EcommerceBytes-Update, Number 238 - May 03, 2009 - ISSN 1528-6703     3 of 7

eBay Alternatives Review, Part 3: Bonanzle and WeBidz

By Edward Tomchin

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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. In part two, he reviewed Atomic Mall and Wensy. And in today's issue, he takes a look at Bonanzle and WeBidz. Ed writes his reviews from the perspective of a 10-year seller of vintage, collectible, useful and other odd goods.

In the first and second of this series on eBay Alternatives, I looked at eBid, OnlineAuction.com, Overstock Auctions, Atomic Mall and Wensy. In the third and last of this series, I examine Bonanzle and WeBidz. While one of these alternatives 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, these venues are still viable and entertaining sites to sell your merchandise, and each offers something different that might appeal to you.

Bonanzle
Bonanzle is a non-auction marketplace specializing in "Everything but the Ordinary," which means they are not trying to compete with sites like Amazon. There are many facets to recommend Bonanzle as a viable selling venue. Sellers may import active auctions from both eBay and CraigsList, and it hosts a single page form to list an item. There are no complex multiple pages, redirections or going back when posting your listing.

Sellers may use their own HTML in the item description and link to their own photo hosting site and also post links to videos on YouTube and the like. However, no Javascript can be included in the actual description. Basically Bonanzle likes to keep it simple. Listings have no expiration date and are good until sold or removed by seller.

In March, Bonanzle reported 28,080 active sellers, and Siteanalytics.compete.com shows Bonanzle to have seen extraordinary growth in site visitors since July 2008. For the month of January 2009, Bonanzle had 284,248 visitors, which is an increase of 65.7% over the previous month, making it among the fastest growing selling venues on the net.

Bonanzle has been written up in ten different venues since the beginning of 2009, including BusinessWeek, About.com, AARP The Magazine, Salehoo, GeekSugar, Webpro News, SmallBusiness Computing, Mashable, CNN.com, Examiner.com, and most recently here at AuctionBytes. Most articles shower glowing praise, which may account for the large increase in people visiting the site. This sort of exposure is a valuable plus for sellers.

Bonanzle encourages communications and negotiating between buyers and sellers via remote chats, which can be set up through Gmail, MSN Messenger, AOL Instant Messenger, Yahoo, Messenger and all other Jabber-capable programs such as iChat. Ordinary email communications are also available.

Seller may import their eBay feedback, but imports only the most recent 5,000 feedback ratings.

Bonanzle Fees
Final Offer Value (FOV) fees are relatively inexpensive. For sales totaling less than $10 to one seller at one time, the fee is 50 cents; less than $50 is $1; less than $100 is $3; less than $1,000 is $5; and for total sales over $1,000, the fee is $10 (see details here. Fees are currently guaranteed not to rise through 2010 but may be lowered if costs allow as Bonanzle is trying to keep overhead low by using open source technology and grassroots marketing and hopes to pass the savings on to sellers.

Sellers are billed once a month for their fees, which can be paid via PayPal or Google Checkout. At this time they do not have the ability to accept check or money order payment for fees, but once a month sellers receive an itemized email invoice from Bonanzle. Plus and Premier subscribers can use Google Analytics with their booth to get detailed information about who is viewing their items, when they are being viewed, and where they are coming from.

Bonanzle Categories
There are 38 major categories on Bonanzle listing more than 2.0 million items. The top ten most used categories (as of March) are as follows:

Collectibles (209,459)
Books (184,205)
Clothing, Shoes & Accessories (191,410)
Jewelry & Watches (146,418)
Home & Garden (129,198)
Health & Beauty (91,959)
Parts & Accessories (66,038)
Crafts (72,977)
Music (60,511)
Sports Memorabilia, Cards & Fan Shop (60,097)

Overall, Bonanzle has achieved a 20% increase in listings since early March 2009. While Bonanzle does not share its Sell Through Rate (STR) rate, it is possible to get an idea of how many items are selling by searching closed listings. (Closed auctions go back a full year and only show items that have sold.)

Bonanzle Searching
Searching is simple and straightforward. You can search for words in the title and description of an item. A minus sign (-) immediately preceding a word will prevent that word from appearing in your results. Wild cards don't appear to work, but searches seem to pick up plurals automatically (i.e., son also gets sons). Searches may be modified or filtered by Price, Recently Listed, Marked As, Bonanzas, Within X Miles, Sold In Last Year and Condition, and it is possible to drill down your searches in specific categories.

Bonanzle also has a shipping calculator that offers the same challenges as eBay's and other sites attempting to make listings easier for buyers by coming up with an estimated shipping cost. And just as the others, it may be inaccurate, which can lead to losses and/or disagreements with buyers over shipping costs. (See the Bonanzle FAQs about the shipping calculator.)

In order to counter this, sellers and buyers can negotiate a price including shipping and handling, and Bonanzle's shipping calculator can be overridden in this manner. (Some sellers request that buyers email them for a firm shipping quote to their specific location.)

Bonanzle sellers may host impromptu "Auctions" via their live booth chat window. However, eBay-style auctions is something they are considering with their main reservation being the issue of "sniping," which is easily countered by having a five or ten minute automatic extension of auctions whenever a last-second bid is placed.

Bonanzle seems to be a fast-moving sellers' venue that is gaining buyers rapidly through media exposure and word-of-mouth. It's certainly worth a try with your salable items and, who knows, it could just be the next eBay without all the hassle.

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WeBidz
WeBidz offers a completely free membership to sellers for both auctions and storefronts. There are also graduated fee-based memberships that are pretty much the same except for the number of items that may be listed at one time. Some sellers have thousands of items listed.

The home page offers a wide array of information including Featured Sellers and Featured Auctions, Site Stats, a list of the Top 10 Active Sellers and Recently Sold Items with sale prices, Site News and a Navigation list with all the main categories and number of items in each one, plus a few advertisements.

As of April 23, WeBidz claimed 34,109 registered users (up 5.3% from 32,367 on 3/3/09) with 125,571 live auctions (up 4% from March 3, 2009). WeBidz advertises for buyers primarily in the collector markets using the trade magazines that appeal to collectors, but it has plans to expand into other areas as the site grows.

WeBidz Fees
WeBidz's free listings and stores - the Bronze membership - allow up to 250 listings at one time. None of the memberships have final sale fees or monthly subscription fees at this time. However, there is a charge of a few pennies (literally) for enhanced features such as Highlight, Bold, Category Featured and Home Page Featured. (See details here.)

They also offer a "Free for Life" membership which can be purchased for a one-time cost of $99 that offers the ability to list up to half a million items at one time and protects against any future fees that may be initiated or raised.

There are also a host of other types of accounts (Silver, Gold and Platinum) which allow a greater number of items to be listed and are payable monthly, semi-annually or annually with substantial discounts for the longer term accounts, but in no case are these fees high.

The highest category is Platinum, which costs $33 a year and allows up to 500,000 items at one time and a Featured Store. Their lowest paid category is Silver, which allows 1,000 items at a time and costs $9 annually. The Bronze account is free, but sellers are limited to 250 items at a time. Fees on memberships can be paid monthly, semi-annually and annually, with the latter being the least expensive (most discounted).

WeBidz reports that sellers are happy with their various memberships and several customizable options, such as a subtitle for auction items and a page counter. There are also a wide variety of choices regarding how you want your products presented, including extensive fonts, photos and colors to customize your detail page. Sellers are also encouraged to open their own storefront to cross-promote products.

However, in order to sell on the WeBidz site, users must first become verified. There is a one time fee of $5 for identity verification which is designed to protect the site and its users from unscrupulous sellers. If you change any of your personal information, you must be re-verified.

WeBidz Categories
WeBidz offers 38 main listing categories that are then broken down into numerous sub- and sub-sub-categories where necessary. You do not have to list your item in a sub-category.

The top twelve categories represent 102,765 listings - 91.3% of all listings on WeBidz. They are as follows:

Everything Else (20699)
Sports Memorabilia (19415)
Toys-Hobbies (13426)
Music (10530)
Collectibles (10487)
Home-Garden (6399)
Books (4861)
Clothing-Shoes (4143)
Coins (3725)
Jewelry-Watches (3551)
DVDs-Movies (3230)
Sporting Goods (2299)

WeBidz Searching
There is a simple search bar on each and every page, but Advanced Searches can be filtered in numerous ways such as by items with Buy Out enabled, items with reserve price only, and items with multiple quantities. Other filters allow searching just the auctions, the shopping site or both. You may also search open auctions, closed auctions (3 month history at present), or both. The search function searches both titles and descriptions.

All searches can be ordered by Items Ending First, Newest Items First and Lowest Prices First. Searches may also be limited to a particular country or Zip/Postal code. A feature I like is that, if you type nothing into the search bar, you're going to get virtually everything (at current writing 74,860 unique items not counting multiple items.)

Overall, searching all closed auctions produced 306 sales out of 4806 closed listings in the last three months for an overall STR of 6.4%, not too shabby considering the financial times and their time in business. Running my usual search for "vintage" items produced 1,004 open auctions, 49 closed auctions with five sales for a Sell-Through Rate of 10.2%.

At present, the closed sales database is three months deep, but WeBidz has an archived database that is 3 years deep and they hope to allow searches of the entire database by the time their new platform is ready. There is no ability to conduct Boolean searches (i.e., and, or, not, etc.) at the present time, nor does the search feature return a page with the original search so the terms can be modified. These functions may be initiated in future developments.

WeBidz Service and Support
For intrasite communication and sharing of knowledge, WeBidz maintains an excellent Knowledge Base and an interactive FAQ, a community network, and a few miscellaneous blogs. Currently there are 89 active blogs that many sellers use as an additional marketing tool. The community network is very similar to eBay's. WeBidz seems to take an interest in responding to various queries and issues. The marketplace also has a Want Ad section, but it doesn't seem to be used very much at the present.

Feedback on WeBidz is called a Reputation Rating. Buyers and sellers both may leave a Reputation Rating at any time, but in the future it will be limited in time after which it may not be posted. Ratings may also be removed, but it is a difficult process at this time. However, it is monitored and can be changed-on-case by case basis.

A user's Reputation Rating is displayed on each item page and is broken into levels of 1 to 5 stars so buyers can see how many of each seller has. Buyer's feedback is displayed after their username on auctions they've won. If the feedback number is clicked on, both buyers and sellers have a feedback page (Recent Reputation) that displays the same 5 star rating system and is cross-listed by feedback received in the last month, last six months and last 12 months. They also show ratings as seller and as buyer. The same page also shows how long a user has been registered and the overall Reputation Rating.

Listing an Item on WeBidz
Listing an item is relatively easy, as is listing a thousand items using WeBidz free downloadable Auction Manager, which also assists sellers in managing their inventory and sales. Listings may also be for as long as 3 years, 8 months and a few days, hours and minutes, using the auto-relist function.

Titles are limited to 45 characters, but the site automatically searches item descriptions and titles, so there is no shortage of ability to enter an abundance of keywords for items.

WeBidz also allows sellers to use their own HTML code but prohibits Java scripts. Sellers may also host their own photos, which obviates the limit placed by WeBidz hosting.

You can choose the auction type, currency, quantity of items, starting price, Buy Out price, reserve price, incremental bidding amount, start time and duration. You may also choose to have your bidders' IDs hidden (private auctions). WeBidz also offers an automatic relisting function whereby you can choose to have the item automatically relisted up to 99 times.

Item photos hosted by WeBidz are limited to JPEG (JPG) format and should be less than 100k in size. There is a limit of four photos using WeBidz as a host, but by posting your own HTML, there are unlimited photos available for your listings.

Fee-based features include Highlight, Bold, Category Featured and Home Page Featured but the fees are literally pennies each.

The final step in listing items is entering your payment and shipping options and conditions. Payment options include using direct payment through WeBidz. Handling, shipping, and insurance costs may be specific or estimated in the Shipping & Payment Details box.

Payment on WeBidz
Sellers may integrate PayPal right into their auctions, and other payment arrangements are available, including Google Checkout. WeBidz prohibits a large number of online payment methods including Western Union, Moneygram and cash.

The Future
WeBidz does foresee a system of Final Value Fees once the new platform is finalized later this year or in 2010. These fees will be nominal, generally between 1.5% to 2.5% of the final sale price.

At the present time since there are no final value fees there is hardly any way of determining an accurate STR (i.e., the number of items listed vs the number sold). But WeBidz envisions a lot more tools including searching options for their next platform.

Overall WeBidz has done a great job of setting up an auction and storefront platform and is well worth trying, especially if your specialty is collectibles.


About the author:

Edward Tomchin is a 68-year-old retired litigation paralegal who specialized in database creation and management for large cases. He also writes and takes a lot of photos, some of which have even been published. Upon retiring in 1998 he was introduced to eBay by a friend and has been hooked ever since supplementing his retirement income. You can reach him via email at dogwood7 (at) gmail (dot) com.


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