In a market dominated by eBay and Amazon.com, it can be easy to overlook other big, high-profile marketplaces that also cater to third-party sellers. You might think they're too big, that they cater only to well-known department stores, or that it might be too expensive to have them host a small online store.
Karen Locker, the owner of the small Massachusetts-based spa goods e-tailer Luna Jardin, says none of those misconceptions applied in her case. She is happy with her space in Buy.com's Marketplace Mall where most of the sellers appear to be small niche stores, although some retailers like the well-known yoga and fitness vendor Gaiam and longtime ecommerce marketplaces CafePress and Alibris have spaces as well.
"When Buy.com actively opened up to the third-party sellers in October of 2010, I took a look at it as a market to expand into," says Locker. "I really liked the fact they were actively recruiting smaller businesses. I also realized that Buy's parent company works very well with their third-party merchants and felt it would be a good idea to get in on the ground floor."
Because Buy.com is owned by Rakuten, the Japanese ecommerce marketplace, third-party sellers have the opportunity to sell in Japan and give customers a reward with Rakuten's Super Points program, according to Bernard Luthi, Vice President of Marketing for Buy.com. Advertising and promotional opportunities are among the other benefits of setting up shop with Buy.com, he says. "We have lower fees than Amazon and we work closely with merchants to grow their sales."
Karen Locker says she pays no fee to maintain a store on Buy.com. She pays a per-item final value fee of $0.99 and a commission fee on items sold. "The commission of between 5 percent and 15 percent is comparable to Amazon," she says. Besides Buy.com, she has a "small presence" on eBay, Etsy, Addoway and Amazon.
Anyone who wants to get started selling on Buy.com can click the Sell on Our Marketplace link on the home page, Luthi says. "We encourage sellers to spend time building out their storefronts on Buy.com as well as using BuyWords (a paid search advertising program) and BuyMail (which lets sellers email current customers with promotions) to drive new business to those stores with targeted messaging and promotions. Also, they should build strong relationships with their ecommerce consultants, who are here to ensure their success on Buy.com Marketplace."
The "ecommerce consultants" are Buy.com employees who act as dedicated account reps. There is no extra charge to merchants who use the reps to help them set up their storefronts and add feeds as well as help them with Buy.com's marketing and merchandising options. The reps also provide sellers with tips on how to sell better and how to do marketing.
Some Additional Examples of Third-Party Merchants
Stuff 4 Scrapbooking
Buy.com, like other marketplaces, offers a daily deal. But when asked how successful the program is, Luthi responded more than once that the site does not depend on this single feature for its success.
"Our daily deals attract a lot of attention, but, like any sales channel, it has its highs and lows based on the quality of the deal and the timing. The important thing for Buy.com is that it isn't our sole or primary source of sales, and that gives us a lot more flexibility compared to flash sales sites."
He encouraged small sellers who sell in the Buy.com marketplace to take advantage of features like BuyMail to conduct targeted promotions, and to work with their ecommerce consultants.
For its part, Buy.com will continue to drive traffic to their stores through its video promotional channel BuyTV and a smartphone app that lets mobile users browse its sales categories.
"With the rapid growth in mobility, the shopping experience is continuous and seamless," he said. "Consumers want shopping convenience any place and any time. We've enhanced functionality in our app that allows customers access to nearly 12 million products on our site including all of our marketplace partners. We are dedicated to providing the best mobile shopping experience possible."
Closed Categories and Other Important Information
Buy.com has some policies similar to Amazon.com - for example, some categories are closed to new merchants. You can find the list of Closed Categories on this page, here's what it says as of March 1, 2012:
"Please note that our Jewelry category is no longer open to new sellers. If you do wish to submit your application it will not be approved at this time and we will review it if we open up to additional Jewelry sellers. Categories for DVDs, Books or Fragrance are not currently open for adding new products. Sellers are still permitted to list products already found on the site."
And, like Amazon, Buy.com gives sellers a shipping credit for each item sold (see this page).
Buy.com requires sellers to ship items within two business days of receiving orders. Tracking information is required for all orders. If a seller doesn't confirm that they have shipped an item within 2 business days, the order will be considered cancelled and no commission will be paid.
Marketplace sellers on Buy.com must list the item price and overall shipped price on Buy.com at or below the prices they list on their own website and other sales channels. Sellers on Buy.com Marketplace cannot exceed a 5% cancellation rate.
Buy.com requires that sellers provide the federal Tax ID for their business as well as links to their feedback page on other online selling platforms. You must also provide your checking account information into which Buy will deposit payments.
Be sure to closely examine all terms and conditions, and see the Buy.com Seller Guide to learn more about selling on Buy.com.