How to Get Ahead Online

12/07/2019     Alexander Clement

If the suit fits I don’t think anyone in the auction industry would disagree that it has been slow to adopt new technology.  Small wonder, to be fair, given the very traditional nature of the business which is centuries old and maintains practices and terminology that are as steeped in history as the objects it often sells.  That, of course, is part of its great charm, its allure and mystique.  I would be the last person alive to suggest that those traditions should be abandoned.  But increasingly the demands made by vendors and buyers alike (even those who’ve moved in those circles for decades) have edged towards retail, much to the moans and groans of auctioneers.  And so the industry must look to the giants of online shopping to stand a chance of moving with the times. People live their lives online, for good or ill, and technology has made it easier for them to be connected with the web but, in turn, harder for anyone doing business to keep up.  Starting with the basics, which many auctioneers have to do, there are four fundamental elements in seeking to attract customers through the internet:

  • An engaging web presence
  • A frictionless user experience (UX)
  • An effective client infrastructure
  • Finely targeted marketing 

That may seem pretty simple and straightforward but there are so many variables within each of those that can make the difference between seeing your business shrink or grow.  You can neatly divide those four factors into two broad fields; ‘front end’ and ‘back end’.  At the front end is your website and the user experience.  At the back end is your client database and auction management software as well as your marketing machine.  Your effectiveness as a business and your ability to compete locally and nationally will be determined by how those two fields work together if indeed they do.  And this has been the problem facing the auction industry for the last fifteen years or so.  You may have an engaging front end with good functionality for your customers but your auction management and marketing are lacking.  You might have a really good grasp of your database but your website lets you down.  And if neither talk to each other or synchronise in any way, you become the interface between them which is not the best use of your time. Maintaining a website is time-consuming.  You know you have to do it and even if you possess the skills required, as an auctioneer you become torn between the needs of consigning business and those of keeping your online presence fresh.  So you might elect to charge one of your admin team to do it, or take on a new staff member, or engage an agency.


"This is what people have come to expect which is why they hit a wall of friction when they visit a standard auction website."

It’s safe to say that most people who work in the auction industry, from the porters up to the directors, use the internet on a daily basis and many, if not all, do some shopping there even if only occasionally.  Experiences vary a little but by and large, the retail industry has pretty much got the whole process covered.  If you look at a retail website and buy something you create an account and enter your address and card details.  You get a nice email welcoming you in and further emails tracking the progress of your purchase.  Some, like Amazon, will even tell you how far away your delivery driver is.  This is all now commonplace, as is the ability of websites to track your engagement and tailor advertising to your activity.  This is what people have come to expect which is why they hit a wall of friction when they visit a standard auction website.  The whole process is slower and more involved and leaves the user in the dark for much of the time.

Users need information and they need it laid out in a logical way.  They need to easily create an account and quickly login when they have one.  They need to see when your next auction is and they actually want you to send them an email when an object comes up for sale they might be interested in.  There are so many auctions and so many objects, users need to be able to filter out the unnecessary and see only the relevant.  The moment any of that becomes difficult is the millisecond they bounce away to another website.  Auctioneers can no longer rely wholly on their reputation and their long history if they are lucky enough to have one.  They must prove their worth digitally.  That can be expensive, especially when they need a database that is not only responsive, reliable and covers all of the micro-variables of every auction transaction, but one that interacts seamlessly with their website in both directions.  And both, working in concert, should allow the auctioneer to leverage the data created to improve engagement and increase market share.  Try to get all of that made bespoke from scratch and you are looking at upwards of £100,000.  How do I know that?  Well, not so long ago when I was still an auctioneer, I put out a tender for quotes on building a website with auction functionality.  All of the quotes I got were in that region.  And knowing what I know now if I’d chosen any of them it would have been a disaster.  Design agencies do what they do very well indeed and there are some truly stunning websites out there, but they don’t know auctions.  Thankfully the days of web designers appealing to a broad market are gone and the new landscape is all about niche.  If you are an estate agent, for example, there are agencies that work exclusively in that area.  And so it is for the fine art auction industry.

Go Auction is one of the very few that offer both front end and back end design, content management and auction management software.  The power of those fields working together is where real gains can be made in developing your online audience.  With Go, you can create a web presence that draws in clients and a marketing funnel that allows highly configurable profiling to make your campaigns truly effective.

Contact us today to arrange a demonstration and we think you’ll agree that the Go system is a winning formula.

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