THE online livestock marketing space dominated for decades by AuctionsPlus is about to heat-up, with the launch today of a new innovative, user-friendly national competitor.
The new livestock marketing platform, called On The Box, carries a host of novel features for vendors, buyers and agents.
The company’s website, www.onthebox.com.au is live from today, with first livestock sale lots going live from 8pm on Monday 11 December.
Principals behind the business are ag economist Tim McRae and digital technology and marketing specialist Greg Szudrich. Both are former AuctionsPlus senior managers, who joined a procession of staff departures from the platform over the past two years.
Mr McRae will be well-known to many Beef and Sheep Central readers, having spent a lengthy period as a respected senior industry analyst with Meat & Livestock Australia. Mr Szudrich was a former head of digital operations with Rabobank Australia/NZ before joining AuctionsPlus for three years. Three other investors are also involved.
The current process of buying and selling stock and machinery online can be challenging, costly, and time-consuming, Mr McRae told Beef Central during a recent briefing on the new business.
He said On The Box would provide a website that simplifies the buying and selling process for agents, vendors, and buyers. The platform has been in development for the past four months.
On the buying side, locating specific items and searching for specific traits on some platforms could be difficult, Mr McRae said.
On the selling side, there was often a considerable delay – sometimes spanning weeks – from the initial intent of a producer to sell stock, to the point where they are listed and sold via a weekly hour-long auction.
“That becomes challenging, especially during times of sustained market decline like 2023, when any delay in listing and sale can have big implications for the sale price,” he said.
Mr Szudrich said everybody working in the ag sector these days was time-poor.
“Our first priority with the platform’s design and development was to get users in and out quickly, while achieving the best possible result,” he said.
Lot-driven model, not sale-driven
A key difference between the selling methodology used in One the Box versus AuctionsPlus is that activity is lot-driven, not sale driven. There is no weekly auction sale, starting at a set time each Friday, for example.
Instead, bidding interest can start any time during a weekly cycle, as soon as a listing is completed and uploaded.
“For users (or their agents) with internet connectivity, a listing can be posted, and made active, virtually instantly. In areas without connectivity temporarily, an offline assessment entry app can be used, for later upload,” Mr Szudrich said.
Listings can be posted On The Box for up to seven days (length of time at vendor’s discretion), with all lots carrying a visible reserve, and a ‘buy-now’ price set by the vendor from the outset.
Using the example of a listing posted 9am on a Monday morning, with a seven-day active period nominated, the auction period on that lot would close 9pm the following Monday.
Buyers have the option of paying the ‘buy now’ price to secure the lot before the seven-day cycle is complete, or continue to bid up to the closure time/date.
‘Set-and-forget’ pre-sets can be used by buyers to register bids through the period – say a $1300 limit for a line of Angus heifers, going up in $20 increments from a starting price of say, $1000. Text messages can be used to keep bidders informed of whether their bid is still active or outbid, avoiding the need to stay glued to a computer screen or smart-phone with connectivity required.
For the launch phase, users can either get notifications or an email, with text messages to be added in coming weeks.
“In this way, a key feature of the platform is that the competitive sale process starts virtually instantly after the stock are listed,” Mr McRae said.
The expectation is that the new trading model may attract as much, if not more business from producers who have not previously sold livestock online, as it does by taking business away from the established online trading parties.
Two types of assessment employed
In contrast with more onerous listing processes using up to 150 fields, On The Box will offer two types of livestock assessment – generically termed ‘Light’ and ‘Full’ assessment.
- Light assessments are for all unjoined and unregistered stock where no pregnancy testing is involved, containing the essential information relating to the stock to be listed – typically breed, age, average weight and weight range, location and vaccination status.
- A Full assessment provides further layers of detail regarding the listed stock. As well as the essential information, full assessments include details relating to joining periods, pregnancy status, progeny, registered sire and dam information, and additional fields which can be used at the discretion of the seller and their agent.
Video and still images of stock can be provided with all listings, without any requirement to download to Youtube first.
Competitive listing fees
A simple listing fee structure of $5 a head for cattle, 80c for sheep and 30c for goats will apply – highly competitive with other online selling channels and saleyards fees. Machinery can also be sold, with a listing fee of $1 per lot to list, then 1.5pc on sold items up to $29. Low overheads is the primary reason why listing prices can be kept so low, Beef Central was told.
Bidders, whether they be restockers, lotfeeders or processors, will need to register in the first instance and complete a simple ID check (drivers’ license-based), in order to establish a validated account. To look at sale results, users will also need a registered and verified account. To maintain fairness and transparency, user identification is required, to underpin a secure and fair online trading environment.
Unlike AuctionsPlus where all buyer identities remain discrete, OTB will identify both buyers and underbidders to agents (but not to the public).
Assessments can be carried out by a licensed stock agent or dealer, however prior online assessment experience will be recognised, with no further training course required for established assessors.
In future developments, forward contract price on cattle with a future delivery date is already being examined for the site, and may be added next year. A buyer bridging finance facility is already being provided.
Independent agents targeted
While the OTB platform is open to all agents, initially the business will target independents. Part of that is driven by the belief in some independent agency circles that by supporting AuctionsPlus, they are supporting corporate national agency competitors, Elders and Nutrien, who jointly own AuctionsPlus.
Despite that, several Elders and Nutrien agents spoken to said they would have no problem using OTB for marketing cattle, depending on what was best for their vendors.
All agents using the platform will have the option to set up their own ‘shop-front’ page, featuring all their current client sale listings.
On The Box does not carry paid advertising on its website, helping ensure faster page downloads by users, especially in poor or marginal internet service areas.
Rumours circulated recently that AuctionsPlus may be about to lift its listing fees, but the company told Beef Central no decisions would be made on rates until a review in January.
- The new On The Box website, onthebox.com.au is live from today. First sale lots will go live from 8pm on Monday next week, 11 December. Early listings are welcomed, to help get the all-important catalogue momentum going.