So earlier I blogged about how the penny auction universe is expanding. We went from 1 (Swoopo) to 95 penny auction sites in about a year. Whoa! Actually, Swoopo was in the EU for a few years before it came to the US, but like most things, this blog is US-centric.
However, not only is the penny auction universe getting larger, it's also diversifying. There is now a wide range of sites and products, you can go for sites with or without bidbutlers, true penny auctions, or alternatives like the 12 cent-step variety at Swoopo. Penny auction sites are selling a wide variety of products and even a few cars.
Now, entrepreneurs are taking entertainment shopping in new directions. We blogged about SevenSnap, a bid-fee app for the iPhone and Penny Auction Watch recently blogged about Rackup and CircusPop.
Rackup was featured at the TechCrunch50 conference in San Francisco earlier this week and TechCrunch blogged about them here. Rackup seems like a great way to get gift cards on the cheap. Users enter a virtual room and when the auction starts they can click to buy the featured gift card. The first 10 people get the card with a varying bonus from between 3% and 100% of additional money on the card for free depending on when they clicked "buy." The earlier they click, the higher the bonus. However, if more than 10 people buy then the earlier people get kicked out and must enter again at the beginning of the list (lowest bonus). It's a little confusing, but the TechCrunch video explains it all clearly. The most important point is that if you want to buy a gift card anyway, you might as well do it on Rackup - the worst you can do is a 3% bonus and the best you can do is a 100% bonus. It costs nothing to play but companies that feature their gift cards are charged an 8% transaction fee. No wonder the TC50 conference-goers loved this one, we do!
Another interesting concept in online bargain hunting is CircusPop. This company charges users for bids ($0.75 - in bidpacks) which can then be used to "check" the price of an item for sale, until then prices are hidden. If users like the price, they can buy the item from CircusPop the same way they would at at traditional e-tailor like Amazon. CircusPop says that their prices only go down because every time someone views the price of an item, that price drops by $0.25. The site guarantees that users will find the lowest prices or their bids will be refunded. Like with Rackup for giftcards, the worst a user can do on CircusPop is get the product for the retail price, and it seems there is an opportunity to get the item for a substantial discount. CircusPop launched a few days ago and seems to have generated a fair amount of buzz (they have 700+ facebook members, as Penny Auction Watch pointed out).