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auctionoutfrontI grew up going to auctions; I enjoyed listing to auctioneers bid call nearly as much as the treasure-hunt-experience it provided and the great food from the local church.

After graduating from The Ohio State University, I attended auction school. Soon after I was working as an auctioneer in the Columbus, Ohio area, helping Jack B. Smith Auctioneer with his auctions.

Jack would have an auction almost every weekend, and an occasional weekday event as well. Together, we sold antiques, collectibles, restaurant equipment, commercial and industrial items and almost everything else for just over six years; I had found what I wanted to do the rest of my life.

Today, I’m blessed to have worked auctions all over the United States.

What have I found as I’ve traveled from Maine, to Florida, to California, to Kansas … 32 states in the last 4 years? As I’ve been known to have said before:

There might not be a 5-year-old in the United States who doesn’t know what an auction is …

We recently wrote about consumers today sometimes opting for the convenience of retail “buy-it-now” markets over the “prospect of a deal” auction markets. The resulting question seems to be, “Do consumers not know what an auction is, or do they just not prefer auctions?”

One could look at Google Trends and see that for the last 10 years, the use of the search terms, “Buy,” “Price” and “For Sale” have gone up (by an overall average of 57%) while searches for “Auctions” and the like has gone down by 29%.

Since searching for “Auctions” on Google is down, one might conclude that less people are searching for auctions … except not all those who look for auctions go to Google.com. Would one conclude that less people go to Facebook given searching for Facebook via Google is down 57% since 2012?

Further, one could decide that since people aren’t searching for auctions, and rather searching for things “for sale” and to “buy” that consumers don’t know what an auction is. Maybe given Facebook’s 57% decline, people don’t know what Facebook is either?

Yes, more and more people access Facebook via their app on their phone, and there is no single “Auctions” app. But … there are auction calendars, auction alerts, auction emails from auctioneers, Facebook posts and ads so maybe just as many are seeing “Auctions” and/or searching for auctions as before, if not more?

In other words, maybe more consumers are finding auctions via other Internet/online sources, just like Facebook users are getting to Facebook other ways rather than using Google? Our point here is, who and how people search Google is hardly the only metric.

Here’s Google Trends’ picture over the last five years of searches of “Facebook,” “Auction,” “For Sale,” “Buy,” and “Price:”

googletrendsgraph

Here’s my conclusions based upon my time in the auction industry and experience traveling all over the United States:

  • Over 90% of adults in the United States know what an “auction” is … and most of them have either watched an auction (live, on TV, movie,) bid on and/or bought something at auction, or sold something via auction.
  • Most routine (repeat) auction bidders/buyers do not search Google for auctions, but rather go directly to auctioneers’ websites, auction calendars, Facebook and/or receive notices of their favorite auctioneer’s auctions.
  • Adults who attend or otherwise participate in auctions as bidders/buyers tend to participate again. Auctions are somewhat addictive and most attendees enjoy their auction experience.
  • Online auctions opened the auction industry to the Internet (or vise-versa) where bidders could bid and buy, and yet with a couple clicks bidders can see the efficiency of other online platforms where they could press the “Buy-it-now” button.
  • Some sellers remain who relate auctions to a “last resort” or “fire sale” where they perceive they should only sell at auction after all other sale methods have been exhausted. However, largely since the 1980’s, this feeling continues to subside.
  • Auctioneers should use every opportunity to say the word “auction” which sends a clear message that there is a “prospect of a deal regarding something you might want.” The more auctions are advertised as such, the more the public will embrace this sales method.
  • “There might not be a 5-year-old in the United States who doesn’t know what an auction is;” if you don’t know what an auction is, you are in a very small minority of citizens in the United States.

Mike Brandly, Auctioneer, CAI, AARE has been an auctioneer and certified appraiser for over 30 years. His company’s auctions are located at: Mike Brandly, Auctioneer, RES Auction Services and Goodwill Columbus Car Auction. He serves as Distinguished Faculty at Hondros College of Business, Executive Director of The Ohio Auction School and Faculty at the Certified Auctioneers Institute held at Indiana University.