Thursday, December 7, 2023

Pandemic inspires new auction platform

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The impossibility of selling livestock over lockdown compelled the Giddings family from Fairlie to construct a digital auction platform that has brought the world to their stud’s door. David and George Giddings spoke to Richard Rennie about their innovative auction system.
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David & George Giddings | August 26, 2020 from GlobalHQ on Vimeo.

With only a few weeks before the Meadowslea stud’s in-calf Angus female sale was to commence and with lockdown looming, David Giddings knew he needed to come up with an alternative selling method.

The stud’s regular female and Angus bull sales, along with its Romney ram stud auctions, are an invaluable part of farm income and needed to be preserved.

Covid-19 had resulted in online auction systems becoming more popular for general livestock sales. But the Giddings wanted a system that could incorporate their own needs, including one that retained the personal touch that has made their regular sales so popular with their clients.

“We had already trialled online auctioning just before lockdown was announced, using Facebook live streaming to sell three rams, but we had a month’s lead to prepare for our in-calf female sale on May 1, ” George explained.

“We looked at existing systems and nothing (appealed to us), so we started building our own,” George said.

He admits the prospect of a hefty haircut by forgoing the sale was a good incentive to develop the alternative.

Working with their website designer they developed Yourbid.

While online auction systems may already exist, Yourbid bought the Helmsman auction style to the platform, which is the family’s preferred method for livestock selling. 

The Helmsman-approach opens all the lots to bidding from the get-go, rather than working through them sequentially off catalogue order. 

“Usually bidders will have several different lots of animals they are interested in,” David said.

“However, they have to decide which they bid on and risk missing out on the ones they really want, having to settle for ones that may do the job, but not be quite ideal.”

In the past, the family had written the lots and bids out on a whiteboard, with bids refreshed by hand, similar to the old stock exchange chalk blackboard method.

The new online system also incorporates a video of the animals in every lot, with a commentary in the background on their particular features and traits. Adding in a chat column allows buyers to make enquiries and comments.

“We also opened the bidding over a period of several days, rather than just the minute or so that you get in a conventional auction,” he said.

“The animals our buyers are purchasing are important decisions for them, and we believe they should have the time to consider before making a bid.”

The system allows the bidder to bid off their mobile phone, with a colour-coded bid price indicating if they hold the bid, if a new bid has come into play, or if the lot remains open for bidding.

“What we have also found is buyers enjoy the anonymity the system gives them for making a bid. Even those who have physically visited us on the day of our sales have used their phone to place the bid,” he explained.

The Giddings have run their in-calf Angus female heifer sale and their bull sale in June through the platform, with their next big sale being the spring bull sale on October 9.

“We found the bull sale went extremely well,” he recalled.

“We sold 12 bulls sight unseen, 95% of people were bidding through their phones and we had 200 people bidding on the day.

“The system also allowed us to offer food and drink throughout the sale, rather than leaving it until the end.”

A ram breeder on Scotland’s north coast is now using the platform for a sale and has reported unprecedented interest in his remote sale offerings. 

“He has 130 registered buyers already, more than he’s had before. There are people from Ireland, Cornwell, Wales and Orkney all interested, places he would not usually have interest from,” he said.

“Under covid-19 lockdown, he would only be able to have five people on his farm at any one time.”

The family can see the potential for the IP they hold on the system, with an option to licence it out to users. They also have come to appreciate the value of the data the selling system generates.

“We get analytics on bidding behaviour, with many having at least four lots on the go at any time. We also come to see how they view stock before bidding, the time spent considering them from the video, and the animals they are preferring,” David said. 

“It helps us to build a stronger relationship, understanding what they are looking for in the animals they are buying, which is important in a stud-client relationship.”

B.linc spokesperson Julia Henson said Meadowslea’s online Helmsman-style bidding system for stock sales showed Kiwi ingenuity to overcome a problem facing all in-person sales across a variety of industries during the lockdown.

“They have shown commercial nous and deep-rooted innovation leading to their online bidding system being hugely successful not only in New Zealand, but also in Europe,” she said.

“The Celebrating Success – Innovation Awards was all about celebrating innovative solutions that showed actionable pathways to improve outcomes for NZ primary industries. George and David Giddings have most certainly done this incredibly well.”

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