EveryPlaceISell Merchant Profile: Bob's Neat Books
By Ina Steiner
Bob Willey operated a computer consulting business for 28 years, and in 1998, he began selling unique items on eBay. He switched to selling books and media when it became more difficult to make money on eBay, and now he sells on a number of marketplaces and on his own website, BobsNeatBooks.com.
Bob is migrating to Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) and hopes to have 75% of his inventory there in the next year. Bob also moderates a Yahoo Group on the topic of FBA. In today's EveryPlaceISell Merchant Profile, Bob shares some of the joys and pitfalls he faces in his online business.
What is your first and last name?
What is the name of your business?
Bob's Neat Books.
When did you start selling online and why?
1998 started on eBay, just casual selling on unique items I found or no longer wanted in my Collection (obsession).
What was your background?
Owned a computer consulting business for 28 years, and simultaneously at the end, for 5 years a Brick-n-Mortar Auction House.
What do you primarily sell and why?
Books and Media, migrated to these products when eBay started drying up and becoming more difficult to make money with.
What are the unique challenges you face with the types of items you sell?
Very hit-n-miss sales, some months are good, others are terrible. Migrating mostly to Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA).
On which marketplaces and venues do you sell?
I sell on Amazon, FBA, Biblio, Barnes & Noble, eBay, A1Books, ScribbleMonger and BobsNeatBooks.com.
I am seeing a larger portion of my business moving to Amazon/FBA, hopefully in the next year, will be over 75% of my inventory there.
What are the pros and cons of each marketplace and venue?
Amazon/FBA is by far the most viable venue for Books/Media, it usually outsells the others sites by multiples. Occasionally eBay will come alive and come close to Amazon.
When considering all the places you sell, which channels are most profitable?
My own website would be the most profitable if more sales. eBay is lower costs than Amazon.
How does your revenue break out by channel (what percentage of sales come from each channel)?
Here are June 2010 results: Amazon.com 63.4% eBay 19.7% Biblio.com 5.4% Alibris 4.5% Barnes and Noble.com 3.9% A1books.com 3.2%
Which payment methods do you accept?
PayPal, Amazon Checkout, ProPay (Merchant), Money Order, Check, Cash and various others.
What are the pros and cons of each payment method?
Amazon Checkout is well liked by customers, and PayPal is mandatory with eBay so you have to use. I prefer Money Order due to no fees, but eBay frowns on it.
Background (URL, when launched)
BobsNeatBooks.com - my selling site for Books/Media
BobsStuff.com - my base website (non-selling)
Amazon FBA for Booksellers on Yahoo Groups - to assist others with Amazon FBA - Moderator
What was the impetus for starting your own website?
More sales, less costs.
What software/service powers your website, and would you recommend it to others? Why or why not?
PrestoStore, good idea, but have had a lot of problems getting Google feeds to function due to recent Google changes, really kinda defeating the purpose of having this site, no visibility. Very Frustrating.
Does it have a checkout system, is so, what do you use, and what do you like/dislike about it?
Cart system, integrates into PayPal, ProPay...
What did you pay to set it up, and what are the monthly costs of running it?
I set it up myself, and it is $30/month.
How difficult was it to set up?
Pretty easy, but I am a techie.
Does it have analytics, reporting?
Uses Google Analytics.
What features do you wish it had?
What are the challenges you faced in starting your own website?
Getting visibility (Google and Search).
What would you do differently if you were setting up a website today?
Really explore the ACTUAL Google and search visibility.
How did you create the logo/branding for your business/site?
Done over the years and tweaked.
How do you differentiate yourself from others selling similar products?
Different products, accurate descriptions, fast shipping, excellent customer service, and great feedback.
How do you drive traffic to your listings, and which channel do you primarily drive traffic to?
Most difficult area, and am still trying to tweak this area.
Can you talk about some of the SEO techniques you employ to drive traffic to your site(s)?
Was trying to use the SEO features of PrestoStore, but only moderately successful.
Which ones work for you? Which don't?
Facebook moderately, Twitter very poor.
Do you have any advice for other sellers about how to utilize social networking?
Visit Bob's Neat Stuff on EveryPlaceISell.com for the links to all of his storefronts and websites. 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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