For those of you who might be new to the idea of a penny auction, here is a pretty decent/accurate explanation from Wikipedia:
A bidding fee auction, also called a penny auction, is a type of all-pay auction in which participants must pay a non-refundable fee to place a small incremental bid. When time expires, the last participant to have placed a bid wins the item and also pays the final bid price, which is purportedly significantly lower than the retail price of the item. The auctioneer makes money in two ways: the fees for each bid and the payment for the winning bid.
So what are the advantages of a penny auction over a “normal” auction?
- Penny auctions usually start with an incredibly low price for the item on sale in and therefore attract a lot of potentially interested consumers.
- The buyer is less likely to back out of the purchase, since the actual purchase price of the item is not that substantial (if you have already paid out enough in bids to buy it, you can afford to do so).
- If the bidding is intense enough, the amount of money received by the seller from the bidding can actually exceed the value of the item itself.
With a penny auction, then, you can attract more visitors, lower your risk, and make more money. If that has caught your interest, then keep reading to learn more about sitemile.com‘s recently created WordPress Penny Auction Theme that will allow you to install a penny auction on your own WordPress website.
A Penny For Your Theme?
There are at least four basic functions that you need out of a Penny Auction theme and that the sitemile.com theme offers. You need to be able to:
- Set a starting price
- Set the bid price increase
- Set the bid time increase
- Set a time frame
The starting price is the initial offering price for the product. The “bid price increase” is how much the final sale price goes up every time a bid is made. The “bid time increase” is how much time the other bidders have to submit another bid; if they don’t submit a bid in time, the last bidder is able to buy the item. The time frame is the absolute limit for how long the auction will be allowed to continue. Each one of these components is necessary to successfully manage a penny auction, but there is also one final component – bid packages – that we will discuss a little bit later.
The Nitty Gritty
In addition to these basic functions, the theme allows your users (to put forward a bid, the theme requires that participants be logged in users) to create, customize, and manage auctions themselves. Here are some other important features that the theme offers:
Bid Packages: The main money maker for any penny auction, being able to create and sell bid packages is absolutely crucial. The user buys their bids in large allotments (say USD$20 for 99 bids) and uses them to bid on the auction items. This is one of the major differences between a penny auction and a “normal” auction: in a penny auction, bidding isn’t free. When the user runs out of bids, they can either choose to lose the auction or buy more bids. The theme therefore allows you to create multiple bid packages which incentivize users to purchase larger bid packages.
Demo: To get an idea of what the front-end of the Penny Auction Theme would look like, check out their demo. They do not automatically provide back-end access, so you will have to contact the team at sitemile.com directly if you want to see how it works from the other side.
Pricing: To install the theme on one site is USD$69.99. The multi-site installation is USD$99.99. There is also a developer license available that costs a bit more.
Installation: Just upload the theme as you would any another. It is plug and play out of the box.
Payment Gateways: The WordPress Penny Auction Theme comes with PayPal as the only and default payment gateway option. If you like PayPal, that’s great. If you don’t, they can also do custom configuration for a price. Personally, I think that a handful of gateways should be a standard feature and find that a bit disappointing. For those targeting their auction towards an international audience, the theme does offer multi-currency support as well.
Notifications: Your users are notified by email when they bid, get outbid, or receive private messages.
Support: Here is where I feel the team at sitemile.com fell down a bit. The designers themselves are very quick to respond to any questions/issues and are really eager to help, which is an absolute necessity for any premium plugin or theme. However, the documentation is nearly completely lacking. Although they promise that it will be delivered in the future, it is irritating to have to guess where a feature can be found or how it will function. If this were a beta release, then that would be an acceptable excuse, but this theme is not a beta release.
Social Networking: The theme offers some integration with both Facebook and Twitter; users can like your individual items or tweet them (users can also follow you on Twitter). This is extremely important for a Penny Auction site: more visitors means more bids means more money. Too few bidders and the on-sale items will be purchased for much less than their actual value.
Formatting Options: Although they don’t offer a ton of customization options, you can choose how to structure the auction page. The formatting allows for left and right sidebars, with a content section in the middle, in pretty much every permutation (except for no content section, of course).
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Looking For Something Else?
Maybe a penny auction doesn’t appeal or wouldn’t meet the needs of your users. There are a number of other options for running auctions or auction-like functions on your site:
- WP Auctions, a great free WordPress auction plugin from sometime WPMU contributor Hyder Jaffari. A review here will run you through how it works.
- Prospress is another good free WordPress auction plugin. Check out this Demo product from Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park.
- If you would like to simply offer products without a more formal bidding structure, you can run a Classifieds plugin on your site.
- Sitemile.com also offers a WordPress Auction plugin and WordPress Auction theme (the theme also allows for reverse auctions, where people bid against each other for the lowest price – think a freelancing site where contractors bid against each other).