EcommerceBytes-Update, Number 266 - July 11, 2010 - ISSN 1528-6703     5 of 8

EveryPlaceISell Merchant Profile: OneStopFanShop.com

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AuctionBytes regularly features multi-channel merchants in the "EveryPlaceISell Merchant Profile" series. To find out how you can be featured, visit this page.

Jeremy Holt runs One Stop Fan Shop with business partner Mike Basham selling licensed sports merchandise. Jeremy started selling online in his spare time and now operates his own website and uses a warehouse to house his products, which include far more than team jerseys.

Once he got his ecommerce website set up, how did he drive traffic to it? Jeremy found that paid-search was the fastest way to get an ecommerce website going. But since it is also "the fastest way to blow a wad of cash," he said, he learned it's critical to have ROI and CPA metrics set in stone.

But the biggest challenge Jeremy faced in starting his own website was not money - it was the time and personnel resources required to devote to the project.

You can find One Stop Fan Shop and Jeremy's other online shops on the EveryPlaceISell.com merchant directory and learn more about being featured in AuctionBytes on this page.


Name:
Jeremy Holt and Mike Basham

Name of Business:
One Stop Fan Shop

When did you start selling online and why?
I started in approximately 2006 in my spare time because I had a lot of junk around the house. I started on eBay, sourced some product, and things took off from there. My "business" moved from an apartment living room, to a garage, to a shed in the back yard, and now we have upgraded twice into a larger warehouse.

What was your background?
I had absolutely no background in this industry. I have a Biology degree and used to be in real estate. My business partner, and college buddy, does have a bachelors degree in IT.

What do you primarily sell and why?
Licensed sports merchandise. I experimented with multiple lines of products. In the end I found this particular line to be the most fun, and sold best for us.

What are the unique challenges you face with the types of items you sell?
We cover a large variety of teams. We constantly struggle with inventory width vs. depth. This is also a very reactive industry with sales being driven by the hot teams of the day. To top it all off there are two 10,000 lb. (not 1,000 lb) gorillas that we compete against. Have you ever tried to go head to head with Wal-Mart? You get the idea.

On which marketplaces and venues do you sell?
Website, eBay, Amazon, various CSE (Comparison Shopping Engine) channels throughout the year, Shop.com (occasionally), Buy.com.

What are the pros and cons of each marketplace and venue?
Wow. That is a loaded question. In short, we face the basic market driving factors: supply vs. demand, price competition, and increasing cost of acquisition for every market. The factors vary slightly for each. After-the-sale resources continue to be lowest from website purchases and highest from eBay.

When considering all the places you sell, which channels are most profitable?
The Website.

How does your revenue break out by channel (what percentage of sales come from each channel)?
I don't want to get too specific here, but Amazon has become the slight leader followed by eBay. Our standalone site isn't far behind either and is gaining ground quickly. The dynamic between the three has been interesting to watch over the past 2 years.

How do you drive traffic to your listings, and which channel do you primarily drive traffic to?
We let the markets run themselves by occasionally tweaking things to fit the most recent changes. We actively try to drive traffic to our main website through paid search, comparison shopping, and email marketing.

Which payment methods do you accept?
All major credit cards, Google Checkout, PayPal and money orders.

What are the pros and cons of each payment method?
We see very little difference between them. Obviously, money orders are a pain. The others are pretty much even across the board.

Background (URL, when launched)
OneStopFanshop.com - 2 years ago with a complete revamp 12 months ago.

What was the impetus for starting your own website?
Control, profit, etc. It was the natural progression for our business and most others like us.

What software/service powers your website, and would you recommend it to others? Why or why not?
ChannelAdvisor is our main inventory system. I would recommend them. They are the best I have found at multi-channel marketing for small businesses. I use an Aspdotnet storefront. That has been a challenge. I would recommend it based off of your goals and expertise.

Does your website have a checkout system, if so, what do you use, and what do you like/dislike about it?
Yes. The checkout system for both ChannelAdvisor and Aspdotnet are flawed. ChannelAdvisor is aware of this and is working on both. I do not like any system that makes a customer think too much about what they need to do next. That is the basic problem with both. I prefer quick, short, and easy.

What did you pay to set it up, and what are the monthly costs of running it?
Don't recall the original setup. We pay a small monthly percentage.

How difficult was it to set up?
It could have been easier, but all things equal it wasn't too bad. It isn't near as difficult as other options we are currently exploring.

Does it have analytics, reporting?
Yes. We use Google Analytics.

What features do you wish it had?
Simple 1-page checkout that worked properly.

What are the challenges you faced in starting your own website?
Time. You can teach yourself anything these days. There are resources out there for everything. You don't have to pay an arm and a leg for a good site. You do need the time and personnel resources to devote to the project. That is always a challenge in a small business.

What would you do differently if you were setting up a website today?
I would buy the software myself and host it on my own so I have full control over all settings, etc. I would also consider keeping a designer and coder on retainer so the process would go quicker/smoother. Perhaps most important, I would bring in a true SEO expert to help us have everything set up correctly from the beginning.

With regard to the software you use to power your website, what type of software would you use if you were starting out today? What features you would look for, and how much do you think a small seller should be willing to spend?
Currently our website is powered by ASPdotnet via ChannelAdvisor. In the beginning this was a good setup for us. ChannelAdvisor is currently the center of operations for our company. When starting your own site, you need to consider your technical expertise and the time that you or your staff can spend getting your hands dirty.

For us, the logical step was to start out as we did. If you do not have any experience with IT or someone on staff who can handle it, you want a company or software that does the heavy lifting. You don't want to learn how to set up a server on the fly. You want a basic turnkey website. Forget about being fancy. All you want is a clean site that functions properly and allows you to upload your inventory.

Pricing on that type of software is all over the board from $150 to $4,000. Find one that fits your budget and meets your needs. Things to consider would be: category and structural needs vs. limitations of the software, checkout options, built-in SEO functions such as site map generation, server speed, inventory management needs, and technical support level.

We are in the process of moving to the Magento platform. In my opinion, the category limitations, customization limitations, and problems with server speed through ChannelAdvisor have limited our growth. With Magento, your options are unlimited. It is by far the best shopping cart we have seen. It will do anything you want it to do, and the pricing is very cheap. However, you are on your own with all technical issues.

How exactly would you build SEO in from the beginning - what makes an ecommerce site search-engine friendly?
Before you even begin building a website, sit down and come up with a basic structure or hierarchy for the site. Make sure that it follows a logical "reverse pyramid," and make sure it isn't too deep. You don't want a user coming to the site and wondering what they need to click on in order to find what they want.

You also don't want crawlers having to dig in order to find your products. Good organization and structure helps both the shopper and your page rank. You also need to consider the built in functionality of the software itself. I'll use Magento as an example, it has great SEO features. Just make sure to learn SEO basics and ask the right questions before signing on with anyone. Also, I can't stress enough the importance of page load time. It affects everything: crawl rate and pages indexed, it is now part of Google's algorithm, and perhaps most importantly, it will affect bounce rate, which in turn affects page rank once again.

Can you talk about some of the SEO techniques you employ to drive traffic to your site(s)?
We use the basics: keywords, relevant content, and a website that is clean and friendly to the bots.

Can you talk about paid-search marketing? How would you advise people jump into it? Are there any resources you recommend to sellers to learn more?
Paid-search is the fastest way to get a site going. It is also the fastest way to blow a wad of cash. Regardless of the avenue, you need to have ROI and CPA metrics set in stone.

Let's start with CSEs. Going back to your software provider, make sure you can edit and send product feeds to these channels. In general I find comparison shopping to be incredibly frustrating. Especially with the number of sku's we carry. Yes, they can drive traffic. However, they can do some screwy things once they start sending their listings to all their affiliates. We constantly see clicks coming in from products that should no longer be listed, items and titles that do not reflect what we sent in the feed, etc. etc. Watch these guys close. The goal is to make money. Make sure you know if this is happening and adjust accordingly.

I recommend starting with basic paid search advertising. Again, I can't stress enough the importance of structure and organization. I'll be the first to admit our campaigns have taken longer to launch than most. However, when they are done, they will be optimized to the fullest.

This is another situation where managing 40,000+ sku's can be overwhelming. I start with a small product group and work out from there. I use in-house tools along with the basic tools most everyone uses: seobook.com, Google adwords keyword tool, wordtracker, etc. Don't leave it up to one source, and don't forget valuable resources like analytics. I also recommend "The Ultimate Guide to Google Adwords" by Todd, Marshall. Once again, the bottom line should be your profitability metrics.

How did you create the logo/branding for your business/site?
The name, logo, and our mascot (Homer) were combinations of sitting around having fun on the weekends and searching online.

How do you differentiate yourself from others selling similar products?
We try to provide the most complete product line per team among all of our competitors. We actively search for the unique, the obscure, and the newest products in our industry. We want to be the customer's "one stop fan shop."

We also pride ourselves on customer service. We are a small company. When you email or call, you will speak with a real person in our main office. We have a very small staff, and we want to make sure our customers know we care. We don't always tell you exactly what you want to hear, but your answer will be quick, honest, and from someone who cares.

Do you participate in social networking sites? If so, which ones?
We have begun to participate in Facebook and Twitter, but currently our time is better spent on other avenues.

Which ones work for you? Which don't?
Facebook does generate some clicks, but it isn't near as effective as traditional marketing.

Do you have any advice for other sellers about how to utilize social networking?
Get everything else in line before you start.

Advice for Other Sellers:
The evolution of most online businesses follows a logical path. At some point you have to venture outside of the marketplaces and launch your own website. Don't be afraid to make mistakes, you will. Just don't make a mistake because you didn't take the time to thoroughly research what you are doing. I find that the biggest challenge is not spreading yourself too thin. The opportunities are so immense that you can find yourself lost in the process of trying to grow. Pick a path and optimize it to the fullest. Then, move on to the next step.

Visit One Stop Fan Shop's listing on EveryPlaceISell.com for the links to all of its storefronts and website. If you are a multi-channel merchant with your own website, you can learn more about being featured in AuctionBytes on this page.


About the author:

Ina Steiner is co-founder and Editor of EcommerceBytes and has been reporting on ecommerce since 1999. She's a widely cited authority on marketplace selling and is author of "Turn eBay Data Into Dollars" (McGraw-Hill 2006). Her blog was featured in the book, "Blogging Heroes" (Wiley 2008). Follow her on Twitter at @ecommercebytes and send news tips to ina@ecommercebytes.com.


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