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Is Mobile Bidding A Good Fit For Your Silent Auction?

Posted by Evan Doyle on July 15, 2013

One of the newest trends at charity auctions is mobile bidding — using smartphones, tablets, laptops, or other mobile devices to browse the catalog and make bids, purchases, and donations. Mobile bidding can add excitement, quicken the pace, and raise the profitability of a silent auction.

But is mobile bidding the right direction for your event and a good fit for your supporters?

Here are some things to consider:

1. Demographics of Your Guests

One of the biggest factors that will affect the success of mobile bidding at your auction is the number of active and engaged eBidders. Who are your guests? Do they trend older or younger? Are they comfortable using their smartphones? Do the majority of them own smartphones? Are they more likely (or, at least, just as likely) to bid with their phones as they would via paper bid sheets?

I recommend that you poll a few of your big silent auction winners from previous years and see how they answer the questions above.

2. Number of Guests

How many guests do you expect at your event, and how many of them do you project will want to bid? Does it make financial sense to offer mobile bidding as a solution?

We have found that the more successful mobile silent auctions have between 100 and 500 active bidders.

3. Internet Access and Cellular Service

Does your venue have a wired connection to the Internet? If so, make sure it’s a fast connection. Your venue’s wired internet connection should support a minimum 50 Mbps download.

Is Wi-Fi provided at your venue? If so, how fast is it? If not, can a tech person from your committee or employed by the venue set one up?

Do the major cellular carriers in your area offer a strong cell signal at the venue? Although it’s best not to rely exclusively on cell service, it can provide a viable option for some of your eBidders, especially for those with 4G and LTE service, which offer speeds equivalent to Wi-Fi.

4. Number of Silent Auction Items

Offering the appropriate number of items at your event is a delicate balancing act. Many factors will affect your decision. But, in general, keep in mind that if you offer too few items, some bidders may ‘give up’ early if everything already appears ‘out of reach.’ They have money to spend, but nothing they want to spend it on. In contrast, if you offer too many items, then you reduce the bidding competition, and each item may attract fewer bids.

In our experience, for a gala evening event, the most successful mobile silent auctions have an Electronic Bidder Account-to-Package ratio of between 1:1 and 1:2.5. This means you should strive to have no more than two and a half eBiddable packages per eBidder account.

Our experience with ReadySetAuction Live shows that when a couple shares an electronic bidder account they tend to place fewer bids than when each spouse has their own bidder account. In other words, your auction will be more successful if each individual bids from his/her own phone.

5. Location of Your Guests/Bidders

Do you have supporters who would like to bid but are unable to attend your event? If so, make sure that the mobile bidding solution you choose is one that can be accessed by any bidder with Internet access, even if they aren’t attending your event.

6. Event Schedule

Does your event’s schedule lend itself to mobile bidding? In addition to the silent auction, what other activities do you have planned?

Mobile bidding during an evening gala fundraising event can prove highly successful, especially since guests can more easily bid on and monitor items from wherever they are. It’s also a great solution for auctions that take place during multi-day conferences, or days-long sporting events like baseball, soccer, lacrosse, and gymnastics tournaments. What better way to spend the inevitable slow times between sessions, innings, or events than perusing the catalog on your phone and bidding? On the other hand, you may want to think twice if your fundraiser includes a concert or performance. Do you really want bidders and performers to be distracted by their phones? In cases like this, I always advise that bidding open after the performance and remain open through the following day.

Intrigued by mobile bidding but not sure you’re ready to take the plunge?

Consider taking baby steps this first time, and be sure to provide ways for everyone at your event to bid. Here are some options:

  1. Auction off only some of your items electronically and others traditionally with bid sheets.
  2. Try ePrebidding, whereby at the end of electronic bidding an item’s high eBid carries over as its starting bid in your traditional live/silent auction. The winner is then determined by the highest bid from the traditional live/silent auction.
  3. To accommodate guests without their own devices, set up computers around the venue (Bidding Stations) from which anybody can place bids.
  4. Choose a system that accommodates proxy bidding by auction staff members. Mingling staff members can then place bids on behalf of any registered electronic bidder.

Want to learn more? Explore a trial?

If you would like to discuss whether your auction is a good candidate for going mobile, don’t hesitate to give me a call at 888 • 824 • 0490 . Or sign up for a free 15-day trial of ReadySetAuction Live to get a feel for our mobile bidding application.

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