Retailers have teased and rolled out online deals for days, even weeks, but the real Black Friday is here.
Two new apps let consumers bid on items during brief online auctions.
Outbid just launched its online auction platform in March, and it’s already seeing potential in a mobile channel.
The company has launched apps for the iPad and iPhone that let bidders participate in live auctions from their mobile devices. In addition to bidding, consumers also can use the apps to check the auction schedule, register to participate in an upcoming auction, read the details on any item, view products submitted by sellers and receive e-mail notifications of their actions.
"Just like in our online auctions, the Outbid app lets anyone, from curious spectators to serious competitors, use their iPhone or iPad to watch or join the bidding," says Dan Granger, Outbid CEO.
Mobile access to Outbid’s auctions is important because the auctions are brief—lasting about a half hour on average, with an item being auctioned off every three minutes, Outbid says.
"As we've been focusing on ways of bringing online what's great about traditional auctions, we've also wanted to deliver the same, exciting, even theatrical marketplace for those who would want to join in on their iPhone or iPad," says Jay Adair, CEO of Outbid funder Copart Inc. and founder of Outbid. "With mobile, and now the tablet, becoming such a force in entertainment and commerce, it was a no-brainer to bring Outbid's unique take on the traditional auction to these devices."
Outbid’s online marketplace incorporates social features as well. For example, sellers and buyers can communicate via live chat and a seller can choose to have an auctioneer broadcast an auction live via audio. Bidders can virtually meet and correspond via chat, monitor live bids, view a countdown clock with the amount of time left for bidding and see how much the competition is bidding.
Outbid is funded by Copart Inc., a NASDAQ-listed company which owns an online auction technology called VB2. Copart got its start in 1998 when it launched a vehicle auction technology that allowed buyers to submit proxy bids over the Internet.
Outbid says its target audience is any individual or retailer who might sell his wares on a site such as Etsy or eBay as well as consumers looking to sell off something of value for a bit of extra cash. The site is also designed for buyers who are collectors and bargain hunters. Sellers can create themed auctions if they have a large quantity of a specific type of good. For example, a seller might create a golf-themed auction.
Outbid is currently free for buyers and sellers but plans to make money in the near future through advertising and also charging what is says will be very low fees for sellers to auction off goods on the site. It also is working on a loyalty program for both buyers and sellers.
Auctions generate more than $300 billion a year in sales, but online auction revenues represent only $30 billion of the market, Outbid says. The company says that means there is strong growth potential for new players offering unique twists on online auctions.
Outbid is a privately held company with 17 full-time employees.