Online Auctioneer Outbid Gives Sales a Social-Gaming Twist

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online auction gameOnline bargain hunters who also enjoy interactive gaming are in for a treat: Outbid.com, which launched last week, brings together the social interactivity of Twitter, the intensity of an auction house and the vibe of a sports bar.

It's eBay gone dynamic, and highly interactive.

Now, folks who want to liquidate their baseball card collections, hand-knitted tea cozies or that old leather couch will be able to engage in the theatrical gavel-pounding experience online.

Bidders, Be Friends

The auctions are old-school, winner-take-all affairs, unlike penny auction sites, with their high potential for losing money and getting nothing in return. But here's what makes the site different: Bidders and sellers can virtually mingle with each other through live chat -- during the heat of the auction challenge, and the auction itself plays out on audio, with the seller or a designated bidder providing the patter. To further enhance the gaming nature of the site, bidders also earn rewards based on the number of times they bid or for tabling a "Monster Bid," which allows bidders to up the bid dramatically. They can trash talk, egg each other on, or even encourage.

Once the auction starts, an animated countdown clock ticks away like a cinematic time bomb to add tension; additional bids prolong the auction, which prevents last-second sniping by either bidders or bots. Instead, it's up to the auctioneer to bring each auction to a close.

Based in Oakland, Calif., and funded by Copart (CPRT), the world's first online auction site for used vehicles, Outbid allows collectors and craftspeople to purvey their wares in an efficient, competitive environment. Jay Adair, founder of Outbid and CEO of Copart, said he wanted to create a "virtual lemonade stand," where even his kids could sell items and crafts to friends and family. The site can also be used for charitable purposes, to auction off dinner with a celebrity, for example, or to help fund-raise.

"From individual sellers to offline auctioneers who want to recreate the excitement of the auction room online, Outbid transforms online auctions into thrilling live social events," said Outbid CEO Dan Granger, who has more than 30 years of experience with companies including Catalina Marketing Corporation, Ogilvy & Mather Advertising, and The Vons Companies.

The Future of Online Commerce

"This is the trajectory -- e-commerce, social and gamifacation is going to go and hit the sweet spot with the intersection of these things," Granger said. "We did it from the get-go. The sense of urgency in the auction -- that the item will be sold not in two weeks or three days. The social element allows people to engage more closely."

The social and personalized aspect also adds an element of trust into the mix. Bidders create profiles and upload their pictures, so you know who you're trading and competing with -- in contrast to how things play out in many corners of the Internet.

"You have people's pictures, so you can see who they are," Granger said. "There is a sinister part of anonymity on the Internet. This is completely transparent."

Sellers' Paradise

Sellers, meanwhile, can monitor their online auctions as they would at a live event within an auction house.

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"There is the sense of urgency of flash sales," said Bob Lee, chief product officer. "You schedule an auction for when it's the right time for you. It starts at a specific time. It has a specific purpose."

The leaders at Outbid see their platform as particularly well-suited for artists and craftspeople like those on Etsy, offering them a more active role in selling their products.

The Future Of Auctions

Auctions already account for more than $300 billion per year in sales, and live auctions outsell online auctions by a 9 to 1 ratio. Outbid's social and gaming aspects are designed to make the online experience more like the real-world one, helping it make inroads into that much larger market.

Also likely to help it compete: Those live auctioneers take hefty commissions, and right now, Outbid is taking no cut of sales from auctions, though that may change in the near future. Once the site gets some momentum, it may start charging a percentage of each sale.

There is also some talk of implementing a premium model that would allow subscribing members the ability to access certain features, customize their background theme and attend certain private auctions.


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Online Auctioneer Outbid Gives Sales a Social-Gaming Twist

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