People buy and sell property and holdings for a number of reasons. There are more than ten thousand estate / garage sale companies in the US, and an even greater number of consumers who are interested in buying people's goods. With eBay, Craigslist, various local and specialized auctions, estate / garage sales, and consignment and antique shops, it's not an exaggeration to say that millions of Americans are consumers at a vast market or have interest in selling there.
In this article, I will touch on only a portion of this marketplace, previously, estate and garage sales. I will suggest certain ways for estate and garage sale companies – both large and small – to increase their overall revenue while also making sales engaging and useful to their customers.
Large Estate Sale Companies:
Large estate sale companies already have their own websites with online auction capabilities, which are quite expensive to create and support. These websites only display the company's own goods, and this decrees the audience of their prospective buyers. These companies would do well to list their goods in larger virtual malls, which attract a wider audience at a much lower cost.
The idea of a private "virtual booth" in a larger online mall is not new; it's employed by some big online players, like Amazon. With a platform that houses many "virtual booths," the cost to each "booth owner" of building a quality buyers' experience is significantly lower than setting up a private shop with a separate company. While such virtual malls can provide online auctions for every participant, the actual estate sales and face-to face meetings (where the goods change hands) should retain their traditional mode, and should remain an integral part of the business model.
Small Estate Sale Companies:
The majority of estate / garage sales companies are small businesses, and many have no websites of their own. Some of them are proud to be hands-on people and practice the traditional walk-in approach only. These companies would do well to add an online component to their business – preferably in a platform that combines the benefits of online auctions with the traditional model of estate / garage sales.
Thus, combining the features of online auctions with the face-to-face and local nature of traditional estate / garage sales may benefit all estate / garage sale companies, both large and small. Sales organizers will substantially expand their traditional audience, while still allowing new buyers to firmly rely on the "What You See Is What You Get" promise; in contrast, buyers at online auctions with no traditional component frequently cry: "What You See Is NOT ALWAYS What You Get."
A practical tool based on the idea of a virtual local mall may have some additional important features and benefits:
- It does not change the traditional business model of estate / garage sales or auctions. It just adds new technology benefits to the old process;
- Provide more information to buyers with listings that include detailed descriptions of the seller's goods. In addition to traditional photos, each item description should contain the estate / garage sale code – the "booth name" – to help prospective buyers easily find desired listings, as well as the sale location. All this information should be open to all users without registration;
- Provide buyers the option to bid on listed items both before and after the date of a real estate sale. A time span of 2-4 weeks gives sale organizers more time to prepare for successful sales. Sale organizers should be able to collect bids 24/7, and buyers should have the opportunity to bid higher or lower than the item's start price; this increases sale flexibility;
- Allow sales organizers to choose a winner / buyer at any moment during the bidding stage. An ideal platform should create an opportunity for sale organizers to receive periodic notifications about bidding activity and let them monitor online bids in real time;
- Keep the principle of direct negotiations between the sale organizers and the winners / buyers selected by the organizers. Face-to-face meetings are important so that Buyers can see and touch (if necessary) the real goods when they change hands;
- Save time for sales organizers by making changes to listings (including buyers 'questions and sale organizers' answers) public instantly. This allows prospective buyers to see all relevant and current information, eliminating the burden of repeating the same information to each prospective buyer;
- Allow prospective buyers to select a search radius that takes into account the distance of the estate sale (s) from a specified zip code.
A universal virtual local mall with the features and benefits listed above may be a very useful tool for both businesses and individual customers – a sort of Swiss Army Knife approach: one low-cost platform that does it all. Such a tool has the power to save time, eliminate drudgery, and increase profits.
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