Phillips has seriously stepped up its game over the past year or so, investing in its own digital infrastructure rather than farming out its e-commerce initiatives to firms like Live Auctioneers. This fall, the firm officially launched its digital saleroom, where bidders can live-stream brick-and-mortar sales and bid in real-time through the auction house’s own website. This past fall, the house also introduced its mobile component, an iOS app that bidders can use via iPhones and iPads for all aspects of the process. “We’ve seen a nice uptick in registrations for sales since launching the app,” says Megan Newcome, Director of Digital Strategy at Phillips. “This season, we’ve seen almost $9 million in total sales through our digital saleroom platform—that’s combined for online and mobile sales,” she says. “The number of clients who registered to bid online increased 120% over the same period last year. 41% of online participants were new to Phillips.”
A deal with eBay, announced in September, is also aimed at helping in that department. So far Phillips has held six sales (contemporary art, photography) via eBay, but hopes to eventually put sales across the categories of Fine Art, Editions, Design, and Watches and Jewelry on the online auction giant’s site. (It’s worth noting that eBay is not yet equipped to handle the bureaucratic details of live auctions outside of the U.S. yet.) While Phillips hasn’t launched timed, online-only auctions yet, “they are definitely part of our roadmap,” says Newcome, who stresses that they don’t plan to limit objects offered on eBay or in future online-only sales to lower-value or middle-market items. “That stigma that online-only is for lower value, more approachable property is very much changing,” she says.
Recent online bid
In Phillips’s Contemporary Evening Sale in London this fall, one of Richard Prince’s Instagram inkjet paintings, Untitled (portrait) (2014), sold for £98,500 (around $150,000) to a collector bidding via Phillip’s website. A sale this past month in the Hong Kong Watches auction brought $2.4 million in online sales.