Storefront Services: A Guide for eBay Sellers (Part 1)
By Andy Geldman
In the late nineties, when eBay was young and before the dot-com crash of 2000, entrepreneurs didn't hesitate to build their own web-based stores. The Internet was fashionable, exciting, and full of possibilities. Unfortunately, there were a number of difficulties to overcome for these early ecommerce sites.
First, they struggled to get enough people to visit them. A site could have great products, low prices, and an efficient service, but if they couldn't get the traffic, they wouldn't make the sales they needed to survive.
Secondly, the general public was naturally suspicious of this new technology and the mysterious, oddly named companies; they didn't trust them not to take their money and run.
Finally, the technology to build and maintain a web store back then was often custom-made, difficult to use, and prone to errors. Selling on the web was expensive, and the online shopping experience frustrating. Most of the early start-ups failed.
eBay was founded in 1995, and as it matured and grew, sellers joined up in droves. They found a new, accessible, and relatively easy way to trade on the Internet. Selling on eBay addressed all the main problems with independent web sites: it had masses of visitors and was becoming a household name; the feedback system and public nature of trading gave buyers confidence; and selling only required typing a title and description and choosing from a few options. Many sellers benefited from the huge opportunity and built successful businesses.
Now the story of ecommerce has moved on. eBay sellers are business savvy, and a fully independent web-store is now an attractive option for many. They avoid listing and final-value fees, reduce their reliance on a single sales channel, and can direct buyers to their own shop for repeat sales.
Tracy Janik, a seller of vintage costume jewelry (eBay ID raefielddesigns), currently sells exclusively through eBay and her eBay Store, maintaining over 3,000 unique listings at any one time. "I have been very successful on eBay", says Tracy, "but I feel that to move to the next level I need a web store. My eBay fees can run as high as 45% of my overall sales per week, due to unsold auctions. About half of my buyers are repeat purchasers and I feel that I can profit from these customers by encouraging them to visit my own store, where they can view all my items."
So what do eBay sellers need from a storefront? A good web store service should be easy to use and customize, be optimized for high search engine rankings, and have excellent technical support.
But having a web site doesn't mean giving up on eBay entirely, so sellers want features such as a single inventory database and a buyer checkout that can deal with both eBay and web store sales. Tracy Janik said, "I would like all my items to appear in one site. I want customers to be able to both browse and search for items across venues in that space, without the need to duplicate ads or items."
Getting closer to an independent store, but without leaving eBay, is eBay's own Stores offering, which can be a very successful endeavor, but incurs its own subscription, insertion, and final value fees. Nor does an eBay Store really diversify sales channels.
Sellers who are ready for an independent web store can look to two different niches for help. Several providers of eBay auction management solutions have storefront modules, with offerings such as Andale Store, ChannelAdvisor's Private Marketplace, Infopia's Enterprise Website Module, Marketworks' custom storefronts, Vendio Stores, and Zoovy Online Store Edition. Many of these also offer integration with hosted storefronts such as Yahoo Stores and Amazon zShops, and there is growing support for Overstock Auctions.
The second option is the long-established online store industry. These packages include AuctionBlox - an extension to open-source shop osCommerce, Make-a-Store's eBay Account Manager, and StoreFront's Sales Accelerator for eBay.
In part 2 of this series, we'll take a look at some of these solutions in detail.
eBay Editor Kit:
ChannelAdvisor's Private Marketplace:
Truition CMS Storefront:
Infopia's Enterprise Website Module:
MarketWorks' custom storefronts:
Zoovy Online Store Edition:
Make-a-Store's eBay Account Manager:
StoreFront's Sales Accelerator for eBay:
About the author:
Andy Geldman is a freelance ecommerce and IT consultant, and webmaster of Web Retailer, a guide to eBay software and services Andy lives in London, England and can be emailed at andy.geldman @ salubritas.com
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