Live online auctions inject life into retail

Here's a way to shop online - at least five firms in Singapore are offering live auctions using Facebook's live streaming service, selling a range of items from electronics to beauty products.

Shoppers drawn to real-time bidding for trendy items at bargain prices via Facebook streaming service

Sure, there's satisfaction in beating a fellow shopper to a bargain.

But to do it with hundreds of people watching? Well, that offers the winner an added kick.

Betting that consumers will thrill to this prospect, at least five firms have been holding real-time auctions of their products via Facebook's live streaming service.

They hawk a wide range of items, from electronics and mobile accessories to beauty products and handbags - all from behind a computer screen in their office or home.

They are able to reach a large group of people at the same time, without having to pay rent for a physical shopfront, said the firms.

The savings are passed on, presumably, to consumers, who confirm they have been able to get good bargains from such auctions, sometimes at less than half the usual retail price.

Hong Heng Mobile Auction's boss, Mr Lim Jia Zheng, 24, said he earns enough to make a living from his auctions, thanks to enthusiastic bidders. The electronics and mobile accessories on sale are sourced from suppliers overseas.

Live auctions enable Mr John Wu of Grunge Bidding Amused Singapore to attract hundreds of potential clients at one time to view his suppliers' products. Mr Lim Jia Zheng of Hong Heng Mobile Auction says customers seem to get an extra kick when they m
Mr Lim Jia Zheng of Hong Heng Mobile Auction says customers seem to get an extra kick when they manage to land a bargain under the avid eyes of everyone watching the bidding war. PHOTO: FACEBOOK PAGE OF HONG HENG MOBILE AUCTION

"Some users like the thrill of winning items from others," said Mr Lim, who used to run a mobile phone shop in Yishun.

"If you make an expensive purchase in a shop, only the buyer and seller know. But when you bid for an expensive item online, all the viewers know... so there is that feeling of satisfaction."

Then there is the prospect of scoring a bargain. Mr Edward Goh, 50, a manager in the logistics industry, snagged corded headphones for $81 and an Oppo R9s mobile phone for $480 at a live auction. The headphone costs US$149 (S$206) on eBay while the mobile phone retails for over $600, he noted.

"I took part purely out of curiosity," he said. "I might or might not bid again, but I've continued to watch the videos on my phone. It's pretty entertaining."

The live auctions are usually two to three hours long and conducted informally, with the auctioneer often bantering with viewers in Singlish, answering questions or demonstrating the products.

Bidding is usually done over several minutes. Participants post bids in the video's comment thread.

Live auctions enable Mr John Wu of Grunge Bidding Amused Singapore to attract hundreds of potential clients at one time to view his suppliers' products. Mr Lim Jia Zheng of Hong Heng Mobile Auction says customers seem to get an extra kick when they m
Live auctions enable Mr John Wu of Grunge Bidding Amused Singapore to attract hundreds of potential clients at one time to view his suppliers' products. PHOTO: FACEBOOK PAGE OF GRUNGE BIDDING AMUSED SINGAPORE

After the bidding ends, the winner has to contact the firm to arrange payment and collection or delivery. Non-payment means the item is forfeited, and a possible ban from the Facebook page.

Grunge Bidding Amused Singapore founder John Wu, 34, said he started holding live auctions in March, mainly to market his suppliers' products, which include mobile accessories, tour packages, beauty products, trendy toys, collectibles and branded handbags. He once had 400 people viewing a live stream - a record for him.

He added: "How often do you get 100 to 400 people looking at a product in your shop, listening to the product introduction?"

Singapore Polytechnic retail lecturer Sarah Lim said such auctions attract a certain group of consumers "who like to bargain and feel they are getting the best deal".

She said: "I don't think the format will die down. Live auctions engage the customers. They're exciting, and customers will treasure the product more when they get it."

WATCH THE VIDEO

See some live auctions in action on Facebook str.sg/live auctions.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 08, 2017, with the headline 'Live online auctions inject life into retail'. Print Edition | Subscribe