How To Invite Bidders To Your Online Auction

12 May 2020 By Roger Devine

For obvious reasons (we’re looking at you, Covid-19), we’re focusing our blogging on online auctions these days. Many of you are converting your galas to online-only events. While there are many similarities between paper bidding and online bidding, one big difference is how bidders gain access to the event itself.

For a gala, your guests, or bidders, buy tickets. Ticket sales help you cover the cost of your venue and food and drink. Plus, tickets are the mechanism for assigning bidder numbers to your guests, so that they can bid on and purchase items at your in-person event. Selling tickets also helps you manage capacity at your venue.

Tickets aren’t necessary for an online event. There are no venue or catering costs to cover. Capacity isn’t an issue. And bidder numbers aren’t needed. (Your bidders will choose an online handle as their identifier.)

But it can be hard to shake the gala mindset that folks should sign up ahead of time, or “pre-register,” for an online auction. We get it. It’s nice to feel some assurance that people intend to show up to bid. And while you can ask your supporters to pre-register for online bidding, there are some very good reasons why you shouldn’t:

Pre-registering doesn’t save your online guests any time. Signing up to bid takes about a minute, probably less. And if you’re using the invitation system to invite your supporters to bid, accessing bidding takes people mere seconds. About the same amount of time it would take them to log into your site after having pre-registered. If someone signs up before bidding is open, they’ll need to re-log in when they return to your site to bid later. When they do that…

Pre-registered bidders often forget their passwords. Then they reach out to you to see if you have access to their password. (Spoiler alert: you won’t.) Of course, they can use the Password Reset link to set a new one, but this creates an extra hassle for them, and may cause unnecessary frustration. And a frustrated bidder is rarely a generous bidder.

Pre-registered bidders might create duplicate user records on your site. If they forget their passwords, your supporters might be tempted to circumvent the password reset process by simply creating a new account. The software tries to prevent them from doing this, but if someone is really determined they’ll succeed. And having multiple user accounts on your site will lead to grief down the road for them and for you.

Every visit to your site is potential fundraising gold. Each unique visit to your site should ideally result in someone bidding on or buying something. It can be hard to generate site traffic: multiple asks for visits become “noise” that is easily ignored, especially when there’s nothing for people to actually do when they get there. Don’t waste a precious fundraising opportunity. Make sure items are available for bidding or for purchase when you direct people to your site.

Rather than pre-registering bidders, wait until your online auction opens. Then send your supporters an invitation to bid. If you’re not using the invitation system, let people know they can click the Signup link in your site header or on any catalog item.