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Strategies for Pre-Event Online Bidding

Posted by Evan Doyle on April 14, 2011


When using ReadySetAuction to conduct an online auction prior to your silent/live event auction, you can choose whether each item in your online catalog is for:

  • view only
  • pre-bidding for event auction
  • pre-bidding with absentee bidding during event auction
  • online-only bidding

Our customers often ask us what types of items are best suited to each category. Here are some strategies to consider:

View Only

What it means: Visitors to your online catalog may view this package, but not place bids.

With the ‘view only’ option, you’re using your online catalog as a marketing tool to showcase certain items prior to the event, without making them biddable until the event. Use such special showpiece items to attract guests to your event. Which types of items are best suited to ‘view only’ status?

  • Special, one-of-a-kind items that have great appeal to your potential event guests, like a classroom project that includes each student’s handprint. In this case, you want every parent to come to the event feeling as if he or she has a chance to participate, at the very least, at the opening bid level.
  • Items that elicit a huge emotional response, such as lunch with a local celebrity or an ice cream party with a favorite teacher
  • Artwork and sculptures by local artists
  • Rare or special bottles of wine or liquor
  • Items that have done amazingly well at your event in past years. Like special one-of-a-kind items, these proven winners work as a way to lure guests to your event. More guests at your event help drive event bids higher, maximizing your profits.

Pre-bidding for Event Auction

What it means: The highest online bid at the close of the online auction will become the item’s starting bid at the silent/live event auction.

For items and services that typically don’t get full value at your event because they lack broad appeal, online pre-bidding offers a way to give them a little pre-event boost for better exposure and higher bids. For example:

  • Massage therapist gift certificate
  • Dental exam and teeth whitening gift certificate
  • Doctor procedure gift certificate
  • Eye exam gift certificate (even better if it includes a discount on a pair of glasses)
  • Health club memberships
  • Sports training gift certificate
  • Jewelry, scarves and other accessories

Pre-Bidding with Absentee Bidding During Event Auction

What it means: The highest online bid at the close of the online auction will become the item’s starting bid at the silent/live event auction. If that high bidder has an outstanding maximum bid, the auction committee will bid on his or her behalf up to that amount at the event auction.

This category is really an extension of the one above. Items to which you could apply this category include:

  • Highly coveted or popular items with broad appeal. A perfect example of this is autographed items to which the extended community might be highly attracted. Since your ReadySetAuction-hosted auction website integrates with Facebook and Twitter, you and your constituents can easily spread the word to your extended social networks about these special items. Your cousin from Topeka who collects signed baseballs and your niece in Maine who lives for anything Harry Potter will not only help drive the bidding up online, but — since any outstanding maximum online bid will be carried over to the event — they will also drive bidding up at the event. Plus, they will still have the opportunity to win even though they cannot attend your event.
  • Expensive travel packages. The number of bidders at your event interested in a big travel package may be limited. So reaching out to your broader social network is an effective way to get the highest final bid.

Online-Only Bidding

What it means: The highest online bid at the close of the online auction determines the winner of the package.

Items well suited to “online only” bidding include:

  • Duplicate items. If you have procured two of the same item, auction off one online and the other during your silent/live event auction. You’ll reach a broader audience and create a more competitive bidding environment both online and at the event.
  • Restaurant and store gift certificates. These are often overlooked during a silent auction event and thus bidding does not reach its full potential. Hint: Start online bidding at 50% of the gift certificate’s value and be sure to offer a Win-It-Now price in your online auction of at least $5 to $10 over its value, more if you think people are likely to pay more. To support your organization, diners who frequent a certain restaurant are often very happy to pay over value so they can enjoy an evening out at their favorite eating establishment. And those of us who like to shop will jump at an excuse to spend an afternoon trying on shoes or clothes at our favorite store.
  • Date sensitive tickets to a ballet, show or sporting event. Like restaurant and store gift certificates, event tickets tend to get overlooked during a silent auction, especially when they are tied to a specific date and time. Online bidders are more likely to have their calendars handy and know whether a specific show fits into their schedule.
  • Overflow items. When you have procured too many items to auction off at your event — that is, there isn’t enough room at your venue or you simply have too many items for your guests to see and bid on during your event –then use ‘online-only’ bidding to auction items off prior to your event.

We’d love to hear about your online auction. What worked well for you? Feel free to comment to share your successes, suggestions and ideas.

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