Alternatives to eBay Express: Ecrater and OSCommerce
By Lissa McGrath
In years past, alternatives to eBay had a low chance of success, particularly if they were free sites. However, in the market targeted by eBay Express (fixed-price items), it appears this is changing. There are a number of ecommerce sites that have become quite popular. We're going to look at a couple of them that have an added bonus - they're free.
At the moment, the most talked about is ECrater (http://www.ecrater.com). This is similar to eBay Express, but is currently far higher ranked on visitor volume than the eBay counterpart. As a buyer, finding items is a little clunky, but there are other benefits. ECrater has a feedback system that already integrates some of the better features of eBay's Feedback 2.0; the design is very sleek; and it's not hard getting used to it.
The biggest challenge for me as a buyer on Ecrater was not having Matching Categories to narrow down my searches (and having to check the search within this category only box before clicking Search each time I wanted to add a search term).
From a seller's perspective, it is incredibly easy to use. I was able to register and start getting inventory into the store in less than two minutes (I mean that literally). It's very intuitive with a fill-in-the-blank system. Google Checkout is free until the end of 2007 too (always a bonus).
I like that you can point your website URL to the ECrater page (and use URL masking to make it appear like it is the same page) and treat it like your own site. But also, any buyers who go straight to the ECrater main site and search for items matching those in your store will get a results page with your item on it. It's the best of both worlds.
Another option is OSCommerce (http://www.oscommerce.com). This has a similar setup but it's not quite as easy to use for buyers. When a buyer clicks on a category, it will show the name of stores with items relating to that category and which country they are in. I like knowing which country each seller is from, but I would rather see the items rather than the store names.
Clarification added April 19, 2007: While OSCommerce is an online shop ecommerce solution, it does not feature a marketplace component like ECrater that allows for searching across all merchants' inventory. Online stores that use OSCommerce can submit their store to a "live shops" directory for an online OSCommerce community of over 135,000 people to view along with non-community people who come to the www.oscommerce.com website. Ecommerce store owners are individual businesses that have elected to use osCommerce to market and sell their products over the Internet. They must have their domain name and web-hosting solution that includes software to use the database-driven OSCommerce.
The site designs for each seller are far more intricate and very professional, but there is no feedback system and no real way to know how good a seller is.
From a seller's perspective, if you know how to modify code and want an Open Source site to make your own, this is for you. If you don't know your SQL from your Backend (yes, those are real terms) then you might be happier elsewhere. Having said that, you can use the default options and get your site up without too much trouble.
OSCommerce has been around since 2000, and is user-developed. Any new versions for the open-box solutions are tested before being implemented. It seems a shame to use this software without taking advantage of the open source, but if you don't know code, you don't want to be messing around with it.
Both of these sites are well designed and competitive. And since both are free, you can try them out and see which you like. It's certainly worth looking at these free options before paying the $50 a month most other sites charge.
About the author:
Lissa McGrath is the author of three eBay books, "The Complete Idiot's Guide to eBay" 2nd Edition (Alpha, 2010); "The Pocket Idiot's Guide to eBay Motors" (Alpha, 2008); and "20 Questions To Ask Before Selling On eBay" (Career Press, 2006). She is also the editor of eight other eBay books. You can reach Lissa directly at lissa (at) lissamcgrath (dot) com or through her website http://www.lissamcgrath.com.
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