Tophatter Auctions - How Does Tophatter Work?
What is Tophatter?
Tophatter.com is a unique auction style website. It differs from eBay in that Tophatter simulates a real life physical auction house. Buyers and sellers come together in a virtual "room" to bid on products, also known as "lots", as they come up in a queue. Lots can be viewed beforehand and throughout the auction but can only be bid on when they reach the top of the queue for live bidding. The exception to this is when an item is in standby. I will explain more about standby in the next section.
Each auction room includes a chatroom that allows you to communicate with other buyers and sellers and even puts you in the spotlight if you are present in the room when your lot queues up for bidding. The focus is put on you so that you can actively answer questions and push your product.
Direct vs Standby Scheduling
Direct scheduling and standby scheduling were confusing concepts to me at first. It took a couple schedules for me to figure out what they really meant. I hope I can make it clearer for you than Tophatter originally did for me.
Direct scheduling means that you are guaranteed a slot in the staff run auctions you select. These spots are limited and you must submit at the right time to acquire a slot. You can direct schedule a lot in an auction about four days before the auction takes place. Direct scheduling is not an option when scheduling with community run auctions.
Standby scheduling means that your lot will only receive a slot in an auction if someone bids on it before hand. This is the only time pre-bidding can occur. It is nice because, if someone does pre-bid, you are guaranteed that sale. But, I rarely see this happen for other sellers and I have never had the fortune of receiving a pre-bid on my own standby lots. Standby scheduling is included in both staff run and community auctions.
Typically, in staff run auctions, you can schedule standby around two days in advance but sometimes you can schedule as soon as a few hours before and even during the auction. When scheduling a lot in a community auction, your lots will always be submitted as standby until the auction host approves them for a slot in their auction.
Types of Tophatter Auctions
There are two types of Tophatter auctions. The auctions run by Tophatter staff and those run by members of the Tophatter community. You can have much success in both types but both also have their advantages and disadvantages.
Staff Run Auctions
-Guaranteed exposure. If you direct schedule and sometimes even standby into a staff run auction, you will receive views on your lot and some people will even visit your website if you include one.
-Great for networking within the chatroom.
-Longer waiting period between scheduling an auction and the date of the auction especially if using direct scheduling.
-There is a limit to the amount of lots you can schedule at one time. Starting out, you can only schedule one at a time whether direct or standby.
-Higher and varying fees than community auction. Fees will be explained in the next section.
-Unlimited scheduling of lots.
-Larger focus of items with both broad and narrow themes. Some auctions will let you schedule anything while others will only allow specific colors or styles of items.
-Auctions can be started for charitable donations. Anything for a good cause is a pro.
-Great networking within the chatroom.
-Lower fees than staff run auctions.
-Scheduled lots are automatically put on standby until approved by the auction host. Some lots may never be approved and will stay in standby until you unscheduled them even after the auction is over.
-Some hosts do not allow public scheduling and you must be invited. Often you can email or Facebook the host to receive and invite. They will include the information on the auction page.
-Less exposure and fewer views. Community auctions rely completely on outside promotion by the host, participants and require RSVP's to schedule lots.
This is what an auction room can look like.
It is completely free to join Tophatter and schedule your lots for auction. You are only charged a commission or flat fee when your lots sale. Fees vary depending on the month, theme, and type of auction. Many auctions take a percentage of what you sale your lot for with a minimum of $1 commission. This means that, if you sale a lot for $9, you will be charged the $1 minimum instead of $0.90. Other auctions take a flat fee.
The current fees as of September 2012 are:
All Community Auctions: 5% with no minimum
Jewelry: 13% with $1 minimum
Supplies: 10% with $1 minimum
Daily Bazaar: $1.70 flat fee
Early Bird Bazaar: 10% with $1 minimum
Global Bazaar: 10% with $1 minimum
Night Owl Bazaar: 10% with $1 minimum
Weekend Bazaar: 10% with $1 minimum
Handmade: $1.25 flat fee
All other staff run auctions: 10% with $1 minimum
How Tophatter can Help Your Business
If you are a seller of handmade items like myself, Tophatter is a great networking tool. But, it’s is not limited to handmade sellers. Anyone can promote their business with Tophatter as long as they have physical stock. Since each auction room has a chatroom, you can talk to other buyers and sellers about anything, especially your business. I wouldn’t go obviously promoting yourself but becoming friendly with other members will influence them to click on your name or even visit your online shop/website.
Also, with every sale I make, I include a business card with a personal thank you note handwritten on the back. This way a buyer can visit my online shop or website to make future purchases or maybe even tell their friends and family.
Tophatter now has an app for your iPhone, iPod, and iPad. It currently only supports staff run auctions but it's still new and improving. It is awesome for keeping track of your auctions while you are on the go and I have gotten a lot of use out of it thus far.
You can participate in auction chatrooms, bid, and even promote your lots in the spotlight from this app completely free!
Get the Tophatter App on iTunes