I see people discuss my industry, and theirs, every day. In this article, we will discuss online auctions and live auctions. I am consistently surprised when they discuss something, as being knowledgeable, when they really.... aren't. I was a Used car dealer for 18 years, in the business for 25, yet you rarely see me discuss, as an expert, classic cars. Why? Because I bought to resell to users, not collectors. That is not my lane.
I recently watched a discussion, mainly about online auctions, which stated that we auctioneers should treat customers better, in light of how Amazon has changed the world. While I agree that we should treat customers well, I vehemently disagree with the how. I've heard "experts" espouse the use of warranties, allowing returns, having more opportunity to preview, and much less restrictive terms and conditions. Unless you are selling return merchandise at online auction, I couldn't disagree more. We sell belongings of other entities. Those items do not belong to us, and without our Clients express permission, lest you forget, that we work for the Seller, we cannot offer return policies, or warranties. Additionally, the retail pricing structure, which allows for those niceties, are not there.
Instead, I prefer to, when at all possible, to create a better experience for the buyer, for when they come to pick up their merchandise. In fact, we could (my companies) become more consistent with such. From a hands off, minimal liability standpoint, we rarely assist our customers with the physicality of removal in our online auctions. Our terms and conditions, even though sometimes a little lengthy, clearly spell out that our staff will not help load. However, we will guide you to your item, we will help to ensure that your item is still there when you arrive, and sometimes we pre pick small items and box them. In other auctions, depending upon logistics, your order will be picked and ready when you arrive. Our live auction crew does the opposite. We are happy to help you load, and reserve the equipment to do so. It is much more family style. These are all matters that a professional discusses with his/her Client, and executes throughout the auction process.
There is a reason, at least for my 2 online auction companies, that we have a limited preview, limited being defined here as 1-2 hours before the online auction begins to close, where prospective buyers have the option and opportunity to come inspect the merchandise, much as you would have the day of a live auction. I have sat there for 2 different 8 hour days, wasting resources, for people to come inspect. The reason our windows are so short, our customers... not our Clients, our market, our bidders have spoken. They trust our images, and our descriptions enough that they do not come.
I hear, from people that conduct the majority of their auctions in the live format, that a live auction, that 2000 year old profession, has largely stayed the same, and that, even though online auctions are newer, they too, are the same. Not true, and until you are proficient at both, you should refrain from saying that.
I can only speak from my own experience. That experience includes approximately 450 auctions over a 6 year period. Included are micro live auctions, Industrial auctions that were simulcast, industrial and business liquidation 100% online, and real estate and farm auctions that have been 100% live.
My experience tells me that the live auction goer, and the online bidder are two completely different animals. We cross market to them, and there are crossovers, but by and large my bidders stay in their lanes. I have live bidders that swear they would never attend an online auction. By the same token, I rarely see the majority of my online bidders at my live auctions. I will say that I see more new online bidders come over from the live auction side, than vice versa. In my opinion, this is 100% marketing based. In my experience, I see live auctioneers, myself included, advertising the event. Yes, we have an inventory and photos, but the emphasis is on the event. In an online Auction, the event itself is secondary, the emphasis is on the inventory.
In closing, while I certainly agree that the buying experience should be enhanced, I have to watch out for my Client.
I love all auctions. I love my live auction partners, I love my online auction partners, and I love my fundraising, another completely different animal.
Hey! I just discovered that I have 3 different lanes!
Whatever lanes you choose, choose to do your best,
Shawn J Dostie, Auctioneer, CAI