Archive for the ‘Auctions’ Category

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.

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:

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).


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).


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:


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


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.

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:

That’s the Way We Do Things Around Here

February 24th, 2012 3 comments

The Monkey, Banana and Water Spray Experiment
5 monkeys are locked in a cage, a banana was hung from the ceiling and a ladder was placed right underneath it. As you would expect, one of the monkeys immediately raced towards the ladder to grab the banana. However, as soon as he started to climb, the researcher sprayed the monkey with ice-cold water. As an integral part of the experiment, the researcher would also spray the other four monkeys. The consequence of the one monkey’s action was doled to all.

It didn’t take long before another monkey tried to climb the ladder. The researcher again promptly sprayed the monkey with ice-cold water and the other four monkeys were sprayed as well. This was repeated again and again until all the monkeys learned the very simple lesson: If any monkey tries to get the banana, all the monkeys gets sprayed with ice-cold water.

Now that the action and consequence was ingrained in the group, the researcher replaced one of the monkeys with a new inexperienced monkey. As one would expect, it didn’t take long before the new monkey spotted the banana and tried to climb the ladder. The other four monkeys, aware of the consequences, pounced on the new monkey before he could reach the ladder and promptly give him a beating. The new monkey doesn’t know why he’s getting beat up but after a few drills he now understands that if you try to get the banana you get beaten. Keep in mind the new monkey has never been sprayed with water.

The researchers repeat this scenario 3 more times replacing one of the original water-sprayed monkeys with a new monkey. Each new monkey goes through the process of trying to get the banana and getting beaten by the other monkeys. Furthermore, each of the monkeys that had never been sprayed with water readily joins in on beating up the new monkey.

Finally, the last “original” monkey is removed from the cage and replaced with a new monkey. The new monkey goes for the banana and is promptly beaten by the four other monkeys. During the beating, the new monkey asks the other four monkeys why he wasn’t allowed to get the banana. The other four monkeys stopped and looked quizzically at each other; they had never been sprayed with water and really didn’t know why. They quickly settled on the answer: Because that’s the way we do things around here, and then resumed the beating.

Process Improvement
I’m a process improvement junkie. There, I’ve said it! I love going to customers’ sites to help implement Auction Flex. During these visits I am often afforded the opportunity to improve processes too. When I encounter a procedure that is ripe for improvement, nearly without fault, the reason they do a task a certain way is because “that’s the way we’ve always done it”. Once upon a time there was a good reason for that process, but nobody can remember what it was or why they still do it like that.

By no means am I suggesting that Auction Flex is absolved from this scrutiny. We continuously self-evaluate and whenever we find an out-of-date process we immediately write it on a whiteboard for discussion during the next company meeting. (Yes, we have a low-tech whiteboard hanging on an office wall!)

In the end, every successful company will end up with legacy processes that no longer make sense. The key here is to constantly be on the lookout for them. If you find any, that’s just proof that you’ve been in business long enough to have accrued them, but now it’s time to trim the waste! If you’re not moving forward, you’re falling behind. In business, there is no standing still.

Categories: Auctions Tags:

Cataloging: A Love/Hate Relationship

March 4th, 2011 9 comments

Nikon CameraLove/Hate
One of the challenges that auctioneer’s face is the necessary task that is cataloging. Cataloging can be slow, tedious, and time-consuming. Cataloging, however, is necessary for opening the auction floor to bidders that can’t physically attend the auction. Cataloging permits internet absentee bidding, internet live broadcasting, and internet-only (timed) auctions. It’s fair to say that auctioneers have a love/hate relationship with the cataloging process. There is no doubt though, that opening the auction floor to more bidders brings higher bids to the consignors and higher commissions to the auctioneer.

Slow is a No-Go
There are many different processes for building auction catalogs and taking lot photos. Different types of auctions (on-site estate auctions, gallery auctions, fine-art auctions, heavy equipment auctions, car auctions, etc.) will have different processes that work best for them. When and where lots get described and entered into the computer is subject to the workflow specific to your business. There is not a universal correct answer for the best way to catalog. All auctioneers, however, can agree that building a catalog with images can be a time-consuming affair and any improvement to this process goes a long ways towards saving labor and money. In this article I would like to discuss some common cataloging processes and the opportunities available for improving on them.

Typical Cataloging
The typical process for building an auction catalog involves 4 steps.

  • Step 1: Attach the lot label to the item.
  • Step 2: Enter and describe the lot on the computer.
  • Step 3: Take pictures of the lot(s).
  • (We typically do 20+ lots of Step1, 2, and 3 before proceeding with step 4)
  • Step 4: Attach the camera’s memory card to the computer and assign the pictures to the correct lots.

The biggest issue with this process is that attaching images after describing lots is inefficient. What if there was a way to attach the images in real-time? Keep reading.

Wireless Image Capture with an Eye-Fi Card
An Eye-Fi card is a special SD memory card with built-in WiFi that can be used with nearly any digital camera that accepts regular SD cards. Using an Eye-Fi card we can take pictures with our regular camera, however, instead of the image just sitting on the memory card, the images are wirelessly transmitted to your computer in real-time. The image then automatically gets attached to the lot that you are working on in Auction Flex. Removing an entire step (step 4) in the cataloging process is a big improvement and a huge time-saver. Read more about the Eye-Fi card here.

What if the process of describing and imaging lots in front of a computer isn’t a process that works for your company? Keep reading.

In Auction Flex version 7.10 (released January 2011) we introduced a brand new capability called catalog by image. What we did was reverse the typical process of building a catalog. Instead of entering lot descriptions and then taking pictures, we actually take pictures and use them to describe the lots with. Here are the steps:

  • Step 1: Attach the preprinted lot label to the item.
  • Step 2: Take your first picture of the lot with the lot label visible. Now take more pictures of the lot from different angles ensuring you include pictures of specific details you want included in the description of the lot. If you want to include dimensions in your description simply include a ruler or tape measure in your photo.
  • (repeat steps 1 and 2 for as many lots as you like)
  • Step 3: Attach the camera’s memory card to the computer and open Auction Flex’s new Catalog by Image form. You then actually use the pictures to describe the lots. When there are multiple images of the same lot the Catalog by Image form intelligently allows you to add to the description of the previously entered lot.

This new catalog by image process is very efficient and can result in a huge reduction in the time it takes to build a catalog.  Click here to want to watch a video of the Catalog by Image process.

We recognize that there is no universal process that works best for every auction. Our goal is to give you the tools you need to work effectively and efficiently with whatever process works best for you. My personal preference for cataloging, however, is undoubtedly the new Catalog by Image feature. This is the way I would catalog whenever possible because it is uniquely efficient and encourages the user to take multiple images of each lot.

As always, if you have any questions or comments please don’t hesitate to contact us.


Categories: Auctions, Software Tags:

Effective E-Mail Marketing

July 29th, 2010 4 comments

Bulk email is a highly cost effective means to keep your customers and potential customers abreast of their topics of interest; namely, your auctions. The caveat here is that you must not abuse your goodwill. That means you must obey this list of do’s and don’ts.

DO (Good)

  • Always include an easy-to-use opt-out link in your emails.
  • Use plain text emails whenever possible – HTML emails look better but plain text emails are easier to read on smartphones and encourage you to be concise. If I want to look at auction images I will click on the link in the email.
  • Double-check ALL links in your emails. A broken link in your email aggravates your customers.
  • Clean up your email list to eliminate bouncebacks (bad emails). Failure to do this increases the likelihood of your emails getting marked as spam.
  • Send your emails from a branded email account like NOT from
  • Ensure you have an easy to use sign-up form on your home page where someone can simply enter the email address and click Submit. Let me repeat that: The only field you need is the email address.  

    DO NOT DO (Bad)

  • Do not send more than one or two emails a month. Sending more than this reduces your read percentage and yields higher opt-out rates.
  • Never, ever purchase or harvest email lists. Using purchased lists can immediately and irrevocably harm your company’s credibility not to mention it will elicit vile responses from the recipients.
  • Never use unscrupulous bulk email service providers. They will collect the email addresses you send to and sell them to spammers.
  • Avoid spammy keywords in your emails like FREE, CLICK NOW!, etc.

    Self-Service or Full Service

    You have the choice of sending your emails yourself or using a bulk email service provider. The biggest issue that most people face when attempting the self-service route is limitations from their Internet Service Provider (ISP). Most ISP’s limit how many emails you can send in an hour. This number is often very low (50 or less) which means that sending a bulk email blast of 5,000 emails would take 100 hours… ugh. That is where the bulk email service providers step in. Because they run their own servers that are connected directly to the internet they don’t have these limitations.



    I can attest to the following list of scrupulous bulk email service providers. They will automatically allow recipients to opt-out of your emails.  They will automatically eliminate bouncebacks from your email list. They will not harvest or sell your email lists to spammers. They can typically send your entire email blast out in less than a few hours. In short, they make bulk email easier to manage.

    Categories: Auctions, Software Tags:

    Auction Audio/Video Recording

    April 8th, 2010 No comments

    There is really only one reason that we record an auction; it provides indisputable evidence of the auction proceedings. If you don’t dot your i’s and cross your t’s then this can obviously work against you. But if you are a by-the-book, list-making, agenda-following auctioneer who always follows protocol, then the auction recording is your best friend.

    A customer suffering from bidder’s remorse might allege that the terms and conditions weren’t disclosed and somehow we’ve lost their signed registration card accepting the terms and conditions. This isn’t a big deal on a 5 dollar boxed lot, but up the ante a bit, and this becomes an expensive headache. A little playback from the recording where the auctioneer actually read, out loud, the terms and conditions prior to the auction, and poof! The bidder’s lawyer magically goes away and the bidder pays up. It’s not always that simple of course, but the message here is clear; recordings serve to cover our posteriors.

    Tapes O’Plenty
    It wasn’t that long ago that we used audio cassettes to record the auction. Typically, the cassette recorder was placed near the auctioneer and every hour or two the tape would be flipped or swapped for a new one. During a long auction this was tedious (to say the least). Then came along the early camcorders. One wise auctioneer postured that if audio was good, video must be better and I, for one, agree. But, unfortunately, the tape swapping issues remained.

    Digital Juice
    We now have the option of recording audio or video digitally. These recording devices have several advantages over their aged brethren.  1) No tapes  2) Can record 20+ hours of continuous audio/video 3) Files can be transferred to your computer for archiving. The beauty here is that we have no tapes to swap. We press the record button at the beginning of the auction and hit the stop button when the auction is done. Even if we’re doing an all day, 12-hour, industrial liquidation marathon, it’s no problem.

    Toys Toys Toys
    The Olympus Digital Voice Recorder VN 6200PC can be purchased from Amazon for $46. It provides 400+ hours of uninterrupted audio in LP mode.

    The Sony DCR-SR68 80GB hard disk drive camcorder that can be purchased from Amazon for $340. It’s a business expense and, rumor has it that it works just as well recording family outings.

    Both of these devices enabled you to transfer the audio or video file to your computer. From there you can treat the file like any other file. You can burn it to CD, email it, etc.

    What’s Your Angle?
    There tends to be two schools of thought on recording video of an auction. 1) Record the auctioneer or 2) Record the audience. There is, of course, a third option; do both with 2 video cameras. If the auction is large enough, and there is enough money at stake, this may be worth the extra effort.

    There are few things that offer as big a bang for the buck for your business as recording your auctions. The mere fact that disputed bid prices can be recalled and reviewed serves to eliminate the disputes to begin with. Scheisters know when the house is in the winning position and that’s what recording your auction does; it stacks the scales of justice in your favor.

    Categories: Auctions Tags:

    Internet-Only Auctions

    February 9th, 2010 11 comments

    Definition Please
    Internet-only auctions (sometimes called timed auctions) are auctions that take place completely online. There is no live audience sitting together in a physical place in front of an auctioneer. Bidders bid online against other internet bidders. The internet bidder with the highest bid at the end wins the lot.

    Over the last few years we have watched the increasing success of our customers as they conduct internet-only auctions. During that time we have identified several key factors to succeeding with online auctions. I will expound on those keys in this post. Additionally, any features or capabilities described below are already built into Auction Flex and can be put to use immediately by any of our customers.

    Not Necessarily National
    Some people believe that the real benefit of internet auctions is the increase in the size of the potential bidder-pool based on the alleviation of geographical limitations. In other words, it’s online so I’m naturally going to have millions of bidders from around the country (or even around the world). I argue that even though this is certainly a possible benefit, it is not a necessary attribute for your online success. We have many customers that conduct internet-only auctions for the bidders in their own backyard. They have trained their existing customer base to bid online in lieu of attending an actual live auction.

    If You Build it, They Will Come = FAIL
    What would happen if you conducted an auction in a new location and didn’t advertise? Your bidder turnout would be horrible at best. That is exactly what will happen if you conduct an internet-only auction without advertising.  An internet-only auction must be marketed the same as you would market a regular live auction. In fact, if your traditional customer base is accustomed to attending live auctions, I will argue that for your first few internet-only auctions you need to market even MORE than regular.

    Preview Too
    An internet-only auction can have a preview just the same that a live auction can. Sometimes bidders will go to preview prior to bidding online. Sometimes bidders will see an item online that they want to look at closer prior to bidding. Either way, a preview is a vital tool that adds a layer of honesty and openness to your bidders. Additionally, it saves you from exhaustively describing and picturing each and every item (especially the lower dollar items that may not justify the time/expense).

    Show Me the Money
    A concern with internet-only auctions is payment, or lack thereof. Feedback from our customers has been that non-payment issues are commensurate with regular live auctions. One step you can take to help with this issue is to require authenticate credit card information before an internet bidder is allowed to bid. Additionally, I recommend that you explicitly state in your terms and conditions that you reserve the right to use the bidder’s credit card for payment in part or in full for any successful bids.

    Stagger Close
    Assume your catalog has 400 lots in it. We don’t want all 400 lots to close at exactly the same time. Instead, we want each lot to close a little bit after the previous lot. If we set the stagger time to 15 seconds and have lot 1 close at 5:00:00pm, then lot 2 will close at 5:00:15 and lot 3 will close at 5:00:30 and so on. This allows someone interested in multiple lots to have time to bid on those multiple lots. In the case of a 400 lot auction with a 15 second close, the duration of the internet auction will be approximately 100 minutes.

    Soft-Close > Sniping
    Typical internet-only auctions (think eBay) are susceptible to a practice called sniping. Auction sniping is the practice of a bidder waiting until the very last second to place a winning bid on an item with the hope that other bidders do not have time to raise their bid. The intent of sniping is to win an item below the potential high bid (market value). Using a soft-close in your online auction will eliminate this practice. A lot using a soft-close ending time will automatically have its bidding time extended if a bid is placed in those last few minutes. Assuming a soft-close setting of 3 minutes, if a bidder waits until the very last second to place a bid on lot 5, the bidding on lot 5 is extended for 3 more minutes. This gives other bidders 3 more minutes to re-raise their bid. It is not uncommon for a high-interest lot to extend hours past its original close time because multiple bidders keep bidding and extending the close time on the lot.

    Linked Soft-Close
    Linked soft-close is an extension of the soft-close functionality. It allows you to link multiple lots together so that when one lot is extended via soft-close, all other linked lots will also be extended. This is especially handy when you have multiple similar items. For example, say you have two tractors in your auction. These two tractors are identical except that one has much lower hours than the other. As a bidder, my preference is to win this lower-hour tractor and so I place a bid on it. Other bidders are also bidding on it and after several rounds of soft-close extensions, the bidding price has exceeded my budget. Here is the good part: Because both tractors are linked together for soft-close, the other higher-hour tractor is still open for bidding (even if no one was bidding on it). So now I am able to start bidding on this second best tractor and I eventually win it. If these two tractors were not linked together, the higher-hour tractor could have already closed.

    A common misconception is that internet-only auctions exclude all other bids. This is wrong. Just because you are conducting an internet-only auction doesn’t mean you can’t accept bids manually (in person, phone, faxed, etc.). There are some tech-phobic bidders that will refuse to bid online and that is okay; their money spends just the same. You can accept their bids, enter them into Auction Flex, and Auction Flex has the built-in capability to push these “floor” bids to the internet so that these bids compete with the internet bidders.

    Auction Day Labor = Nada
    On a live auction day consider the additional staff that has to be brought in; cashiers, clerks, ringmen, runners, etc., etc. Now consider the additional staff required to conduct an internet-only auction on closing day — none. Instead of finding 8 people to come work your auction for 6 hours once every 2 weeks, you can have 1 or 2 people who steadily describe/image lots and help customers with pickups. This can have the drastic affect of stabilizing your labor requirements.

    Shipping – The Headache-Maker
    If you are conducting internet-only auctions to your backyard bidders, shipping is not a concern. Backyard internet bidders tend to come pick up their merchandise. If you do have to arrange shipping I highly suggest forming a working relationship with two or more shippers so that you don’t have to handle the shipping yourself. In your terms and conditions make it clear that the bidder will deal with the shipping companies directly to arrange for packaging and shipping. Now you are not responsible for packaging, broken merchandise, etc. and that is a beautiful thing. The shipping company will be happy for the business (they’re built for this) and you don’t have to pull your hair out dealing with this issue.

    But Live Auctions are So Much Better
    As an auctioneer, you will naturally be inclined to perceive an auction without a bid-caller as a travesty of magnanimous proportion. I’m not going to argue the merits of live vs online as the pros and cons list could go on for a very, very long time. The variables that determine what makes a successful internet-only auction are specific to you, your bidders and consignors, and regional variables that only you can answer.

    One Size Does NOT Fit All
    Some types of auctions just beg to be conducted using an internet-only format. Other auctions have no business being conducted solely on the internet. You should consider internet-only auctions as yet another potential method to use in fulfilling your fiduciary obligation to your consignors to get the best possible price. Additionally, don’t discount the potential that internet-only auctions have to reduce your costs which can, of course, provide you a competitive advantage and/or increase your profits.

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