Introducing A New RTB Platform (It's Not The Kind You Are Thinking Of)

Real-time bidding (RTB) platforms. Proprietary bidding system. Unsold inventory. Those are some of the common buzzwords ad techers toss around. That's why I was surprised to find that exact terminology in a press release that had nothing to do with advertising.

Stayful, a new travel service focused on independent boutique hotels, this week launched a RTB platform in private beta. The company has built a proprietary bidding system and hopes that their RTB platform will help independent boutique hotels sell more rooms (the release claims that $13.9 billion in revenue are lost each year due to unsold rooms).

Through two paragraphs of the release, I thought they were talking about a RTB platform to help lesser-known hotels target consumers. Then I got to the first line of the third paragraph:

"At Stayful, travelers search the hotels that have available rooms within the next 30 days and make a bid of what they would like to pay."

Oh. So it's not a machine or an algorithm doing the bidding. It's not even about advertising inventory. It's just regular people bidding on things they want to buy.

But then it got me thinking. I've done real-time online auctions myself at QuiBids (warning, you will spend too much time on that site), but that's still the human controlling 100% of their actions. What if, one day, today's programmatic ad tech was applied to things that regular consumers could buy? And the consumers themselves used the tech to help them bid?

Could online (and mobile) retailers have a published price for much of their inventory and then set the rest of their inventory up for real-time bidding between consumers? That's already starting to happen (otherwise Stayful wouldn't have just released their platform), but I'm talking about a widespread adoption of this technique.

If that were to happen, consumers would want a way to optimize their own bidding. As the advertising industry is starting to figure out, technology is quite good at doing just that.

What do you think? Will today's high tech advertising technology one day be sold at your local Walmart to help you personally bid your way to a cheap new TV, or am I getting too far ahead of myself?

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