Q&A with Manheim’s online auctioneer Jordan Bilson
What’s the difference between online and in-lane auctions?
Well, apart from the obvious differences they’re very similar. For instance, they both take place live and the vehicles appear in lot order, reflecting the catalogue. Bidders can see digital images of each vehicle and read all the information, including condition reports, registration details, mileage, and history, etc.
Bidding is just the same. That’s also done live and in real-time, only our online bidders use their mouse or a key stroke to bid, instead of the usual raised hands, nods, winks and the like.
Obviously, I can’t see them so they have to make a formal bid via their mobile, tablet or computer.
Don’t you miss the buzz of a busy auction hall?
No, not really. For an auctioneer like me, the online auctions are just as exciting. The vehicles are auctioned live and bids come in thick and fast from bidders all over the country. Bidders can communicate direct with me using Instant Message too, so that creates a real buzz.
In the auction hall, you can see who’s interested or who might be about to place a bid, but online that’s not possible so that adds an extra dimension to the job. I guess it makes me work just as hard and be even more focused on each vehicle so that I can give the people online as much information as possible to help them sell. I certainly feel as though online auctions keep me on my toes.
What do you think bidders like about online auctions?
There are a number of reasons our bidders like our online auctions. For a start, they don’t have to travel. They can watch the auction live from anywhere, using a mobile, tablet or computer. We’ve had bidders sitting in cafes, bidding from the golf course, on holiday by the beach or simply from their office. So it’s a real convenience factor.
Then there’s the anonymity. It’s not like in the auction hall where everyone knows who’s there and who’s bidding on what vehicles. During our online auctions, nobody can see who else is attending, so bidders can relax more and at their own pace. I think that helps, because each bid and each purchase is confidential.
How do you keep an eye on who’s bidding?
As I said earlier, it’s not the same as our in-lane auctions. I can’t see the bidders. All I know is that a bid has been registered and the username of that bidder. I don’t even choose which bid to accept either. When two or more bidders bid at the same time, our sophisticated online auction system works out who was first to bid by the millisecond.
Also, I don’t actually know is who’s sat at the other side of the screen, studying the vehicle and thinking about bidding. It’s impossible to read facial expressions or body language, so I guess in some ways, this puts the bidders at an advantage.
Fortunately, the quality of the vehicles we sell during our online auctions is always high, so there are lots of great features I can focus on.
Is it faster or slower online?
Neither really, just different. At times, our physical auctions can be a little bit cloak and dagger, with some buyers preferring to bid under the radar or covertly. However, our online auctions aren’t like that at all.
Bidders can’t see each other and don’t know who else is competing, so there’s no extra pressure. However, our experienced online bidders have still learned to get their bids in early, just in case there are any connection delays, to make sure they don’t miss out.
Remember, with these auctions being held exclusively online and scheduled well in advance, our bidders get the chance to study the images and details well before the auction. So by the time the auction begins and the vehicles are offered for sale, most buyers already know which vehicles they’re interested in.
Nobody has to walk around the car before they decide to make a bid. Which probably explains why bidding online is usually done quite speedily; our buyers know what they want and what they’re happy to pay, so they just get on with it.
What about the banter of the auctions; isn’t that half the fun?
Believe it or not, the banter is probably more fun online. The bidders can hear me live and they all have the option to send through questions and comments online via instant message.
I think they quite like the fact that I can’t see them and this seems to encourage them to be a little bit cheekier and open with me. I get a lot of comments about my voice, usually at the start of the auction; often asking if I’ve got a cold or whether I’m feeling rough from the night before.
They’re also much happier to ask questions about the vehicles, which I really like. Even though the bidders aren’t in the same room, I feel like I’m having more of a two way communication with them. I think they feel the same way too.
Surely, bidders still prefer to see the cars in person?
The majority of vehicles featured in our online auctions come straight from the manufacturer, or major vendors. They’re all professionally inspected and come with full documentation and history.
Our bidders know this and trust us to be accurate, so they can be confident when they’re bidding.
Plus, when we’re hosting an online manufacturer auction we almost always have the manufacturer in attendance too. So any questions can be answered straight away and decisions on bids and sales can be made on the spot.
Find out more about bidding and buying with Online Auctions here >