The success of online auctions

    The success of online auctions

    What are the factors that have determined the success of online sales? Let’s find it out together

    The auctions in presence are currently not happening anymore, but the demand for works of art by collectors does not stop even during a global pandemic.

    To adapt to the lack of “physical” events, auction houses have consolidated their digital presence thanks to the use of various tools such as live streaming, newsletters, storytelling through social media combined with a gradual increase in the estimates of sales lots. 

    In fact, the Hiscox 2020 Report shows us how, in this complex scenario, auction houses have managed to develop winning sales strategies that have kept the interest of the most passionate collectors alive.

    In detail, in the period between March and September 2020, there was a significant increase not only in users / collectors active online and on websites, but also in the number of auction sales and prices of lots.

    The lockdown did not therefore stop the exchanges which, as regards the online auctions of the greats such as Christie’s, Sotheby’s and Phillips, proved to be far higher than the numbers achieved in the same period of the previous year.


    During the period of the pandemic, Loïc Gouzer, former co-chairman of Christie’s, designed the Fair Warning app, reserved for a small selection of collectors and gallery owners.

    The guests had the opportunity to win only one work of art per week among the works personally selected by Gouzer himself, such as the large drawing “Untitled (1982)” by Jean-Michel Basquiat, auctioned on 30 July 2020 and which reached $ 10.8 million, a record amount for an app purchase.


    Despite the complex period, thanks to some important factors taken into consideration by the most attentive collectors, auction houses still hold the record for reliability on the market.

    Here are the five factors that determine online auction sales success:

    1. Quality of the works of art offered

    Collectors need to dream, especially in an uncertain period. It is no coincidence that Tyrannosaurus Rex South Dakota was sold at the beginning of October 2020, auctioned by Christie’s contemporary art auction for 31.9 million dollars. 

    Each department of an auction house, when selecting the works that will be put up for sale, takes into consideration fundamental elements in order to offer the best to its collectors. The analysis of the current market to determine the trends of the moment, together with the verification of the results of the previous auctions, prove to be necessary steps to establish preferences and select the best lots.

    1. Ease of navigation on the site

    The auction houses have visibly strengthened their digital presence, to allow collectors to enjoy a simplified digital experience.

    There is no standard format when it comes to websites, but today auction house websites are increasingly easily accessible, navigable and accessible from any device. In addition, in the last year there has been great attention and commitment to the environment, with a significant reduction in the production of paper catalogs and implementation of digital contents.

    Christie’s records 12 million unique visitors on its site, while it has implemented a digital form to send the request for an estimate for an object or a work of art, simplified in graphics and improved in usability, which was worth more than 35 millions of euros in lot transfers.

    1. Regulation

    On the auction house websites there is always a section dedicated to the regulation of the dynamics of sale and acquisition of a lot, together with the glossary used to provide information even to novice collectors.

    A plus of recent times is represented by real guides for the purchase or sale of works that auction houses offer on their sites. In this way, interested collectors are able to easily find all the information relating to the registration to be made to participate in a virtual auction, on the conduct and conditions of sale.

    1. Transparency on the price

    The lack of physicality and the impossibility of organizing live meetings to view the works or to participate in art fairs has strengthened the success of the auction houses, where transparency on the estimates and on the hammer price has proved to be the trump card for many collectors, in particular for young Millennial Collectors, who are increasingly attentive to the manipulation and transparency of prices.

    Extensive use is therefore being made of online auctions over time, with the possibility of monitoring the trend of increases for each collector simply from their smartphone or PC.

    The thrill of the auction was certainly lacking, but the prices reached nevertheless gave strong emotions, such as the one for the sale for 84.6 million dollars of the “Triptych” (1981) by Francis Bacon at Sotheby’s and broadcast in live streaming. from Hong Kong, London and New York.

    1. Documentation

    Despite the difficulties of the pandemic, auction house experts followed the collectors remotely, providing by phone or email all the useful information relating to auctions and documentation of the works.

    However, the “simplified” digital exchange of the documentary kit of a work of art has revealed the need to adopt innovative solutions for the privacy and security of documents, including Certificates of Authenticity, Archival Authentication, Condition Report , to be checked carefully and requested well before purchase by the collector.

    Hence, for 2021, auction houses and other operators in the sector together with market players must be able to introduce the use of innovative professional tools such as Art Rights, a platform for management and certification, into their daily work procedures. of information on works of art with Blockchain technology and Artificial Intelligence.

    And you, are you ready to participate in online auctions?

    Photo Credits: Christie’s

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