A Bid of What You Fancy: The Middle East’s Newest e-Commerce Concept

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Dana Wolley of Wayed Vintage | Photographed by Anna Shtraus for Savoir Flair

Spend some time on TheFancyBid.com – a newly launched online auction site – and you’ll quickly realize that shopping for coveted high-end luxury goods can be more than just a click-and-purchase retail exercise. On TheFancyBid.com, users purchase packages of bids and then spend them on auctions for things like the Givenchy Antigona clutch and the Saint Laurent Betty bag at surprisingly low prices. This type of gamification in the e-commerce world has risen in popularity since 2010, but TheFancyBid.com is the first of its kind in the Middle East. Owners Rasha Ahmad, Ahmad Ahmad, and Fady Roumieh were looking for a fresh way to engage an online audience, and make the retail experience fun and exciting. For that reason, the bid model was chosen.

It can take a minute to get the hang of it, but their thorough FAQs page and ‘How It Works’ Youtube video have taken the guesswork out of the experience. First, users must sign up and create a free profile on the website, and then must purchases packages of “bids” (with package pricing starting as low as USD 17.50). After perusing TheFancyBid.com’s stock of luxury goods, which have been cultivated by their new fashion buyer, Dana Wolley of Wayed Vintage in Dubai, you spend the bids one at a time. Each bid increases the auction price of the item by just one cent, and the auction must hit its reserve price before the auction is completed. With diligence, users can stay a step ahead of the game by keeping a close eye on their auctions, especially in the last 15 seconds of the auction where each bid placed by a user adds an additional 15 seconds to the countdown clock. For a more in-depth look at how TheFancyBid.com works and how you can score an amazing designer bag at a fraction of the retail cost, check out our interview with the owners of the website, as well as Dana Wolley, below.

INTERVIEW WITH THE FOUNDERS

Prior to The Fancy Bid, where were the three of you working?
Rasha: Prior to starting The Fancy Bid project, I had my own offline retail project in Beirut and had worked in AZADEA for a while before that too.

Fady: When I came on board for The Fancy Bid, I had almost five years of e-commerce and online marketing experience behind me, having been the digital marketing manager for MarkaVIP (one of the leading flash sales websites in the Middle East) for almost two years, and prior to that moving between agency and startup work in Beirut.

Ahmad: I too have had around three years of e-commerce background when we got together to do The Fancy Bid, having worked alongside Fady in two different e-commerce companies. I actually started as an intern while I was still studying and it evolved from there!

This business structure is something that’s relatively new and unheard of in the Middle East. How would you explain the concept of The Fancy Bid, if you were only given a minute?
Rasha: In brief, the idea behind TheFancyBid.com is simple: Bringing high-end and otherwise out-of-reach items to everyone in an exciting and competitive online auctions experience.

Ahmad: In a few words, TheFancyBid.com is an online auction website that sells coveted luxury fashion and lifestyle items. Our bids are pre-paid which allow us to afford selling these products at extremely low prices for the winner. Users purchase their package of bids (that start for as low as USD 17.50) and get bidding quick and easy!

TheFancyBid.com is an online auction website that sells coveted luxury fashion and lifestyle items.

Fady: It’s a new breed of e-commerce that is known as “Gamified E-commerce”. It’s a competitive and exciting platform to participate in for the promise of a seriously fashionable prize. Think of bids as points that you purchase to use on the auctions. Each bid placed increases the price of the item on the site by one cent only.

Why did you create The Fancy Bid? How did it come about between the three of you?
Rasha: I’ve been looking for a new project to start and I had plans to do something online so when Ahmad and Fady came to me with this proposition, I fell in love with the concept and immediately became part of the team.

Fady: This concept already exists abroad, but mostly for electronics and even real estate and cars. We thought that this twist on traditional bidding would be a hit and it’s never been done here before, so why not take the risk and start this venture for the Middle East.

Ahmad: Fady and I worked for a long time together so it was natural to partner up on an e-commerce project together, and Rasha was looking for an online project to be a part of, so she came on board after we pitched the idea to her casually.

What has been the response so far? Are people “getting” it?
Ahmad: Thankfully, the response so far has been overwhelming. Naturally we get a lot of negative feedback from people who jump in without understanding how it works or reading our educational material on the site, but that’s only a tiny percentage. For the most part, people are extremely happy and they love the concept.

As for the “getting it” part, it’s a process that we have to go through every day. Since the concept is totally new and unheard of here, we really have to take the time to explain all the details to everyone. With the help of veterans in the business of fashion, such as our talented (and very beautiful) Dana Wolley, our message is coming across faster.

INTERVIEW WITH DANA WOLLEY, FASHION BUYER, UAE AND EUROPE

A lot of people probably don’t know this, but you travel all over the world and bid the pieces for Wayed Vintage. Can you share with us what to keep in mind when bidding?
First I’d like to make it clear that the concept of bidding on the website is quite different than other bidding websites like eBay. When it comes to bidding on TheFancyBid.com, it’s best to focus on one item at a time, saving all your bids on that one item that you really want. Bidders should start bidding at the end when the countdown is almost over; this will save the bidders plenty of bids. The last tip I would give is to not leave your laptop/phone for any reason; bidders should remain focused since they can lose the item in a split second.

How is offline bidding different from online bidding?
The main difference between offline bidding and The Fancy Bid’s new bidding concept is that during offline auctions, people are able to raise the price by whichever amount they decide. Whereas on TheFancyBid.com, the only amount bidders can raise the price with is one cent, which allows the last bidder or the winner to get the auctioned item at a ridiculously low price, which does not happen often in offline auctions. Also, people are able to bid online wherever they are and in the comfort of their home, instead of being present at the offline auction’s location, which sometimes requires travel.

What direction are you going to bring in The Fancy Bid now that you are in charge of buying?
I will be focusing on bringing items that are on trend at the time being; items that bidders would go crazy for like items that they want to buy desperately, but are out of their budget. I think the thought of having the chance to own these items is reason enough to stay up all night bidding for them.

The thought of having the chance to own these items is reason enough to stay up all night bidding for them.

How hands-on and involved are you in your new role?
I have yet to start but I’m already observing this season’s trends and marking items that I’d love to get my hands on and that I know people would love to bid on. Fortunately, I have a strong relationship with many major retailers in the Middle East and this will definitely serve as a benefit since I’ll have an idea of what will be available in stores beforehand and will coordinate with the store managers accordingly.

Are you going to be focusing on trends or more on the classic pieces?
I will be focusing on both trends and classics, but a little bit more on trends. I think pieces that are fresh off the runway are always very much sought after. This will also give TheFancyBid.com a more fashion-forward approach and it will distinguish it from other bidding sites. A bidding “war” will now have an entirely new meaning.

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