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How do you make your silent auction roar? Focus on the user experience (Part 1 of 2)

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We are often asked the question, “what sets Handbid apart from other mobile bidding solutions?” There are a lot of ways to answer that question but the one that we emphasize the most is our strong focus on making the the end-user experience so engaging and fun that bidders can’t help but become active in the bidding process.

Auctions are all about commerce: buyers and sellers, and auctions must have these three main components to work:

  1. Items (something to sell)
  2. Bidders (buyers, guests at an event)
  3. Bidding Environment (a means for bidders to connect with the auction and bid on items)

If you want to improve your auction, you really only have 3 main options:

  1. Get more (or better) items for the auction
  2. Invite more bidders to the auction
  3. Improve the bidding environment

We find that most organizations have continuously worked on #1 and #2 and paid little attention to #3. We here at Handbid believe that improving the bidding environment will have the biggest impact on auction performance. Why is that? Lets explore that a bit more.

First, #1 is largely dependent on #2. You have to find items that will interest your bidders. Adding more items to an auction does not insure that they will receive bids.

Second, #2 is largely tied to some sort of relationship with you, the seller (auction host). Certainly you can find 3rd parties who may participate your auction (we even have competitors that offer that up for a 30% fee), but these “shoppers” are not the type that are likely to bid above fair-market-value in the name of “supporting a good cause.” In other words, its difficult for an organization to expand its reach beyond its current scope of supporters.

We believe that improving the bidder environment, #3, will have the biggest impact on your auction’s gross revenue. And, that is why Handbid is so committed to making the user experience second to no other mobile bidding provider in our industry. There are several ways to do this, here are a few key ones:

  • Give bidders more opportunity to stay connected to an auction. Allow them to bid from anywhere at any time. If you limit a bidder’s ability to bid, it will limit their participation. Paper bid sheets are a classic example of ways that current auctions limit a bidder’s ability to bid as they require physical presence and proximity to the sheet. You can’t check your bids or update your bid from across the room or from home.
  • Expand the time that an auction occurs to give bidders more time to be connected and engaged (what does engaged mean? It means they are consciously participating and thinking about the auction and their status in it). It would be difficult to do this if people had to be present. With electronic bidding, auctions can span days or weeks allowing bidders to get setup, aware of items, bidding, and competing to win. Sometimes that is difficult to do in an event that only spans 2-3 hours.
  • Keep bidders engaged through instant updates and alerts that get their attention. Remind them of what they are winning or losing or the auction status. The key here is instant and attention grabbing. Text messages often get missed or lost, but a notification that pops up in the middle of the screen that must be dismissed is sure to be recognized and read.
  • Create a bidding interface that makes it fun and easy to bid. This interface should facilitate signup, bidding, setting max bids, showing current winning/losing status, providing instant notifications and updates, and facilitating payment at the end. This is the most important element out of all of the ways of improving the bidding environment. For paper auctions, this may simply be a rearrangement of your bidding area. Perhaps giving your bidders more room to see items and place bids. For mobile/electronic systems, this is the user interface. Many solutions out there claim that they provide this fun and easy to use interface, but we feel they fall massively short.

In our next post, we will explore in more depth our views on mobile bidding user interfaces, identifying essential features that make them effective in producing higher revenue results for your auction.

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