Building an online auction site takes more than a warehouse full of goods: it requires a Web site with complex behind-the-scenes software for managing those auctions. Bidland.com (http://www.bidland.com) offers auction hosting services that allow businesses to add auctions to their sites without hiring a gaggle of programmers and a herd of database gurus.
If your business already has a Web site, Bidland can integrate auctions into it, so your site's visitors can seamlessly view and bid without leaving your site. Bidland can also create a stand-alone site that doesn't piggyback on a existing site.
The service launched in the fourth quarter of 1999, and has built more than 2500 auction sites ranging from well-known names (such as MTV and MP3.com) to start-ups. The State of Michigan even uses the service to auction surplus merchandise.
Roughly 30% of Bidland's business are business-to-business players, according to Douglas Augustine, Bidland's president and co-founder. These include private-access sites where businesses can offer surplus lots to approved liquidators.
You'll also find business-to-consumer auctions and user-to-user auctions in Bidland's cachet. It's not all hard goods, though -- some of Bidland's customers are developing unique auction niches. MP3.com uses auctions to sell advertising space on its site, where bands can bid to bring their tunes to the top of the charts. (The site gives its auctions the apt name "Payola.") Other sites use auctions to raise money for charity.
Getting set up involves registering, building your auction home page, creating a category list, then uploading information about the items you will be selling. Bidland provides a batch upload tool for high volume sellers.
Bidland may make it easier to set up an online auction site (the site claims you can create your own site in 30 minutes using only a Web browser) but the detail work -- such as creating the look and brand identity, adding auction items and dealing with winning bidders -- is up to the client. Like any Web site, it will take a lot longer than 30 minutes to build a user base. Augustine estimates a 30- to 45-day lag from when a business signs up to when auctions are completely integrated into their site. Bidland.com charges a 5% transaction fee on auction revenues, with no setup or monthly fee.
The company also offers data-mining and marketing capabilities linked to auctions. Bidders who don't win the auction for an item could receive an e-mail from the site offering a similar item for straight sale. According to Augustine, Bidland's auctions can be used for real-time market research. For example, the makers of a new MP3 jukebox used auction bids to find out the price customers were will willing to pay for the gadget.