After years of competing, Ritchie Bros. and IronPlanet realized it was best to work together to provide a unified set of solutions allowing customers to buy, sell and list equipment when, where and how they want — whether onsite or online.
Ritchie Bros. has been a leader in the auction business for decades, starting its operation in Canada in 1958 and expanding around the world. The company sells more than $4 billion of equipment each year.
IronPlanet launched in 1999 and since its inception was determined to find areas of the market it believed Ritchie Bros. wasn't serving effectively, as its basis for competing with the category leader. This quest led IronPlanet to focus more on sale frequency with its flagship weekly online auctions, in addition to offering reserved and sector-specific marketplaces.
“Ritchie Bros. was a formidable competitor, we had to be nimble and look for ways to compete creatively,” said Jeff Jeter, former president of IronPlanet, now president of Ritchie Bros.' U.S. sales team.
“We had tremendous respect for Ritchie Bros.' onsite unreserved auctions and what the company had done to bring credibility and trust to the auction channel. We had to find the white space and go compete.”
At IronPlanet, its online auctions supported customers that didn't want to transport equipment to sell it, and the frequency of its weekly events meant customers didn't have to wait for the next live auction. IronPlanet also offered a controlled price marketplace and entered into new sectors with dedicated marketplaces like GovPlanet. It found its niche and was a tough competitor for Ritchie Bros. for years.
“We thought about the market opportunity similarly to Ritchie Bros., but developed different solutions,” said Jeter.
Understanding the complementary value IronPlanet was providing customers and an innovative vision of new ways they could join to help customers, Ritchie Bros.' CEO Ravi Saligram approached IronPlanet CEO Greg Owens, outlining how the two companies would be best together. Led by Saligram, Ritchie Bros. completed the historic acquisition of IronPlanet in May of this year.
“During integration planning we discovered how much we truly had in common with Ritchie Bros. — we had a shared vision of driving value for customers, regardless of channel,” said Jeter. “If you look at the used equipment market, auctions are a small portion of the transactions happening around the world each year. Together we are constantly thinking about 'how do we drive value for customers in a broader asset management and disposition model?'”
For Jeter, the number of platforms available with the combined company, including onsite unreserved auctions; weekly online featured auctions; and a reserve price marketplace, equates to a total selling solution for customers.
“Now we are acting as a trusted advisor, with a much more consultative approach to selling,” said Jeter. “Previously, I would have probed and asked a customer about his or her needs and what motivated them, but at the end of the day, at IronPlanet, I didn't have the total toolset. Regardless of what the customer said, I was going to serve up what I had. Today, that's very different — we have a solution for every equipment disposition need.”
“Our goal now as trusted advisors is to maximize recovery for our customers on the assets they are selling, regardless of channel. If I have a client that comes to me tomorrow in Atlanta, they've missed that onsite event and they need to sell it quickly, OK, let's start inspecting the equipment. I can sell it in two weeks on the IronPlanet weekly featured auction and I can turn that asset into cash in four or five weeks versus having to wait another couple of months for the next Atlanta sale. We are now able to be a trusted advisor and consultant to clients.”
This type of consultative selling is already helping customers across the country.
“We already have many customers trying new sales channels they never had before, often splitting a package of equipment across multiple Ritchie Bros. platforms. They may be selling some equipment in an onsite auction happening tomorrow, some assets that sold online a few weeks ago through our weekly featured auction and even a couple items they want more price control on selling in our Daily Marketplace. It really comes down to the needs of the customer and what is the best way to maximize returns for their assets.”
Simultaneously, Jeter and the Ritchie Bros. team are innovating to help make the buying process easier for customers.
“We are constantly looking at ways to make finding and buying equipment easier. One of the first things we are working on is combining all available assets into one searchable platform because at the end of the day, bidders are looking to purchase an asset independent of channel. Some may like auctions, others might like 'Buy Now' or a fixed price, but when you start shopping for something you really are just shopping for an asset for a need. Now, regardless of what marketplace we have an asset in, you get visibility in your search for those assets, regardless of channel. This is a huge benefit to buyers when they are trying to find equipment. It's effectively making us one of the largest stores in the world for shopping for construction, transportation, oil and gas, mining, agriculture, and other industrial assets.”
At any given time, the newly combined company may have tens of thousands of items available for purchase.
“We sell hundreds of thousands of assets across many different sectors each year, including additional oil & gas assets being sold through Kruse Energy Auctioneers, government surplus assets through GovPlanet and thousands of trucks through TruckPlanet. Thinking about the future, we see these other asset classes including government equipment, trucks, oil and gas and agriculture as another vector of growth for us outside the core construction that both companies have been in for many years.”
So, what's next for the combined company? Jeter says customers should start thinking about the company differently as they work to become a true trusted advisor, helping customers make decisions based on data-driven insights.
“We need to get our customers comfortable with our total solution set across our online and onsite auction platforms, including how data can help inform their equipment disposition decisions such as which selling channel to use when. We aspire to be their trusted advisor for all things related to used equipment disposition.” CEG