An Insight into Online - the Barnebys Online Auction Report 2016

An Insight into Online - the Barnebys Online Auction Report 2016

In September 2016 Barnebys, the leading online search service for arts, antiques and rarities, published their first report on the Online Auction Market, offering their perspective on this fast changing, fast growing market. Here we recap their most insightful findings.

The Consumer is King

The online market continues to expand at a huge rate as the amount that we spend online is increasing, both in terms of quantity but also, significantly, quality.  Even where the final transaction does not take place online, for most people any major purchase is preceded by online research. Buying art or antiques should be no different.

The industry is finally realising that it is the consumer who dictates the rules. To maximise potential for growth, the auction industry must listen to the consumer.  The three most important factors to online bidders are

Navigation on site must be effortless and intuitive, as consumers are looking for convenience above everything.

Transparency Builds Trust

Transparency is the key to growth as it breeds trust among the public. The new generation of buyers and sellers expect all information to be easily at their disposal, without any barriers. Withholding information, such as final prices, foments distrust and alienates users, and the industry is the poorer for it.

Clarity and openness also extends to the online presentation of objects. A major advantage of online channels is the opportunity to provide the customer with extensive information about the item through images, related content and video. Being transparent builds trust and sets an auction house apart from its competitors; providing expert knowledge and detailed condition reports will result in more online bidders confident that they are not making a risky purchase.

Branding Equals Loyalty

Market access and brand trust are the key drivers to attracting new customers. As such brand value has never been more important. Well known brands breed confidence more easily online, which makes it essential for auction houses to build a strong brand identity in all channels. Traditional auction houses should use their long established reputation for expertise and service as the foundations of their brand as they promote the quality of their goods and services and, in turn, connect with customers. A strong brand serves as a guarantee that the object meets a certain standard. As increasingly prospective bidders cannot handle items offered online, communicating those brand values directly to the mass market is essential for establishing a connection and quickly building a trusted relationship with their consumers.

Mobile is a Must

More than half of the traffic to Barnebys is from a mobile device or tablet rising to 60% for millennials (18-34 years old). Yet many auctioneers’ websites are not mobile responsive. The dominance of mobile traffic, particularly from younger age groups, indicates how mobile devices, smartphones in particular, will play an increasingly important role in the buying process. As the phone is quite literally, always at hand, it is the most intuitive device when it comes to searching and purchasing. 

Next Generation

Historically, the auction industry has not been successful at attracting younger buyers. Now, technology and new auction formats have led to a surge of online buyers. Barnebys research shows that auction activity is now higher among millennials (aged 18 to 34), especially online, than the norm.

Millennials are also both frequent buyers and sellers (unlike previous generations who tend to be collectors and then finally sellers). As such, this younger demographic have the potential to be more valuable clients across a lifetime. It has therefore never been more critical for an auction house to build a strong brand and establish a lifelong relationship with their clients. Online marketing, previews and social media play a vital role in promoting an auction to this generation.

Online Auction Buyers are More Frequent Buyers

Half of those who have bought at auction have only done so online. Online accounts for the major share of new buyers at auction, who are acquiring large volumes of lower priced items. The majority of large sums are still made at traditional auctions, but as online buying matures, it also accounts for higher prices. Overall online auction buyers are more frequent buyers than those who buy at traditional auctions.

Growth prediction for Lower and Middle Market

Auctions are no longer the exclusive domain of the very rich. Although the TEFAF Report and other renowned art market reviews have stated that that the middle market has weakened over recent years, the industry is compensating by offering more things to sell in this lower and mid level through online distribution.

Barnebys predict that the influence of digital platforms will lead to significant long-term growth for the middle and lower ends of the market, which is the entry point for novice auction-goers embarking on a lifetime of buying at auction.

Prepare for the Future - it's already here

The Barnebys report reinforces everything that we at iRostrum are advising our auction partners about building a strong and future focused online strategy. By working with our auction partners we can combine our joint understanding of the current market, contribute our extensive experience of the latest technological advances and future developments to prepare our auction partners for the future - it's online!

Read the full Barnebys Online Auction Report 2016

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