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No Plans to Close 11 Main after Alibaba Sale

The new owner of 11Main.com has no plans to close the site, according to John Caplan, founder and CEO of OpenSky, which acquired the marketplace from Alibaba Group Holding in June. That may come as news to some merchants on the platform. However, that doesn’t mean they should expect the new owner to actively market the 11 Main brand.

When Alibaba Group came looking for small sellers in the US to set up shop on its brand new marketplace in 2013, there were high hopes that the ecommerce giant from China could provide competition in a field dominated by eBay and Amazon.

But hope faded amid low sales and no visible marketing of 11Main.com. Then came word of layoffs in April of this year. Two months later, Alibaba Group sold 11 Main to OpenSky becoming a minority shareholder with a 37% stake in OpenSky. More layoffsat 11 Main followed in July.

Since then, sellers have reported that OpenSky has been attempting to convert them to its own service, and reports of dismal sales on 11Main.com continue.

A lack of sales is not surprising, since a message at the top of the 11Main.com website points people to OpenSky: “11 Main will soon move to OpenSky.com! Shop from some of your favorite 11 Main merchants and more. Shop OpenSky.”

Caplan said of the messaging, “We’re testing cross promoting between all of our platforms with emails and on our sites. We do the same with merchants as well.” However, the language may very well make shoppers wary of making a purchase on 11 Main.

The confusion extends to merchants as well as shoppers. After a letter sent to sellers over the summer advising them that they had until this month to migrate their listings to OpenSky to receive certain benefits, some merchants told us they believed the company would be closing the 11Main.com marketplace.

But that’s not the case, Caplan told EcommerceBytes on Monday. So will OpenSky actively market 11 Main? Caplan said he would not get specific on the company’s individual platforms, but said the company was working with all sellers on all platforms to get more liquidity to their listings.

“The age of “list it and forget it is past,” Caplan said. Instead, through its OpenSky platform, the company becomes an active marketing partner. Merchants allocate their campaigns, and OpenSky goes out and markets them through a host of means including its own database of millions of shoppers and through social media channels.

Caplan said between 500 and 700 merchants have joined OpenSky through the 11 Main channel. With its technology and data, OpenSky is a more effective marketing channel that helps brands get more sales, he said, though merchants are free to promote their 11 Main listings if they choose.

In addition to 11 Main, OpenSky also acquired Alibaba Group properties Vendio, Auctiva, and Singlefeed. “We are doubling down on them,” Caplan said, and revealed that the heads of those companies, Jeff Schlicht and Mike Effle, remain at OpenSky, though he declined to provide specifics about their roles or projects at their new employer.

OpenSky has 125 employees, and Caplan would not say how many were devoted to supporting 11 Main. He did say the company had recently hired eight new customer service reps whose job it was to support merchants across all platforms, including 11Main.com.

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Ina Steiner
Ina Steiner
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). She is a member of the Online News Association (Sep 2005 - present) and Investigative Reporters and Editors (Mar 2006 - present). Follow her on Twitter at @ecommercebytes and send news tips to ina@ecommercebytes.com. See disclosure at EcommerceBytes.com/disclosure/.