October 27, 2014

Taking Your Auction Mobile-Pt 1

Let’s talk about mobile bidding. I was first asked by a donor & gala chair, who was in her 70s at the time, to consider implementing mobile bidding at an event 4 or 5 years ago now. In that time I’ve done lots of pricing research and experienced mobile bidding events with 4 different technology solutions. Mobile bidding is no longer a trend. It’s a very real demand. Let’s take a look at some advantages and disadvantages.

Advantages to Mobile Bidding

  1. It’s green. You get rid of all the bid sheets and other miscellaneous paper forms previously needed for a silent auction.
  2. It cuts down on the amount of work for your staff on event night. No more frantic data entry after the silent auction closes. With most mobile bidding platforms your data simply syncs to your existing event management tool in a matter of minutes or is available as a .csv export that can be delivered to your registration desk via a jump drive.
  3. No more confusion over bid sheets. We’ve all seen bid sheets where you can’t read someone’s writing, someone bid under the minimum and was the only bidder, or someone completely ignored the minimum increments. Mobile bidding eliminates all of that.
  4. No more laborious math around starting bids and bid increments. Not every organization does this, and admittedly I can geek out on this topic for hours, but some organizations go to great lengths to make sure minimum bids are rounded and bid increments are set to make the math easy for guests who have had more than a single glass of champagne. Mobile bidding does the math for the guests so you don’t have to spend time tediously calculating each bid increment. (Unless it will make you happy.)
  5. You can broaden the reach of your auction. Mobile bidding can be opened up pre-event to allow guests more time to browse and bid. If you choose, mobile bidding can be made available to guests who are unable to attend your event because all they need to bid is a bidder number and the link to the mobile bidding site.
  6. You can get real time results of your silent auction. Depending on which platform you choose, you can watch your auction results build in real time. This can be incredibly exciting. Instead of circling the room trying to see how many items have bids and then making guesses about your progress, you can see real numbers. (This can also be a disadvantage, see below.)

Disadvantages to Mobile Bidding

  1. You can get real time results of your silent auction. In an auction with paper bid sheets, you wouldn’t actually know how well you’re doing. Knowing a real time number can be tough on a high strung staff member because now there’s something to obsess about.
  2. You have to be in a venue with good cellular reception or good wireless. There’s not much you can do about cellular service but additional wireless hot spots can be rented, though that does increase your costs for the event. Some venues are just problematic. Make sure you do a very thorough connectivity assessment prior to committing to mobile bidding.
  3. Guests must have their phones in order to bid. They’ll have their phones out, which I’ve found does not affect the vibe of the room, but they will have to balance holding a phone while enjoying cocktails and hors d’oeuvres. And if you’re the purse carrying type, add that into the mix.
  4. If you think guests won’t have phones, you can add mobile bidding stations with tablets but this will increase equipment costs and volunteer labor.
  5. Cost. As mobile bidding has become more prevalent, companies have gotten more competitive and pricing has dropped across the board. But it’s still a factor that needs to be calculated in. There are some great options that will cost you between $1,500-$2,000. This is well worth the cost in my opinion, but depending on your budget size, it may still be too much of a reach.

Mobile bidding is not right for every event and that’s ok. I’m pretty solidly in the pro-mobile bidding camp but I think there are some critical factors to consider when making the decision. Part 2 of this series will look at factors you should consider when researching mobile bidding options and some recommendations for implementation.

Photo credit: Drew Altizer Photography

Categories: Auction Fundraising Logistics | Tags: mobile | Posted by: admin