The images of auction houses portrayed on television can be off-putting. Daytime TV would suggest that auctions are all about low-priced knick-knacks, eccentric characters and too much tweed.
The news programmes focus on the other extreme, covering the eye-watering sums achieved in the hallowed halls of the international houses, leaving the impression that an ill-timed twitch could leave you working out how to pay for a Renoir or Van Gough.
There is a middle ground that is both modern and high tech, while remaining affordable and approachable and this is where Fellows auctioneers have firmly placed themselves. They believe that customer convenience is the key to their success and to this end they have embraced all aspects of technology to make this happen.
Most auction houses have some kind of website and many offer live, online bidding – Fellows were the first to offer this to the UK market, but Fellows gear their entire process towards the online client, whether in the cataloguing, the comprehensive condition reports that accompany each lot or the photography. While still retaining a traditional auction room in the heart of Birmingham’s historic Jewellery Quarter with printed catalogues and paddle numbers, Fellows are seeing more of the competition and more of the winning bids winging in from online sources.
For the online client who may never see or handle a watch until it arrives by post after a successful bid, trust is key. Multiple high-resolution images of each watch allows close inspection by potential buyers and the recent introduction of 360 degree imaging allows viewers to spin a watch and zoom in on any part of it. This is coupled with detailed cataloguing and some of the most comprehensive condition reports in the business, most readily available online without the need to request them.
For online retailers, this is nothing new, but for an auction house that cannot use a manufacturer’s image to retail hundreds of the same item, this is a major commitment. Each watch is individually described and photographed and can be sold only once – a process that is repeated nearly 8000 times a year for the wristwatch auctions alone.
This vast array of information is backed up by a team of watch enthusiasts who are always on the other end of the phone ready to give a real-life perspective on any watch or advice on the buying and selling process.
This commitment is paying off with Fellows seeing a 25% growth year on year in their online engagement. The fully featured website allows bids to be placed directly by clients themselves 24hrs a day at any time up to the morning of the sale but the real fun comes from the live online bidding. The convenience and excitement of real-time participation in a live auction from home, office or via a mobile device is appealing to more and more people both in the UK and globally.
Mobile is clearly the future and Fellows are gearing up for this new opportunity. The possibility of accessing over 30 watch auctions a year via your mobile phone is already a reality but one that Fellows is working to make ever more engaging, informative and user-friendly.