Is eBay as a viable alternative to a bespoke ecommerce solution?

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What started as a consumer to consumer online auction site has evolved and adapted to become a very realistic and interesting proposition for business looking to sell online but can it take the place of a traditional bespoke ecommerce site?

The statistics are impressive and if the current eBay development plan is anything to go by then they are only set to increase. eBay currently has 17 million unique visitors per month with 62% of all buyers located in the UK, the average age of which is between 24 and 54 and whom 51% are women.

Recent 30-day search data reveals the scale of demand among consumers for branded products on eBay. Next, 4.1m searched; Top Shop, 4.4m; John Lewis, 216,000, M&S 777,000.*

So, with this information could a business consider using eBay as their primary sales channel?

It does of course depend on the type of business, the product being sold and the customer demographic.  Although eBay is a solid ecommerce platform complete with listing analytics, its defining selling point (a place to find reduced proceed goods, below retail price) will no doubt be off-putting to businesses retailing premium brands. It does seem that eBay has reached the same conclusions and for the time being is focusing on outlet style shops to provide a “complimentary channel to brands and retailers.” – Clare Gilmartain (Ebay’s EU Marketplaces vice president)

eBay outlet shops allow retailers to create store fronts within eBay using visuals in line with their existing branding. Customers will however be required to use the eBay checkout process. Garnering interest using the power of the sale tag also opens the door to presenting full price stock alongside discount items.

My advice to anyone exploring the world of ecommerce would be to certainly consider eBay as a valid and worthwhile part of your wider business strategy  but not ignore the traditional bespoke ecommerce solution that will provide you with flexibility in deploying new functionality and that will scale as your business grows.

*Source: Internet Retailing March 2011

Emotional Branding

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A few days ago I watched a webinar given by Marc Gobe (Desgrippes Gobé) Marc leads an extremely successful design agency who have worked with the likes of Air France, AOL and Banana Republic. The webinar centred around emotional branding and the use of social media in relation to this.

In the past month or two the world has seen how powerful social media can be. Twitter and Facebook have played a fundamental part in the success of the demonstrations in the middle east and some may attribute the  downfall of several dictatorships to the ability of these social media sites to connect people, share information and rally support.

A celebrity (John Galoano and his anti semetic video), business brand, or even a countries government (Egypt, Tunisia, Libya) are particularly susceptible to being caught out in the age of instant global communication. The era of controlling information and projecting the image you want is well and truly at an end.

A brand is no longer a logo, slogan and a mission statement.  It has evolved to become much more than that. It is a set of values, your beliefs and aspirations and it is social media that is the perfect vessel to begin the process of humanising your brand and connecting with your customers.

When developing your brand it is important to remember that your customer is a person and not just a credit card with arms and legs. In order to build a successful relationship your brand should satisfy the ‘Three centres of the enneagram’. These are

Head – Logic & Reason – “Is this product or service of value to me?”

Heart – Emotions & Dreams – “Do I trust this company to deliver on its promises? Do they really care about me?”

Gut – Instinct and Intuition – Unique and dependant on the life experiences of the person but can still be influenced by interacting with the Head and Heart.

To engage with a customer on these levels requires an emotional connection which social media allows you to achieve. There is however a difference between communication and dialogue. For example:

Business A ‘Tweets’ the following message:

‘We have launched a new product… it is great and will costs £10’

Business B ‘Tweets’:

‘Tell us what products you would like us to provide you’

Business B has opened a dialogue with the customer. They have demonstrated that they have an interest in the customers opinion and and are providing the opportunity to potentially satisfy their customers heart my making their dream a reality.

So for those of you with small businesses who feel like a small fish in a big pond. Social Media may very well be the tool that will allow you to compete with megacorporations and their multi million pound advertising budgets. Because now it is less about ‘market share’ and more about ‘mind share’ and ‘being known does, not mean you are loved.’

Start today, signup for a twitter account here, a facebook account here and a blog here. Marc also has a variety of books on the subject.

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