SmartBid: Lowest Unique Bid
SmartBid (LLC) is a California based company, only available for customers in the United States and Canada. The website is quite simple, has a nice design and is very easy to navigate. They even have a blog, which is quite unusual for penny auction websites. The blog mainly has posts related to auctions, so it’s basically just a place for the website to publicize upcoming auctions and sales and such, but other than that doesn’t really have any useful or interesting information. They could improve the blog by having a wider variety of information.
Although the website looks nice and is well organized, there are only a few items available for bidding. These items are basically either gift cards (from Lowe’s, Amazon, Best Buy, other well-known retailers, and a few restaurants) and electronics (ipads, iphones, kindles); that is about it. Other than these items, you can bid on more bids. There are also only a couple of live auctions at a time, while most items displayed aren’t even available yet to bid on (they say “starting soon”).
The live auction page isn’t too appealing unless you want to bid on gift cards or a few electronics, since that is pretty much what is exclusively listed on this page. The gift cards are for well-know chain stores but having such limited options is not the best way to entice people to the page and they should definitely have more variety of items for auction.
One thing this website does well is the display of their items, which is effective and visually appealing. There are usually about four rows each with four items. While the auctions posted look nice visually, with a nice photo of the item, because SmartBid uses the lowest unique bid system (which is a totally different way of bidding and auctions than most other penny auction websites) there is no countdown clock notifying you of how much time you have left to place your bid, no information on the retail price of the item, nor on the current highest bid, and no option to buy now (the typical features of any penny auction website). Some people may enjoy the lowest unique bid system, while others may prefer a more traditional method with a countdown.
The winner’s page is very useful as you can see previous auctions that have now ended, and the final amount the winner paid for the item, and even the percentage of savings.
Hints and Strategies
There is a very useful page on the website for “Hints and Strategies”, where there are suggestions, such as starting out in a beginner’s auction, trying early bidding (in order to stay on top of the game) and they also provide some ideas for strategic hints. They also recommend going to the winner’s page to see how many bids winners usually place on certain items, and also to check out previous closed auctions for the product you are bidding on to see how the bids were placed over different prices (to decide where the winning prices were historically and place your bids accordingly).
How does it work?
SmartBid actually has a tutorial video about how their system works, which is very modern and very useful as well. In addition to the video there are very clear and easy to understand instructions on how to bid on auctions. The first section is about how you play, starting with the simplest task (registering, you have to register before you can start playing the bidding and auction game; the website offers you $3 in bids just for registering) and then moving on to explaining bidding and how to win (have the lowest unique bid). Your bid will be deemed the “lowest and unique” at the close of an auction if you are the first and only member to bid a price as close to zero as possible without guessing a price that someone else has already bid.
Then there is information on what happens when you win (you pay, and get your item in about a week) and what happens if you don’t win. In this case, they claim they will return every dollar you spent back to you to use in bids as reward credits. There is a Rewards page where you can buy gift cards and other items (mainly electronics and gadgets) with your returned bids as reward dollars, which can be redeemed or given away to charities.
They have another interesting option, which are the “Early Bids Back” auctions where you can place bids during the early phase of the auction and get all of your early bids back if you don’t win.
SmartBid does charge a small fee for most of the auctions of $0.75, and the current win limit is 7 regular auctions (beginner and reward auctions don’t count in the limit) per 7 rolling days. Members are also prohibited to bid on the same product that they have won in last 7 days (for products over $250 – the limit is last 15 days) so that everyone else has a chance to win.
The help section of the SmartBid website is very comprehensive and helpful. It covers essentially all aspects of how their system works and any questions that might come up, including: what SmartBid is and how to play, how to select a bid, how to use multiple bids, the types of auctions, how the winner is decided, what happens when you win (or don’t), payment and shipping (in many cases shipping is free) methods and information, the return policy, and everything related to how to manage your account.
Although SmartBid doesn’t have a lot of items available for auction, or a wide variety of options either, they do have a unique bidding system, lots of useful information on their easy to navigate website, as well as helpful hints that could allow you to improve your skills and win more often. Also, even if you don’t win you can use that money towards rewards credit instead of losing it as you would on another bidding website.