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eCommerce Guide SXSW 2014

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Ordoro has partnered with some of the hottest companies in ecommerce such as Shopify, KISSmetrics, and Olark to bring some serious ecommerce love to SXSW!

If you sell online and plan on attending SXSW, we have handpicked a list of events not to miss.

Thursday March 6th

Friday March 7th

Saturday March 8th

Sunday March 9th

Monday March 10th

Tuesday March 11th

(*) Events sponsored by Ordoro. If you’re in town come meet our team at these events!

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5 Ways to Increase Your Average Order Value

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If you’re looking to increase the revenue of your online store, you can do it in a number of ways. Most online merchants choose the volume approach, meaning they try to increase the number of products or services sold to (most of the time) separate customers. But trying to increase the average order value (AOV) might work even better: if you’re selling more to the same customer, you’re saving in quite a few areas of your business as well, ranging from shipping expenses to the cost of ink and paper for printing invoices. There are multiple roads you can take to increase your AOV, but some of them seem to be worthier to take than the others. So here are five ways which we think are certainly worth a try if you’re looking to increase your AOV, revenue, and (hopefully) profit:

1. Free Shipping

According to Deloitte, 71% of online shoppers are planning to take advantage of free shipping this holiday season. For online merchants, it means that offering free delivery is becoming an essential part of business, as it not only can increase the average order value, but is also necessary to attract most of the prospective customers to even consider shopping there.

RJ Metrics recommends three ways to implement free shipping into an online store. Firstly, you can set shipping thresholds, meaning customers have to spend a certain amount to qualify for free delivery. According to Deloitte, 40% of customers will spend more to get the products delivered for free, so it’s certainly a good option if you’re looking to increase your AOV. Secondly, you can offer free shipping on a certain combination of merchandise or deliver the whole cart for free in case a customer purchases a particular item. Lastly, limited time offers for free shipping might not only increase the number of orders on calmer periods, but boost the AOV as well, as customers know they’ll have to pay for shipping in case they want to buy something else in a few days or weeks.

2. Product Bundling

According to KISSmetrics, one of the best ways to increase your AOV is to offer discounts when buying multiple products at once. You can combine a few relevant items yourself or you can leave the mix and match option to the customer, but receiving a considerable discount might just be the factor which drives the customers to buy more at once.

Bundling can cause some inventory challenges since you may sell items separately or as part of a bundle. Don’t worry about that if you’re using Ordoro to manage all your orders though, as our kitting functionality allows you to bundle products and keep your inventory count accurate at the same time.

3. Volume Discounts

It depends on what you’re selling (people probably won’t buy two same car parts when they need just one), but offering discounts depending on the amount of products bought can also considerably increase your AOV. For example, Paperstone, an office supplies company, offered their customers different prices if they bought more than 5 or more than 10 boxes of A4 paper. According to Visual Website Optimizer, it resulted in the online store’s AOV increasing by 18.94%.

KISSmetrics points out that it’s also very important to clearly show the exact amount of money that the customer might save if they’re buying in larger volumes. In fact, it’s true for all the incentives mentioned above and below – if you let the customers know that they’re eligible for free shipping only just before checking out, you’re losing on a lot of prospective purchases. Although it can certainly be a very nice surprise!

4. Cash-backs and Vouchers

Another way to increase your AOV recommended by Visual Website Optimizer is cash-back offers when the customers spend a certain amount shopping in your store. You can offer such deal to anyone who comes to the store or your previous customers only (presenting the voucher as a gift on checkout), but it works the same either way: for example, if the customer spends at least $50, they get a $5 discount on the whole shopping cart. You can even offer different cash-back levels, increasing the amount saved with every spending threshold ($12.5 on $100, $30 on $200, etc.).

5. Social Proof

People tend to hesitate spending a lot of money in an online store they barely know anything about. So unless you’re selling some well-known merchandise, you might need someone closer to the customer to influence them to spend more, consequently increasing your AOV.

RJ Metrics lists a few ways to influence the customer to buy more by using the opinions of other people: user reviews, celebrity endorsements, and recommendations from friends. According to Reputation Labs, 89% of people trust online reviews, meaning several positive ones near your product might sway them to buy it. In addition to that, Bazaarvoice notes that the AOV of customers who read reviews is 6% higher than of those who don’t. So a review system certainly seems to be worth implementing. While celebrity endorsements might not be cheap and are suitable only for some lines of business, apps and toolbars that let the customers shop together with their friends can boost the AOV up to 50% according to DecisionStep.

In conclusion, we have to note that there’s only one way to know what will or won’t work for your customers: testing. You’ll have to do plenty of tests to understand how many freebies and discounts are plausible when trying to increase your average order value. After all, a higher AOV isn’t the final objective, as it doesn’t necessarily increase your profit as well. It usually does though, so it might be a good idea to try at least a few from all the things listed above.

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How to make your products stand out from the competition

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Image credit: Jenny Downing

There are many factors that decide whether a product or a service is successfully sold on the internet, but how it is represented to the customer is probably the most important one. Everyone understands that managing to entice the customer to come to the website isn’t enough – if it was, we wouldn’t need to worry about conversion rates. But what actually does influence the customer’s decision to buy is how the product is going to satisfy their needs and why is it worth to pay a certain price for it. A lot of online merchants believe that the vague product descriptions and photos they usually get from their suppliers are enough to persuade the customer – the item itself doesn’t change after all. Well, it might work if you’re selling, let’s say, nuts and bolts, where the material, the measurements and the manufacturer are all the buyer will ever need, but when it comes to furniture, apparel, collectibles or pretty much anything else, the product representation really matters – both if you’re selling on your own online store or on online marketplaces. So what can be done to represent your products in the best way possible?

Craft the product descriptions

Before you start writing descriptions for your products, you have to think both about what exactly you’re selling and your target audience. Will a buyer of the mentioned nuts and bolts care if you write three paragraphs on how that stainless steel 3/8″ bolt is going to change their life? That’s right, they won’t, because they know exactly what they’re looking for. But if you’re selling a yacht or a sports car, you’ll have to do your best to prove to the customer that your item is actually that ethereal feeling they’ve always dreamed about in a physical form. For most of the products though, a good description should be somewhere in-between – revealing both the item’s characteristics and the ways in which it will make the customer’s life better.

Make sure the photos are done right

As our friends at 3dcart put it, one of the major disadvantages of shopping online is that you can’t look at and feel the product before making the purchase. That’s where the photos come in – and the better they represent the product, the more interested customers you should expect. And it isn’t as simple as it may look. First of all, you should forget the smartphone (no matter how advanced they might be nowadays) and use a DSLR camera (without flash!) for really high quality pictures. Secondly, you should photograph the object from as many angles as possible – front, back, top and bottom are all a must, and some additional photos of details may be needed sometimes as well. If a product comes in a few different colors, you should use the same angles for all of them. Finally, you’re going to need a neutral (preferably white) background for the photos to look professional. Then, when you’re uploading the photos to your store, make sure all of them are scaled to the same size, providing a uniform design throughout your store.

Present all the relevant information

Not all of the information about a product should be integrated into the description, as you can always create an additional tab for any extra info that might be relevant to the customer. Most of the time, this includes the measurements of the item (and a link to the size chart if you’re selling apparel). Product weight is also a must if your delivery fee depends on the weight of the package. Depending on the product, there might be some technical information in which the potential buyer might be interested in – in fact, if you’re selling some types of merchandise, for example electronics, it’s probably the most important part of your product representation. If you include all the necessary info and make it easy to find on the product’s page, you’ll receive less inquiries about the item from your potential customers – and let’s not forget that most of the people choose to close the browser window over contacting you if they don’t find what they’re looking for.

Maintain the same style

We already mentioned it in the part about the photos, but maintaining a uniform style throughout your online store is essential. You can’t write an engaging 300-word description about one of your items while providing no information about another one at the same time. It’s just plain unprofessional, and customer expectations are high as ever. Remember that a good-looking and professional product page can work as an advertisement for your entire store and a potential customer might just choose to browse a little more if they see a great product page, even if they don’t need that exact piece at the time.

Descriptions that are written with the customer in mind, a lot of professional photos and all the needed information should make your product pages stand out – a lot of online merchants still don’t understand the importance of product representation, so it’s a great way to stay ahead of the competition. Add great website design, customer reviews (for each and every one of your items) and smart marketing to the mix, and you’ve got yourself an online store that is ready for success.

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Customer Success: Taste of Texas

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Interview with Lisa Blackard, Executive Chef at Taste of Texas Restaurant

How did you get started with your business? What products do you sell?

The Taste of Texas restaurant has been in business for 35 years. And we would often get requests from customers all over the US to ship our items to them. Seeing how our brand had organically grown with so many customers in all 50 states, Edd Hendee (the owner’s son) who was in business school circa 2005, started exploring the idea of launching an online store.

So, in 2005, we launched the Taste Of Texas webstore (built onBigcommerce). Through our webstore we sell the same Certified Angus beef perfectly aged and trimmed steaks we offer in our restaurant, as well as merchandise and side items popular with our restaurant customers. From us, you can always expect a mouth watering, perfect steak on your backyard grill!

We launched the webstore right before Christmas gift season, and we were thrilled to do over $100K in sales our first month of online operation.

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What is the secret behind your marketing strategy? How do you get your customers?

We work hard to maintain a great brand and customer base with the restaurant. We first target our existing restaurant customers to market our online store to. During the Christmas gift season, we occasionally run national radio ads. We spend a good effort on search engine optimization. We also have a set of videos on our website where our chefs demonstrate our own grilling instructions for your next cook out!

What online channels do you sell your products through?

We only sell through our own webstore (TasteofTexas.com). We do not sell on Amazon or eBay. We’ve found that it’s not cost effective for us.

While choosing a shopping cart platform to build our webstore on, we spent a lot of time on trial and error. We went through four previous shopping cart platforms before landing on Big Commerce. From our experience with all the different systems we’ve tried, Big Commerce is the most intuitive and easy to use for our customers.

How has Ordoro benefited you?

Having a really great shopping cart software and fulfillment system is key for both your customers’ ability to place an order and your ability to fulfill it. We’ve learned this the hard way with complicated shopping cart software and cumbersome fulfillment processes. We’re very happy with what we’ve found in Big Commerce and Ordoro.

We do about 65% of our sales for the year in the month of December, which means that automation is really key during that month. Ordoro has made processing and shipping much simpler for our staff.

 

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Driving Sales: Email or Social Media?

EmailImage credit: Christopher Penn

Guest post written by Manish Kataria  founder of Bird’s Eye Digital.

At a time when social media is all the rage, entrepreneurs often forget about one of the most powerful & effective permission-based marketing tools available: Email.

Because email is boring and old fashioned, right?  Well don’t count it out just yet – at least when it comes to eCommerce.  So before you prioritize building an email opt-in list behind acquiring Facebook likes & Twitter followers, consider this. In their most recent eCommerce Quarterly report, Monetate analyzed a random sample of more than 500 million online shopping experiences in Q1 2013 and discovered the following:

  • Social media represented just 1.55% of all eCommerce traffic to top sites, trailing email at 2.82%, with both not surprisingly far behind search-driven traffic
  • At a conversion rate of 3.19% in the same time period, email beat out both search (1.95%) and social media (.71%).
  • With 9.02 average page views per referral, email-driven page views match those of search, with both almost double those of social (4.6).

This data actually makes a lot of sense if you consider some of email’s advantages as a sales tool:

  • In a world of advertising clutter, a shopper opted in to receive your marketing messages is one of the most highly receptive to your advertising.
  • Email is uniquely powerful for customer segmentation, custom-tailored relevant messaging, and delivering that message at the best time of the buying process.
  • The cost has fallen drastically in recent years – and if you’re using a back-end eCommerce platform like Shopify or BigCommerce, there are several low-cost (or even free) powerful email marketing tools available.

Keep in mind however that as effective as email can be, social media is still an important part of the eCommerce equation. For one, many intangible benefits of social media – such as boosting SEO & lead generation – can’t be measured using strict, last-click attributions.  For example, a Facebook fan may simply be at an earlier point in the customer acquisition funnel than an email opt-in. Also, this report doesn’t distinguish shoppers’ demographic information or retailers’ industry verticals.

More importantly, with billions of engaged users worldwide, and impressive referred average order values (most notably Pinterest at $80.54), social media is poised to yield incredible opportunities for savvy marketers.  Moving forward, expect to see an increasing number of offerings to help web store owners more effectively and directly leverage social – including one from us at Bird’s Eye Digital.

So what can we take away from all this? As exciting as the social commerce prospects are, it’s no time to lag behind with your email marketing.  It can be challenging to build a quality email opt-in list and time intensive to analyze the data for the right execution strategy, but the ROI will be worth it! And in today’s increasingly complex landscape, incorporating both your email & social strategies into an integrated 360 marketing approach will give you the best chance at beating out the competition!

Manish Kataria is the founder of digital marketing & development company Bird’s Eye Digital.  He has previously been in various roles from strategy to business development at some of NYC’s top interactive agencies, and holds degrees in Finance & Marketing from NYU’s Stern School of Business.

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Christmas in July (Part 1)

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Image Credit: Chance Agrella

In Northern Europe, there is an old proverb that encourages to ‘prepare your sledge in the summer’. While conserving berries and repairing windows in summertime is not a necessity nowadays, starting preparations for the winter as early as possible is still very true in business, as the beginning of winter comes together with the largest sales in the year. According to the US Census Bureau, the retail and food sales in December 2012 has made up roughly 10% of all the sales of the year, with more than a $100 billion difference from the weaker months such as January. So if a business wants to have its share of the holiday sales pie, it’s only logical to start preparing for it in the summer – or even earlier.

In this blog series, we will break up all of the tips on what needs to be addressed into three categories. In the second and third part, we will look into marketing and inventory/shipping respectively, and this part is all about the product range and sales channels. So if you have an online business, we believe our insights can really help you to prepare – there’s quite a lot to do after all!

Widen your product range

If you have some products that haven’t paid off before or that you have some doubts about, late summer or autumn is a good time to try or try again. People tend to buy some things they would have never even considered before when shopping for Christmas presents, and, simply said, it’s a good chance to cash in on the items that wouldn’t be profitable otherwise. What is more, most of the shoppers just don’t have that additional time needed to find the best available deals, so don’t just remove the items that don’t get any sales in spring or summer from your assortment, as you might be surprised what people actually buy during the Christmas sales. For some businesses, it’s also a great idea to offer some holiday-themed merchandise, such as coffee mugs or t-shirts.  Another thing to think about is gift-wrapping – if you don’t already offer that during the winter sales months, it really is a thing to consider. You can always charge extra for that, so you won’t have any additional expenses, and it gives that extra convenience that the customers are looking for, especially when they have little time on their hands.

Expand to new online marketplaces

As the market is more active than ever during the Christmas sales, it’s a good idea to increase the number of potential customers you can reach by expanding your business to some of the online marketplaces you haven’t used before. So if you’re selling your handcrafted goods on your web-store, maybe it’s high time you tried Etsy? Setting up accounts on new marketplaces is sometimes costly and always time-consuming, but it’s certainly worth the effort if you’re looking to increase your sales in winter. As creating a good reputation on any marketplace takes time (and you can’t expect a lot of sales if you don’t have one), it’s essential to start expanding as early as you can. If you’re lacking ideas on where exactly to expand, you can always have a look at our previous blog series introducing a handful of online marketplaces.

Maintain your reputation

According to recent research, seller reputation positively influences consumers’ perceived product quality which in turn affects their willingness to buy. It gets even more important during the holiday sales, as people simply don’t have the time to look through numerous seller profiles, so they tend to chose those who they believe can be trusted. Thus if you’re rather new at a certain marketplace or if the reviews of your previous customers aren’t 100% positive, you shouldn’t expect a large increase in sales before the holidays. That’s why it’s even more important than ever to go above and beyond for each and every one of your customers a couple months before winter, as you might end up losing sales if you don’t do that.

From the perspective of products and sales channels, expanding your product range and starting to sell in new marketplaces while also maintaining your reputation in the ones you already use might be the deciding factor whether Christmas brings some extra profits to your business in addition to the festive atmosphere. While doing all of it might not be necessary, especially if you sell at your own online store, there are plenty of other ways you could (and should) be starting to prepare for the holiday sales right now – come back for more tips next week!

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Where to Sell? A Short Guide to Major Online Marketplaces (Part 3)

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Image credit: Luca Gargano

Click here for Part 1 of this series about Amazon, eBay and Etsy

Click here for Part 2 of this series about Rakuten, Sears and Newegg

In most of the online marketplaces, you can sell your goods either by a fixed price or by arranging an auction. And that’s pretty much it – of course, some limits on what you can sell apply (did you know selling enriched uranium, souls and ghosts and dirty used clothes is forbidden on eBay?), but these two models rule all of e-commerce. However, there’s a handful of much more interesting marketplaces on the internet that, although they use the same pricing models, have a higher purpose than only being a place that brings a buyer and seller together. In this part of the series, we will review three of the most exciting and different marketplaces you can find on the web.

Bonanza – the Social Marketplace

Bonanza is a marketplace built for those who don’t know exactly what they want to buy, but are open to discoveries and the social side of shopping. Buyers and sellers can chat real-time on this site, and everyone can create collections of items of a certain theme, opening new ways both to market your goods and provide great customer service.

Pros:

  1. Unique audience. If you’re selling stylish goods that are different from anything else you can find on the internet, then there’s a very high chance the Bonanza’s audience will be interested.
  2. Easy to use. You can easily import all your merchandise from eBay or Etsy, so if you’re already selling on those marketplaces, starting up here will be a hassle-free experience.
  3. Competitive fees. Bonanza offers some of the lowest fees for using their platform to sell your items on the internet, so it’s a good place if you’re just starting up and are not sure about the costs you can handle.

Cons:

  1. Less traffic. As Bonanza is quite a new marketplace, it still doesn’t have a wide circle of buyers. Lower amount of people who see your products usually means lower sales.
  2. Limited range of merchandise. While the items that can be sold on Bonanza range from perfume and shoes to helmets and bikes, all of the merchandise here is unique, so it’s not a good place if you’re selling identical items in large quantities or reselling.
  3. Competitive atmosphere. It’s not easy to stand out on Bonanza – there are lots of very talented people selling their goods there. But if you manage to do that, some sales are guaranteed.

CafePress – a Great Addition to Your Business

While CafePress isn’t your usual online marketplace as you can’t sell your own items here, it makes a wonderful addition to any website with some creative content, letting you design and sell your own t-shirts, coffee mugs, posters, books, etc.. It can be also be used as an extra sales channel if you’re in the fashion business – the possibilities are actually endless, you just need to think of a way how this customized merchandise can help your business.

Pros:

  1. No unsold inventory. All products on CafePress are made to order, meaning you won’t have to worry about any merchandise you weren’t able to sell.
  2. Reliable service. The marketplace handles all your sales from order to shipping, so you can sit back and watch the profits grow – if you offer some exceptional designs, of course.
  3. Additional platform for sales. You can integrate the CafePress products you design into your website, but the items still show up in the searches on the marketplace itself, providing you with two sales channels.

Cons:

  1. You can’t sell your own goods. You can customize the products CafePress has to offer, but selling your own merchandise, even if it’s t-shirts or posters, is impossible here.
  2. Less control over customer service. As mentioned above, CafePress handles all your sales, so everything doesn’t depend on you here. If you’re used to providing top-notch customer service, it might cause some problems… not necessarily, of course.
  3. Low profit margins. The marketplace retains most of the profits for the items you sell, so you probably won’t earn a fortune selling only on this website – but it’s a very good addition to your business nevertheless.

Roozt – Promoting Giving Back

This marketplace is free to use for any brands that do something to give back to the world with every purchase. For example, there’s a wooden clock seller that plants a tree for every item purchased or a t-shirt seller that supports education and reforestation in the world. If you own such a business, you can easily find some buyers that will support your cause in this marketplace.

Pros:

  1. Social responsibility. Even if you don’t make considerable profits in this marketplace, it’s a great way to show that you care about your surroundings. Needless to say, this might bring some extra sales.
  2. Supportive buyers. If you stand for a cause that helps to make the world a better place, you’ll certainly find some people interested in your goods here. It’s not the most popular website on the internet, but it’s quite well known among those who don’t consider the price to be the most important motivation to buy.
  3. Higher prices. The social responsibility side of this marketplace lets you offer prices that are a little higher than would be reasonable in other marketplaces. You still have to fulfill whatever you promise for your cause, though.

Cons:

  1. Inferior traffic. Although the audience is interested in helping to give back to the world, there are not enough of them to have a considerable impact on the profits of all the businesses that sell here.
  2. Hard to get in. If you want to sell on Roozt, your brand has to satisfy a handful of strict requirements, including being humanitarian, eco-friendly, ethical and beneficial to the community.
  3. No international shipping. As Roozt takes care of shipping of goods, you won’t be able to sell to customers outside of US, narrowing the circle of customers even more.

As it is evident from these three marketplaces, selling online doesn’t end with creating a membership on eBay. There are numerous interesting and fun ways to offer your merchandise to potential customers – you just need to find an online marketplace that is the right fit for your business.

Click here for Part 1 of this series about Amazon, eBay and Etsy

Click here for Part 2 of this series about Rakuten, Sears and Newegg

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Where to Sell? A Short Guide to Major Online Marketplaces (Part 2)

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Image credit: KamrenB Photography

Click here for Part 1 of this series about Amazon, eBay and Etsy

Click here for Part 3 of this series about Bonanza, CafePress, Roozt

The universe of online marketplaces certainly doesn’t end with Amazon and eBay – there are plenty of others that might be smaller and a little more demanding for starters, but provide a better chance of long-term business relationships and, usually, a slightly better profit in the long run as well. Today we will go through why you should (and shouldn’t) start selling on three very different online marketplaces: Rakuten, Sears and Newegg.

Rakuten – a Japanese Alternative

Rakuten was founded in 1999 and was primarily a marketplace intended for Japanese sellers and customers only, but now it’s one of the major worldwide online marketplaces. Most of the customers are still from Japan though, so at least a minor understanding of the country’s culture is needed to do business here.

Pros:

  1. Different customers. People who buy at Rakuten usually are not the same ones who use other marketplaces. Such loyalty might bring some long-term relationships in case the customers’ needs are fully satisfied.
  2. The marketplace is not a competitor. On Rakuten, you will only compete with other merchants. The marketplace doesn’t sell anything by itself and encourages its users to compete not only by price, but by their hospitality and customer service as well.
  3. Selling more with higher prices. The above mentioned type of competing is important to the customers as much as to the marketplace, so if you shine with your ability to please the customers, they’ll buy from you again even if your price is slightly higher.

Cons:

  1. Cultural differences. It might be hard to appeal to customers who are used to different service than you’re used to provide. To successfully sell on Rakuten, you’ll need to do some cultural research at first.
  2. Shipping costs. While a large part of your customers might be in the same country when you’re selling on eBay or Amazon, shipping costs to Japan might cause some difficulties if you use Rakuten. And it doesn’t matter who pays for shipping, the final price of the item still increases.
  3. Strong competitors. As Japanese customers and sellers alike value long-term relationships, it’s not easy for new sellers to carve their way into this market unless you sell something that is either rare or unique.

Sears – the Online Department Store

Sears is best known as a department store chain, but it certainly has an online presence, with thousands of transactions taking place every day. You can flawlessly list your items to be sold here, and the marketplace offers a B2B2C service, meaning you can send your items to Sears and they’ll take care of the rest.

Pros:

  1. Worry only about selling. Sears provides a picking, packing and shipping service, so the only thing you’ll have to do is make your items stand out from the crowd.
  2. Building trust. Customers tend to trust large entities such as online department stores more than they would a small private online store. As all the transactions are guaranteed by Sears, you should expect some additional sales for those customers who are familiar with online fraud.
  3. Simple cost structure. You pay only for the services you need, so you can plan much further ahead using this marketplace than you would if you had to market your own online store.

Cons:

  1. No reselling. If you have a reselling business, Sears is probably not the place to sell your goods online. Although exceptions apply, in all likelihood you won’t be able to resell in this marketplace.
  2. Additional costs. If the profit margin is low for the items you sell, the shipping and storage costs of Sears might prove to be more than your business can handle.
  3. Competing with the marketplace. Sears sells thousands of items by itself and might be your main competitor when trying to appeal to customers. You probably can’t offer such prices and discount structure as they can, so competing with Sears can be quite a difficult task.

Newegg – the Prime Choice for Technology

While the other reviewed marketplaces have an enormous range of merchandise on sale, Newegg is here for technology. You can sell computer hardware, software, other electronics, sporting goods, watches and jewelry in this marketplace, and it attracts customers who are looking for these things exactly.

Pros:

  1. An educated audience. The ordinary customer who comes to Newegg knows exactly what he or she wants, so you don’t have to blow bubbles when marketing the item – the price and customer service (including warranties) are the main factors that drive the customers to buy or not.
  2. Low commission rates. Newegg offers to sell your products for some of the lowest commissions in the market. Although they’ll still make up quite a sizeable portion of your earnings, this is a great way to reach much more customers than you would on your own website.
  3. Additional services. Newegg can pick, pack and ship your items if you can’t follow their strict 72-hour delivery policy. It might be costly, but you might still be able to save if you manage to sell in larger quantities.

Cons:

  1. Limited categories. If you don’t produce the items in the categories listed above, you won’t be able to sell on Newegg. Unless you have something exceptional to offer, they won’t create a new category just for your merchandise.
  2. Marketing still necessary. As Newegg’s customers are rather educated about what they’re buying, they’ll hardly purchase something that they haven’t heard about before. Thus you can sell on Newegg, but you’ll still have to make your products known on the Internet to be successful.
  3. Everything adds up. If you add the commission fees and the shipping service costs, there’s not much left to you unless you sell exclusive luxury items. So if you want to sell here, you’ll probably have to try and save elsewhere.

As you can see, these three online marketplaces are very different from each other. Rakuten is a great choice if you’re ready to enter a new market, Sears will provide their highly-rated name under which you can sell your own goods, and Newegg is a top alternative if you produce items that have something to do with technology. It’s hard to imagine a business that would successfully sell on all of those online marketplaces, but it’s possible – there are hardly any limits in the world of e-commerce!

Click here for Part 1 of this series about Amazon, eBay and Etsy

Click here for Part 3 of this series about Bonanza, CafePress, Roozt

 

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Where to Sell? A Short Guide to Major Online Marketplaces (Part 1)

Marketplaces 1

Image Credit : Dylan Luder

Click here for Part 2 of this series about Rakuten, Sears and NewEgg

Click here for Part 3 of this series about Bonanza, CafePress, Roozt

Having a private online store usually is a great idea, but is in no way a simple and effortless experience. For a small or medium business, especially if you’re just starting it, selling on online marketplaces might be an easier and quicker way to achieve profit. In this series of articles, we will briefly describe each of the major marketplaces on the Internet to help you choose best option for your business. So let’s start with the advantages and disadvantages of three of the largest marketplaces on the Internet – Amazon, eBay and Etsy.

Amazon – the Big Dog

Amazon is the world’s largest online retailer and it’s been online for nearly 20 years, so they have enormous experience and expertise in e-commerce. It was started as an online bookstore but soon extended its activity, letting everyone use their platform to sell almost anything they want… for a fee, of course.

Pros:

  1. Unmatched traffic. Amazon.com is the fifth most visited website in the United States, so you can only imagine what kind of selling possibilities it provides. The number of merchants is large as well though, so you have to constantly look for ways to stand out from the crowd.
  2. Reliable platform. The Amazon’s system prevents possible fraud from customers and ensures them of their order’s safety as well. This two-way security brings additional trust – most people tend to use well known marketplaces such as Amazon as it’s generally considered to be safer than smaller competitors or private online stores.
  3. Straightforward cost system. Selling on your own online store might inflate the marketing costs to heights you wouldn’t have ever expected and it’s not easy at all to determine future profits. Amazon, on the other hand, collects a fee for each item sold, usually a percentage of the price – and that’s pretty much it.

Cons:

  1. Major competition. Amazon has a lot of merchants you’ll have to compete with. Even if you manage to outsmart them all, there’s nothing that would stop the marketplace from identifying that your products are profitable and offering them to the customers itself. At better price and better conditions, of course.
  2. Withholding your money. Depending on the situation, you won’t get your money for 14 to 90 days after selling an item. For smaller sellers, it might cause some difficulties of running business.
  3. Rarely a second chance. There are numerous cases when Amazon closes a merchant’s store without any obvious reasons. Just a couple of negative reviews can evoke substantial problems, even though they make up only a small percentage of all your customers. The only way to completely avoid this is to satisfy every single customer, which might prove to be rather difficult.

eBay – the Ultimate Online Auction

A contemporary to Amazon, eBay has similar presence on the internet, but the business model is slightly different. The largest C2C (consumer to consumer) marketplace on the internet, it provides a possibility to sell nearly anything you want by setting up an auction as well as by a fixed price.

Pros:

  1. Plenty of potential customers. eBay.com ranks as the 7th most visited website in the United States, and most of these visitors can become your customers if you know how to reach them.
  2. The auction system. If you’re selling rare or unique items, the auction system might prove to be your best friend, as the price can inflate to unexpected levels. If your merchandise is widely available, selling with a fixed price might prove to be a better choice though.
  3. Increased trust. eBay has anti-fraud systems in place, increasing the confidence of customers, as they are ensured they’ll get their money back if they don’t receive exactly what they ordered. This usually leads to increased sales, as trust is one of the most important issues when buying online.

Cons:

  1. The dominance of PayPal. eBay requires that all transactions are made through PayPal. While this increases security of both parties, it might cause some unexpected problems which can range from withholding your earnings for a long time to an overall closure of your account.
  2. Counterfeit items. If you’re selling items that can be easily counterfeited, such as perfumes, clothes and other branded merchandise, you might find some competition that offers the same items for a much lower price. They are almost certainly fake, but they can easily get lost in the ocean of products offered on eBay, resulting in you losing potential customers.
  3. The auction system. Yes, it’s one of the main advantages of this selling system, but have in mind that if your items are easily accessible, you shouldn’t expect extensive bid wars on them. This might make you lose some profits you may gain in other marketplaces.

Etsy – the Leading Marketplace for Hand-Crafted Goods

A fairly new marketplace which was started in 2005, Etsy was created as a meeting place between those who produce handmade merchandise or want to sell vintage items that are at least 20 years old and those who are looking to buy such items.

Pros:

  1. The audience. The visitors of Etsy.com usually know what they’re looking for and have a little more sophisticated taste than the ones of the previous marketplaces. This might lead to additional sales if you produce your own goods or have something really stylish to sell.
  2. Customization of the store. Etsy has probably the most beautiful interface for your store and you can craft it to suit your (and your customers’) needs the best. A good home page of your store on Etsy could be that little something that brings extra sales.
  3. A good place for starters. If you’re an aspiring designer or manufacturer of unique, hand-made items, this might be the best marketplace to start selling. It won’t overwhelm you with its vastness as eBay and Amazon would, and again, the people here are usually looking for something different, so it’s a great place to shine.

Cons:

  1. Lesser amount of customers. Etsy is not as popular as its major competitors, although it still is near the top 50 of the most visited websites in the USA, showing considerable growth in recent years.
  2. Limited range. If you don’t sell vintage or hand-made items, you can’t sell on Etsy – it’s simple as that. Therefore if your products don’t fall in these categories, you should look for other marketplaces to do your business in.
  3. Lots of talent. If you don’t create something that is high quality as well as different from the others, you might face some difficulties selling in this marketplace, as there are lots of very talented sellers who don’t raise their prices to unaffordable levels. There’s always the all-important area of marketing though, so everything is possible.

Amazon, eBay and Etsy all have one great advantage – there are plenty of potential customers there waiting for you. The only thing that needs to be done is to attract them with your products, prices and service – which is no simple feat, of course. Amazon is usually the best of the three if you’re reselling (you’ll need very competitive prices though), eBay is best for rarer or unique items, and Etsy is definitely the ultimate place to sell if you’re producing your own goods. The choice is yours though, just remember that managing multiple memberships in various marketplaces might be a little too time-consuming – unless you use software that is specially crafted just to do that.

Click here for Part 2 of this series about Rakuten, Sears and NewEgg

Click here for Part 3 of this series about Bonanza, CafePress, Roozt

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Amazon seller’s repricing algorithm gone wild – (Or how a book can be priced at $23,698,655)

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If you are an ecommerce merchant selling on Amazon, eBay or any of the market places, I’m sure you have considered using an algorithmic repricing software. These software can watch the price of your competitors and automatically adjust the price of your listings. The goal is to increase your sales without giving up on the profit.

This article by Michael Eisen is a must-read for all of you who have considered algorithmic repricing.

On the day we discovered the million dollar prices, the copy offered by bordeebook was 1.270589 times the price of the copy offered by profnath. And now the bordeebook copy was 1.270589 times profnath again. So clearly at least one of the sellers was setting their price algorithmically in response to changes in the other’s price. I continued to watch carefully and the full pattern emerged.