Why Mobile Bidding Is A Bad Idea

08 Aug 2013 By Roger Devine

UPDATE: Fall 2014

In the year since this was written, I’ve had many conversations on the topic, with customers and auctioneers. We’ve also had many passionate (to put it mildly) conversations on it among the SchoolAuction.net team. The upshot? I realized that my objections were less about mobile-bidding as a concept - and more about how the process was being executed and marketed. Not too shocking, since a similar quandary led us to create our own auction software in the first place.. . . So after reading this - be sure to check out my latest post about how auction organizers can minimize the inherent problems with mobile bidding.

Aug 08, 2013

Customers and prospects have asked us about mobile bidding for several years - as other companies introduce systems and sell people on the novelty. Some are text-message-based, some require iPads or iPhones, some have apps, they run the gamut.

None of this is part of our software, and many want to know “why not?”

The answer is really simple: we strongly believe that you can not force technology on your guests. Any new technology you introduce at your event should still convey significant benefit your event and your organization if only a portion of your guests choose to use it.

Think about this in terms of ticket sales - not every prospective guest is going to want to buy their tickets online - so if the only way they can buy a ticket to your event is to do so through your website, you will lose out on some guests who might have attended your event - and spent money.

We LOVE online ticket-selling (and so do most of you), and so we did add it to our software - but not as the exclusive method for buying tickets. You can still accept a check from a parent at drop-off or pick-up, and enter their ticket-sale manually.

But no one (including us) has figured out how to make mobile-bidding optional at the item level. You can, with any of the systems out there, apply mobile bidding to only a portion of your items, of course. But once you decide that guests can bid on a certain item through their phone or tablet, then ALL of the bidding for that item has to be done though a phone or tablet - there is no good solution for letting some bidders use a paper bid-sheet, and some use a phone.

Why wouldn’t anyone want to use their phone? Personally, I love using my smartphone for anything I can. But I know as an auction chair, that_ some portion of my guest list won’t . It may be technophobia, it may be that they don’t want to learn a new interface, just so they can put a $75 bid on a coffee maker, it may be that theit phone is incompatible, or broken.

Why would you want to lock them out of the bidding for any item based on any of those reasons?

The vendors who sell mobile-bidding systems have an answer for this - hire their people to come to your event, stand around with iPads, and help recalcitrant guests bid. This solution works really well, I would guess. But it is an additional costs - often a significant one. I have had auction chairs tell me that the novelty is worth the cost, and I can see where that is the case for some auctions. If that applies to you, then let me know - I have a friend who works for one of these companies, and would be happy to refer you to her.