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 Lawrence Parnis – Founder of Craftbay Marketplace[/caption]
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.
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.
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
# 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
# 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
# 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?
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: firstname.lastname@example.org . 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.
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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