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Bonanza’s Bold Vision Takes Shape

It’s not easy competing against eBay, but that doesn’t stop Bonanza founder and CEO Bill Harding from making bold plans. The marketplace is beginning to hit its stride, he said, and while he won’t get specific, he says GMV is “in the middle-eight figures territory,” and active sellers is “in middle five figures territory.”

Bonanza launched in 2008, and since August of this year, it has launched two major initiatives: affiliates and webstores. “We built webstores because we think there’s an unnecessary chasm between those that want to sell on a marketplace (instant setup, instant sales) and those who want their own dedicated online presence (build your own brand, repeat customers, no sales commission),” Harding said.

The new Bonanza Webstores platform is deeply integrated with the marketplace – in order to have a Bonanza Webstore, you must have a Bonanza marketplace “booth.” It cost $25/month with no commission fees.

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Sellers treat the same listings differently on a marketplace versus a standalone store – and, Harding said, Bonanza is best equipped to automate the process of converting marketplace product descriptions to a merchant’s store. “eBay could have been in position to do this, but they’ve showed their level of interest in the problem by killing ProStores (store-hosting solution) last month.”

“Taking a step back to look at Bonanza in the context of our other recent additions, we want to build a comprehensive, Apple-like brand for online selling. By owning the seller’s experience across marketplace and webstore, from buyer acquisition to direct checkout to printing shipping labels, the seller never gets the runaround when they have a question or problem.”

“Our vision is to build a single platform that gives sellers the best of all worlds,” he said.

But don’t expect more feature launches for a while. “Our focus is now going to turn toward polishing the marketplace, webstores, and maximizing advertising in our buyer channels so that our sellers have their best Q4 returns ever. We’re well on our way toward that goal, with GMV up more than 2x year over year.”

We asked Harding to tell us more about his plans and vision for Bonanza.

EcommerceBytes: What do you mean when you said “Apple-like brand” in terms of Bonanza?

Bill Harding: It means that we think we can build the best product if we control the end-to-end experience for the seller. The Microsoft strategy of the 90s was to let others build the hardware while Microsoft builds the software. This is analogous to the typical webstore strategy: one company builds the webstore platform, then they rely on a patchwork of third parties to handle integrating with marketplaces, shipping labels, buyer acquisition, etc.

The Apple strategy was to control the entire hardware and software stack, to ensure that they worked smoothly in concert. It’s more work, and requires expertise across multiple domains. But it also offers the potential for a more polished user experience if done right.

We aspire to give our customers the same sort of consistent, polished user experience across all their selling activities. Our webstore and affiliate programs are two important steps in that direction.

EcommerceBytes: What will it take to get Bonanza that kind of name recognition?

Bill Harding: Time, money, and a lot more hard work. Hard to believe Bonanza has been around for six years already, but we’re only beginning to hit our stride. Getting to 10 million active items posted (as we did last week) is a huge milestone for us, and puts us at eBay’s doorstep in terms of merchandise breadth. If our growth continues next year at the same pace as this year, we will naturally grow into a buyer destination over the course of 2015.

EcommerceBytes: What would you tell marketplace sellers who don’t believe there’s a viable eBay alternative?

Bill Harding: I’d tend to agree with them, until recently. eBay-sized marketplaces don’t come around very often. The average new company doesn’t have the time (or money) to support itself for the 5+ years it takes to build critical mass in a marketplace.

Our 3x sales growth over the past year suggests that we may be approaching that critical mass. In little more than a years’ time, we’ve added support for several buyer acquisition channels (Bing CPC, TheFind, Nextag, Pricegrabber, Affiliate program), all while growing our base of direct buyers and Google Shopping visitors.

We’ve also added direct checkout, shipping labels, an affiliate program, and now, webstores.

We still won’t be a viable eBay alternative for every seller, but the longer we are in this game, the better our chances to disrupt the balance of power. We think sellers deserve a voice at the table when it comes to how a marketplace should be run.

EcommerceBytes: With regard to Webstores pricing, why one size fits all?

Bill Harding: What differentiates our webstores is the focus on simplicity. The pricing of the webstores is a byproduct of that strategy.

EcommerceBytes: Where is traffic to Bonanza coming from?

Bill Harding: Our biggest traffic buckets are Google/Google Shopping; direct; email; non-Google buyer engines (Nextag, Pricegrabber, Thefind, et al); and referral traffic (i.e., message forums).

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Ina Steiner

Ina Steiner is co-founder and Editor of EcommerceBytes and has been reporting on ecommerce since 1999. Send news tips to ina@ecommercebytes.com.


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