Writer and online seller Ed Tomchin proposed to put some notes together as he researched online auction sites he was considering using for himself. In part one, Ed examined eBid, OnlineAuction and Overstock Auctions (link). In part two, he reviews Atomic Mall and Wensy. Ed writes his reviews from the perspective of a 10-year seller of vintage, collectible, useful and other odd goods.
In today's column, I take a look at Atomic Mall and Wensy. While Atomic Mall is not strictly an auction site, it may eventually morph into or add auctions since that seems to be such a popular buying and selling format. People love the excitement of bidding on items, especially when they begin with low opening bids. In the meantime, it is a viable and entertaining site on which to sell your merchandise.
Atomic Mall is not a true auction format at the moment. It is a storefront setup wherein members can list items in their Mall store in a fixed-price format with or without multiple items within each listing. Atomic Mall offers free membership, 100% free listings with commission fees, and a free Storefront with various membership upgrades for a fee.
While there are no active auctions per se, there is both an online chat feature and a message feature through which buyers and sellers can communicate. Atomic Mall has also just launched the ability for buyers to negotiate, make offers and haggle with sellers. They are studying auctions and may include that format in future upgrades, but at this point, they are primarily concerned with bringing the current system up to snuff with Atomic Mall 2.0.
As of this writing (3/17/09) Atomic Mall has 11,183 active members and 153,046 active listings accounting for more than 4.5 million items.
Taking a Look at Sell Through Rates
It is possible to search closed listings via the Advanced Search feature. Sold items go all the way back to the first day Atomic Mall opened its digital doors. However, the sold listings do not produce an accurate Sell-Through Rate (STR) because they do not include listings that sellers have deleted from their stores.
Atomic Mall is working on an upgrade that will eventually include these listings as well, which will give users the ability to determine a relatively accurate STR. I ran a search for anything "vintage" and, according to information given me by the founders, there were a total of 198 closed listings that, based on total active listings, indicate a possible STR of 5.8 percent.
Searching Atomic Mall
Searches can be a little confusing. For instance, if you search for "1941 Plymouth headlight" in the search bar at the top of the page, you will get listings that contain any of those terms (i.e., 1941 OR Plymouth OR headlight). Searches do not appear to be case sensitive. Wildcards do not appear to work, nor does it seem you can drill down within a subset of results. It is hoped that future upgrades will allow these additional search functions.
However, if you want to include all of your search terms terms (i.e., 1941 AND plymouth AND headlight), go to Advanced Search and click the box marked "All Words." Searches can be sorted by Relevance, Price, Date Added, Seller Name and Category and limited within a Maximum and Minimum price. You can also limit your search to specific Store Names and UPC codes. You may also search any specific category as well as Sold Items.
Search results are presented in the order selected. A nice feature is that, in the search results, you can click on any photo to see a larger photo in a pop-up window. The same goes for the seller's personal photo or logo on the right side of the listing and almost any other photo on the site. The listing, aside from a brief description (longer than the 55 characters allowed by eBay for a listing title) also shows when it was added, how many people have viewed it, and its category.
The right side of the listing indicates whether the seller is online for a chat or available for price negotiation; the seller's feedback percent and score; how many of the item are in stock; and the price and shipping notation. There is a small ADD icon for adding that item to your shopping cart if you wish. Notwithstanding the search limitations above, search results are done well and give sellers a chance to say and show more of their product than the alternative.
Sellers may use their own HTML descriptions as long as they don't include the HTML or BODY tags, which will then display only the source code itself. Photos may be uploaded or linked to, but not in the description area - HTML for images will be stripped out. However up to six photos may be displayed in the image area right above the description. In Atomic Mall 2.0, there will be no limit to the photos allowed, and sellers will also be able to link to them in their descriptions. Linking to videos on YouTube and the like are also planned for Version 2.0.
Atomic Mall offers the ability to override the shipping calculator for USPS and UPS shipments. Sellers who prefer can place a piece of text in their item description asking buyers to contact them prior to purchase for a firm shipping quote. The seller then assigns the buyer a unique "Coupon Code" that the buyer inputs at checkout to override the calculated shipping cost. Management indicates this seems to work pretty well especially for overseas buyers.
Sellers may offer Google Checkout, Amazon Payments, PayPal, money orders, cashier's checks and personal checks.
Atomic Mall boasts 27 main categories with many subcategories. At present, total listings are limited to 12,500 listings per category. This will be upgraded in 2.0 to show all listings in each category. The top seven categories at this time are Cellular Products, Clothing & Accessories, Collectibles, Books, Music and Jewelry.
The site includes several useful sellers tools such as AtomicUploader, Billing History, Import Auctions/Feedback, Inventory, Offers, Fee Calculator, Google Base, Sales History, Shipping Policy, Store Info, Store Settings, Uploader Results, Vacation Mode, Buy Instantly, Feedback Rewards with premium placement.
Atomic Mall also offers the ability to reach millions of potential buyers with automatic feeds to Google Shopping, Oodle, Vast and other similar services. Sellers may have their own unique Storefront URL and are allowed to customize their stores with avatars, banners and logos.
Atomic Mall lets sellers list up to 2,000 items for free (higher level accounts are available), and sellers pay Final Sale Fees (FSFs), which may be paid via credit card or Paypal. However, PayPal payments to Atomic Mall must be paid in advance in increments of your choosing. When sales are made or other fees incurred, the fees are deducted from this existing credit. If you use a credit card, the minimum billing amount is $5. However if your FSFs are less than $5, a credit will be carried forward to the next month.
FSFs are graduated according to the final selling price beginning with Gold (2,000-item limit). FSFs for Gold accounts begin at $0.10 for an FSF up to $2.50. The next level jumps to 6% for FSFs up to $25. Then the FSF rates drop incrementally until FSFs on items over $2,500 are at 2.75 percent.
Overall, Atomic Mall is a very useful and entertaining site for both sellers and buyers. All it needs is more members to become an outstanding site, especially for those who have multitudes of the same type item to sell.
Wensy is an online auction site and is unique in that it charges no fees whatsoever. No auction listing fees, no store fees, no selling fees - no fees at all, and members may even build their own auction storefront for free.
Back in June 2007, Darren Bock and his brother-in-law launched Wensy and paid for it out of their own pockets simply because they wanted to help those who could not afford or were tired of paying fees. They do accept paid advertising but keep it to a minimum. They also accept donations, which are classified as Silver ($10), Gold ($25) and Platinum ($50). Once a member makes a donation, a membership tag noting the donation will display in all of the member's listings.
Signing up to sell or buy on Wensy is fast and easy but requires a great deal of personal information (excluding credit card numbers) since the site is completely free, and Wensy needs some means of verifying sellers and bidders.
The site hosts both individual and storefront auctions. There are currently 182 unique Stores featuring 42,383 items. Both styles of listing have access to Wensy's broad selection of types including Classifieds, which allow image uploads and dynamic communication between the seller and buyers; Fixed Price listings, which are the equivalent of Buy It Now auctions; and Traditional Auction listings, which allow you to sell items to the highest bidder.
There are also Dutch Auctions (multiple items); RFQ listings that solicit quotes for a product or service; Reserve listings where a seller sets an minimum dollar amount acceptable; Trade listings that allow the exchange of goods or services with another user; and Reverse Dutch Auctions and Reverse Auctions where the seller lists items at a certain price and prospective buyers can bid the item down to a price they are willing to pay.
A non-auction listing can to run for up to 30 days and be automatically relisted for up to five times for a total of 150 days if needed. Auctions can be selected for anywhere from three to 10 days and automatically relisted up to 5 times. View counters are included in every listing. Home Page Featured, Category Featured, Gallery Listing, Highlight Listing, Bold Listing, and five images are also free, though I'd imagine some of these features may become over used after a time and, as such, may lose their value. It is possible to link to photos and/or videos in the description part of the listing, which may be advised as the free photos are thumbnails.
Feedback can be imported from eBay and may be added to using Wensy's own feedback system. Non-paying bidders are given three chances, then they are banned from the site and their IP address is blocked.
It appears Bock has gone to some lengths to give sellers a broad selection of options combined with pure simplicity in creating a listing. The first time through, I only made one mistake, which was easy to correct. If help is needed, the Help page is one single page covering just about everything and, like the rest of the site, very simple and well written.
Payment may be denominated in five different currencies: U.S. dollars, Australian dollars, Great Britain pounds, Canadian dollars and the Euro. There is also a community message board for talking with other users and asking questions of the site administrator, which is usually Bock, who is pretty quick to respond. But as Wensy grows - and I think it will - the response time may slow down a bit. There is also an invoicing feature available. Sellers may accept payment via Paypal, checks or money orders.
Wensy has 31 major categories offering 60,861 total listings as of 3/9/09. The ten most popular categories are Sports Memorabilia (28026), Coins & Paper Money (11775), Collectibles (4851), Jewelry & Watches (2393), Stamps (3077), Toys & Hobbies (1599), Books & Comics (1429), Home & Garden (1358), DVDs & Movies (953), and Clothing (872).
Wensy has one of the best search functions I've found to date. It includes various means of searching both active and closed listings and various means of sorting those searches. The search template is also well structured and simple.
Advanced search allows you to search a specific category or the entire site. You may also filter your searches by type of listing, price, date started or ended, and search results may be sort by 10 different parameters.
Searches for closed items are 60 days (two months) deep. I ran my standard search for "vintage" items and found 1,961 active listings and 8,296 closed listings for "vintage" anything. However, using these figures to determine an STR would produced skewed results because when items are relisted (manually or automatic) they are given a new listing number, so the 8,296 closed listings would include many relistings and the results would be inaccurate. It would be better to divide the 80 sold "vintage" items I found by 1,961 active listings giving an STR of 4.08%. While this is not absolutely accurate, it's more realistic than the other method.
According to Bock, however, for the past two months there have been 61,720 open listings which received a total of 14,154 bids and resulted in 7,378 successful sales for a nice STR of 11.95%.
Overall, I find Wensy to be a delightful auction and storefront selling venue. Its design and function are a beautiful work of pure simplicity. Currently Wensy is advertising on Google with ads focusing on sports cards, online auctions, coins, and stamps. They are aiming ads toward buyers because, if he goes after the buyers, the sellers will follow. I think Bock has a winning combination here, check Wensy out for yourself.