The gift that online auctions give us is the ability to extend an auction beyond the 30 or so minutes that make up a live auction, or the few hours of a silent auction, to one or more weeks. The trouble with extended online auctions, though, is the risk of bidders not returning to the software to push their bids higher. Extended online auctions sound intimidating if you’re unsure that you can keep participation rolling.


So, how do you effectively remind bidders to keep pursuing that attractive item?


  1. Ensure the software is easy to use—and provide clear instructions. As we’ve mentioned before, people tend to be unmotivated if a software is difficult to use. Even if they get through the first bid, if it was a hassle, they’re unlikely to return to bid again. Invest in quality online auction software to avoid frustrating your bidders, and if you have populations that are unfamiliar with this kind of software or who may have accessibility issues, make sure you provide clear instructions or alternative methods of making bids so that they can feel confident in bidding their money.


  1. Don’t have too many or too few items. Having too many items can be overwhelming for bidders and also cause them to spend an unreasonable amount of time perusing the options. On the other hand, if there are too few items, they might be less likely to bid due to the lack of variety or low chances of winning. The key is to have just enough to engage bidders without over- or under-whelming them. This way they’ll want to keep coming back to see if their item is still within their budget—or tempt them to keep bidding nonetheless!


  1. Create and distribute an auction catalogue. It can be more convenient for bidders to check out the items before logging into the online auction software in order to read descriptions, see starting prices, or view photos of the items. Creating an auction catalogue, even just through Microsoft Word or Google Docs, can go a long way to inform bidders with a list they can consult whenever convenient.


  1. Send mobile alerts and reminders. Sending text alerts to bidders’ smartphones is an excellent way to remind them throughout the week to log on and make their bid. This can be accomplished easily through most online software or through the school’s messaging system for those who sign up for these alerts.


  1. Encourage community participants to spread the word. It can never hurt to tell those in your community to remind each other, keeping each other accountable to make bids. For instance, if the auction is for a school fundraiser, ask teachers to include the reminder in their announcements or in emails to their students’ parents. These verbal reminders can be extremely beneficial in keeping the bidding process on people’s minds.


  1. Count down to the end of the auction. The reminder of time ticking away can also motivate bidders to return to the online auction. Whether the presence of a countdown timer built into the auction software or simple text, email, or verbal reminders of the clock can do the trick to keep bidders coming back.


Don’t let participants make one bid and then quit. Use a variety of methods to remind bidders to keep returning and placing new bids.