Value of Bringing Live Auctions into Online Bidding
“For those who say the online art market has had its day – it hasn’t even had its morning yet, it’s still waking up.” (Hiscox Report, 2017).
In our ever-increasing digitalised World, for traditional auction houses looking to remain competitive it seems that the demand for an online presence has never been so strong. Whilst for other sectors there had been a seamless transition from bricks-and-mortar to a thriving online market, over the years there had been reluctance and an uncertainty from many auction houses about how the established traditions of an auction can best be translated into digitalisation. However, not only has the online-only market continued to surge and gain a huge proportion of the arts markets but the development of technology for live auction real-time webcasting offers auctioneers the ultimate compromise.. As a result the previous hesitancy of this sector is now being replaced by auctioneers embracing new technologies and their profits flourishing in the process (Hiscox Report, 2017).
The significant investments in webcasting technology made by the prestigious traditional auction houses such as Sothebys, Bonhams, Heritage, Phillips and Christies over the last few years has given the online live auctions greater credibility. Christies alone has invested £20 milllion on their site (Article May 2014). Whereas the external online-only platforms gained traction in 2011 to 2014, it seems that the traditional auctioneers are now reaping the rewards for their recent in-house multimedia developments and adaptations. There has been a “significant shift in their online sales strategy with Sotheby’s, Christie’s and Heritage Auctions generating combined online sales of $720 million in 2016 – accounting for 19% of the online art market.” (Hiscox Report, 2017). By embracing the digital revolution, these auction houses are successfully maintaining their market leadership.
Clearly investment to design, develop and maintain and in-house platform is only viable for the few. However the benefits of introducing online bidding in live auctions and capitalising on customer’s digital capabilities are immense, especially with the continued technological ease with which traditional auctioneers can become a part of the digital age. There has never been a better time to move online, with the growth up 15% to $3.75 billion from 2015, against the backdrop of a slowly-increasing global art market (Hiscox Report, 2017).
So what are the advantages of webcasting technology and why this is becoming the model for auctioneers’ future success?
Webcasting increases publicity for auctions and provides an unlimited audience of potential customers from all over the World. This not only hugely increases the number of people able and wanting to bid but can create new audiences amongst the next generation who may otherwise not have engaged, all of which boosts competition and consequently raises profits. 'Online auctions make it easy for consumers with little industry knowledge to find and purchase goods, and tend to attract more young or first-time buyers than offline art and antiques sales' (Hiscox Report, 2017). In comparison a bricks-and-mortar only auctioneer is geographically limited, with only the few who can travel to a location able to view and bid in real-time.
For the long-distance bidders, webcasting offers the best of both worlds, with the ease and convenience of online bidding and being at the event rather than sitting at the end of the phone. They can respond immediately to what is happening in real time, but the excitement and atmosphere of the live event is not missed, thus encouraging more bids and higher amounts achieved. The lack of personalisation and experience that the external online only platforms have is therefore in stark contrast to being able to watch and be a part of the live auction, whereby customers are able to experience the service and uniqueness of each individual auction and auctioneer.
White label platforms such as iRostrum offer a cost effective way for auction houses to embrace the technological revolution looking firmly to the future that is telling us that personalisation is key to building successful online marketplaces. Building direct relationships with their online audience keeps the auctioneers' brand central allowing them to maintain control of their client base and ensure all publicity and marketing is directed solely back to their own site.
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