Key Discussions from the Global Auction House Summit 2020

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Last week, the auction industry convened in Paris for the third-annual Global Auction House Summit, presented by Invaluable. Through panel discussions and networking events, the summit is an opportunity for auctioneers and thought leaders to discuss the industry’s next steps. We’ve compiled some of the most noteworthy conversations from this year’s event.

In 2019, online sales grew 17% in the auction marketplace. And 60% of that online traffic came from mobile devices. Because of this, many of the summit’s speakers chimed in on the growth of online sales. They also discussed how auction houses can take advantage of this industry shift. 

The Expanding Your Digital Footprint panel with Marc Sands (Chief Marketing Officer of Bonhams), Anne Bracegirdle (Senior Director of Pace X), and Paul Minshull (COO of Heritage Auctions). Photo from the Invaluable Twitter account.
The Expanding Your Digital Footprint panel with Marc Sands (Chief Marketing Officer of Bonhams), Anne Bracegirdle (Senior Director of Pace X), and Paul Minshull (COO of Heritage Auctions). Photo from the Invaluable Twitter account.

In the Expanding Your Digital Footprint panel discussion, Anne Bracegirdle of PaceX discussed how to tell the story of an auction lot through social media. In the same panel, Heritage Auctions COO Paul Minshull did not mince words. He told attendees that digital marketing initiatives are more cost-effective than traditional tools. He also said their impact is much more measurable.

But expanding digital marketing does not just make sense for auction houses with as big of a budget as Heritage Auctions, believes Rodica Seward. Seward is now the president of Tajan, one of the largest auction houses in France, with sixty events each year. But at this year’s summit, she discussed her experiences working in a “boutique” auction house. She also expressed how vital it is for auction houses to offer bidders both digital and physical experiences with their lots.

Rodica Seward speaking at the Global Auction House Summit 2020. Photo from the Invaluable Twitter account.
Rodica Seward speaking at the Global Auction House Summit 2020. Photo from the Invaluable Twitter account.

But building an online presence wasn’t the only advice the summit’s presenters had for making auction houses and the industry more accessible. The event’s third panel focused on how auction houses should think globally about their strategies. The panelists used the fluctuating value of Chinese artwork as an example of why auction houses should adjust for global markets. A panel on Wednesday, meanwhile, highlighted the importance of luxury goods in the auction industry. Cécile Verdier, the president of Christie’s, told attendees not to discount luxury items like handbags. She said that while it has been strange to organize events around handbags, they’ve been “very important”.

This year’s event is the largest in the Global Auction House Summit’s history. Over 200 industry leaders enrolled to attend the event, including auction house CEOs and those in e-commerce. The topics they discussed this year, from the move to digital to reacting to global markets, show no signs of waning anytime soon. So we at Auction Daily are left to wonder how these and other discussions will evolve in the year to come. And wonder, too, how the Global Auction House Summit 2021 will address them.