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22 Priceless Ecommerce Tips by Lawrence Parnis of Craftbay Marketplace

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22 Priceless Ecommerce Tips From Entrepreneur Lawrence Parnis Of Craftbay.ie – #TYBspotlight

Are you a small business or designer-maker maker looking to sell products online and in need of good e-tailing advice? Our latest TYBspotlight interview with Lawrence Parnis revealed some essential e-commerce know-how and online selling tips.

Lawrence owns Craftbay Marketplace, an umbrella portal offering buyers around the world and producers of Irish handmade products, an easy one stop e-commerce marketplace for crafted Irish giftware products. Are you in the sector? Read through to the end of the post to benefit from his special ecommerce free offer too. In this #TYBspotlight interview, he begins with his vision for making Craftbay the prime e-commerce portal for sourcing Irish made products and gives some amazing e-commerce tips.

Ecommerce entrepreneur Lawrence Parnis of Craftbay.ie

Lawrence Parnis – Founder of Craftbay Marketplace

So what is Craftbay Marketplace?

Craftbay is a fully functional e-commerce and m-commerce portal registered as a marketplace on the Craft Council of Ireland website. It allows people to buy and sell handmade, crafted, vintage or recycled ethnic products from Ireland. When launched, it will be the largest online portal for Irish handmade goods.

We will also have fully functional IOS, Android and iPad apps for buyer and sellers. I developed it with my associate Julie with our Technological Partners based in the Synergy Centre, ITT College, in Dublin. We are also a Client Company of the South County Dublin Enterprise Board.

Why were you compelled to create Craftbay.ie?

I regularly work at various outdoor events like farmers markets. outdoor festivals and in the exhibition industry. I immediately recognised a gap in the market for exhibiting craftspeople onsite to replicate this trading experience online.  Our surveys revealed Irish craft producers and designers were screaming out for an umbrella portal like Craftbay Marketplace, so I set up this ecommerce platform for crafts businesses to sell their products collectively whilst creating a global online audience of buyers for the community.

We have done extensive research and concluded that over 90% of all online sales from Ireland are through sites that are based outside of Ireland; hence all the money spent is being sent out of the country. We really need to take note of this and start getting Consumers to buy Irish more online.

CraftBay_Logo_RGB High Res

How is Craftbay different from the likes of Etsy or state owned portals and craft directories?

Craftbay is like Etsy being a craft community from Ireland. But Different. To the average craftsperson, showcasing with Etsy comes with a high degree of competition within their portal, with over 880,000 active shops from sellers all over the world.

Where it differs:

I believe a clear niche identity helps . Craftbay for example concentrates on supplying unique Irish only handmade products which will be attractive to the Irish Diaspora. So, we only require a few thousand Irish craft producers on our Irish platform to make for a viable content and seller base.  In this case it’s not the quantity of sellers,  it’s the quality and authenticity of goods driven by the desire from buyers globally to purchase a handmade Irish gift. 

It is also important to aim for a clean, crisp and user friendly site with no distractions, presenting a convenient way to shop online, with categories and sub categories to choose from. We believe, as any site grows, its categories should change to suit the needs of sellers and buyers.

Craftbay Marketplace

We aim for a commission fee that compares well to other competing e-tailing sites. In our sector for example, we understand other sites charge between 3 – 6 percent. Some have been running for over 2 years with 30 and 50 recruited sellers . In contrast we have over 250 registered sellers in just 3 months with an average of 10 coming on per week.

We launched in November 2013 with a ramped up SEO, social media and digital marketing plan. Our mission is to surpass any online site for Irish Crafts and rank high on Google’s first page results for craft products in Ireland.

If I was a Small Business and Designer-maker looking for online presence, what would be my first “Commandments” when creating an website site?

Here are the first essential steps when creating a platform in my book:

# 1. Start with a good development team to develop a truly functional website.

# 2. Incorporate a good e-commerce site so buyers can buy directly from you. My research shows that less than 25% of Irish business have a fully functional e commerce site.

# 3. Be mobile compatible. Your website must be easy to use on on smartphones and tablets. From all the research I have done, it shows m-commerce is the new trend forward for people purchasing online. M-commerce is where people are buying from mobile devices e.g. smartphones and tablets. In fact, we are entering the age of Phablets where we will have our phone and tablets on one device.

Once you have the platform, these are my Top Tips for Selling Online:

# 4. Get Good quality Hi-resolution Pictures – There is a lot of online help with this topic, just Google the subject or go on YouTube.

# 5. A minimum of 3 – 5 Pictures of each product. Buyers online cannot feel, smell or touch your product, so the more pictures you have the better.

# 6. A Good Description. Both for SEO purposes and to sell. (This includes completing image captions & descriptions). Give as much detail about the product, what it is made from, and how it is made . Google spiders can’t see pictures, so describe them with keywords.

# 7. Tell The Story. Buyers of handmade products like to know about the person that has created the items; if possible give a good description about yourself, where you come from, your inspiration, what materials you like to work with – your journey. Get your Customers to tell their stories also with product reviews and testimonials.

# 8. Show the Total Price Upfront. The total price of the product must be obvious at first glance. There is nothing more annoying for a buyer than to find a different price at the end of the sales process and looking at a product for €20 at the start , but getting €40 on their final cart. This will deter potential buyers from completing the sale. Once lost, they may not come back.

# 9. An Upfront Return Policy and Terms & Conditions. Let your buyers know what their rights are when purchasing from your shop.

# 10. Use Secure Payment methods such as PayPal as buyers feel secure in a reputable brand and have no hesitation in purchasing. I told our developers I wanted to create a very secure site right through – from the back end until the payment was completed. It was one of my main briefs and we have done that. We do not handle any funds as we have teamed up with PayPal to provide us with a secure service for both buyers and sellers.

# 11. Loading Speed should not take more than 5 seconds to upload or you will lose the buyer. At Craftbay we are aiming to reduce ours to below 0.9 of a second.

# 12. Be App Equipped. If you can afford it, IOS, Android and iPad App, but these can be quite expensive.

# 13. A good digital marketing plan that changes as your business grows. Use different methods to drive traffic to your website which should be incorporated in your overall marketing plan. 

OK, So let me play Devil’s Advocate: Why should I sell via a larger umbrella Portal like Craftbay when I could just sell on my own blog or e-commerce site?  Does a collective e-commerce portal provide any benefits over and above an individual website

There are some benefits to piggybacking with a larger Ecommerce platform says Lawrence:

# 14. It is like being part of a CO-OP which we remember from years ago. Being part of a larger community also brings benefits like blog posts, communicating with other sellers for tips and special offers, and finding out about other relevant markets where you can sell your products.

# 15. The loading speed of our site is second to none, down to less than 1 second with a standard WIFI connection creating a better online experience.

# 16. No point in having a sexy website but zero traffic. Craftbay is currently running an extensive social media campaign on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest to accomplish this. Ideally the collective social media activity of all our sellers’ and our network as a whole will add greatly to our eventual Klout and SEO over time .

# 17. Cross – Promotion and Strategic Alliances: . The collective bargaining power of a group platform makes strategic partnerships easier to broach. We are in the process of teaming up with complementary sites and businesses that have millions of views per month from all over the world which in turn will create sales in the relevant audiences. For example, we have just partnered up with Irishcentral.com as our leading digital marketing partner to target the 40 million Irish Diaspora in the USA as well as the millions of Irish that live in global cities. Irish Central have a reader base of over 5 million readers monthly globally so this is great news for Craftbay Marketplace sellers.

# 18. Superior SEO. All product categories are connected to Google for higher search engine ranking. Your site needs to come up on page 1 – 3 of Google for handmade products or craft products in Ireland, if it does not you are fighting a losing battle. this is much harder to achieve on your own.

# 19. It’s a Time-saver. Creating your own website is good but will you have the time to constantly maintain it with updates, new products and special offers. With Craftbay it is so simple to edit products, pictures and your shop.

# 20. Lower Development cost – There are not many craft sellers that would fork out 60k to develop a portal like Craftbay. To keep up with purchasing trends you will also need to develop IOS, Android and the relevant tablet apps to suit these operating systems. Each app will cost a minimum of 10K so straight away we are up to 90k not including staff wages. Basically, to create an e / m-commerce site like Craftbay costs approximately 120k. That’s only for phase one. Once you open up your shop you will see other features that you will feel the site might need so extra funding  may be required.

# 21. You need to remember it will take some Time to recoup what has been spent plus what is going to be spent in R&D and your daily running cost.

As a sector, does online marketing here differ from any other type of products like electronic goods for example or everyday consumer products?

# 22. To be honest there is some difference but in my eyes very little difference. If you have an e-commerce site selling electronic goods you need to use the relevant digital marketing tools to get your name out there. You might be targeting different buyers but the whole concept of digital marketing is the same no matter what product you are trying to sell.

Cost wise, how does Selling Online compare to Selling offline?

Here are 3 examples where craft sellers normally sell their products

A local market or Farmers Market – In Ireland there is normally a fee of about €50 for your stall which you have to provide plus €10 petrol expenses, plus a daily wage of about €60. Your total cost for that day out is €120 before you sell anything

A special Event or Exhibition– Minimum cost would be for 3 days €250 per day that’s €750 or an exhibition space at one of the premium event centres will cost €1,500 – €2,000 for the duration of the event plus lighting, sockets etc., for a 9 sq.m. stand

Retail via Brick and Mortar Shops – The retailer normally up-sells your products by 100% minimum margin. You need to leave your stock with him, deliver it and probably wait 30 days after the item is sold to get paid.  Selling in shops can be a drain on your credit balance. With Craftbay you get paid straight away into your Pay pal account and then you just post your product.

At Craftbay we have 2 types of seller payment options: Pre pay or Unlimited Shop:

  • Prepay –Insertion fee of .35 euro cents for up to 5 of the same type of product when Craftbay sells your product a 20% commission rate applies.
  • Unlimited shop – €20 fee per month which allows you to put up unlimited products in your shop. When Craftbay sells your products 15% commission rate will apply. There are lots of extra benefits to setting up an Unlimited Shop like being featured on our social media feeds, availing of a free banner advertisement on the home page, be featured on the Trends page etc. If a major retailer, local market or large exhibition company came to you and offered you space to sell your products for a fee of 15% would you not be interested?

SPECIAL OFFER

We are now offering relevant Irish craft producers on opportunity to open a Free unlimited shop for the next 6 months.  To avail of this offer tweet us @craftbaymarketp, like us on Facebook or log into www.craftbay.ie and register as a “seller”.Alternatively email:  [email protected] . No harm in trying out your own e / m commerce site, upload all your products into your own personal shop, while we take care of the technical issues, and drive traffic, with no upfront cost to our sellers. Now that’s the beauty about being part of our Irish Craftbay Marketplace community.

Summary

As I completed the interview I can safely say Lawrence has been a font of information and I learnt a great deal just from listing his tips. What really hit me was his genuine desire to reach out, collaborate and help people in the sector apart from just making a profitable business from this current venture. Have you have any other eCommerce questions for him? Am sure we could bend his ear this way – don’t hesitate to send them here via the comment stream.

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Elish Bul-Godley helps brands hone their marketing communications and establish a stronger online presence via Community Management, Copywriting and Content Marketing. Currently the primary marketing consultant for the Snap Ireland Group. She works with various SMEs, the guerrilla festival Bloom Fringe and traders. Her previous experience includes stints with digital and marketing agencies such as ebow and Rothco, as well as providing training sessions in content, social selling and social media. Also Co-Founder and creator of press accredited blog-zine Eurovision Ireland. Elish has also been a B2B Events professional with Retail Management, Visual Merchandising, Project management experience. Born in Singapore, now in Dublin having negotiated the associated cultural changes between east and west. Loves the odd shimmy as a belly-dance teacher and binges on Sc-ifi in her spare time. http://www.elishbulgodley.wordpress.com

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Comments
  • # 8. Show the Total Price Upfront.

    Is it still best to have prices upfront? Some business owners are saying that prices shouldn’t be placed on websites. That customers should talk directly to the site owner or seller and that should be where they can talk prices.

    In your opinion, can price unavailability hurt the business?

  • Elish Bul-Godley

    Thanks for that relevant question. I can see how that idea would work if the role of the website was to begin brand awareness or create display advertising opportunities . Engagement and community building could really benefit from enticing that level of interaction by not disclosing prices .
    However if your site is an ecommerce portal interested in generating e-tail sales efficiently, then your prime objective is to make it quick easy and convenient for would be buyers to work through the buying process with as much transparency and ease as possible . In which case clear pricing options from the get go help with the user experience online

  • Yes, you’re right. This is why goals for the business should always be the same. Sometimes conflict in how to get results may affect how the business perform.

    Thanks for the advice! Will have to be vigilant in pursuing this transparency issue.

  • Hi Elish, great to see you back writing for Tweak Your Biz and as always a great post 🙂
    Special thanks to Lawrence for taking part in this #TYBspotlight and for providing us with these super insights and tips. As he describes, online buyers online cannot feel, smell or touch your product so providing 3 – 5 images and getting customers to tell their stories with reviews and testimonials are both critical aspects towards building trust.

  • Elish Bul-Godley

    Thanks Niall, Nothing helps the ego than knowing you were missed eh? Hoping to set in motion more handy guides for the readers. I don’t know if this comes across but you can tell by the wealth of info that Lawrence is one of those generous spirited individuals who believes in collaboration, community building and helping other people in the sector.

  • Craig

    Wow 20% Commission! Thats twice as much as eBay!

  • craftbaymarketplace

    Hi We are currently running a promo giving away Free Unlimited shops. With this promo you can set up your e shop for free, put up unlimited amounts of products, avail of all our social feeds and trends, avail of a free banner on our home page to promote your Craftbay shop. When we sell your product we get a 15% commission. After 6 months of availing of the free shop you have the option of either going with the Pay per item or Unlimited shop offer. Basically it is not costing any of our Community anything up front. I don’t think with e bay they will let you put up unlimited items and wait for a commission if they sell your products. I do know that they will let you put up some products for free but not in your own specific shop. Our philosophy is try it, like it, then buy it if its for you. I hope this helps.

  • Hi Elish, those are pretty good points above you’ve gotten from Lawrence, and I completely agree with him!

    I’d also like to add that post-store-visit follow-up efforts such as customer retargeting and referral marketing are definitely important parts that retailers need to work on! 🙂

  • Sian: Weekend reading! 😉

  • Annual reading I think Martin 🙂

  • Excellent post, bookmarked!

  • Thanks Ioana – definitely one to bookmark and come back to on a coffee break 🙂

  • Artur Brugeman

    Totally agree, Gail!

    And when they say this was a vanity metric anyway, why don’t they provide a better one instead? Like number of likes for sharing tweets, number of replies in conversations around them… Conversations cannot even be accessed over their API, a feature being requested and ignored for several years! At least we could see number of clicks in analytics if Twitter cards are properly set up.

    They’re not making our lives easier, that’s for sure!

  • Artur Brugeman

    We have your share counts: http://public.newsharecounts.com/count.json?url=http://growmap.com/get-more-backlinks-and-exposure/

    I’m not quite sure why Warfare does not show the number here http://growmap.com/get-more-backlinks-and-exposure/, maybe you have caching plugin and need to reset the cache? If that does not help, then it might make sense to request support from Warfare team.

  • Umair

    I hope you like them all.




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