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Can Barnebys Become the Google of Auctions?

Stockholm-based Barnebys provides access to a multitude of auction houses with its online search and valuation tools. The company hopes to build upon its success in Europe by expanding into the US auction marketplace.

The four-year-old business gives buyers a single destination from which they visit the offerings of major international auction houses, along with regional houses and specialist collections. Barnebys claims to curate over 400,000 objects from over one thousand auction houses and dealers during any particular day.

In the U.S., top-tier auction houses such as Sotheby’s, Christie’s, Paddle 8, Phillips, and Heritage have signed on to become cooperative partners with Barnebys, and international users include Catawiki, Dorotheum, Tajan, and Auctionata. Further global market expansion is planned for 2016.

Their pay-per-click business model will be familiar to anyone who’s watched the online ad industry for any length of time. Barnebys generates revenue from its participating auctions houses this way, along with a more customary display of banner ads on their site.

Buyers not only enjoy the benefit of connecting with thousands of items for sale. Barnebys also provides a free-to-use valuation service. This permits sellers to connect with experts who can provide estimates and advice on their objects. Another benefit, Barnebys’ price realized feature, shows what an item has sold for previously as well as how similar objects have sold.

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Pontus Silfverstolpe, Director of Content for Barnebys, told EcommerceBytes the timing was right for the firm to expand into the US market. “Although the US and Scandinavia are frontrunners when it comes to adapting purchasing behavior to the internet, the online behavior of auctions matured tremendously in recent years.”

Before coming to America, Barnebys stepped from Sweden to the United Kingdom. Said, Silfverstolpe, “At the same time, it was natural for us to first prove that our service worked in Sweden and Scandinavia, before entering new markets. Then the step was not far to UK that is the second largest market for art and antiques after US.”

The company is careful to emphasize it is content with the aggregator model it employs. “We do not think it’s healthy for auction houses that someone else have all the information about their customers and transactions,” Silfverstolpe said. “We also think it is devastating that many of the platforms are building their own brands at the expense of the auction houses. That is directly detrimental to the auction houses.”

For auctioneers wondering why they should consider a Barnebys relationship, Silfverstolpe noted the basic reality of modern shopping behavior, saying nine out of ten shoppers between the ages of 16-35 start their purchase online with a search. “You have to be searchable online, but also to file down the thresholds and make it easier for the new generation of buyers. As the sole operator requires both knowledge, money and good packaging to attract the buyers of today, we think Barnebys can offer that for both auction houses and users.”

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David A Utter
David A Utter
David A. Utter is a freelance writer based in Lexington, KY. He has covered technology topics from search to security to online business and has been quoted in places like ZDNet and BusinessWeek. He considers his appearance on NPR's "All Things Considered" with long-time host Robert Siegel a delightful highlight. You can find him on Twitter @davidautter and on LinkedIn.