FillZ: A Slingshot for Online Sellers
By Greg Holden
Competing on marketplaces such as Amazon.com can seem like a David versus Goliath battle. Small sellers need an electronic version of David's slingshot to confront the far bigger competitors and the millions of third-party merchants they host. For merchants like Glen Nothnagel, FillZ fills the bill.
Nothnagel is founder and CEO of sellbackyourBook.com, based in Montgomery, IL about 40 miles west of Chicago. He sells books and media (CDs, DVDs, video games) on Amazon, eBay, Barnes and Noble, AbeBooks, ValoreBooks.com, TextBookRush, and Half.com.
Although he's a lone seller, Nothnagel's business isn't all that small. His electronic slingshot helps him keep track of about 600,000 items in inventory across all those aforementioned venues.
"FillZ keeps us competitive," he says. "It reprices across all marketplaces; it uses market-specific data for repricing when available. Because the engine is script-driven, you are able to put in any rules that are important to your business. Bookselling is a really competitive field, and being able to constantly update our pricing across markets is very important."
The biggest way FillZ helps his business is not adjusting prices but in managing listings and sales, he adds. "FillZ does a great job with marketplace integration. It gives us one endpoint to push to, and in turn, it pushes to all of the marketplaces we sell and keeps our inventory in sync across them. Also FillZ has good APIs our internal systems can integrate with."
That's music to the ears of Nicholas Baingo, Business Development Manager of FillZ, which is based in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. Nothnagel is one of 1,000 sellers who use its software to list on multiple marketplaces - this page lists supported marketplaces as well as integration partners.
FillZ started out primarily as a tool for booksellers, and is a division of the bookseller AbeBooks which, in turn, was acquired by Amazon.com in 2008. While it has a concentration of sellers in books and media, clients deal in a diverse range of inventory with items for the home, electronics, apparel, sports memorabilia, and other items. That includes pawn shops that sell almost everything - from telescopes to stereos and computers to collectibles.
In regards to size of seller, Baingo says Fillz has a very broad range. "Some of our smallest sellers might have less than a hundred items listed, while our top sellers could have well over 3 million."
Unique items that recently sold through FillZ include:
- A Virginia Tech hooded blanket;
- A Vintage Royal Guild pewter water pitcher;
- A pair of martial arts Thai kicking pads.
This all sounds great, but how much does it cost to use FillZ and how to you use it? First of all, FillZ comes in three versions:
The Standard version starts at $50 per month plus sales fees (1.4% of revenue above $3,000, 0.7% of revenue above $10,000 exclusive of shipping or $1 per 1,000 listings, whichever is greater). It includes automatic inventory updates, repricing, and order management.
The Premium Service costs $250 per month plus sales fees (1% of revenue above $20,000 exclusive of shipping or $1 per 1,000 listings, whichever is greater). It includes automatic repricing, data retrieval, and a dedicated account.
Custom pricing packages are available for higher volume sellers.
FillZ isn't an application that you download. It's provided in the form of Software as a Service - people access FillZ through their browsers on any Internet-connected computer, says Baingo.
FillZ influences the management of items and pricing and repricing as well as shipping. Nothnagel and many other sellers use it to integrate with Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA). Plus, FillZ integrates with shipping solution providers such as Best Manifesting, Intelligent Business Systems, Endicia, and Stamps.com.
Although Nothnagel did use FBA and FillZ together at one time, he has decided not to. "Currently, we don't use FBA because the fees are higher than our internal cost structure," he says.
After shipping and payment comes analysis and adjustment. FillZ plays a role in that process, too. "FillZ allows sellers to see their monthly and quarterly sales figures across marketplaces," says Baingo. It also allows the export of sales data which can then be analyzed in programs like Microsoft Excel. Many of our sellers also take advantage of our real time API to download and analyze cross-marketplace data."
For Nothnagel, the main advantages are the ability to reprice thousands of items combined with centralized management and the ability to grow with his business. "We have been using FillZ for six years. Before that, we just had a bunch of disconnected services that did not work well together and would not have scaled for multi-channel selling."
About the author:
Greg Holden is EcommerceBytes Contributing Editor. He is a journalist and the author of many books, including "Starting an Online Business For Dummies," "Go Google: 20 Ways to Reach More Customers and Build Revenue with Google Business Tools," and several books about eBay, including "How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business," second edition, and "Secrets of the eBay Millionaires," both published by Osborne-McGraw Hill. Find out more on Greg's website, which includes his blog, a list of his books, and his fiction and biographical writing.
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