A regional auction house might not sound like the most obvious example of digital transformation. However, Simon Charles Auctioneers has demonstrated how being digital-first can generate big results - even for the smallest of companies.

In the past year, the auction house has transferred its offline marketing activity online, using a combination of video content, social media and email marketing to target consumers. 

Its use of Facebook Live is particularly interesting, contributing to a 43.2% increase in new registered users to the Simon Charles website from February 2016 to February 2017.

So, how exactly has it done it? Here’s a bit more on the story.

A change in mindset

Up until last year, Simon Charles mainly invested in offline marketing. It typically took out regular double-page spreads in industry and general publications including the Manchester Evening News – a local newspaper for the Stockport-based company.

However, with offline activity limiting reach to the surrounding area, it unsurprisingly produced limited results.

With guidance from digital marketing agency, Cube3, Simon Charles began a journey towards digital transformation, with a change in mindset from offline to online. In fact, the company took the decision to completely forgo offline activity for an online-only approach to marketing.

Multi-channel brand refresh

As well as implementing a foundation of SEO and PPC, Simon Charles undertook a brand refresh in order to create a consistent user experience across all digital channels. This meant a greater focus on its online auctions, complemented by a streamlined new site and overall brand image.

To give this a bit of context, below is a screenshot of the website from 2014. While there is a clear promotion of the brand’s social channels, the site itself looks rather clunky and dated in terms of design.

Simon Charles' previous website

In contrast, the Simon Charles website is now a much slicker affair, with the site-wide banner hinting at the company’s newly found focus on video.

Adopting new technologies

Speaking of video, Simon Charles’ recent success has been in part due to the introduction of new marketing technology and techniques – namely Facebook Live.

While we’ve seen many big ecommerce brands experiment with the technology, streaming everything from product reviews to interviews, it is less commonplace to see smaller or regional brands do the same. 

Possible reluctance might stem from a lack of resource, reliance on less-risky planned social activity, as well as the question of whether or not it is indeed worth the time and effort. 

Simon Charles’ has demonstrated that it can be worth both, mainly due to the fact that it uses live video to offer something of real value. If consumers are unable to attend auctions in person, Facebook Live enables them to experience it in real time, making viewers feel like they are a part of the action. What’s more, it gives potential consumers – i.e. people who might never be able to or even have the inclination to attend an auction – the opportunity to do just that.

This just goes to show that video, especially on social, does not necessarily have to be flashy or even particularly impressive in terms of content if it is truly functional.

Targeting a specific demographic

The adoption of Facebook Live has proven successful for Simon Charles, demonstrated by a growth in footfall and a general increase in social engagement. While previous videos would garner around 15,000 views over the course of multiple days, the live element has seen views reach 25,000 over the course of a single broadcast. While Live video streaming offers users a sense of real immediacy, it is not the only use of the medium, instead serving as part as a wider video strategy. Other pre-recorded examples includes in-depth explanations about items for auction as well as looks behind the scenes. With some short videos generating around 9,000 views, there's clearly an appetite for non-live elements too.

Alongside this, the company has been able to finally leave behind its ‘catch all’ approach to marketing, moving into a much more targeted strategy. 

By using technology such as video, it has been able to serve the right kind of content to the right people at the right time. As well as honing in on those who would be most likely to engage, it has effectively used other social channels like Twitter to reach out to them.

With a 72.40% increase in new registered users over the past year, it’s clear that digital investment is paying off.

Related reading:

Nikki Gilliland

Published 11 April, 2017 by Nikki Gilliland @ Econsultancy

Nikki is a Writer at Econsultancy. You can follow her on Twitter or connect via LinkedIn.

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