How Technology is Transforming the Auction World
Technology has changed the auction world dramatically in recent years. The internet, smart phones, worldwide shipping with tracking capability, and electronic payment methods have created a new world in which the auction method can thrive.
The internet has become an essential tool in the auction industry. Auctioneer training would not be the same without today’s technological advances. Consigners rely on the internet to find the right auction company. Buyers similarly search online for auctions offering the things they want. And the auctions, once limited to local patrons, now often serve bidders from all over the world.
Carolina Auction & Realty has moved fully to an online auction model. Many auction companies have made this decision. Others use a blend of technology and traditional methods to deliver their auction services. As auctioneers move further and further toward more technology-based services, it is helpful to understand some of the advances that have transformed the auction world.
Training Auctioneers and Keeping them Informed Goes High Tech
An educated cadre of auctioneers is the cornerstone of the auction industry. The more auctioneers know, the better they can perform their jobs. Educating auctioneers is moving increasingly toward technology-based solutions.
For those entering the business, the first stop is often the internet. Google makes the initial search for a reputable auction school easy and convenient. Each individual can compare and contrast the various schools’ websites and choose the school that best suits his or her needs. These auction schools can train students both in classroom settings and online. Many auction students attend classes then hone their skills with online practice drills.
Auctioneer associations like the National Auctioneers Association (NAA) offer extensive training and certification opportunities for auctioneers throughout their careers. The training covers all aspects of auctioneering including information about technologies that assist the auction process. Some classes are even offered online. The NAA also maintains a database to help its members keep track of the continuing education they complete.
The NAA publishes a magazine ten times per year. Viewable online in PDF, this publication expands auctioneers’ knowledge with information on a wide range of issues including business practices, legal advice, marketing tips, industry and state association news, member profiles, and other information relevant to the auction industry.
The NAA also makes available to its members a host of other information online including:
- A membership directory;
- An auctioneer handbook;
- An official NAA logo for members to use;
- A video designed to educate sellers about auctioneers;
- State media directories;
- PowerPoint presentations for auctioneers to use for speaking engagements;
- Press release templates;
- White papers; and
- The AHA—Auctioneers Helping Auctioneers—a voluntary database of members who are willing to lend a helping hand when another member experiences a crisis.
State auction associations such as the Auctioneers Association of North Carolina (AANC) offer continuing education coursework, often through approved schools. Many continuing education courses are offered online.
Auctioneers can also expand their knowledge and get assistance directly from other auctioneers through Facebook’s Auctioneers group. This is a highly active group of auctioneers who exchange information on all aspects of auctioneering including identifying unusual items, estimating property values, obtaining legal information, determining best practices, and obtaining advice for a wide range of situations.
In addition, smart phones, tablets, and laptop computers enable sharing of photos and other information among auctioneers, sellers, and buyers. And FaceTime provides auctioneers with real-time video conferencing. Auctioneers can now get an expert’s opinion in minutes, using the video capability to transmit 360 degree video of any item and ask questions about specific aspects of that item.
By sharing information with other auctioneers, sellers, shippers, and buyers, auctioneers improve their services dramatically. Ten years ago, these options just weren’t available.
Running Auctions Today Involves Sophisticated Technology
Once a seller commits to an auction company, the auctioneer goes to work. It used to take a long time to prepare an auction catalog. Today, technology allows an auctioneer to produce an auction from start to finish in a month or less. With smart phones, tablets, and laptop computers, plus available software, what used to require multiple steps can now be completed in one step.
For example, Carolina Auction & Realty uses Wavebid. This auction software includes a mobile app that allows the auctioneer to tag auction items and, at the same time, use a smart phone to photograph or video each auction item while verbally describing it. This information is then uploaded to the Cloud from which it can be dropped right into the online auction software. Voice recognition has come a long way in the past twenty years and it is usually a simple matter to make any needed corrections or changes before the entire auction is ready to go. From there, the information is sent to the auction company website and Proxibid which provides a platform for online timed bidding. Proxibid also does an excellent job with Google search engine optimization (SEO) to enhance the chances of more bidders attending the auction.
Smart phones are indispensable today. Auctioneers can track the auction’s progress and maintain contact with sellers, other auctioneers, and even bankruptcy judges. Bidders can use their smart phones and bid anytime anywhere. Sellers can track the auction’s progress from anywhere. An external power bank charger or vehicle-based charger ensures that these devices remain charged no matter where the participants are located.
Wavebid not only provides a mobile app for preparing the auction items but it also provides a full range of services from checking bidders with ID scanning to basic clerking and invoice generation. Credit card transactions are also just a few key strokes away, allowing for quick transactions that provide accurate records for all parties.
Shipping can be arranged online and expands the bidding base dramatically; people from all over the world can bid and have items shipped. Tracking makes it more secure, predictable, and user-friendly. Auction companies have quite a few shipping options. The local UPS store might suffice for shipping small items. But FedEx, FedEx Ground, DHL, and other shipping options are also available. For larger items, a company can contract at substantial discount with a major trucking firm, rigger, and even freight forwarders if items are moving internationally.
Sellers Use Technology to Select Auction Companies
Sellers search the internet to find that one auction company best suited to sell their property. As with any professional, an auctioneer’s website creates a first impression with a potential client. Research shows it only takes a few seconds on a business website for someone to form that impression.
The internet is a powerful tool so auctioneers must ensure that their websites create positive and lasting impressions that compare favorably with those of other auctioneers. Sellers expect an auctioneer’s website to:
- Look professional;
- Provide information about the auctioneer including training and experience;
- Explain the basics of the company’s process;
- Provide contact information; and
- Demonstrate the auctioneer’s authoritative knowledge through listed credentials, blogs, web content, videos, or other substantive content.
The more professional and authoritative an auctioneer looks online, the more likely the seller is to contact that auctioneer. Sellers may look for other clues on an auctioneer’s website as well. For example, the sign-up process for prospective bidders should be straightforward and the website should include a way to contact the auctioneer. The website may reflect the auctioneer’s style and business culture as well. The seller may also find some online customer reviews that rate various auction companies. Checking this information is part of the seller’s due diligence.
The seller likely will want to find an auctioneer who has handled property similar to that which they want to sell. Experience counts for a lot. A seller with real estate to sell will want an auctioneer with real estate experience to handle the auction. If the auctioneer is also a real estate broker or a real estate expert, seller confidence will be higher.
Similarly, someone with personal property will want to place that property with an auctioneer who has handled similar property before. Auctioneers with a specialty certification such as that of certified appraiser tends to attract sellers looking for that specialty.
Another consideration for a seller is how deep an auction company’s bidding pool seems to be. For example, Carolina Auction & Realty uses Proxibid, which reaches 1.5 million bidders. Proxibid makes the auction information available to these bidders, thereby maximizing the potential for spirited bidding and good prices for the auction company’s sellers. Proxibid also optimizes search engine information regarding the auction, ensuring that those searching for particular items are more likely to see the auction online. This is a powerful technological tool that effectively multiplies an auction company’s clientele base dramatically.
Proxibid also sends out an email blast to its mailing list, ensuring that its client base has specific knowledge of each upcoming auction. These services should reassure sellers that the bidding pool will be sizeable and therefore likely to attract higher bids.
Ultimately, sellers include or exclude auction companies from consideration based on their online research. Auctioneers may never even know they were in the running. So make that first impression powerful.
Sellers may even go so far as to test the auction company by signing up as a bidder to see how user-friendly the process is. They might even attend an auction. For online auctions, the seller might peruse other auctions to see how well the auctioneer describes the items for sale and see how many bidders are vying for those items. That prospective client may choose to test the auction company’s online auction software by bidding on an item or two. By becoming a bidder, the seller can evaluate the entire auction process including inspecting the property, finalizing a purchase, and arranging for shipping—all without ever saying a single word to the auctioneer.
In addition to using the internet to find an auction company, sellers also use the internet to research property values, applicable laws, client reviews about auction companies, and other relevant information. The internet allows a prospective client to amass a full evaluation of the relevant aspects of the sale before contacting the auctioneer. They can perform this research from virtually anywhere in the world.
Technology Smooths the Way for Auction Bidders
The internet can turn an online auction into a national—or even international—event. No longer is an auction company limited to a relatively local clientele. In a matter of seconds, buyers looking for particular types of items can find auctions with those items anywhere in the world. A woman in Siberia or a man in the Australian Outback can bid against a college student in California for an item in an online auction offered by a Raleigh, North Carolina auction house.
Buyers consider many of the same things sellers do, but they are primarily concerned with how an auction company’s online auction system works and whether they can rely on a fair auction. They want the process to be easy from sign-up to pick-up.
A bidder interested in Carolina Auction & Realty, for example, will see that the company has a streamlined online sign-up process. A bidder can register online by providing his or her:
- Phone number;
- Email address;
- Password; and
- Credit card.
Buyers also want to know some of the essential aspects of the auction software. Does the auction company allow them to enter a maximum bid so the software will continue to bid on their behalf, up to that maximum, when others enter bids? Does the company provide email notifications regarding their bid status? Does the bidding software prevent sniping by extending the bidding time if someone tries to enter a bid in the last few minutes of the auction?
Bidders also want to be able to obtain information about inspection dates, dates and times for bidding to close, and shipping options. As is the case with sellers, all of this information can be obtained online without ever speaking to the auctioneer.
Buyers also use the internet to perform their due diligence. Google, specialty sites, other auction sites, real estate sites—these are the sources buyers use to evaluate items offered at auction. Armed with facts, buyers can bid with confidence, keeping the auction industry thriving for years to come.
Better technology benefits all participants in the auction process. The internet assists in the training and continuing education of auctioneers. It provides sellers and bidders access to auction companies and critical information. And it makes the actual auction process run smoothly and efficiently. Technology streamlines the auctioneer’s job. It facilitates bidding. And it assists with logistics from processing the sales to arranging for shipment of items. An auctioneer can coordinate most or all of these functions with a smart phone and a laptop computer and ensure the smooth running of an auction from virtually anywhere in the world. There is still room for traditional auctions but technology has transformed—and continues to transform—the auction industry.
Tom Jordan, Auctioneer, CAI, AARE, AMM, CES, MPPA, has been an auctioneer for almost twenty years. He is licensed as an auctioneer in North Carolina, Virginia, and South Carolina and as a real estate broker in North Carolina and South Carolina. He is the owner of Carolina Auction and Realty, a Raleigh, NC company offering online real estate, commercial equipment, estate, business liquidation, and benefit auctions. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration and is a graduate of the Certified Auctioneers Institute at Indiana University. He serves as the Vice Chair and Trustee of the NAA Education Institute and as Chairman of the Conference and Show Education Committee.