As society becomes more internet-based, online auction sites are replacing the weekend trips to the mall or the endless procession to visit all the flea markets on a given Saturday. No longer are bargain hunters required to stand for hours listening for an auctioneer to call out a price they can afford. Virtual shopping and internet bargain hunting is slowly but surely replacing the hot flea markets and the overpopulated malls and shopping centers. Shopping will never become totally obsolete, but for those unable or unwilling to walk the distance in malls or spend the time at outlets and auctions, the top online auction websites are offering a viable alternative, while still allowing the shopper to haggle for the best price and search through merchandise for the best fit for their needs. For the retailer, there are many benefits to the business model of selling products through online auction sites.
This business model consists of participants bidding on products or services that have been displayed over the internet. Auctioning software regulates all the processes involved in buying, selling and shipping of the merchandise or service being bid upon. The top online auction websites on down to the personal endeavors to consign merchandise over the internet do not actually store, inventory and monitor merchandise. The internet auctioning websites are simply computer interfaces between seller and potential buyers that provide a vehicle of purchase. The merchandise is stored at either the seller's home or warehouse. Internet sites do not have geographical locations, so cannot house any tangible products or perform any literal services. In this way, the software allows a website to accept bids, offer payment options, display photos and descriptions of sale items and to support email communications between seller and buyer. All of this is possible despite the fact that the internet site does not actually own the merchandise being bid on or sold. In this way, online auction sites act like virtual open air marketplaces allowing the sellers to have internet "booths" in which to display their goods or services.
There are several types of auctions available for individuals shopping via the internet. An English auction lasts for a fixed amount of time. This time frame is usually under two weeks. The seller will sell the item or items to the highest bidder at the end of the allotted time frame. Often the seller will set a predetermined amount representing the lowest possible starting bid. This is called a reserve. For example, if the reserve is $15.00, all bidding must begin at no less than $15.00 and go up from there. In a Dutch auction, a seller offers multiple identical items during the time span of one auction. Many shoppers bid, and the highest bid is what all the shoppers will eventually buy the items for. Treasury Bills are often sold in this manner. Most top online auction websites typically host English auctions, as it is the simplest to execute and easiest to understand.
As a seller, the benefits to auctioning merchandise over the internet are numerous. There are no time constraints to limit hours of operation. Internet sites are on 24 hours a day, so buyers can shop in India, while the seller sleeps in the United States. Closely related to this, is the lack of geographical constraints. It is no longer impossible to "attend" an auction two states away. In addition, there is no longer a central geographical site that all the merchandise is shipped to, stored at and shipped out of. As a result, a seller can offer more items, accept more bids and thus save money. The saved money is then passed on to the bidders who can start out at a lower beginning bid. As a result of the exhilaration felt as the bidder waits to see if their bid wins, the participants are highly loyal. Some shoppers are even bidding just for the thrill of it. As a seller, this creates a faithful "fan base," and repeat customers who relate the excitement they feel with the specific product they bought. As they grow in popularity top online auction websites attract more bidders. More bidders attract more sellers, which attract more bidders, and so on. This strengthens this type of business model.
However, internet auctioning sites are not without their critics. With the high traffic and the lack of geographical location, criminals run rampant, even on the top online auction websites. Stolen goods are easier to sell over the internet than from the back of a van in an alley. Law enforcement often searches these internet auction sites to locate criminals and reclaim the stolen merchandise. Many retailers are urging the US congress to enact laws that force online auction sites to disclose information about large volume sellers and those suspected of auctioning stolen goods.
Sellers are not the only people benefitting from online auction sites. Buyers are no longer hindered by location or physical difficulties. Even if a shopper lives in a remote area, with internet shopping they can still benefit from the completive prices of big city auctions. "And all countries came into Egypt to Joseph for to buy corn; because that the famine was so sore in all lands." (Genesis 41:57) A shopper with a disability is now no longer hindered by their inability to climb stairs or walk for a long period of time. Rather than search through rack after rack of clothes or continue to look through stores for the right gift, many internet consignment sites have search tools to allow the bidder to find the right item in a very timely manner.