|Mon May 14 2012 15:37:44|
Buy Bets Big on Third Party Merchants
By: Ina Steiner
Online marketplace Buy.com is taking a page out of its Japanese parent Rakuten's playbook as it makes a radical shift to its home page design. Visitors to Buy.com, which says it does not compete with its sellers, now see third-party merchants featured front and center. It also plans to offer fulfillment services to merchants.
Buy.com's Merchant Evangelist Randy Smythe, a former eBay PowerSeller, admits the approach is unusual, and says Rakuten has beaten Amazon in Japan "because they are merchant-centric not a "vending machine" like Amazon." Smythe said consumers in the U.S. and EU have an alternative. "They can purchase much the same product as at Amazon, but we hope they prefer to buy from people rather than a faceless Internet."
Above: New Buy.com home page features merchants, such as eForCity's Jack Sheng.
Buy.com began rolling out the new homepage over the past few weeks as it becomes "store- and merchant-centric." Currently the home page features four third-party merchants at the top in a scrolling slide show, with the tagline, "Buy from people, not the internet." Other stores are featured underneath.
The site continues to feature top level category links at the top of the page where visitors can browse listings by category rather than by store.
Above: Buy.com's old home page featured products, not merchants.
Buy.com has 5,200 marketplace sellers listing 12 million unique products across 20 categories for a total of 22.5 million items listed. Buy says its 18 million customers contribute to an 8% conversion rate.
Smythe said Rakuten is a lot like eBay was "back in the day" - smaller merchants that want to sell their product online. "Many of them have little shops in the real world but wanted to sell all over Japan not just to their block."
"Rakuten is store-centric," Smythe says, "which means everyone has a shop in the mall and all of their product is in Ichiba's search. They've always had stores in search and then they have dedicated account managers that are incentivized to grow their accounts business through participation in site wide Super points campaign's specific email campaigns etc. "
Time will tell if the approach works in the U.S., Smythe said. "Of our 5200 sellers most of them sell on eBay and Amazon so our product is not much different from the others but we believe there are enough consumers out there that want to "Buy from people, not the Internet" to make us a challenger of the other two."
Buy.com has additional plans in the works yet to be announced, including fulfillment services revealed only to select merchants thusfar.