Construction Equipment Industry Shifts Towards e-Commerce

The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated acceptance of online equipment sales and purchases.

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Ritchie Bros.

When COVID-19 shut down in-person events in March of 2020, Ritchie Bros., one of the most prominent equipment auction services in the construction industry, leveraged online technologies to keep machines moving. In that same month, the company witnessed users of its mobile app increase 90 percent while online registrations continued to soar. All auctions were moved online.

The results were impressive during the summer months as the company set several records for registrations to its auctions while most in-person events were being cancelled. Since moving its auctions to 100% online bidding, Ritchie Bros. has taken advantage of the digital world by bringing smaller auctions together to create bigger online events.

The recent U.S. Midwest Ritchie Bros. auction on March 30 to 31 resulted in $52 million in equipment sales. More than 5,000 equipment items were stored, inspected and sold from six Ritchie Bros. locations in five states – including Chicago, IL; Minneapolis, MN; Kansas City, MO; East St. Louis, MO; Omaha, NE; and Williston, ND – to online buyers across the U.S. and around the world.

More than 11,100 online bidders from 70-plus countries registered to bid in the U.S. Midwest auction, with U.S. buyers purchasing approximately 90 percent of the equipment, by dollar value. The remaining 10 percent was purchased by online buyers from as far away as Germany, Guatemala, India and South Korea.

“We continue to attract record bidder registrations – up 26 percent compared to the previous event in September – resulting in strong returns for the more than 700 consignors in this auction,” says Tim Keane, regional sales manager, Ritchie Bros. “Leading up to the sale, our yards were busy with customers inspecting items and asking questions of our equipment experts, but on auction day everyone was online. We saw a 19 percent increase in online pageviews and a 12 percent increase in items added to customer watchlists, demonstrating the power of our hybrid live/online model for both buyers and sellers.”

With the company's Northeast Regional Event on March 20 to 23, Ritchie Bros. sold more than 5,700 equipment items and trucks stored at sites in Maryland, Ohio, and Pennsylvania for $55-plus million. The two-day auction attracted 933,000 plus website pageviews and a 24% increase in watchlists per item.CaptureRitchie Bros.

"Our 2021 online events continue to deliver amazing returns for sellers, with another incredible sales result in the Northeast," says Ryan Funck, Regional Sales Manager, Ritchie Bros. "By combining equipment from our sites in North East, MD; Columbus, OH; and Pittsburgh, PA into one regional event, we are able to attract a much larger buying audience and achieve strong price performance for consignors. We are driving record demand and encourage interested sellers to contact us and take advantage."

More than 11,000 people from 80 plus countries registered to bid in the March 23 to 24 Northeast Regional Auction. Approximately 91 percent of the equipment in the auction was sold to U.S. buyers, including buyers from Maryland, Ohio, Pennsylvania purchasing a combined 35 percent, while international buyers from as far away Australia, Belgium, and Nigeria purchased the remaining nine percent.

These auctions continue the trend from 2020. In 2020 Ritchie Bros. has experienced record-high participation in its auctions, while OEM production has slowed, resulting in solid to strong pricing for most equipment categories.

E-Commerce poised for exponential growth

While the pandemic has accelerated the e-commerce trend, the market had already been undergoing a transformation. Many online services, including Ebay, Purple Wave and bidaboo have made significant inroads into the online equipment sales business.

In July of 2020, IronPlanet experienced its busiest summer on record. Close to 8,700 items sold through IronPlanet in July for more than $58 million as the company surpassed $1 billion sold through its online marketplaces over 12-month period.

"The ease and comfort of buying and selling online has grown exponentially over the last several months," said Ann Fandozzi, Chief Executive Officer, Ritchie Bros. "Sellers need to reach buyers beyond their local market to maximize results and buyers are willing to go the extra mile in search of a deal."2Ritchie Bros.

Ms. Fandozzi continued, "In an ever-increasing ‘no touch world' we have adapted to make sure our customers can get the equipment they need safely and efficiently. We offer inspection reports backed by IronClad Assurance, tons of photos, service records, and anything else a buyer may need to feel comfortable prior to bidding online."

As contractors have experienced success buying and selling equipment through e-commerce platforms, this trend is set to become mainstream moving forward. The ability to find exactly what you need and dispose of equipment at maximum value with less effort makes e-commerce a vital fleet acquisition tool. Anyone who is not already familiar with these e-commerce platforms may want to investigate the potential benefits.