Collectibles Site BidStart to Launch Suite of Seller Tools
By Julia Wilkinson
BidStart is a collectibles marketplace built out from what used to be StampWants. Stanley Gibbons acquired the site last year and it's now developing a suite of seller tools with the help of a former eBay techie. EcommerceBytes spoke to founder Mark Rosenberg to catch up on what's new - including marketing plans to attract buyers to the site - and to see if bidStart could be an attractive platform for you.
EcommerceBytes: In 2009 StampWants rebranded as bidStart - the Collectible Marketplace, and last year, was acquired by Stanley Gibbons. Can you talk a little about why bidStart began, morphing from StampWants? Were there requests from collectors to expand beyond stamps?
Mark Rosenberg "bidStart - the Collectibles Marketplace" was always the vision I had when I first started StampWants. However, I knew that the collectibles market as a whole was too large of an area to enter in, with the resources I had available at the time. So I took the same approach that Amazon had taken years earlier. They of course had originally started out as just an online bookstore.
Having run a stamp business with my father on eBay since 1998, by the time I launched StampWants in 2005, I had a large working knowledge of not just stamps, but more importantly, what was needed to successfully buy and sell stamps online. As the company continued to grow, and our GMV continued to climb, by 2009 it had become the right time to act on our long-term goals.
Features Tailor-Made for Collectibles
EcommerceBytes: In your About text, it says "For the collector, bidStart offers a wide and extensive inventory of collectibles for purchase, along with free tools and services such as want list management software, community forums, promotions and giveaways." Can you explain what those free tools and services are? Are there tools that are free where, for example, they would cost money on an eBay or Amazon, and what are they?
Mark Rosenberg: One of the key differences between bidStart and other marketplaces, such as eBay or Amazon, is that our website was built to understand collectibles. With this knowledge and experience, we're able to build tools and services which cater to buyers and sellers of collectibles.
The line you've quoted from our "About Us" provides a few good examples of these services, specifically "want list" management software, community forums, promotions and giveaways. Our Want List software for example allows you to manage a list of your stamp wants (hence the original name of the website).
We're able to do this because our website was built to understand how stamps are collected, particularly through the use of stamp catalog numbering systems.
While you may find similar, more generic features on eBay and Amazon, you won't find features tailored to collectibles in the way that we build our tools and services. In particular regards to our Want List service, we're working on a complete overhaul of this service which will see significant enhancement and many new features.
EcommerceBytes: Does bidStart also have tools for people who also sell from their own website?
Mark Rosenberg: Most people with their own website use our Bulk Upload tool, which allows you to easily upload a csv file (spreadsheet) of your item listings to bidStart. For more advanced users, we have a full API, which third-party websites and programs can use to manage their bidStart listings and sales. This basically means from a technical side, you can integrate your website directly with bidStart. Our API also powers third-party tools such as SixBit Software.
New Suite of Seller Tools Coming
EcommerceBytes: What plans does have for seller tools in the future? Can you give a preview?
Mark Rosenberg: Venkat (Venkat Mavram, hired as bidStart Vice President of Engineering this year) has been a great hire for us, and he comes from eBay where he led all of the selling tools on the engineering side. Selling tools at bidStart are one of our primary focuses right now, and we'll be launching a new suite of selling tools on bidStart later this year / early next year.
With the data we have available within the Stanley Gibbons catalog of stamps, we essentially have information on every stamp ever issued - all in digital format. This opens the door for some really exciting features which we're currently working on. Our new tools will be aimed at allowing sellers to list their stamps for sale faster and easier than they've ever been able to do so before - on any website.
EcommerceBytes: Can you please tell us about your eBay Import/Sync tool? How long does it take to use; does it depend on the number of listings someone has?
Mark Rosenberg: Our eBay Import/Sync tool is a very easy to use tool, which is perfect for sellers who currently list fixed price items on eBay. Regardless of if you have 100 or 100,000 items on eBay, it will only take you about a minute or two to set everything up. Of course, if you have 100,000 items, it will take longer for these items to import, but it's a fully automated process, so your time is the same.
When using our sync feature, all of the fixed-price items you have listed on eBay will be imported to bidStart and kept in sync. This means that any items you add to eBay will automatically be added to bidStart as well. More importantly, when you sell an item on either bidStart or eBay, it's instantly removed from the other site - to ensure proper inventory control.
EcommerceBytes: What are bidStart's marketing plans to attract new customers? What channels do you use in social media for this...Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, other?
Mark Rosenberg: We have an extensive marketing plan, which we're always working to further develop. This covers everything from online ads, such as with Google, Yahoo and Bing, as well as print ads in publications such as the APS magazine. In particular, over the next few months you'll see a sharp increase in our marketing efforts, followed by a larger presence at many upcoming trade shows.
We use social media such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc., as well as our own Community area. However, there's a lot more we'd like to be doing in this area, and have recently brought on board some new recruits who will be spending time on this area.
EcommerceBytes: Your website says you have monthly giveaways. What have some of these been? How does someone enter to win?
Mark Rosenberg: Our most popular giveaways are our monthly giveaways, where we currently give away a Penny Black and 1/10 Ounce American Gold Eagle coin each month. Anyone who is a member of bidStart can enter to win in our giveaways up to once per day (subject to our standard terms and conditions). They can enter from the My bidStart area, or the banner which is rotated on the home page.
Stamps and Other Strong Categories
EcommerceBytes: What are bidStart's strongest categories now?
Mark Rosenberg: Our top category is of course stamps, and the categories we're looking to expand into are the ones currently located on our home screen. Our second most popular categories are postcards and coins. With regards to coins, this is a category we'll be devoting a substantial amount of time to in the near future.
Why Sell on bidStart as Opposed to eBay?
EcommerceBytes: What would you tell someone who sells on eBay are the best reasons to come to bidStart?
Mark Rosenberg: There's always a very basic example I can lead with, which highlights the difference in how bidStart and eBay approach stamps (and collectibles).
If you're a seller on eBay with 10,000 First Day Covers, and a buyer comes to eBay looking for First Day Covers, there's a good chance the buyer may never see any of your items! The reason is because both buyers and sellers commonly abbreviate First Day Cover as FDC. However, unless the buyer and seller are using, or not using, abbreviations in their listings/search they won't see the same results.
On bidStart of course, this is not the case. Our search engine understands thousands of common stamp and collectible abbreviations, and will automatically show you the right results automatically.
This is generally the simplest example, but it highlights the different approaches we take well.
As far as selling, you can sell on bidStart, use the tools we empower sellers with, such as our User Newsletter feature, and sell your items on bidStart at a lower cost than you would on eBay. If you're already listing on eBay, as I mentioned earlier, you can sync your entire inventory in just a minute or two - so there's no extra work needed to open up your sales to a wider audience.
EcommerceBytes: Can you tell us in your own words about what you did before starting bidStart?
Mark Rosenberg: I recently wrote the following for our Stanley Gibbons company event last month:
"Mark started his philatelic and e-Commerce career in 1997, when he started a business selling stamps on a brand new website at the time called "eBay." While the business quickly grew to nearly half a million dollars in annual sales, the disconnect with collectors he experienced at eBay over the years that followed would become a driving force in his desire to create a better marketplace for collectors - after all, he is one.
"Launched in 2005, bidStart (then StampWants) became a full fledged business in 2007, with the launch of a one year giveaway of C3a Inverted Jenny, valued at $175,000. By 2012, bidStart had over 1K active sellers and 6 Million active listings. Mark joined Stanley Gibbons in November 2012, as Chief Digital Officer, after the acquisition of bidStart by Stanley Gibbons."
EcommerceBytes: About yourself...what got you into stamp collecting? What are some of your favorite stamps, coins and comics, and why? Do you own the very first Superman?
Mark Rosenberg: I've always been an avid collector of stamps, coins and comic books. In particular I actively collected every new Superman comic publication between the years of 1989 and 2001.
My father was a part time stamp dealer, and growing up, he would take me to stamp shows and auctions. That experience led me to be more interested in stamps, and in particular once we started our business selling stamps on eBay, I was hooked on philately!
One of my favorite stamps is the Inverted Jenny. It's such a visually striking stamp, and the fact that one simple mistake could make something so unique, rare and valuable, is very interesting. Not to mention I had a copy in my possession for a year back when we had our giveaway!
I'm also a fan of the US Columbian issues. I find them to be individually beautiful pieces of artwork, as well as historic for being the first commemorative issues.
Besides stamps, I'm a passionate comic book collector - with probably around 3,000 comic books in my collection. While the first Superman is a little out of my price range, the pride of my collection is the Amazing Fantasy # 15 which I own, and is the first appearance of Spiderman.
You can find more information about selling on the bidStart website.
About the author:
Julia Wilkinson is the author of "The eBay Price Guide" (No Starch Press, 2006) and "eBay Top 100 Simplified Tips & Tricks" (Wiley, 2004-6). Her free "Yard Salers" newsletter is at available at YardSalers.net where you will also find her latest ebook, Flip It Again.
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