Last week, I was privileged to speak at the first annual Phoenix eTailers Conference, hosted and organized by e-commerce expert and podcaster Melinda Jackson (http://therivertheranchandthebay.com/radio).
If you are selling merchandise on eBay, Amazon, Etsy or one of the other online retail platforms, here is some state-of-the-art wisdom — and some cutting-edge resources — from speakers at the conference:
"People have been agonizing a lot about Cassini, eBay's new search engine which collects data from listings, feedback, keywords and sales figures to give users better search results. But here's a fact: Last year eBay received over 250 million queries per day, while 3.3 billion searches are conducted each day on Google. Maybe you shouldn't worry so much about Cassini and focus your attention instead on how to get more search engine traffic from Google." — Janelle Elms, founder of the Online Success Institute (www.osirockstars.com).
Janelle's latest information product is "The Home Run Guide," an easy to use e-book (including a special download for Droids, iPhones, tablets and iPads) that will help you separate the junk from the profitable treasures at garage sales, estate sales, rummage sales and thrift stores (www.homerunguide.com).
Another thing eBay sellers are agonizing about, especially if they have an "eBay Store," is the recent announcement that all sellers must conform their store layout to a new design format within the next several months. According to Sally Milo of Milo Design (www.milodesign.com), a Web designer based in Tucson, Arizona, "I expect when the many sellers who've spent hours of their own time or hundreds or thousands of dollars hiring designers to customize their classic eBay stores learn about these changes, there will be a huge outcry from those who want to keep the branding and search engine optimization in place in their stores. Of course, the new store layout is far nicer than the classic layout, but, without custom store pages and links to various eBay pages, the new layout reduces SEO possibilities by far. Most of the customized classic stores I've seen are far nicer (and far better for branding) than the new layout. eBay has said that eventually custom pages will be added into the new (modern) stores and that a link will be added to the banner, but for now, we're in limbo."
Many speakers emphasized the importance of "locking in" exclusive distributor arrangements with key suppliers. Charlene Anderson of Purveyor of All Things Creative (www.purveyorofallthingscreative.com) in Jackson, Wyoming says she is "focusing on sourcing new and exciting products from small, independent manufacturers from both the US and abroad, and reinforcing the relationships I have with my current suppliers. As I have built a reputation in my field it has become easier to source products. Manufacturers are now contacting me to carry their products, instead of me chasing them down and convincing them that selling to an online retailer was a good idea. This is a big change from a few years ago when it was much more difficult to convince suppliers that taking on an online-only store would be mutually beneficial."
Social media marketing expert John "Colder Ice" Lawson challenged the conventional wisdom that "the customer is always right." Says Lawson: "No way. Impossible. The customer is NOT always right. But, the customer IS always the customer, and the way customers control their wallets matters to your success. They don't have to be right — they're kings."
But, according to Lawson, even the consumer isn't king: "Everyone says the consumer is king, but you know that's true only in one sense. The king controls the purse strings. We've also all heard that in the world of online marketing, content is king. Not true, either. Content is the King's best buddy. He's still important, but no longer does he stand all alone as the ruler of a transaction. So if we rule out the consumer as king and we acknowledge that content is only a best buddy, who IS the King? Context is the King. If you put your content, your information, into the right context and put it in front of the right people at the right time, it translates into commerce. They will buy."
Lawson's latest book, "Kick Ass Social Commerce for e-Preneurs" (BenBella Books, $16.95) was just released this month on Amazon.
Selling successfully on eBay, Amazon and other online platforms may not be enough to build a world-class e-commerce empire. Hernan Charry of website developer Split One Technologies (www.splitone.com), says that "you still need a killer website, especially if you are building a brand. Sooner or later your customers want to know about you, and whether or not you are 'for real.' You can do that to some extent on eBay and Amazon, but it's much easier when you have your own website with the 'dot com' URL. Also, it's the only place on the Web where you can sell stuff and keep 100 percent of the profits you make."
Cliff Ennico ([email protected]) is a syndicated columnist, author and former host of the PBS television series "Money Hunt." This column is no substitute for legal, tax or financial advice, which can be furnished only by a qualified professional licensed in your state. To find out more about Cliff Ennico and other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit our Web page at www.creators.com.