News-Antique.com - Nov 16,2011 - It's all about eyeballs.
Michael Whelchel believes he has found a way to turn eyes toward the merchandise he's selling. As director of marketing, picking and information technology for Estate Road Show, he's involved in a new breed of auction.
The concept pairs live and online auctions in a timed format. Conducted from Estate Road Show's gallery in Killen, Ala., the events are also available to online bidders through eBay, AuctionZip and Artfact, with a Facebook component in the planning stages. What differentiates the hybrid sale from other auctions is that potential buyers online and in the gallery know exactly when the bidding will end.
"We have everything a live auctioneer has," Whelchel said. "But what we also have is a big countdown clock. Everybody knows when that clock reaches zero seconds, it's sold."
That's a considerable change from traditional sales, where the auctioneer will call for bids as long as hands are in the air. At Estate Road Show auctions, there's no extra time. The format has generated encouraging results.
"We started in 2009 in beta format. This year we pretty much got out of beta and are getting serious about it, doing $80,000 to $120,000 a month in business, mainly from picking a few estates," said Whelchel. "Next year we expect up to a quarter of a million [dollars] a month and up. And that's just us."
If other auction houses participate, revenue could grow exponentially. However, there's a potential drawback.
"We did work with another auctioneer when we were in the beta test, and the customer-experience level was bad," Whelchel explained. "eBay is pretty adamant; if you want access to their people, you have to bend over on those types of issues. You have to provide a wonderful customer experience."
Whelchel's involvement in the online auction market began in 2001, when he bought an English chamber set at an estate sale for $40 and sold it on eBay for more than $2,000. He formed CatBecca Auctions and became a major player in online sales through eBay Live. In 2005 he sold CatBecca and focused on developing software used by eBay Live. "We helped to get eBay Live to work," he said.
When eBay Live was discontinued at the end of 2008, Whelchel looked for something to take up the slack.
In 2009 he met with eBay executives and introduced a new bidding platform, Timed-Snipe-Live, which uses eBay's servers to join live and Internet auctions. Estate Road Show was created, giving Whelchel a company from which to operate the new hybrid auctions. He also started Road Show Picker, which is responsible for finding merchandise to sell.
Whelchel integrated those businesses with eBay, AuctionZip and Artfact to create a live auction with a timed component -- something he believes could replace eBay Live.
The software not only allows a live auction to be held in conjunction with sales on eBay's platform, but it also permits sniping. Snipe bids -- those placed by online users in the last seconds of