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Learn From a Successful Online Marketplace Seller - Interview with BuyDirect
Simon / Published on October 11, 2013
If you are a start-up and are looking to sell online, then you should definitely consider selling via online marketplaces. BuyDirect have been selling online since 2008.
1. As an online seller, what advice would you give to those who want to start up their own online business in the ever growing market?
Online selling is really for experienced retailers. I often see people venturing into trading online selling via eBay, Amazon or Choiceful with a few hundred dollars worth of investment but later find that it just isn't very profitable on a small scale, especially in terms of earning an extra income when you add up the time it can take to run the business. My advice for start-ups is get serious about your online business by investing at least $5,000 in stock. If you don't, you are in for a bad experience. As for experienced retailers, I would encourage all small and medium sized companies to set-up an account and try online selling because it makes sense to offer your product range to the widest possible audience, if it's on your shelves or warehouse you might as well turn your stock around more quickly than waiting for customers to walk through your door. That's how marketplaces help businesses.
However, for those people who are looking to sell things that they genuinely don't need or clear some space around the house, using online marketplaces are a really good solution.
2. Which of your products have you seen greatest success with?
Almost all of our product range is home and garden. Our busiest sales periods are seasonal so in November/December for Christmas we sell thousands of Christmas lights and decorations, and in the summer it's pools and fans - however, that is risky in itself because most of time we don't get a good summer in the United Kingdom.
3. How do you deal with an unhappy customer?
We reply to all emails within 24 hours, often if a customer seems upset we call them to resolve their problem (provided we have their telephone number). We also offer gift certificates when a genuine complaint is made.
The last thing we want is negative feedback, fortunately though that is a rare occurrence.
4. What are your thoughts on the current trend of 'showrooming'? Do you think it's fair on retailers?
Being both a retailer and online seller, I see things from both sides. There are a certain number of customers who will always browse before they buy. This has been made easier because of smartphones. Whereas back 10 or 15 years ago the equivalent of showrooming was visiting or calling your competitor in the next town. There are differences though which I think retailers need to emphasize. They need to increase their engagement with customers, don't forget the customer has already walked into your shop. Present products in a user-friendly way let them touch and feel the item for themselves. The success of Apple retail stores proves that bricks and mortar shops can be hugely successful if managed well.
5. Why have you chosen Choiceful as your online marketplace to sell your products?
The ease of use, low marketplace fees and technical seller support for handling any of our problems. They also handle all of the transaction and release funds regularly. There are no upfront charges or monthly subscriptions as there are on many other websites. Having been a seller for over a year on Choiceful the type of customers we supply via Choiceful marketplace and products we sell are different to those we serve on other marketplaces. We sell higher volumes using the Make me an Offer feature and I have noticed that more businesses tend to by from us via Choiceful.com compared to other marketplaces. We have done well on Choiceful and I'm really impressed with the results. The sales now account for about 30% of total sales in the past year. The extra profit owing to the low marketplace fees have added considerably more to our bottom line.
6. What is the biggest challenge your business faces as an online seller?
I think retailers need to wake up and smell the coffee. It's clear that the large marketplaces such as Amazon and Tesco are growing in dominance and if you rely on one source they effectively control your future. For example, I have seen my sales and profitability fall dramatically year on year on those other marketplaces. Primarily as more sellers join forcing existing sellers to lower their prices. It's essentially a race to the bottom as the lowest priced marketplace seller will get all of the business. Another area is by marketplace retailers, who sell products themselves. Choiceful does not sell any products and can therefore assure their sellers they will not undercut them on price. This sadly can't be said for every other marketplace. To counter my concerns I am investing more time in buying popular products and keeping my prices low on Choiceful so that I can spread my turnover over more websites.
7. What do you think the future is for eCommerce?
Our online sales have been growing steadily for the past few years so I can prove it has been good so far. I think the trick will be to keep listening to customers and offering them products through multiple marketplaces. I think it's an exciting period for online retail and it will only get better for customers too meaning they will keep returning and spending more!
Ed Kowalski: We are a home and garden retailer and online seller via Amazon, eBay and Choiceful. We operate 4 retail stores in London, England. I started online selling via marketplaces about 5 years ago alongside my existing retail shops after running an initial successful trial I realised that we could significantly increase our turnover without investing in building our own website so we could save time and money and be up and running quickly. We sell over 18,000 products in the home and garden category, many of our product lines are seasonal and we can experience massive demand at short notice. Our annual online turnover across Amazon, eBay and Choiceful will exceed $3.5 million in 2013.
We started selling on Choiceful in August 2012. At first loading our products was time-consuming however, I contacted seller support and they offered to upload my product feed automatically. I supplied the details across and was up and trading within a few hours. Since then Choiceful have added significantly more products, so adding and managing new products is simple.