What are the benefits of a forward auction?

A forward auction is a type of auction where sellers compete to sell their goods or services to a buyer. The buyer sets out requirements, and sellers make increasingly competitive bids over the course of the auction to win the buyer’s business. Forward auctions provide several key benefits that can improve supplier performance management for buyers.

  • Increased Competition

The essence of a forward auction is that it stimulates competition between suppliers. By setting multiple sellers against each other, buyers create a competitive bidding scenario that motivates sellers to put forward their best possible price and terms. This contrasts with a more passive procurement scenario where buyers approach individual suppliers one at a time for quotes. Without the incentive of other competitors, sellers may not offer their best possible deals. A forward auction drives prices down as sellers undercut each other to gain favor with the buyer. More competition puts downward pressure on prices and helps buyers achieve greater value.

  • Better supplier visibility

Forward auctions also provide buyers with increased market visibility. By seeing multiple competing bids play out in real time during the auction event, buyers gain better insight into market pricing and the field of potential suppliers. This allows buyers to make more informed procurement decisions. It provides visibility on exactly what prices suppliers are willing to accept, which in turn helps benchmark prices for future negotiations even outside the auction scenario. It also helps buyers understand new suppliers they may not have discovered otherwise. Overall, the competitive scenarios illuminated through forward auctions give buyers much greater supplier visibility.

  • Performance Management Insights

Forward actions also generate useful data to fuel supplier performance frameworks and future decision-making. The auction process itself produces performance data on suppliers based on the competitiveness of bids, responsiveness to requests, and ability to meet service level requirements. Buyers can track metrics like bid pricing changes over auction rounds, percent savings versus prior contracts, timeliness of responses, and adherence to delivery specifications stipulated in the auction. This data feeds into scorecarding models that objectively rate, analyze, and compare supplier performance over time. The insights derived help buyers determine optimal suppliers and provide an audit trail showing continuous performance management monitoring.

  • Cost Savings

The biggest bottom-line benefit of forward auctions is driving major cost savings for buyers sourcing goods or services. By stimulating intensive competition where sellers fight to win business, buyers create significant pricing tension. This leads suppliers to bid prices down while still attempting to deliver acceptable service levels and quality. Studies show forward auctions enable average savings between 15-20% compared to more traditional negotiation models. For large-scale or enterprise buyers sourcing at high volumes, 20% savings quickly lead to millions in dollar cost reductions. Even smaller organizations can save thousands through forward auctions, fueling budgets for other initiatives. The competitive bidding process unlocks major savings that boost financial performance.

  • Simplicity and speed

Forward auctions also streamline procurement processes versus traditional manual quote gathering and negotiation cycles. Instead of pursuing multiple suppliers independently through email, phone calls, and meetings, buyers use a single online portal to manage the entire event. Standardized electronic requests for quotes, automated notifications, built-in messaging systems, and other digital tools simplify communications. Online dashboards allow buyers to post requirements, monitor bids, and chat with suppliers in one spot to expedite the process. The competitive bidding environment also motivates suppliers to submit bids quickly to stay ahead of rivals. This greatly accelerates the procurement cycle. The built-in accountability and speed of forward auctions simplify sourcing and give buyers more time.

  • Compliance and transparency

Forward auctions provide process transparency and compliance assurance. Digital auction trails log supplier interactions, bids, process adherence, and event outcomes in time-stamped audit reports. This ensures compliance for regulated industries like healthcare and the public sector. The documentation also provides stakeholders with visibility into the integrity and competitiveness of the events. Instead of decisions happening in closed-door negotiations, the auction trail shows the competitive scenario and rationale for outcomes. This compliance and transparency give buyers and internal leaders assurance in the decisions guided by the events while protecting the organization.

  • Encourages Innovation

Forward auctions also motivate suppliers to innovate by putting pressure on both price and service levels. By seeing what competitors are bidding in real-time, suppliers push to not just offer the lowest possible pricing but also differentiate on service, quality, and capabilities. They know simply matching the lowest bid may still cause them to lose as buyers weigh multiple factors, including value-add offerings.


Forward auctions provide major advantages for improving supplier performance management frameworks and reducing procurement costs. The built-in competition provides pricing leverage while giving visibility into supplier capabilities and metrics to rate performance over time. Forward actions also accelerate cycle times while enabling compliance. The combination of competition-driven savings, process simplification, and transparency makes forward auctions a highly effective procurement tool for optimizing supply management. Organizations sourcing large volumes of external goods or services should consider incorporating forward auctions into their procurement methodologies to take advantage of the substantial benefits.


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