November 10, 2014

Taking Your Auction Mobile-Pt 2

Still thinking about taking your next auction event mobile? Let’s pick up where we left off with Part 1 of this series and talk about factors you need to consider when researching mobile bidding options and some recommendations for implementation.

Picking the Right Solution for Your Event

  1. Price is the big question that everyone asks so we’ll just get it out of the way first. There are a lot of products out there and in the last 6 months are so the market has gotten really competitive and prices have dropped. When I first started researching mobile bidding solutions for clients 4 or 5 years ago, the price tag was in the $10k+ range. These days you can find excellent products for $2,000 or less. The thing to watch for here is the actual price structure. Are you paying a flat fee or will you be charged on a percentage of your total winning bids?
  2. What are you trying to accomplish with mobile bidding? Which functions do you need? Most auctioneers (and good mobile bid companies) won’t recommend mobile bidding for the live auction. This is technology geared toward the silent auction crowd. Some products come with features like scrolling leader boards and interactive thermometers to show how much money you’ve raised. If those are included in the flat fee, great. If not, and you don’t need them, don’t pay extra for them.
  3. How big is your auction? If you have a small silent auction that doesn’t raise a lot of money, it may not be worth it. If your mobile bidding product is going to cost you more than 10% of your auction sales, that’s something to think about. With most events, bidding (and sales totals) increase with the implementation of mobile bidding but you still need to factor in additional expense to be sure the investment will be worthwhile for your organization.
  4. Check to see how many (or how often) you can send texts to your bidders. You will want to send messages to bidders throughout the night but some products limit how many, or how often, you can send messages. Know those numbers and your communication preferences so you can factor that into your decision.
  5. Is payment processing built in? When your silent auction closes you’ll need to transfer winning bids into whatever system you’re using for auction check out whether that’s paper or another piece of software. How will that happen with your mobile bidding product? Can it sync with something you’re already using or are you going to have to download a .csv file somewhere and import it into something else. Yes that’s easy to do, but think about your timeline of the evening. Do you have ample time to export and import data prior to checkout?
  6. Do you already have existing software that needs to integrate? This is related to the question above. Ideally, you’d only have one system at checkout to total all winning bids from your guests (silent, live, fund-a-need). Does your existing software offer a mobile bidding solution? If not, can your mobile bidding product integrate with your existing system and sync data automatically or are you going to be importing data into your existing system?

Recommendations for Implementation

  1. Connectivity is king. Talk to the IT folks for your event venue. Make sure there’s a wireless network available that can handle the bandwidth of your entire crowd bidding all at once. If there’s no wireless available, check into the cost of renting equipment to set up a dedicated system (it’s not as expensive as you’d think). Check cellular connections using different providers.
  2. Include mobile bidding in all of your event marketing materials. Manage guest expectation by making sure people know to bring their phones for bidding. Greater Giving has a great blog post on how to market your mobile bidding event, found here. It’s tailored to their specific product, but there’s still plenty of good material.
  3. Mobile bidding solutions are designed to be very user friendly but build in a little extra time to go over the system with your volunteers. This can be done on event day or in advance. I also like to print out small cheat sheets for event volunteers that have any pertinent info (wireless passwords, answers to common questions, etc)
  4. Have some volunteers on hand with tablets to assist guests with bidding. No matter how well you market, you’ll have guests that won’t bring their phones, or won’t have smart phones, or are just mobile resistant. Adding a few extra volunteers with tablets is an easy fix and good customer service.
  5. What if the internet goes down? How will people bid? I had a colleague who once commented, “everyone always asks, what happens if the internet goes down and uses that for an excuse not to go mobile. But no one ever asks, what happens if the kitchen catches on fire or a light falls? We’ve all seen those things happen.” I’ve never had a kitchen catch on fire but I’ve certainly seen other “normal” event elements that no one questioned at all fail on event night. Backup plans are your secret to success. Rent mobile hot spots. Print paper bid sheets as back-ups. Provide a charging station. Think of all the things that could go wrong, figure out a fix, and then plan for that fix. You’ll be just fine.

I’ll repeat my last post and say that mobile bidding is not right for every event and that’s ok. Going mobile can feel scary but it doesn’t need to be. I’ve got one more post in this series and that’s just a quick list of my favorite mobile bidding products. Stay tuned for that next week.

Header photo credit: Drew Altizer Photography

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