The Importance of the Lot Description

There is no doubt setting up an online auction is a lot of work. Historically, in a traditional live auction, catalog descriptions were not overly important; once at the auction site on the day of the sale buyers could simply look at each item before they bid. Descriptions were necessary for marketing, but buyers had the ability to draw their own conclusions based on their personal inspection. When selling online the write-ups take on new significance because buyers cannot make an in person visual inspection of the item being sold. The auctioneer must convey a meaningful description for online sales.

The online auctioneer must explain precisely what is being offered in each lot. These details are easy to find if you are in front of the item, but not necessarily if you are looking at photos online. For example, the size of items can be deceptive in photos, the age can be difficult to determine and differences on models may not be discernible from photos. If you look at these auction items in the photos below can you tell the basic information about these items?

What is the horsepower of the motor and how big is it? How old is the welder? What is the speed of this computer? Without answering any of these questions all these items will sell; however, in order to maximize the value buyers need more details. Buyers buy items with an intended purpose in mind. If they cannot determine if the item will work as they need it to, often buyers will not bid at all. Most buyers assume the worst in the event there is information missing from a description.

As online auctioneers we need to learn an important lesson from traditional e-commerce retailers. E-commerce sites such as Amazon and Zappos compete with traditional brick and mortar retailers for consumers. As such, the online retailers need to provide comparable details for items they are selling so buyers are comfortable buying online. When a buyer is shopping in a store like Target or Best Buy they can hold, smell and touch items before they buy them. They can look for features that are important to them and they can find answers to their questions by personally inspecting the item. The burden is on the online retailer to make sure buyers have the necessary information for every item; otherwise they will lose the sale.

Details are even more important in auctions when items are used and are sold in “as-is” condition. A well-written write-up will pay off with higher bids and happier buyers. When items are well described and artfully explained, buyers have more confidence in the item they are reviewing and considering investing in. Good descriptions are often the difference between active bidding and no bidding at all.

I have spent 10 years writing lot descriptions from everyday dollar items to million dollar machines. When you know what to look for, providing sufficient details can be very straightforward. A good auctioneer should balance the time required to write a good description with the value of the asset. Lower value items do not warrant the time it takes to create extensive descriptions. You can sell a shovel with the description “shovel” but you cannot sell a combine without providing more details to help the buyer understand what he or she is getting.

Next time I will review the essentials to a high-quality lot description.

Thanks for ready in have a great day. -Russ