Savvy Scots retailers are creating hugely successful e-commerce stores on popular internet sites like eBay and Amazon to manage their survival through the recession.
While many view such online marketplaces as places for people looking to sell older or rarer items, a cottage industry of small, professionally-run stores has risen up to cater for an ever-growing customer base of online shoppers.
That has led to many companies experiencing solid trading figures despite – or perhaps because of – the current credit crunch conditions.
Experts at Edinburgh digital agency Channel 6 are at the forefront of helping businesses to create e-store presences. They believe many companies are losing out on the lure of the “eBay army” by relying solely on their own websites as sales tools.
Successful digital agency
One of Channel 6’s success stories is Edinburgh-based Brand Agility, an online retailer of unusual street fashion products. Sales from its Channel 6-designed e-stores are so successful; they often outperform the firm’s main website e-commerce store.
Brand Agility Managing Director George Sandison said: “We have a presence on a number of sites, including eBay and Amazon. They are each pulling in four figure sums a month.
“Our own site has an ecommerce facility as well but sometimes these other sites are outperforming it – they are always certainly holding their own against it.”
Brand Agility acted after spotting how Scots-based shoe retailer Schuh was successfully selling on eBay. After deciding to follow suit, the expertise of the team at Channel 6 proved crucial in ensuring the sites looked totally professional.
Expert team to raise business profile
Brand Agility is now working with Channel 6 to develop a third eBay store. One of the lines it sells and distributes is Ducti, belts, bags, wallets and accessories made from Duct Tape. George says a strong presence on eBay not only helps promote the brand, but also helps protect its value.
Channel 6 Director John Cavanagh says companies who don’t consider eBay, Amazon and elsewhere are missing out.
He added: “Some companies believe that having an e-commerce solution on their main site is all that they need. That is not the way to view engagement with potential shoppers. You need to be where they are. You have to go to them, not the other way about.
“Today’s customers are savvy. They shop around and that means they look at company websites but also online marketplaces such as eBay and Amazon. Therefore it makes sense to be on all these sites if you want to win the sale.
“It’s actually a very good way of levelling out the playing field and giving customers a greater chance of finding you. Only so many companies can be on the first or second page of Google without paying to be there.
“Very few companies can now rely on having only an e-commerce store presence on their own website and nowhere else – that’s simply poor planning.
“You have to consider multiple routes to online marketplaces. Statistics have shown around 60-70% of shoppers browse eBay before making purchase. It makes commercial sense to be there.”
John feels there are other benefits too for the companies who are reluctant to engage in online sales – it’s an inexpensive way of testing the water. Online stores on eBay or Amazon are a way to test out selling digitally without investing in full e-commerce solutions.
He added: “Client who have been successful with eBay approach us to build a full e-commerce website, as it is a logical next step. Wisely, they also want to keep their eBay store as a major sales channel.
“Clients see the benefits of having their own online store – it looks more professional as some people only trust .co.uk or .com, web addresses. If they choose to do so, companies can use their main store site to sell the premium items, while using eBay and elsewhere to clear excess stock or sales items.
“At the end of the day it boils down to the company having a good clear strategy and recognising what they want to achieve from their online presence and marketplace.”
The sales success for Brand Agility and other clients comes at the end of a hectic 12 month period for Channel 6 after a successful management buyout.
Its Clients range from one-person e-commerce sites using the firm’s own Ch-Ching e-commerce software, to major companies and organisations who want totally bespoke solutions, including North Lanarkshire Leisure, Farmer Autocare, Quality Meat Scotland, Hibernian FC, Cheynes and Tanfield Group.