Within the livestock industry, sale days are some of the most anticipated events of the year. In most instances it’s more than just a sale, it’s a social gathering where you have the opportunity to showcase your operation and sell the carefully curated offering you’ve been developing for months. What do you do, however, when gatherings are restricted or you’re concerned about turnout, such as in the COVID-19 era? The livestock industry can’t come to a halt. It’s arguably even more critical than ever to keep everything business-as-usual. While producers have been offering online sales and utilizing digital marketing platforms for years, now more than ever, it has become a necessity. It may seem like an overwhelming undertaking if you’ve never had an online component of your sale before, but it isn’t all that different from a traditional sale. The key is finding the right online marketing service and ensuring buyer confidence through outstanding customer service. While this may look different for individual operations, the basics still apply.
Identify a Reputable Online Marketing Service
There are plenty of options for online marketing services, many of whom have been in the business of hosting online auctions for many years. These are your behind-the-scenes experts. They’ll not only set up the online auction and field bids, but they also offer services well before the sale such as web-based advertising and online catalog posting. The key is finding a provider that you feel confident in and attracts the buyers you’re looking for. For example, if a marketing service is mainly known for broadcasting dairy sales, it’s not likely to reach potential customers for your bull sale. Having confidence in the reliability and reputation of your chosen marketing service is a must for hosting online events.
Ensuring Buyer Confidence
One of the greatest factors impacting the success of your online sale is buyer confidence. Selecting and investing in genetics for your operation can be stressful enough, but when you’re not able to view or purchase in person, the risk seems even more daunting. You want to ensure you’ve done all you can to prepare your buyers, and maintain their trust and confidence in your product. Below are a few tips that can make a huge impact:
1. Create a quality, informational catalog
A sale catalog provides you the opportunity to include a variety of information regarding your sale offering and sale-day procedures. Including a “how to buy” page is a great way to explain to buyers how the online bidding process works and what they can expect, well in advance, so they feel confident on sale day. Providing high-quality photos, EPD values and detailed animal descriptions will aid buyers in their decision-making process, as well. By publishing your catalog online, either through the digital marketing service and/or your own platform, buyers will have the opportunity to begin researching their purchases before their catalog even arrives in the mail.
Be sure to check out our previous blog post, Why Sale Catalogs Work, for more information regarding the importance of these effective marketing tools.
2. Provide high-quality photos and videos
As mentioned above, high-quality photos convey high-quality products; the same is true for videos. Without being able to view the animals in person, the only visual representation potential buyers will see of your animals is the video you provide. Be sure your videos are clear and show the entire animal at every angle. Not only does a quality video best showcase the animal, it’s also a direct reflection of the quality of your operation.
3. Consider offering benefits/guarantees to online buyers
Offering benefits to buyers such as free/discounted shipping or buyback programs are great incentives for customers, especially when they’re unable to pick up purchases themselves. Guarantees greatly improve buyer confidence, as well. You’ll have to determine what works best for your operation. Many producers offer breeding ability and soundness guarantees for buyers. Some even offer a satisfaction guarantee where, if purchasing as an online bidder, your purchase doesn’t meet your quality standards upon delivery, they will issue a refund or replacement.
All of these “extra” services help mitigate the perceived risk to potential buyers.
4. Make yourself available
Above all, make yourself available to answer any questions potential buyers may have. Without a designated time for in-person viewing before the sale, questions are bound to come up at any point prior to and on sale day. Be sure you and any other sale contacts are familiar with the online bidding process used by the chosen marketing service so you can feel confident when providing customer support. Being available and prepared to provide great customer service will go a long way toward improving buyer confidence.
While online sales are increasing in number thanks to COVID-19, producers can expect to continue offering online components going forward as more customers are looking to buy via online platforms. Finding the right online marketing service can make all the difference as you begin setting up your sale, especially if you’re new to the online auction arena. Ensuring your customers are confident in their decisions by providing quality information in advance, comprehensive videos of the offering and overall customer service, will set you up for success and, ultimately, leave you with satisfied customers.
Emily grew up in rural Connecticut with a passion for agriculture. She attended Texas A&M University where she earned a bachelor’s degree in animal science and a master’s degree in ruminant nutrition. Emily has joined the BluePrint team as a designer and feature writer after previously working in feed sales and as the marketing manager for a large ranching operation in central Texas. Emily and her husband look forward to raising their family in the agricultural community they both love.