Our E-Commerce Experiments

“The Store” is our own e-commerce shop.

Yes, this really is it’s name. We registered it under this name since surprisingly it was not already taken. We are using it to do our E-Commerce experiments. “The Store” tests out different online marketplaces to see which work best so we can recommend them to you.

“The Store” has its own website too which went live mid January 2018. Our products also show up on various online price comparison shops including Google Marketplace.

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Online Marketplaces:

Each one has it’s pro’s and con’s. We will try to give you an honest, brief summary of our findings of each of them. For the record we are not affiliated with any of these Online Marketplaces. We provide this information on this page for your benefit.

Because we are NOT affiliated with them we are not paid for referring you to them. *

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E-Crater

We tried this and didn’t like it. Yes, it’s free to signup and create a store here, but it’s such a basic website with very little customization to make your store stand out. We never even opened our store after adding a few products. The reason? If you update your store inventory you cannot change the quantity of any items listed nor can you make them unavailable to sell. The only way to take a product out of being shown and possibly sold when you don’t have it to sell is to delete the item. This means when the item is available for you to sell you have to create the entire product from scratch. This is unacceptable!

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Store Envy

This looked so promising, but looks can be deceiving. We did create a free store here like they claim. We even opted for the free option to also include that store in their marketplace. Isn’t the whole point of this site to open a store in their marketplace? Why would you just open a store here and not add it into their marketplace for their supposed additional exposure? I guess what they mean by additional exposure is that if you opt to be in their marketplace you can also opt into the optional up sells for even more exposure.

Here are the problems we discovered in our two month test of this marketplace:

1) Lots of optional up sells. Want to send out email offers promoting your sales? Pay more money. Want to be included in their holiday promotions? Pay more money.  Want additional exposure during the holiday promotions that you have agreed to pay to be a part of? Pay even more money.

2) When creating products you can list the sku at the very bottom for your records. Sadly this does no good since you cannot use the information you added in this field to search for your product when logged into the site to update the inventory. This means you have to instead sift thru the description and price. Yes you can narrow it down by the categories you set up, but that is not enough. We had about 50 products (until some were discontinued by our supplier) and we had to remove them from our Store Envy shop. Even with this small number of products we were offering, updating inventory took much longer than it should have.

3) Want to promote your site on Store Envy? Good luck with that! Here was our store website address: http://www.storenvy.com/stores/1082309-the-store  Not so memorable is it? You would think you could direct people to storenvy.com and tell them to use a store directory and type in the store name or scroll thru an alphabetical listing to find your store, but no that is not an option because they have no such process in place.

4) We do not “ship from Wilmington, DE” like it states below in the screen shot. Storenvy grabs this info when they ask where your business is based. Most businesses online do not make and ship their own products. Instead they do like we do and use a wholesaler to handle this. Our supplier is in Tennessee. We had not way to correct this with Storenvy so it is misleading for the customer.

5) Notice our store is not on a secure site. If it was it would show it in the address bar. People need a site they can trust before they are going to pull out their credit card and order something. This is not safe.

Perhaps some stores make money here, we did not. When you have this many fees your margins will be minimal and that makes you must make up for it in volume. Without high volume we cannot see how you can make money here. We closed our store.

Shown below is proof of our store having been in existence:

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The Mall of the Internet

A new player to online shopping just launched in 2017. This site keeps growing every time we visit it. They now have over 300 stores. Pretty amazing since they said say they had 100 stores just under a year ago!

Obvious differences that make this site better than Storenvy:

1 ) Notice right away that this site is secure which means people will order from you here.

2) They have a “Mall Directory” listing every store in the mall with a clickable link taking you directly to them.

3) Under the “about us (our story)” page they have a page telling you how to become a store. On that page they tell you that you can use your existing site instead of having to build a new shop just to be here. If you do not have a site they have four different companies that they recommend so you can pick who to use and how your site will look.

Their prices are cheap to join (probably since they are so new). They do not charge any listing fees or take a percentage of profits made like everyone else seems to do. There are no additional up-sells to advertise any promotions being run here either. As a bonus they promise to list you in a new online search engine (the world wide web) for free too as a text link. From a cost perspective this looks like a real winner!

Update:

We just joined in as a store at the Mall of the Internet on 1/15/18 and look forward to seeing how well this works. On 1/18/18 we are accepted as a “featured store.” This is free and a temporary thing since they change out stores here from time to time. A “featured store” means that we are listed at the bottom half of the home page for better site exposure (in addition to being listed in the “mall directory” and “shop by category” page).

Conclusion:

As of late May 2018 we are now done with our test in the mall. We opened with only about 40 products and spent zero dollars on advertising. From January to mid May is a slower season for retail (inbetween Christmas and Memorial Day). Had we spent money promoting our ecommerce shop we are certain we would have had more traffic to our site. We purposely chose not to advertise in order to see how well the mall would do on its own in attracting us customers. We are one of 21 stores that sell jewelry in this online mall so competition was high. We never tried adding more products to sell. When products were discontinued we removed them from our inventory. This reduced our opportunity to make as many sales.

Take our advice and learn from our mistakes here is what we did wrong. Yes listing in the mall was a good idea, but failing to update product selection, being in a overcrowded niche and failing to advertise are three things you should not do. Had we spent money promoting our e-commerce shop we are certain we would have had more traffic to our site. We purposely chose not to advertise in order to see how well the mall would do on its own in attracting us customers. Yes we did get customers from the mall, but in low numbers. All in all it was worth trying out the mall. Our advice is to advertise your own your store and keep up on products available to offer. Even better still try to find a niche market to be in where the mall has less competition. When these suggestions are combined together we believe your business can be a success in the mall and so we recommend you try the mall out for yourself.

This summer we will add more products to our inventory to increase potential revenue. Also we will advertise online to help drive more traffic to our site. We are not backing out of the mall, but simply need to implement these changes to make every opportunity count. We will also test out online marketplaces soon for our business as well.

Final update: March 2019 we removed “The Store” from the Mall of the Internet. This was done to finish testing and reviewing other marketplaces as promised.

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Amazon

Obviously the largest and most popular. We plan to dabble with this one soon. Here is what we do know so far just from reading their policies: you must pay for a storefront, they charge listing fees and they take a percentage of every sale. Why do this? Everyone shops here so if you want customers you need to be here, but can it be profitable enough to justify the effort? We will see and let you know.

Update: On second thought we decided not to put “The Store” here after all. Our reasons were simple – too much competition and too many rules. We are in the business of making our own policies and not having to adhere to others’ policies. However, for many this can still be a great way to make money.

We decided to dig deeper into their e-book selection. Originally they started out selling e-books and now despite being still known for this, e-books are actually just a small fraction of the products they sell. No one has a better selection of e-books to offer than Amazon! Their process to publish and list an e-book is super easy. Marketing e-books with them is easy too! You have two options one gives you a higher percentage of the commission on the sales you make from your e-books and you can utilize their free promotions to further market them. The other option lets you take a lower percentage of the sale, but be allowed to list your e-books on other sites too. If going with the lower percentage of the sale thru Amazon you are not permitted to use their free promotions to market them with.

Conclusion: We believe selling e-books here and giving Amazon exclusivity will for most people be the best option.

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Ebay

Still very popular despite Amazon taking a lot of their popularity away. We will have to see if it is worth doing a store here. Like Amazon their are so many fees involved.

Update: Like Amazon their are too many fees involved for us to test out a store with here. Also, Amazon has a MUCH LARGER amount of traffic to it’s site than E-Bay does. To us it makes sense to not open a store at E-Bay. However, if you already have one here and it’s profitable you should keep it here and also explore the other places listed on this posting. The reason for this is that E-Bay continues to get less traffic every year with more marketplaces popping up online.

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Etsy

We will not be adding a store here since we do not make our own products. Etsy is a great site for that niche (small shops that hand make products). People come here for the unique products and can feel good about supporting an entrepreneur. We have never tested this site, but thought based upon it’s popularity it should be listed here.

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Bonanza

We will review them soon. Bonanza consistently comes up in our Google searches as an alternative to consider to Amazon and E-Bay. As you can see from the screenshot shown below they are a niche marketplace which probably explains why they are not as popular as some of the other sites mentioned in this posting. Upon reviewing their website they are one of the ones showing the most promise.

Here is what has caught our eye so far:

  • No listing fees, no monthly store fees, no other sneaky fees. – This sounds like a good starting point for new entrepreneurs to try out selling online.
  • They are not just a marketplace. They have tools to automatic eBay, Amazon, and Shopify inventory. This means if you are already selling or plan to sell on multiple marketplaces you can update inventory here and it will then do the same for you on other marketplaces. This will save you lot’s of time. Why update inventory on multiple sites when you don’t have too?

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Price Falls

We will review them soon. This site is much less known then some of the others we have tested. In fact had it not been for our extensive searching for marketplaces to review we would never even have heard of them! This makes us wonder how any one else knows to shop here since we never see ads for them.

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* "The Marketplace" is another marketplace that is coming soon. We own this one. 
Click here to learn more about "The Marketplace."
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