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  • Paul Gibson

Consumer Expectations Shaping the Online Auction Experience

In 2000, a patented feature was rolled on the website of online bookseller that changed e-commerce as we know it. The 1-Click ordering button allowed consumers to enter their billing, shipping and payment information just once, and from then on, simply click a button to buy something. That kind of hassle-free online shopping is everywhere now but that convenience was revolutionary at the time, and that feature catered toward customer convenience vaulted Amazon’s market status into the global commerce stratosphere.

Today, at the tap of a few buttons on your smart device, you can have food delivered straight to your door via DoorDash, GrubHub or UberEats. That convenience is why the food delivery sector is a $17 billion business.

And your local grocery store likely now offers curbside delivery — or even home delivery — to get your groceries to you with ease.

Consumers want convenience. And what’s easier than shopping from the convenience of your own device whenever and wherever you are?

In 2022, the online auction market was a $5 billion industry. It’s projected to grow by another $2.5 billion by 2027, with growth notably driven by the ease of bidding to meet today’s buyer expectations.

While many auction houses have already added - or even moved completely to - online auctions as a strategy for growth, they’re now turning to optimizing their e-commerce experience in order to maintain and grow their customer base.

Competing online with the likes of Facebook Marketplace and eBay, auction houses are doing more than simply producing quality item photos and detailed descriptions to sell. With the help of online platforms and service providers, they’re leveraging technology and innovation to meet consumer expectations and bring convenience, simplicity and speed to their buyer experience.

Consumers are willing to pay for convenience. In today’s e-commerce landscape, Not only do consumers expect convenience. Businesses risk losing customers if the buying process is too arduous.

A 2022 customer service survey by CMSWire found that 70% of consumers would pay more if they knew their experience would be more convenient and 75% would switch companies if they found a competitor was more convenient to do business with. Few things are more important for maintaining and growing your business than maximizing the convenience you offer your customers.

Like other forms of e-commerce, online auction houses are providing buyers easy ways to pay for their items, notifying them of winning bids by text or email, and allowing them to pay immediately with a secure link.

Consumers want options. So auction houses are providing a range of options for getting the goods to the buyer, offering item pickup during specified hours at a given location, shipping items to the buyer, and offering delivery, for a fee. Some even offer after-hours item pickup from secure lockers, providing buyers with access key codes for pickup anytime.

Consumers want information. No, most won’t read your Terms & Conditions, but they do want easy access to information whenever they want it. So auction platforms and third-party vendors are leveraging technology to provide information like real-time “quick quote” cost comparisons for carrier rates and incorporating accurate shipping charges into their checkout process.

They’re also communicating via text message, email and phone throughout various stages of the post-auction process, including sending tracking numbers for shipped items. Third-party service providers like Shipping Saint allow for automated text messaging and emails for many routine communications from auction houses to buyers throughout the process.

Clear two-way communication is important to consumers. Buyers want to be able to speak with sellers, so phone numbers and emails should be prominent.

Do more than promote the items in your auction, clearly state the ways to get the goods. And make it clear that shipping isn’t free (unless you’re willing to lose a buyer that balks at paying the cost for shipping).

Consumers want good customer service. A study by SalesForce Found that 80 percent of customers say that the experience a company provides is as important as its products or services.

Consumers want proactive, immediate support on the medium of their choice - phone, email, text, chat or in person. In the auction industry, this holds true for both live and online auctions.

For item pickup, for instance, positive personal interactions are key to boosting buyer sentiment and sending customers away happy and ready to return for repeat business. This means clean, courteous staff with a friendly welcome and a helpful attitude and an organized, streamlined checkout process.

To keep the pickup process running smoothly following an online auction, many auction houses opt for scheduling post-auction item pickups to help maintain a steady flow of buyer traffic and avoid chaotic rushes. Smart sellers position pickup points so that buyers pass through merchandise display areas for the next auction, just in case upcoming items catch their eye.

For shipped items, packaging items within clean new boxes rather than used second-hand boxes helps elevate the buyer experience. And information like tracking information is key to helping buyers stay informed and satisfied with service.

Consumers want it now. And if not now, soon. They don’t want to wait. Thank Amazon and their next-day delivery or Walmart’s same-day delivery for buyer impatience.

Whether or not your offerings are convenient for your customers will go a long way in helping you better serve them, retain them and bring in new customers. The easier it is for them to get needed information and complete a purchase with you, the happier they’ll be. In the long run, convenience may just decide your ability to grow your business.

As the auction industry continues to evolve and adapt in the face of sweeping changes in the e-commerce sector, auction houses are seeing opportunities to expand their footprint by catering to these growing consumer demands.

Paul Gibson is president of Shipping Saint, a web-based solution to streamline the post-online-auction experience.

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