Challenges faced by bricks & mortar retailers when expanding onto eBay

This article is a guest post by Katrina Kail of Reboot Retail

 

Change is inevitable, How You View It Changes Everything

Whether you believe in evolution or creation, since the dawn of time change has been the one constant in life.  The very nature of change is simple… ‘Survival of the Fittest’.  Every tiny cell in the whole of creation grows & evolves with the sole purpose of not dying.  Humans own basic ‘fight or flight’ instinct is instilled in order for humans to survive, as it is in every living organism on the planet.  How humans react to change depends on whether they view that change to bring about advantageous or detrimental results. Everything changes, throughout all walks of life, which is evident more than ever today with the onslaught of internet shopping.For thousands of years humans have physically traded goods, from early marketplaces to traditional retail stores.  With the introduction of the internet in the early 1980’s, and the wider use of it in the late 80’s together with the introduction of such online marketplaces like ebay and Amazon in the mid 90’s as well as the popping up of ‘every man and his dog’ websites in sync with the use of the world wide web as a normal part of everyday life like it has always existed where we feel like we couldn’t possibly live without it, then Damn! We’re talking less than 30 years people! 

The actual surprise is that, in the grand scheme of things, this change has come about so incredibly fast.  The main driver for this rapid change in the way we shop is simply convenience (whatever makes things easy for us!)    Humans naturally have issues with change, so is it any wonder that with the monumental amount of change that has happened in a mere 30 years in comparison with any change that has happened over thousands of years that traditional retailers are having conniptions?  The ‘Fight or Flight’ instinct kicks right on in for traditional retail store owners, and many have put their heads in the sand hoping this online shopping phenomenon will pass, which of course it won’t, and that’s to their own detriment.

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The lightning fast way in which we have changed our shopping habits really has become a fight for survival for traditional retailers.  Now, with a barely perceptible movement of our finger, whether on a ‘mouse’ (not the furry variety), or directly on the screen of a mobile device, we can obtain just about anything we have ever needed.  It really is like magic!  Therefore, those that fight and embrace these changes and integrate them with their business have the best chance of survival.  Sadly, many traditional retailers have chosen the flight option, maybe not even by choice but simply because they have no idea where to begin or how to integrate these changes into their business in order to remain alive and viable.  Many retailers are having to close their doors for good, and personally, I find this very sad.

Convenience Drives Market Demand

Convenience, convenience, convenience!!  OK, put your hand up right now (yes, I know you’re probably sitting in plain view of people and will look silly), if you luuurve things in your life that are in-convenient? Do you love it when the only car parking space you’ve found in a busy carpark is swiftly taken by somebody else even though you’ve been waiting for ages?  Do you love it when you finally get to the speaker at the Macca’s drive through only to be told the ice-cream machine on this scorching hot day isn’t working, and you now have to wait in the queue for everyone to be given their orders before you can leave?

Nooooo… every single person that thinks rationally hates inconvenience.

When it comes to retail, whether it’s online or offline, your customers’ experience is paramount.  You need to get inside the mind of your customer.  What’s convenient for your customer is essential for your business.  We all want what is convenient don’t we?  We all want it so much that convenience seems to have become a necessary human commodity.  And considering your business won’t survive unless you can persuade said human shopper to spend their dollars in your store, you begin to understand the importance convenience plays. 

Positive experiences are far more preferential to negative ones right?  Therefore we, as a human race, based on what we find convenient, have created a conglomerate called ‘market demand’.  Consequently, any marketplace or business worth their salt will track what the market demands and pander to their needs.  Market demand changes at an alarming rate, and it’s the quick or the dead who are left in its wake, therefore embracing the metamorphosis of tech savvy shoppers is the only way forward for the adroit traditional retail store owner.

What Do You Need To Do?

You know you need to get with the program, but what is it that you need to do?  You’re no doubt wondering what steps you need to take in order to expand your business, maybe you’re even at the stage where it’s not just about expanding, you may have no choice if you want to simply save your business.  If you aren’t getting enough customers through your door, if you’re finding it increasingly difficult to make a profit without having to conduct an eternal ‘sale’, then you know you need to start looking at avenue’s that will help build your business.  The world wide web has been around for long enough now for you to understand that having an online presence is becoming a necessity.  But where do you start?  And what is this infernal SEO that everyone is so hyped about?  Let alone all the other ‘terms’ that are thrown at us like Adwords, Analytics, Wordpress, Subscribers, Content marketing and more!  Who on earth actually knows what they mean when all you want to do is run your retail business.  The ‘old days’ were so much simpler weren’t they?

But were they?  Were they really any different?  The issue seems to me to come back to that old adage… ‘change’.  Learning new things is daunting, agreed.  However, once you have learned them and put them in place, you may realise that you’ve not only taken steps to grow your business, but you’ve also managed to make your business more effective and efficient.  It’s all about bringing in more dollars too yeah?

So what is your market demanding?  They are demanding to shop online.  Why wouldn’t you go where your customers already shop?  What can you do to make things more convenient for your customers?  Technology has moved faster than a speeding bullet, literally.  Not everyone wants to drive to a shops location, fight for a park, maybe pay for parking, hope that the kids are going to behave, simply to buy something from a tangible store. 

So how can you make it easier for your customers?  Essentially, how can you make more sales?  The reality is, now is the time for you to explore and discover where your customers are shopping.  

Online Shopping Is Where It’s At

Is it time for your business to be in more marketplaces?  Would you love the ability to sell globally, rather than rely on hooking in the foot traffic that passes your door with a shepherd’s crook around the neck?  Rather than forcing your customers across your threshold, show them how they can ‘float’ into your store no matter where they are in the world.

How great would it be for customers to see what they want in your store, yet have the ability to purchase it online and have it delivered?  Or vice versa, where they see it online and walk into your shop to make the purchase?

Have you ever gone into a shop and seen an item you like and decided not to purchase?  Then you get home and experience reverse buyer’s remorse?  You know you should have bought that item, yet you can’t be bothered returning to get it.  Could there be an easier way?  What if that shop had an online presence and you were able to buy it anyway? 

Your customers are looking for a seamless way to purchase from you in a way that’s convenient for them?  What you need to do is work out a way of using and integrating multiple channels as seamlessly as practical in order to provide the best possible customer experience you can conceivably build into your own unique business, while profiting from additional sales. 

Roam Where The Customers Roam

If you’re like most small to medium independent retailers, you probably live and breathe your trade.  When this is the case, who has time to build on your creation to date?  If you think about it, why is it that you opened your shop where you opened it?  Would you open another?  Why? Why not?

Here’s a question I want you to spend a bit of ponder time on…. What if there was a way to expand without incurring the extraneous costs incurred by a new bricks and mortar store, directly into a marketplace or marketplaces where your customers are already roaming?  Can you roam where your customers roam?  Do you dare?  And where on earth do you begin?

With marketplaces out there such as eBay, Amazon & Catch as well as shopping engines such as google shopping, where exactly should you start? 

Well, in my humble opinion, the first ingenious move would be to build your business by expanding into the online world of shopping, using a trusted marketplace that is already flooded with customers willing to spend their hard earned money!  For me, eBay is a no-brainer.  In offline terms, you could think of eBay as the department store of the internet.  A central place that brings together buyers and sellers.

There are a number of key business policies that eBay enforce, mainly to provide great customer experience, as this will ensure return customers, therefore a little research to gain knowledge will go a long way towards your success.

Research

In the case of using eBay as an additional retail channel, research is extremely important in order to enter the eBay market on a strong foot, remain viable, and keep ahead of your competition.  You can perform some basic research using the ‘advanced search’ feature within the eBay site itself which costs nothing but your time. It can give you an initial feel of how products are positioned on eBay.

Businesses seriously considering selling on eBay can use tools like ShelfTrend, that enable you to quickly identify, learn from and monitor the competition, analyse marketplace movements, benchmark your business and easily gather pricing and sales data.

ShelfTrend’s Supply Demand report is used to spot product opportunities where there is proven demand but little competition. The green bars are the listing supply by price bracket, and the dots are the weekly sales volumes achieved by each listing. In this example for  halloween decorations , under $12 is very competitive, but there are quite a few listings in higher price brackets that are achieving high sales with little competition. Hover to see the listing information, or click on the dot to see the listing.

ShelfTrend’s Supply Demand report is used to spot product opportunities where there is proven demand but little competition. The green bars are the listing supply by price bracket, and the dots are the weekly sales volumes achieved by each listing. In this example for halloween decorations, under $12 is very competitive, but there are quite a few listings in higher price brackets that are achieving high sales with little competition. Hover to see the listing information, or click on the dot to see the listing.

Capitalise On Efficiency Through Integration & Automation

It can be very daunting when considering that you’ll have to keep tabs on stock for more than one location.  You certainly don’t need the hassle of physically monitoring stock on a daily basis or manually changing stock levels online.  Therefore it would be a smart decision to look into third party providers such as Neto or Channel Adviser, who are able to centralise your stock control across all channels. You can also automate listing thousands of items in a short space of time, design professional listings, schedule listings, ship orders and you can even do this for multiple eBay ID’s.  There are a number of similar third party platforms so it would be prudent to do your due diligence in order to work out which platform most suits your business and budget.

Conclusion

Entering the eBay marketplace requires some planning, but there are tools, like ShelfTrend, and consultants that can help your expansion to be as successful as possible. The millions of buyers purchasing from the eBay marketplace makes it worth the effort!

For general eBay business advice, Katrina Kail from Reboot Retail can guide businesses on how to launch on eBay.