Tuesday, January 12, 2010

A Great Post for Online Sellers

Everyday I take time in the morning to survey the ecommerce landscape. I have a multitude of sources for news and tips and occasionally I find something that interests me and I blog about it. Yesterday, I read a blog post over at TheBrewsNews that I thought I would share with you.

Many of my readers also read TheBrewsNews so you may have already read this, but I thought the post was worth highlighting.

Here is an excerpt:
"If I were to write a book and I could write about anything I wanted (not worrying about who would buy it and read it), what would I want to write about? I think I would want to write about my mistakes as an entrepreneur… my errors in judgement… the poor choices I made which seemed to me to be so right at the time. It amazes me how most people are reluctant to talk about their business mistakes. While I am far from being proud of my past mistakes, I know that my “good decisions” today come as a result of making the wrong decisions in the past and learning hard lessons."
Read the rest of the post here:

Just my 15%

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Marketplace Options for 2010

While I do work for one of the fastest growing marketplaces on the web, I figured I would do a post on the current landscape for all online marketplaces. Some of these sites may be options for your business in 2010.

One thing to take notice of when assessing each marketplace, is to consider their demographics. Each of these sites has a specific customer base that in many ways is unique to them. The only way to get access to those customers is by selling on their marketplace. One very good tool for determining each marketplace demographic is www.quantcast.com. SO check it out when you are considering a new marketplace channel for your business.

The 800 lb Gorillas:
  1. Amazon.com - Not much needs to be said about this marketplace, except they seem to be firing on all cylinders. If you are not selling on Amazon.com currently you should consider it. Not ideal for vintage or collectible product and some categories are closed or invitation only (Jewelry, Apparel, Cell Phones)

  2. eBay.com - eBay used to be the only marketplace in town and has gone through a number of changes since 2006, but they still get a ton of traffic and are the best place to sell collectibles and vintage product. Sellers of New In-Season and Secondary market product may see them as an incremental sales channel. eBay is still a "high maintenance" marketplace so go in with your eyes wide open.

    Note: Buy.com sells on Amazon as well as eBay because we get access to a customer that doesn't generally shop on Buy.com and they are great incremental sales channels.
Up and Comers and Niche Sites:

  1. Etsy.com is a great site for Handmade, Vintage and Crafting Supplies but they are not open to any other categories, so if you sell vintage items or product you make by hand make sure to check out Etsy.com

  2. Buy.com - (Full Disclosure, I work for Buy.com) The Buy.com marketplace had a tremendous year in 2009 with 150% year over year growth and we are looking to keep the momentum going. We are expanding categories in 2010 to add Pet Supplies, Musical Instruments and Personal Care. We do have several gated categories (Jewelry, Sports, Cell Phones) and we require a verifiable online sales history. We hope to add more categories as the year progresses.

  3. Overstock.com While I don't consider Overstock a marketplace, it is a sales option for 3P merchants. Merchants actually serve as drop shippers and are not the merchant of record on Overstock so there isn't an opportunity to display your brand like at eBay, Amazon, Buy.coma and Etsy.

  4. Alibris.com is a great marketplace for online media sellers and they get expanded reach for your product by selling on eBay, Amazon, Half.com and now Buy.com among other sites.

  5. Half.com - the "red-haired step child" of the eBay corporation for sellers of Books, Textbooks, CDs, DVD and Video Games.

  6. StubHub.com is another eBay marketplace specifically for Ticket sales. If you have tickets to sell, StubHub is the online leader.

  7. WalMart.com launched a new marketplace in 2010 and wants to be one of those 800 lb. gorillas in the first section. In its current form I don't consider it a marketplace because they are not bringing on competing offerings, but it would not be wise to under-estimate the online arm of the #1 retailer in the world.

  8. Sears.com - another new addition to the marketplace field. The Sears.com marketplace is still in it's infancy, so time will tell how viable it is as a marketplace.

  9. NewEggMall.com the marketplace of Newegg.com
The Small Guys (but growing in viability):
  1. Bonanzle.com - They are positioning themselves as a marketplace for "find everything buy the ordinary" So if that is the type of product you sell, you should consider Bonanzle.com. Don't wait for eBay to spin-off the old eBay as eBay Classic. Bonanzle.com hopes to fill that void.

  2. eCrater.com is really what eBay stores should have been (sorry for all the eBay references). If you are looking for your own online presence without creating a website on your own then eCrater.com should be considered.

Auction Options:

eBay isn't the only auction site on the web, though they are still the leader. Here are two options to consider.
  1. eBid.net is the #2 auction site in the UK and has a US auction website as well.

  2. Bidtopia.com is a new auction site developed by a former eBay seller and may be an option for your business.

There are sure to be more additions to this list as the year progresses, and having so many viable options is a good thing for online sellers.

Just my 15%

Friday, January 01, 2010

eCommerce Resolutions for the New Year!

I love when the calendar changes to a new year, because it once again gives me hope that this new year will be so much better than the last. Moving into 2010 from the recession plagued 2009, gives me added hope; it couldn't get worse could it?

As you are looking to 2010 for improvements in your online business? Consider one or more of my top 10 resolutions/suggestions for 2010. Hopefully they will help you with your business in the new year. Theses are not ranked in order of importance just by when they came into my head :) First, the best way to plan for the future is to assess the past, so here are a few suggestions.
  1. Take these first few days of the new year to reflect on what you want out of your online business. There are many reasons for starting an online business; is the reason you started still a reality? Did you just want extra cash? Did you get laid-off and need the additional income? Did you want to expand your Brick and Mortar business? Did you want to grow your business into a huge online operation? Look at what motivated you to start and see how well you did so far. Take stock of where you are currently and be honest about it.

  2. Take these first few days of 2010 to assess your business and the ecommerce climate. If you are a marketplace seller, take stock of what worked and what didn't for each marketplace. Stop looking at each sales channel from the same perspective. If you only sell on your website, then consider growing incremental sales on one or more of the viable marketplaces on the web.

  3. If you are a small seller, part-time seller, lifestyle seller, hobbiest, eBay seller (eBay is your sole marketing vehicle) please understand that ecommerce today is nothing like when you started. There are many more marketing options available now, your competition has increased and the online consumer is much more demanding. The idealism that carried you through the early days of your business needs to be replaced by the cold, hard reality of doing business on the web today. Take this time to assess, how you can achieve your goals in light of the current environment.

  4. If you are a large seller looking to grow your business even more in 2010, take stock of all of the marketing channels available and start using the ones that make the most sense. I would recommend a site called Quantcast.com to give you a feel for what the demographic is for each marketplace. What sells well at eBay may not at Amazon or Buy.com.

  5. Do not "live" on any one marketplace. This applies mostly to small sellers who don't have the resources, nor desire to sell on multiple channels. Take it from me, I lived solely on eBay and waited too long to launch my website, when my business model on eBay no longer worked, I didn't have enough website business to keep me afloat. At the very least launch a website and grow it while selling on a marketplace. If you decide to "live" on a marketplace, please make sure your livelihood doesn't depend on it.

  6. Many online sellers are fantastic at sourcing product, but not so good at the other aspects of the business (customer service, shipment, etc.) If you plan on selling on a marketplace, remember that each channel will become more restrictive, rather than less. Performance will be key to your success on each sales channel.

    Ship your orders sooner rather than later. At Buy.com we require that sellers ship their items within 2 business days. We have some exceptions depending on category. Amazon is heading that direction. They currently do not require it but my guess is they will soon. WalMart does require that sellers ship with 2 business days.

    In a recent Business Week article "eBay's Last-minute Delivery Push" "Vice-President for Buyer & Seller Experience Dinesh Lathi says its sellers take an average of four days to ship items, and 85% of orders ship within three days. That's an improvement over a year ago, though Lathi won't say by how much. "We are working with sellers to make sure they are better-positioned to meet buyers' expectations," Lathi says."

    In the good old days, that kind of performance worked on eBay, because eBay was the only place to get the product, but there are way too many viable options to eBay these days, so shipping in 4-days does not measure-up. If you want to be successful on other marketplaces you will need to improve your performance.

  7. Stop looking at Marketplaces as customer acquisition tools, even eBay: First each marketplace will have rules that restrict you from marketing to their customers and you may put your selling account in jeopardy and secondly because it really doesn't work.

    Consumers shop on these sites for a reason, because they like the broad selection, the way the site works and they know the site will stand behind the purchase. Buy.com customers regularly turn in sellers who market directly to them. Even eBay shoppers are extremely difficult to acquire. I had 400,000 customers at Glacier Bay and only 40,000 of them were regular customers. I could only get maybe 10% of those regular customers to shop from my website.

    Customer acquisition should come through comparison shopping, paid search, SEO and other marketing efforts. Marketplaces should be considered incremental sales channels based on revenue sharing. If the share of revenue that a marketplace gets works within your financial model, then make that marketplace part of your business.

  8. Understand what your business model is: If you are a high value, low volume seller than the marketplace may not be for you. Marketplaces are competitive and usually the lowest price gets the sale. Marketplace managers are looking for sellers with great selection, low prices and great performance, so before you sign-up take this into consideration.

    Many successful online businesses thrive with the high value, low volume approach onCheck Spelling their websites and use marketplaces for liquidation and cost recovery. Find the model that works for your business.

  9. Are you enjoying your business, or is it sucking the life out of you? Take these first weeks to assess what you are doing and either re-commit yourself to your business plan, revamp your business plan or find an exit.

  10. This is specifically directed at eBay sellers. The eBay of today will never again be like it was and you need to finally come to grips with that. Either make eBay work for you or find another option.
Happy New Year to all of you and I would love to hear your comments or additional suggestions.

Just my 15%