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Friday, October 21, 2016

Reviving the Online Auto Auction

Five years ago, I started traveling the U.S. tasked with installing simulcast, and teaching auto auctions 'which buttons to push'. Unsatisfied, feeling that I wasn't really preparing our customers with a foundation for Internet growth, I developed an online survival course. So, in addition to teaching these auctions how to operate their technology, I delivered a new curriculum with one core philosophy - "Build A Life For Your Business Online".
The message was well received, and I was able to cover more ground in the 3 days I spent with each auction regarding what really needed to be done, and who was responsible for doing it. However, reality was reality. Resources were limited. 3 days was not enough time to embed an entire online business model into the existing infrastructure. So once I left, the effort quickly flat-lined. Auctions reverted back to 'pushing the buttons', and the goal went from 'building a life' to 'surviving auction day'.
Inventory uploaded? Check! Equipment turned on? Check! Do we have a clerk? Check! CR's on all vehicles? Well... let's not get crazy!
Fast forward to today... October 20, 2016. My day was filled with assisting auto dealers through calls, chats, and text messaging. Topics included online registration, technical issues, report requests, post-sale inquiries, and many general auction questions. In addition to engaging dealers by phone, and online, I met with the auction teams to develop strategies that would incorporate new digital methods into the operation. I had a meeting with one auction to coordinate a new online workflow process which included their entire administrative team, and a meeting with another auction to coordinate a weekly promotional sale that would leverage the online platform to lane dealers. Auctions that once didn't have the time, or staff to adjust to the inconvenience of a digital strategy are now revising their policies, allowing customers to communicate through multiple channels, putting their clerks through certification training, integrating the online segment as a part of their company culture, and developing a real online infrastructure!
Do we still have a road ahead of us? Yes. Are we seeing progress in online attendance, participation, and sales? Yes. Has business doubled? No. If it did, would our Auction Members be prepared? Yes. Why? Because, for them, the hard part is over. The most difficult thing they had to do was make a choice to commit to improving their online business. The fear has subsided, and the technology is just not as intimidating as it once was. There is solace in organization, and we are continuing to organize a strong network of auctions looking to move the industry forward in the virtual space. We are building a life for the Traditional Auto Auction, online.
So today, as I sit here, and reflect from 5 years ago until now, I feel extremely proud. I am proud of our members, and I am proud to be a part of this revolution...this revival. Every day I get to experience appreciation from dealers who are extremely pleased with what we are doing. I am also privileged to experience the enthusiasm of auctions dedicated to moving forward. This week we decided to ask dealers, on behalf of each of our members, the following question: "What could our auction do to provide you with a better online auction experience?" For the most part, this is typically a loaded question, and implies a request for negative feedback. So this is how you know you're doing something right!
"I think you guys are doing a fantastic job at your online department, can't think of any improvements needed at this time but love all the improvements you have made recently, just wanted you all to know that! "