Storefront Services: A Guide for eBay Sellers (Part 2)
By Andy Geldman
In part one of this series, we looked at why eBay sellers are starting their own web stores, and outlined the types of solutions that are available to them. In part two, we will examine three very different offerings in more detail - ChannelAdvisor's Stores module, AuctionBlox's self-build components, and Truition's custom store design and hosting.
ChannelAdvisor launched its Stores module in October 2004 for subscribers to its Merchant auction management package (aimed at businesses with sales revenue of $40,000 to $500,000 per month). The service allows sellers to create and manage a hosted storefront, to which ChannelAdvisor's standard transaction fees apply. A set-up wizard is used to create the storefront, and existing checkout, payment and shipping settings are automatically applied. Once store categories have been created and inventory items assigned, the store can be launched. Customizable templates are used to tailor the store's design.
"The main value proposition for ChannelAdvisor Stores is that it offers users the ability to manage their store inventory from the same database used for other online channels. This helps minimize errors and saves significant management costs," says ChannelAdvisor CEO Scot Wingo. He continues, "sellers can combine auction and store sales into one integrated checkout, enabling customers to leverage cross-selling and up-selling techniques."
ChannelAdvisor Stores offers an easy way to get started with storefront selling. Like other auction management providers the service is provided as part of a package, so potential users will need to evaluate the whole service and not just the Stores component.
AuctionBlox attracts sellers who need a very customizable storefront, and have the technical expertise to take advantage of its back-office modules. "eBay Manager" plugs into web store solution osCommerce, to provide eBay listing and management features along with an online storefront. Like Linux, osCommerce is developed under an "open source" software philosophy, which means it is free to use and the source code is available so users can modify and improve it.
The AuctionBlox eBay Manager (which is not open source) has five different pricing plans ranging from $39.90 per month for up to 400 listings to $159.90 per month for unlimited listings. A web hosting service is also required, which can be provided by AuctionBlox along with professional installation and custom development services.
AuctionBlox CEO Anthony Musselwhite explains that his wife Holly was a PowerSeller selling everything from apparel to consumer electronics. "Holly already had an online storefront based on osCommerce, but the eBay business was not integrated into the process. This resulted in a lot of labor spent manually handling email communication with customers, managing payments, bookkeeping, and managing inventory. AuctionBlox was created to automate all of the auction functionality so that less labor was required to handle the increased volume - resulting in increased profits."
AuctionBlox offers great potential for a flexible storefront at a low cost, but it won't be right for every eBay seller. An osCommerce web store requires time and skill to build, and diving in unprepared could cause a lot of frustration. AuctionBlox is planning to introduce an "instant-store" service later this year, which will allow sellers to set up a hosted store in minutes without the technical configuration.
Truition provides ecommerce solutions to online retailers and eBay PowerSellers, focusing on those with at least $1 million of annual revenue. Each storefront is treated as a separate project, with an implementation plan developed according to the individual needs of each client. Truition's pricing includes an implementation fee, monthly minimum charge, and a percentage of sales.
Monica Dargan, Marketing Manager at Truition, says "Our storefront appeals to mid volume sellers who have built a brand and want to take advantage of their own online storefront, while using eBay as a traffic generator. For each client engagement we offer full services including account management, project management, web design and development and marketing services."
Truition has offices in Canada, the US, UK and Germany and delivers its services locally for each country, which is important for such a highly customized solution. As well as storefronts for eBay sellers, the company builds auction sites and branded marketplaces (where multiple vendors can sell on a single site), so there are interesting possibilities for future growth.
Sellers considering custom service providers such as Truition should have a well-defined vision for their business, as implementation costs could mount up if they are not clear about what they want.
ChannelAdvisor, AuctionBlox and Truition have been used to illustrate the wide range of storefront services available, but there are many more worth exploring - part one of this article has links to several other providers.
Choosing a service is an important business decision and should be approached with a clear strategy and realistic view of your own capabilities. In the move from eBay trader to independent online retailer, it could be the biggest decision you make.
Storefront Services: A Guide for eBay Sellers (Part 1)
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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