Sorry, we don’t sell to online retailers.

Went to the Melbourne Toy, Hobby and Nursery Fair this morning.

It has been a long time since I have been to an trade expo like this, and brought back some memories of doing this for our previous online business Tacklemania which we sold over a year ago now.

I took 2 of my eCommerce staff in to meet with one of our suppliers, and look for some new product opportunities.

We were looking for some new product ideas to boost our product range on our costumes website, and we did find a few.

Now, in the last 6 months I have seen have seen a large amount of growth in the ecommerce space. New retailers are appearing everywhere, big national brands are coming online, and there is lots of interest. I have done 3 radio interviews in the past week alone thanks to my new book of course, but also very keen to hear about eBay, selling online etc. Lot’s of interest!

However, more often than not when we spoke to suppliers/wholesalers at this toy fair we were told ‘Sorry, we don’t sell to online retailers’.

I expected maybe a few would have this attitude, but it was the revers. Nearly everyone we spoke to didn’t want to deal, apparently no matter hat we offered to them.

So I tested one out!

‘OK, so if I told you that we have a 7 figure business growing at 300% per annum, and we are looking to fill a missing part of a range with your items (therefore adding a good amount of sales for you), we sell at retail prices and have a professional well designed site to represent your brand properly, would you be interested in dealing with us then?’

‘No’.

SoI guess we bypass them and import from overseas? Is that the right answer? I would rather support local industry, but…

Clive Peeters launches eCommerce website today.

Today marks the entrance of Clive Peeters into the online retail world with the launch of the clivepeeters.com.au eCommerce site. News broken by internetretailing.com.au informs us that the site is tightly integrated into the exisiting Clive Peeters ERP system.

Bigbrownbox.com.au (Radio Rentals) is getting 800,000 claimed visits a month is the only real incumbent in this vertical and differs in that they don’t offer the choice of store pickup which Clive Peeters does, although Bigbrownbox.com.au has free shipping.

I am quite impressed with Clivepeeters.com.au version 1, and am looking forward to talking more with Tim West, Online Business Development Manager, about the project.

Internetretailing.com.au launches today

Today a project that I have been involved with takes a big first step.

Mark Freidin and I today launched www.internetretailing.com.au.

We are not making a big fanfare, and it will surely evolve, but we are happy to see it live.

We are excited by this industry, and in particular the growth that our industry has and is experiencing.

Internetretailing.com.au is a site designed for online retailers. Those beginning their business online, those that have been selling for a while, and for the experienced too.

Over time as we add more content and functionality we want this site to be a hub of information for the growing community of online sellers in Australia, so I really encourage you to read, comment and contribute, and of course return and read again!

Thanks for checking it out.

Nathan

So, what WAS in the Big Brown Box?

I mentioned a appliance website some time ago in another post, talking about the slow adaptation of online sales in Australia by the large brick and morter incumbents.

www.bigbrownbox.com.au has been doing quite a lot of marketing and launched a little while ago. Initially when I browsed around it was extremely slow, but this seems to have been resolved.

I had my first ‘experience’ with it the other day, looking for a small upright freezer. With a young child now, my wife wants to start cooking some more meals and storing them!

In any case, I saw a freezer, stock was  advertised as being ‘low’, so I emailed to get an ETA (no phone number on site). The response was fast, 2 hours, but not what I was hoping for. ‘End of the month’ according to their supplier.

So really, they had NO stock.  Even though the price was excellent, including delivery (couldn’t get it cheaper anywhere) I didn’t order. I drove down to see my mate at The Good Guys and he did it for $3 more!

To really make that site a success, they have to either have the stock (and advertise that fact clearly) or tell you that it will be backordered in.

Oh, and I know this is a rarity (2 Youtube clips in one week!) but one f our employees here is handy with the home camera and editing suite and has entered a competition for Big Brown Box. The more people that watch this clip, the better his chance of winning.

So please watch!

Revenge of the Big Brown Box

Wow – what a year.

Well, 2008 has been a long year of hard work, meeting new people and enjoying my new baby daughter (who is now very nearly 1 year old!). It has been ages since I have written anything in my blog, thought I had better do a little catch up!

I hope you have had a prosperous new year, but from various discussions it sounds like online retail really hasn’t boomed at Christmas time (except for those gift sellers of course).

Our bricks and mortar retail store had a soft Christmas, with a late surge, hopefully the good sales of the past week and a half continue into January!

So what have I been up to?

Most of my time has been taken up with our retail business, opening a new online electronics store (which has quickly grown to be a good portion of our revenue), working a little on our shipping automation product (www.readytoship.com.au), and doing some consulting for a few other sellers.

Although I can’t commit a great amount of time to consulting but I have had a good number of clients this year which I have been able to mentor to and assist. It has really been great to have contributed, and it is something I really enjoy. I guess it comes from having two teachers for parents!

Our business has also spent a lot of time looking at some strategic technology to help us grow in the future, including some new ecommerce software (www.magentocommerce.com). Magento has really impressed us so far, especially in it’s technical/software design. With a growing community, it will really add a great option to those looking for a well engineered well featured open source ecommerce platform in the market.

Next year will be another busy one. The Australian online market space will gain a bit more competition as some of the bigger retailers start to make ground (see www.bigbrownbox.com.au), and smaller retailers will need to continue focusing on building and retaining a strong customer base and utilising as many sales channels as efficiently as they can to stay one step ahead of their competition. This is exactly what we will be doing I think!

Will you?

Is Magento Commerce a good eCommerce solution for you?

There are been a little bit of buzz around the place about Magento Commerce.

The open source eCommerce arena has been a crowded one in the last 5 years. The big names are popular still (including stores like X-Cart, osCommerce, Zen Cart, CRE Loaded and there are more).

But Magento was mentioned to me by a potential customer a while ago. I only had a quick look at the time, but some weeks later another customer mentioned that they were looking at it.

Well, that got my attention, so what is Magento Commerce like as an eCommerce solution? It certainly looks great, and even installations ‘out of the box’ have a very slick feel to them. Certainly better than osCommerce for example. (more…)

PeSA Australia Summit Wrap-up

Back on deck at work this morning, following up a few people that I met at the Pesa Summit over the last few days.

It was great to meet some readers of my blog, and talk to a lot of sellers. After my panel session on Business Automation my 15 min one on one blocks with sellers were booked out very quickly. I had lots of sellers ask advice on their websites, listings and business and it was great to see so much enthusiasm.

As Jonathon Garriss pointed out during one of the sessions, he doesnt know it all and neither do I. But it is great to chare experience and we always learn.

Every time I catch up with some of my peer sellers we always learn things too. You will never hear of Paul from DealsDirect.com.au visiting a conference like this and walking away saying he didn’t learn something to go back to his business and implement, for example. I learnt a lot too.

Day two of the summit had some great material. I was particularly fascinated by Tom O’Toole (of Beechworth Bakery fame). He is a very energetic and passionate speaker!

Other sessions included copywriting and headline skills which was very interesting. Direct marketing has a lot of common ground with eBay listings and advertisements. A lot to learn.

I also had a lot of people ask about our new product ReadytoShip which was great, and also got some great feedback on some other areas that sellers find frustrating and time consuming that we are working on fixing. But I will post more about that shortly!

PeSA Australia Summit Day 1

I just got home from the PeSA Australia summit, Navigating Success for Change.

A good turnout with close to 300 signups,s to the Flemington staff were kept busy with coffee and snacks during breaks.

Keynote this morning was from Jonathan Garriss (of Gotham City Online) who has flown in from the US and talked about current opportunity in eCommerce. He had some interesting facts to get everyone motivated and keep things in perspective. eCommerce is growing at 15% pa, traditional commerce is +/-3% pa.

There is a massive and more importantly growing marketplace to find opportunity in.

The ‘Navigating Change for Success’ tagline for the event was followed up with some discussion on change and opportunity. Jonathon is always a good speaker, with some great sites, technology and processes in his business that give him some good credibility.

Some of us more experienced eBay sellers also got the chance to spend some one on one time with sellers and talk about their ebay listings, stores and strategies which was interesting. I had quite a range of sellers talk to me today, from very small turnover sellers to quite large ones.

The attitude today was very positive. Simon Smith did ask that no one yell at him, and it sounds like he got his wish.

The 2 panels today were Business Automation (with Your truly, John from JJ entertainment, and Anthony of AuctionBlox), and the Top Seller panel (with Shaun from Selby Acoustics, Shayne from i-soldit.com.au and Jonathon of Dinosaur Deals).

I love the chance to talk to sellers about their business. It seems that there are som many sellers out there wanting to grow that perhaps don’t even know what parts of their businesses can be improved with better tools and processes.

I think the panels were the highlight from today, based on feedback that I got. It is a great opportunity for sellers to ask questions to people who have travelled the road before them. Jonathon, Shayne and Shaun did a great job talking about some of their own businesses, challenges and strategies and answering questions.

Some brief highlights of the day

  • Simon Smith did state that they had a ‘deep regret’ about how the Paypal changes were implemented.
  • Effectively a promise that eBay Australia management would be far more active in discussing potential upcoming changes in Australia (with sellersand buyers) that are already occurring in eBay US
  • One on one sessions. Great chance to talk to sellers looking for some advice. Jonathon Garriss had quite a crowd (but he loves it:) !
  • Simon announces today that the interstitial prior to leaving a neg (advising buyers that sellers can’t leave retaliatory feedback) was being removed today.
  • Great networking opportunities with lots of other likeminded sellers.

A big day. Definitely time for some sleep.

ChannelAdvisor Users: Your store of choice?

I know I have a few ChannelAdvisor customers reading my blog. This post is for you!

We are developing some automation tools for ChannelAdvisor customers, and to assist with a development roadmap I would LOVE some feedback on whether or not you use the ChannelAdvisor Store or another store altogether…

I put together a quick poll in the ChannelAdvisor Support forums, here is the link :

http://ssc.channeladvisor.com/forums/viewtopic.php?t=1418

Thanks for your vote!

eBay to Phase Out 3rd Party Checkout

eBay annouced that it is to phase out 3rd party checkout.

This is a move that will impact many thousands of (usually large) eBay sellers.

It will affect us, as we use ChannelAdvisor, as do many larger sellers. ChannelAdvisor’s main markets are US and UK, and they have some very big eBay sellers using their systems.

For us, ChannelAdvisor offers the ability to:

  • manage inventory and SKUS
  • manage listings/ads templates
  • automatically schedule and maintain ads in eBay (and soon, Trading Post)
  • capture customers
  • upsell on checkout
  • sell into other channels like Shopping.com, Getprice
  • have an online store

I was thinking about how the eBay decision to remove 3rd party checkout would affect us.

We don’t get too many upsells in checkout (where a customer can add another item to their sale on the way through payment) so there will be little impact there.

One thing it will stop is the ability to capture customers from eBay. We offer newsletter signup on the way through checkout (which can be incentivised if you like), and also promote the ability to visit our online store to buy from a wider range of items. eBay customers are not easy to convert. They tend to like shopping on eBay, and buying at auction.

Both of these things, although not contributing greatly immediately, offer some long term benefit as you grow a customer base. And you can pick up eBay customers in your mailing list and get them to buy direct. Many sellers do it, and if you aren’t you should be.

All this decision does is provide us even more incentive to grow our business outside of eBay, in more cost effective sales channels. We have received some sales from Tradingpost.com.au auctions already, and although the turnover is slow there at the moment the cost of sale is very appealing.