The future of industrial auctions – BidSpotter Marketplace Mechanics


ATG brought members of the UK industrial and insolvency auction industry together last week for its latest BidSpotter Marketplace Mechanics Day, to explore key trends affecting the industrial auction industry, and how auction houses are responding to the opportunities brought by these changes.

Speaking from the event in Birmingham, ATG COO Richard Lewis said, “The entire economy has witnessed change in the last two years, presenting the industrial and commercial auction industry with new opportunities – from increased demand for certain asset classes, to an acceleration in online bidding, to a renewed focus, for all businesses, on being more sustainable. It was fantastic to gather in person with industry colleagues and friends to share ideas after the challenges of the last two years”.

The acceleration to online, and the importance of reputation

One of the most obvious impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic has been an acceleration in the shift to auctions taking place online – an ongoing structural trend that looks set to stay.

BidSpotter saw a 17% increase in the number of lots sold online in ATG’s 2021 financial year, as well as a 17% increase in online hammer. Bidders are also more engaged online than ever before: the number of sessions on the site was up 8% year on year, auction registrations were up 6%, and there was a 23% increase in the number of items that bidders added to their ‘watch list’.

With the importance of online in mind, guest speaker Sean King, CEO of Media King Ltd and expert in online reputation management, drew on his 20 years of insight to provide tips on how auction houses can manage their online reputation, how to encourage good reviews, and the ways in which consumers use such information to make their purchasing decisions. He said, “75% of potential customers for any business will read on average 10 reviews for that business before parting with any money. And they will also read the replies from the business on both positive and negative reviews, to see how it treats its customers”.​

Next was a session with ATG's Product Director, Luke Keast, that covered the importance of SEO, including quick tips on how auctioneers can improve their SEO footprint, as well as an overview of ATG’s SEO project to improve and drive bidder acquisition.

Demand is up again for machinery and business assets

ATG’s James Nickless-Allen and Michal Sasiadek provided an update on year-on-year performance of key asset types within the machinery and business assets sector.

Across nearly all asset classes, the number of lots available on BidSpotter was up last year (9% overall), with a 19% increase in lots selling online, as both auctioneers and bidders continue to embrace online sales, and as global supply chains of newly manufactured items continue to be disrupted.​

In the industrial and commercial category, the number of lots available was up by 10% YOY, leading to a 18% increase in the number of lots sold online. Similarly, the number of metalworking items sold online in 2021 rose by 26%, and there was a 9% increase in the number of plant and machinery items sold online.

Overall, prices have continued to go upwards, too. In ATG’s 2021 financial year, total hammer value (THV) vs opening price was 13 percentage points higher than the previous year (207% in 2021 vs 196% in 2020).

A sustainable future

Delegates were also given a detailed look at the recent report commissioned by ATG on the carbon saved by items bought second-hand at auction. The research shows how businesses can reduce their carbon emissions by buying machinery and business assets second-hand instead of new, illustrating the crucial role that the whole auction industry can play in a lower carbon future. For example, by purchasing a used cherry picker instead of a new one, a business would save up to 20 tonnes of carbon emissions, while the purchase of a used excavator would save up to 36 tonnes. 

This is because new machinery has a very large ‘embodied’ footprint when it is manufactured. So, while the total carbon emissions over the full lifetime of a well-cared-for tractor, excavator, or CNC machine, is significant (because of ‘in-use’ emissions), there is a considerable one-off carbon saving when buying second-hand because nothing new has been made.

ATG is investing in the future of auctions

Richard Lewis concluded proceedings with an update on recent investments in updates and upgrades that ATG has made to its platform and technology. “Our team has been working hard on numerous enhancements in the past 12 months, including a revamp of BidSpotter’s SEO, a renewed bidder email programme, new recommendation engine, upgrades to audio and video, and new features including a timed auction dashboard.

“Our acquisition of Auction Mobility has already been having a positive impact for auctioneers, with improvements to white label services, and our recent acquisition of LiveAuctioneers will enable us to offer streamlined online payments in future. There is more to come, including integrated bidding for auction houses listing across multiple ATG marketplaces.

“These investments will help to optimise the performance of auctions on our marketplaces, and ultimately help auctioneers achieve optimum prices and sell-through rates for their assets. We’re looking forward to another exciting 12 months”.