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EcommerceBytes-NewsFlash, Number 2714 - January 10, 2012 - ISSN 1539-5065    2 of 3

Online Selling Trends Part 2 - Opportunities for Sellers in 2012

By Ina Steiner
January 10, 2012

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EcommerceBytes asked a panel of experts a series of questions about online selling trends. In today's installment, we move from the challenges sellers face to the opportunities available to online sellers in the year ahead. EcommerceBytes selected participants not for the size of their companies, but for being on the front lines and working closely with retailers, particularly small online sellers:

adMarketplace CEO Jamie Hill (Pay-per-click ad platform)
Bonanza founder Bill Harding (Online marketplace)
Dwolla founder Ben Milne (Online payment service)
FitForCommerce Vice President Danielle Savin (Retail consultant)
Liquidation.com Vice President of Marketing Rob Caskey (Online marketplace)
MyStoreCredit founder Brian J. Lawe (Marketing service)
Outright CEO Steven Aldrich (Bookkeeping service for online sellers and entrepreneurs)
PageMage founder Chris Taylor (eBay marketing service)
Ruby Lane Director of Communications and New Business Development Palmer J. Pekarek (Online marketplace specializing in antiques and collectibles)

What are the biggest opportunities ahead?

adMarketplace CEO Jamie Hill: Scaling your business and increasing market share. If you have used the recession to increase your efficiency, this will be the year where your hard work pays off.

Bonanza founder Bill Harding: "Mobile" and "local" are common answers to this question, but I think they are more a means to an end than something that is going to meaningfully change life for sellers. To me, the biggest opportunity in 2012 is that there are now more good choices than ever when weighing where to sell one's items. Bonanza, Etsy, Amazon, and eBay are all growing, which means that sellers have a better opportunity than ever to pick a marketplace that precisely fits their goals.

Dwolla founder Ben Milne: The best merchants always seem to be those that are run by legitimately good people with great ideas on how to best to serve their customers. To that point, I don't think there's ever been a better time to build a brand around that kind of mentality. Today's shoppers are vocal, connected, and informed; they're more human now than they've ever been. Sally, Jane, and Jim Bob are buying Lethal Weapon 4, a pallet of cardboard and the new Hannah Montana album respectively; Their expectation is to be treated as such, not customer number 23963, 89764, and 15674 ordering items 3453KH, 3782NJ and 5621PL. There's a huge opportunity in building an online storefront with this idea as your brand and your differentiator.

FitForCommerce Vice President Danielle Savin: The biggest opportunity for multichannel retailers to understand is how and when their customer wants to shop and to utilize their marketing/adverting spend more appropriately across programs by creating better segmentation. Integrated marketing is a huge opportunity and with mobile and social in the mix the need for a central repository with greater segmentation pertaining to demographics, psychographics and purchase behavior will become more critical.

MyStoreCredit founder Brian J. Lawe: Marketing as we know it - both online and offline - will continue to change. Everyone understands newspapers, direct mail, radio and even yellow page advertising are dead. Likewise, SEO and SEM are becoming so complex and costly as to push most seller economics out of whack. New, innovative models for marketing to new and existing customers will emerge and anyone creative enough to cut a new pathway to those customers will thrive. Sellers with active email marketing, daily deals, Twitter and FaceBook accounts are on the cutting edge. How they use those tools is where their creativity will come into play.

Outright CEO Steven Aldrich: JFK said, "A rising tide lifts all boats." More and more consumers are shopping and buying online which creates growth possibilities for sellers. Ecommerce will top 5% of total retail sales in 2012, an increase of over $20 billion versus 2011. We've seen that growth in our customers as small businesses using Outright's software increased average sales over last year's holiday sales period of 23% versus last year while total retail sales were up only 7%. Take advantage of this growth opportunity by making sure you're findable on mobile search, your products are in multiple marketplaces, keep track of customers who buy from you and thank them, and you have your own website so that once customers build a relationship with you, they can buy directly from you.

PageMage founder Chris Taylor: I had a workshop with my eBay seller meetup group in the SF Bay Area. The biggest opportunities they saw:

  • Building a social presence including Facebook, Twitter and a blog.
  • Expanding into new marketplaces.
  • Expanding into new product areas.
  • Improving their marketing efforts - both awareness and branding.

Ruby Lane Director of Communications and New Business Development Palmer J. Pekarek: There are great new venues to sell through, and with, these days, i.e. creating win-win third party relationship that help sellers place their merchandise in front of new markets.

Developing mobile apps for site so shoppers and look, shop and buy anywhere. Using tablets and iPads to shop have become a social event for buyers (i.e. friends out having lunch can quickly gain the approval of their friends on purchases by showing their friends via a mobile app).

What Do You Think?
Part one of this series on online selling trends is available in this EcommerceBytes news story. Part three will tackle how mobile shopping impacts online sellers. (Part three is now available on this page, and Part four is available on this page.)

If you'd like to comment on these experts' answers or if you have your own thoughts about the challenges you face this year, let us know by participating in this discussion thread on EcommerceBytes forums.

Comment on the EcommerceBytes Blog

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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