 * 30%  +  $50 * 20%)
Compare the commissions at $100 hammer price vs the commissions at $110 hammer price. At $100 with sliding scale we made $30 commission. At $110 hammer price with sliding scale we only made $22. We actually gave back $8 in commission even though the hammer price increased $10! It's not until $150 hammer price that the sliding scale commission gets back to $30 commission which was the same commission earned on $100 hammer price. Let's visualize that: SlidingScale_vs_Incremental_Commission Sliding scale looks like a lightning bolt. Lightning is bad. Incremental just goes up and up. Up is good. Using sliding scale, the interest of the auctioneer (commission) is at odds with their fiduciary responsibility to the consignor. Commission should always increase with the hammer price. With a sliding scale commission structure your commission will drop at each and every level in your schedule. By contrast, an incremental commission structure always results in increasing commissions; it aligns the interests of the auctioneer with the consignor. Now consider the effects of sliding scale commission on a 400 lot consignment auction that grosses $30,000. Let's compare:
  • Flat 20%
  • Sliding scale - 50% up to $25, 30% up to $100, 10% thereafter
  • Incremental - 50% up to $25, 30% up to $100, 10% thereafter
Commission-comparison_entire-auction With flat we earned $6,000 commission With sliding scale we earned $6,700 commission With incremental we earned $8,280 commission What's interesting about the comparison is the 50% section of the sliding scale vs incremental. Notice how much bigger the 50% section is on incremental? That's because we earned 50% of the first $25 of every lot that sold. With sliding scale we only earned 50% on the lots that sold for $25 or less. As you can see, that difference added up significantly on the entire auction. Despite the shortcomings of sliding scale commission, its use is common place. Hopefully this blog post has, at the very least, persuaded you to give thought to the topic. It goes without saying, but it's still worth mentioning: If you decide to start using incremental commission structures, make sure to update your consignor contract accordingly. Is sliding scale really a debacle? Of course not; commission is commission. Please forgive the dramatic title! Leave a comment if you agree, disagree, or just want to share your experiences.
Categories: Auctions, Software Tags:

A Grouped Soft Close Manifesto for Internet-Only Auctions

July 31st, 2012 No comments
Internet-Only Auctions Internet-only auctions (also called timed auctions) bring their own set of techniques for achieving the highest hammer price for your consignor. There are specific features that are unique to internet-only auctions that elicit greater bidder competition. One of these features is called soft close. Soft Close When an auction uses soft close, the closing time of a lot is extended by X minutes when a bid is received on that lot in the last X minutes. X can be defined as 2 minutes or 3 minutes or 10 minutes; that's up to the auctioneer. Imagine that lot #10 is down to 5 seconds and a bidder places a new high bid. In a normal auction, that bidder would have "sniped" the lot. That is, they bid in the closing seconds which prevented any other bidder from countering that bid. With soft close enabled, when that bidder waits until 5 seconds are left to place the bid, the bid on the lot gets extended by X minutes thus giving other bidders a chance to raise their bids. Grouped Soft Close There is another type of soft close that we call "Grouped Soft Close". In a grouped soft close multiple lots are "grouped" together such that a bid on one lot will extend other lots in the group. It's important to point out that there are two different types of grouped soft close and they serve different purposes: 1. Synchronized - All the lots are set to close at the same time. Any time one lot extends, all other lots in the group are extended as well. This is useful as an online choice between multiple similar lots. For example, if I were selling multiple four-wheelers, lot 11 was the best one, lot 12 was the next best, and lot 13 was the last. As a bidder I may bid on lot 11 until such time as it exceeds my budget. I could then fall back to bidding on lot 12, and finally to lot 13. 2. Staggered - The lots in the group have their closing times staggered. Earlier lots extend later lots in the group, but later lots do not extend earlier lots in the group. An example where this is useful is a tractor and its implements: Lot 5 is the tractor, lot 6 is a mower deck, lot 7 is a box scraper, etc. The tractor extends the implements but the implements don't extend the tractor. Someone bidding on the tractor may only be interested in bidding on the implements if they win the tractor. A staggered, grouped soft close allows the bidder to win the tractor and then proceed to bidding on the implements. Invaluable Both soft close group methods can be very effective and invaluable online selling tools (Bidopia 1.0 and 2.0 support both of these grouped soft close methods). If you aren't yet using grouped soft close in your internet-only auctions, you should be; or at least you should know that the option is available. If you have any questions, as always, please feel free to contact us.  
Categories: Auctions, Software Tags: