|EcommerceBytes-NewsFlash, Number 1406 - November 08, 2006 - ISSN 1539-5065 3 of 4|
cMarket has added an analytics feature to its charity-auction fundraising service for non-profits. cMarket's new SmarterAuction feature draws from data collected from over 1,500 completed cMarket auctions in more than a dozen cause categories to help its nonprofit clients run more successful fundraising auctions.
Charity auctions are a popular fundraising tool for non-profits. More than 300,000 nonprofit auctions are held annually in the United States, raising over $14 billion, and approximately 98 percent of these are offline, one-day events, according to cMarket.
cMarket's services help non-profit organizations add an online component to their fund-raising efforts. Its platform consists of a hosted auction toolset that enables non-profit customers to easily create, manage and market their own branded auctions. It also offers cMarket Place, which lets non-profits stock their auction catalogs with unique items that sell, available at a low wholesale cost. (The non-profit keeps all profits from bids above the opening bid.) Another feature is its International Bidder Registration, which facilitates bidding in foreign currencies.
cMarket's new analytics feature, SmarterAuction, offers the enhanced ability to track and improve an online auction. A real-time auction meter appears on the SmarterAuction dashboard and calculates the chances of reaching a fundraising goal based on the auction's logistics and lifecycle thereby allowing the non-profit to make any necessary course corrections in time to make their goal. SmarterAuction then allows clients to track each element of their auction against goals, optimize variables that would increase revenue, and review multiple scenarios proven to yield higher results.
According to cMarket CEO and Chairman Jon Carson, organizations don't typically save data from their previous charity auction events, and a different person may run the event each year, resulting in lost institutional knowledge. cMarket's SmarterAuction helps non-profits as a flexible reporting tool, providing historical records of auction statistics that not only provide accountability to sponsors and donors, but also can be used to plan future auctions.
cMarket explains it this way: "Many nonprofits, particularly smaller ones, must plan their auctions with skeleton crews and volunteer committees that don't have previous experience and access to historical data. SmarterAuction provides a comprehensive knowledge base that's easy and intuitive to use to benefit all nonprofits."
SmarterAuction helps non-profits realistically refine their online auction goals, better understand the factors that contribute to a successful auction, plan their auction based on specific objectives, provide instantaneous tracking progress, make course corrections and predict their auction's outcome - all based on quantifiable data from cMarket auctions. And when a client is logged in, cMarket’s tip engine provides proven and contextually relevant auction tips and reminders keyed on the specific auction and its lifecycle.
SmarterAuction was developed with guidance from Deepak Malhotra, Ph.D., a Harvard Business School professor who serves on cMarket's advisory board. Malhotra has done extensive research on charity auctions and trust development with focus on behavioral aspects of decision making in a competitive environment. He is especially interested in how to create "escalation of commitment," "competitive arousal," and "auction fever" in an auction environment.
"SmarterAuction applies powerful historical data on bidder behavior to optimize supply and demand factors that affect the success of all fundraising auctions," Malhotra said. For example, if an auction is at risk for not meeting its goal, SmarterAuction might suggest adding higher-priced auction items from its online catalog, cMarketPlace. Or, it might remind auction planners to send out additional emails to its online community of potential bidders. It lets non-profits compare the predicted effectiveness of adding more catalog items versus securing more sponsors. When developing the tool cMarkekt found that some actions actually have negative effects (adding more high-end items when the bidder base isn’t big enough).
Carson says SmarterAuction uses 130 algorithms, taking charity-auction planning "from art to science." By entering data such as fundraising goal, number of expected bidders, and the number and value of auction items, SmarterAuction can predict whether the organization will meet its goal on a real time basis. Clients can use "what if" tools to determine how an increase in auction items and number of bidders may affect the outcome and by what degree. SmarterAuction can also advise which day of the week is best for a particular organization to open or close an auction and how long the auction should run.
cMarket offers video training and live customer support. Clients pay a fixed annual hosting fee $695 (reduced to $395 until December 1st) for unlimited number of events (typically non-profits run fundraising auctions annually, Carson said), and they pay 9 percent of the first $75,000 of bids. Carson said cMarket does not take a cut of any other revenue generated from events, such as money earned from ticket sales or donated cash.
cMarket has over 2,000 clients in such verticals as schools, arts organizations, healthcare and animal shelters, including United Way, JCC, Junior Achievement, Catholic Charities, The PTA, and the American Red Cross. cMarket also works with companies including Ford, Deloitte & Touche, Kimberly-Clark and General Electric to raise funds for their nonprofit causes. Much of cMarket's business comes from word of mouth or from people who see the "powered by cMarket" tagline on mailings from current cMarket clients.
Catalogs from some recently completed auction events can be seen online, such as an auction for the Ethel Walker School in Connecticut (http://www.cmarket.com/catalog/landingPage.do?vhost=ethelwalkers), which raised $53,400 in its first online-auction event, and the Maryland SPCA (http://www.cmarket.com/catalog/landingPage.do?vhost=mdspca).
cMarket was founded in 2003 and is headquartered in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
About the author:
Ina Steiner is co-founder and Editor of EcommerceBytes and has been reporting on ecommerce since 1999. She's a widely cited authority on marketplace selling and is author of "Turn eBay Data Into Dollars" (McGraw-Hill 2006). Her blog was featured in the book, "Blogging Heroes" (Wiley 2008). Follow her on Twitter at @ecommercebytes and send news tips to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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