Promotion: The Key to Online Auction Success

As we discussed last week, you can easily convert your gala to an online-only event. And because of the Covid-19 crisis, many of our customers are doing exactly that.

Much of the conversion can be done by adjusting some settings at Admin > Site Settings > Online/Mobile Bidding, and then using the Bulk Edit function in your Catalog to quickly edit your items for online sale. We have illustrated help articles explaining how to do this, and our support team is standing by to answer your questions. Just click on the Help widget on the right edge of any page of your site to reach out to us.

Rather than delving into the how-to of setting up your online event, we’d like to focus on a super important factor — one too often overlooked — in the success of your online auction: Promotion.

Last week we discussed how to curate your auction items for maximum bid-appeal. This week, we’ll discuss how to translate that appeal into bids via promotion.

The more traffic you can drive to your site, and the more frequently your supporters visit, the more bids you’ll receive. More bidding means more money for your organization. The better you can tailor your communications to your audience and pique their interest in your auction items, the more successful your online event will be. 

First, if you haven’t already, upload or migrate a list of your supporters and their email addresses, and, if you have them, mobile numbers, to your site. You’ll use these to send your supporters invites to bid, update them on the status of your most competitive items, and talk up items that will appeal to certain segments of your group.

Next, take a good look at your list and segment it based on what you know about your supporters. Which people on your list are likely to want to sign up for the Buy-In parties you’re offering. Who are the traditional (and potential) big spenders who might buy that trip to Hawaii? (We won’t all be social distancing forever!) Who are the fashionistas in your group who might want that Shopping Spree package? Who are the foodies who’ll be interested in your Dining Out category?

Create groups of bidders you think will respond to specific items or categories of items and send them customized emails with images and links to these. The links will take recipients right to the items that will most appeal to them.

Monitor your online bidding. Which items are seeing the most action? Send emails to all of your supporters talking these up and letting everyone know the most recent high bid and who made it. Note any bidding wars and which bidders (use their online handles) are battling it out. Acknowledging high and frequent bidders encourages them to keep at it.

Create a sense of urgency by reminding people about closing times: “Bidder ablebakercharlie currently has the high bid on the fishing trip for 4 to Lost Creek at $165.00 – and it closes in six hours! That means there’s not much time for you to get in and win this must-have experience, so click here and make your bid!”

Stagger your closings, so that folks who lose out in the first round still have a chance to bid and and win in the next.

Edit your Invitation to Bid email, including its subject line, for each new send. Keep your communications fresh and inspiring. 

  • Highlight any new additions to your catalog.
  • Call out items with low bids that are looking like “too-good-to-be-true” deals.
  • Recognize your super bidders: who’s placed the most bids, bid the highest, etc.
  • Let people know how close you are to meeting your goals.
  • Thank everyone, again and again, for their awesome support.

Finally, consider offering incentives to folks to encourage bidding. Gift cards don’t sell particularly well in online auctions, but they can make great prizes. Who bid the most in each round of your auction? Who placed the first bid in each round? Who won the most items? Who won the priciest item? Give all of these supporters a prize, and talk up your incentive system as you go. You could even list your prizes and the criteria for winning them on your homepage.

In stressful times, people need a little fun. Your online auction can provide just that, and earn some nice income for your organization. We applaud you for all your hard work!

Stay well.

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