Attention auctioneers: interested in ditching the third party marketplace and hosting your own bidding site?
You can use your WordPress blog to create an eBay-style environment, where you advertise goods for sale and flog them off to the highest bidder.
Using WordPress as an auction platform is an easy way to avoid paying seller fees and commissions to third party sites. Selling from your own website gives you full control over how you run your auction.
So how’s it done? If you want to save your pennies, a free plugin is the way to go. WP Auctions allows you to create a bidding system on your WordPress blog, using widgets and an AJAX popup form.
The plugin is written by Owen Cutajar and Hyder Jaffari from Weborithm, and the free version is available through the WordPress Plugins Directory.
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Setting it up
This is a step-by-step guide to installing the plugin and setting up an auction on your WordPress site. Note that you’ll need to be running WordPress 3.0+ for this plugin to work correctly.
You can upload the plugin via the WordPress dashboard or an FTP client. Once WP Auctions is installed, you need to activate it in the ‘plugins’ panel.
From there, go to your widgets interface and drag your new WP Auctions widget into your sidebar (or wherever you prefer to place it – on some blogs it might fit better in the footer or header).
Before you create an auction
In the ‘general settings’ interface of the WP Auctions menu, you’ll need to nominate a currency and PayPal account for your auctions, as well as contact details for bid notification. PayPal is currently the only payment gateway supported in the free version of this plugin.
You can add a custom bidding increment here too, so that each bid must go up by $5 or $10 or whatever you choose.
For added security, you can also require that all bidders have a registered WordPress account, which will reduce the number of fake and spam bids that your auction attracts.
This security feature is optional, however, and you’ll surely get more interest in your auctions if you leave them open to everyone.
In the ‘other settings’ panel, you can choose from one of five color schemes for you auction. The scheme shown in this tutorial is ‘earth’.
Creating an auction
Once you’ve got your general settings configured, you can create your first auction under the ‘add’ menu in WP Auctions.
In the ‘Auction Details’ panel you’ll need to specify the following information:
- A name and description for your auction
- Your starting price
- The date and time at which bidding closes
- How you will accept payment (only PayPal in the free version)
- You also need to upload a photo for your auction
If applicable, you can include shipping information here too: where the product will be sent from, locations you are able to send it to, and how much extra it will cost.
The ‘optional settings’ interface allows you to set a ‘buy it now’ price for your auctioned goods, and post additional photos of the product you’re selling.
Once you’ve created your auction, this is what it will look like on your blog:
Nice and simple. Clicking on the ‘Bid Now’ button will take users through to this AJAX-powered popup screen, where they can place their bid and leave a contact email address.
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Embed your auction in a post or page
Instead of displaying your auction in a sidebar widget, you can embed it in a post or page of your blog instead. This might suit you better if the auction is a one-off event that will only run for a couple of days. It’s fairly straightforward to do this – instructions can be found in the WP Auctions FAQ.
This is what an auction looks like embedded in a blog post:
When your auction ends, an email is automatically generated and sent to the winning bidder. You can customize the message in the WP Auctions control panel in your dashboard. The email includes a link to a PayPal order summary, where the bidder can review their purchase and make payment.
From this point on, it’s between yourself and the winning bidder to arrange postage and shipment of the goods.
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The Verdict on WP Auctions
In three words: very, very simple. Whether this is a good thing or a bad thing depends on what you’re trying to do.
If all you want is a basic buy-and-sell auction system that fits easily into your existing WordPress setup, then WP Auctions has everything you’re likely to need.
The good points…
Unlike some other auction and marketplace plugins, with WP Auctions you don’t need to modify the structure of your site or use a special WordPress theme. The plugin is designed to work harmoniously with any kind of site design.
On the downside…
The main drawback of WP Auctions is limited functionality. The free version only allows you to run a basic “highest bidder wins” model, which is fine for selling physical products but doesn’t leave you with many other options.
If you want to build a reverse auctioning system for a job bidding site, like we discussed last week, you’ll need to upgrade to WP Auctions Pro.
As a free alternative, you could also check out the fairly new Prospress plugin. It offers more functionality than WP Auctions (reverse bidding included), but it’s more complicated to set up and manage. WP Auctions will appeal to those who want a low-maintenance system.
Have you used the WP Auctions plugin?
We’re always interested in reports from the field. If you’ve used a plugin to run auctions on your WordPress site, let us know about your experiences.