Saturday, March 21, 2009

Living while leaving eBay part 3: Just how can I survive Web 2.0?

I can't believe it has taken me a month to get back to this blog. Even though it will say it only took 2 days, it's really been over a month since I started writing it! It has been a chaotic month, promotion at work, meetings, and just general "stuff" going on has kept me from getting this done. It's taken all of my creative juices just to deal with life, but I'm back!

I've given you ideas to get customers to visit your site, then to get them to stay and buy from you, and finally to return to shop again. But, let's face it, that's going to take some time. This isn't eBay, where you would know that at least something would sell by the end of the 7 day auction cycle and just had to manipulate your auctions to suit that reality. But now, you are in a different world, the world of ecommerce without eBay, and you are going broke fast. This is the biggest complaint of online sellers leaving eBay, is how do they make the money?

Ideally, what I am about to tell you is best to setup before leaving eBay. You don't need a long term presence, but a good running start doesn't hurt.

Other selling venues can make you money in the interim, and may even get a few customers to your site's checkout page. There is one slight glitch in this plan though. You can pick a site with it's own customer base and be in the same boat as eBay sellers, or a site that allows you to build from their base and become independently associated with their reputation. That's what Amazon, New Egg, and offer. Here are the questions to ask when finding the right site for your products.

1. Do they cater to my type of customer?
Ruby Lane caters to vintage and antique shoppers, Etsy is for the handmade relic hunter, AllSports is for the sports collector, and Biblio caters to readers. It wouldn't make a whole lot of sense to put newer books on Ruby Lane (although some older pre-ISBN books may work) and it certainly wouldn't be wise to waste your time selling baseball pennants on Etsy.
There is a highly successful non-eBay site for nearly any product line you sell, where your products will be appreciated and sought after by thousands of visitors a week, but you have to pick it out of the stack and test it a bit. The examples above, as well as sites like UBid (electronics), GunBroker (self-defense), Gemm (mostly music) and Liquidation (closeouts, wholesale lots).

2. Is there enough traffic to make it worth my time?
Many sites have hundreds of thousands of products listed for sale, but that doesn't often equal high traffic. will give you a good idea of how many folks visit a site before giving it a shot, but it won't give you all you need.
I'll look at Ecrater (1.5 million monthly) Bonanzle (494,000 monthly) and Overstock Auctions (266,000 monthly.) Looking at these traffic numbers, it seems that Ecrater should be first on your list to try, Bonanzle second, and Overstock if you have time, but there are other more important metrics to consider.
A) Take a new site on the rise, Bonanzle, with 500,000 monthly visitors. There are 1.8 million items for sale. This really means that about 2 people visit Bonanzle for every 5 items offered.
B) Look at Ecrater with 1.5 million visitors monthly. They have approximately 1.8 million listings, showing about 4 visitors for every 5 products.
C) Last, look at Overstock Auctions. O-Auctions only has an average of 20,000 concurrent auctions, so a good estimate would be about 100,000 monthly listings. The auction site generates 266,000 monthly visits, meaning that for every auction there are about 3 visitors to the site.
Now, have you re-thought the choices?

3. How to get them to keep buying
While a perfect world would dictate that every customer would come straight back to you when they want to shop, it usually isn't realistic when dealing with a multiple seller venue. It becomes even worse when dealing with everyday general merchandise that hundreds of businesses already offer. Someone is eventually going to notice your success and try to compete with your price, and you'll have to fight that. This is where you will be separated from the pack as a true business person, or relegated to being in the same boat as on eBay... just with a different company.
Can you compete with everyone on price?
No. Don't bother. There are always and that can out-price you on any product, not to mention all the etailers smaller that them that can do the same. Even if you do, eventually these products will be obsolete and you won't have the buying power to force the supplier to accept your returns, or rebate the cost.
Compete on service. Don't let a single customer go away unhappy, and remember even negative reviews are opportunities.

4. Last, don't get discouraged, but always think like a business person. Don't let your personal attachment to a certain product line wreak havoc on your business' profit. You know that those old liquidated 182 copies of Windows 2000 won't sell for more than $10 each, yet you still post on the XP-Haters forums that you have them for sale at $20. Just sell them, and use that cash to buy those liquidated copies of Vista this year.

That's all for this week, well, this month. Hopefully I can finish another entry this coming week!

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