eCrater Provides Alternative for Online Auction Sellers
By Lissa McGrath
In April, I wrote about free alternatives to eBay Express, including a site called eCrater. Since then, it has continued to gain traction, in part from some help from sellers who previously sold on the now closed Yahoo Auctions. eCrater is more than just a marketplace of fixed-price listings. It's a free web-hosting site where sellers manage their own stores (sort of like eBay Stores but better organized).
On eCrater, shoppers can access an individual seller's site directly or may search for products from the main eCrater.com website (http://www.ecrater.com).
The beauty of eCrater, and I think one of the reasons for its success, is that it is so simple. It literally took me only two minutes to get a store set up and begin entering inventory. It's a very user-friendly, fill-in-the-blank system. Sellers can point their websites to their eCrater page using URL masking, so buyers will only see the seller's website address (not eCrater's). This makes it seem more professional, and more like your own website rather than a page on someone else's site (as you get with eBay Stores).
eCrater has a feedback feature just like eBay, and some of the better features of Feedback 2.0 were integrated, well before eBay launched them. eCrater allows sellers to accept PayPal and Google Checkout and has plans to add Amazon Payments.
eCrater is completely free, but the site does offer premium positions. A position on the home page, which merchants can use to rotate their products, costs $100/month. (The position is booked through the end of March 2008.) A position on the top of all listings in a category costs $25/month per item and guarantees a premium top spot in the category.
Founder Dimitar Slavov said he has added new features since April, including an optional inventory control feature (http://www.ecrater.com/community/viewtopic.php?t=4405).
eCrater also added a "mods" system. "The idea is similar to the Wikipedia content control," Slavov said. Moderators make sure that all the listings belong in the correct category and are compliant with eCrater's policies. "As a certified Google Checkout partner we would like to make sure that all listings are compliant with Google Checkout's and Google Base's policies too. With this step we would like to improve the quality of the whole marketplace and make it more attractive for both buyers and sellers."
Moderators receive a small icon next to their store name as a bonus for their efforts, making their stores stand out from the others.
Slavov said eCrater is working on improving the search function, adding product attributes, adding express product listing and upgrading its bulk lister. eCrater will be adding some new features to its Google Checkout integration, and is adding Amazon Payments. "There are also some new features that we would like to keep secret at this point," Slavov said.
Unlike some other free sites, eCrater has a great set of forums. They have an entire board dedicated to suggestions for making eCrater better. They genuinely seem to be interested in their sellers and want to improve the site's functionality for all involved. There are some useful posts about how to get setup on the site, as well as technical questions. The forums have a decent amount of traffic too, so if you do post a question, you won't be twiddling your thumbs for two weeks waiting for someone to respond.
One of the big questions new sellers ask is, "How do I get sales on eCrater?" On the Forum boards, eCrater sellers talk about using Craigslist and My Space to drive traffic to their site. Kijiji, local ads, and even flyers, business cards, etc., will help.
Slavov said most of the traffic to eCrater comes from search engine optimization (for example, eCrater comes up on the top of Google results for searches on "free online store" and "free online marketplace"). eCrater also uses Google Adword advertising.
"Most of the traffic for the sellers comes from Google Products and Google," Slavov said. "Some sellers are doing pretty good job in making their stores search engines friendly, others are using paid advertising or just relying on posts in blogs and forums. eCrater is nothing like eBay or Amazon, so bringing their own traffic is important."
eCrater has great potential as long as they keep the simplicity and usability they have now.
Statistics Provided by eCrater
Total # of listings: 720,073
Total # of registered sellers since the eCrater's launch: 35,894 (it includes the sellers who removed their stores too)
Total # of sellers in the moment: 24,513 (this is the number of the sellers who use are using eCrater)
Total # of suspended sellers: 3,675
Total # of sellers who uploaded at least one product: 15,590
Ina Steiner contributed to this story.
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.
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