11main. Sold. What happened?
I had an 11Main store. About 2 weeks ago, I removed my inventory from 11Main. I was tired of having to delete items that sold somewhere else.
Yesterday, the official announcement came in that 11Main has been sold to Opensky. Who's that? Exactly.
In the beginning with 11Main we were promised exposure and everything that eBay was falling short on. I had already pretty much left eBay and was selling here on my shopify website, Etsy and One Kings Lane. I am very happy with all three venues. I was also selling on a site owned by One Kings Lane called "Hunter's Alley". It was a beautiful well curated website that was having marginal growth. Hunter's Alley was closed last year and it was a beautiful site, why? What happened?
Back to 11Main. More than a year ago, I applied and was accepted as did my BFF Denise at The Jewelry Lady's Store. I cannot say that there were not were red flags all along the way, because there were. The staff was so sweet and helpful. So refreshing after the seller abuse at ebay. We watched and helped as they asked questions and built the website. My first red flag was that we were to use Auctiva or Vendio to access the website. In my mind I was asking why would anyone buy those companies, because my experience with them was that they were no good. When the site opened, I have to say that I was more than disappointed. It was not my idea of pretty and the back end was terrible to work with. The item mix was totally curated...and not well. Bad move on their part. They had no idea what they were doing. They should have left it to the entrepreneurial and experienced sellers who have the knowledge and know what to do. In fact, I won a $250.00 gift certificate at 11Main as part of a Pinterest promotion. It took me months to even find something that I wanted. Had that been Etsy or One Kings Lane, pfttt! That little jewel would have been spent the first day!
My shop and The Jewelry Lady's Storewere featured stores. We got bigger banners, auto-accepted items and advertising. Nothing worked. I sold 10 items over the period of a year. 10 items would have been one day of sales on ebay before they went south. Still, the staff was sweet so we stayed on. At this point though, neither of us added fresh inventory because it was not time well spent. Good things were selling elsewhere. I decided to remove inventory because the upkeep of the site was a time-sucker. Now, my shop is being closed. I have no interest in Opensky.
So what happened? Alibaba had no idea what is really going on with American e-commerce. They thought that they could copy other sites and dominate the market because they have a vast resource of money. Wrong, so wrong. Our paradigm has moved so far beyond that and they were clueless.
Let's face it. American buyers and sellers are good at what they do. We've been doing it for a long time. We may have sold out our manufacturing to China, but we are still innovators. We are free in America. We think outside of the box. We know how to buy, how to get a deal and we know how to sell and take care of customers.
eBay was once a good thing, but the corporation became very greedy. They blew it. They abused and took advantage of their customers, THE SELLERS. They are still of the opinion that the buyers are their customers and the sellers are their to be taken advantage of. They have placed competitive ads on listing pages, they treat sellers with such disregard with feedback ratings and defects. Fees kept going up and up. The rules grew and grew. Sellers left. Ebay forgot that they have no product to sell! When the sellers left they took their inventory, the good stuff. Ebay is all washed up.
Where did these sellers go? Many went to Amazon and Etsy. They dispersed to flash sales sites or other sales platforms like Bonanza and Ruby Lane. New sites have popped up by the thousands. Charish, shopenvy and the list goes on. The customers have dispersed as well.
Not only did ebay fail because of their poor business practices, but they got in trouble with google for cheating. Google dumped them basically. And google is another, much bigger problem. Pay-to-play has impacted the small and medium seller greatly. The independent website owner cannot afford google adwords. Why do these big corporations think that they can survive on each other only? They cater to each other with businesses that they built on the backs of small business.
While all of this turmoil was transpiring, a new sales community was quietly building. It was the result of Americans doing what they do best. They improvise. They freed themselves of sales platforms and started to sell on social media. They created "pop-ups" in malls and existing brick & mortar stores. They took their businesses back and their profits with them. Instagram and Facebook has become a huge place of business. Simple. Post a photo, comment if you want it and an invoice is sent. Invoice. Oh, that meant paypal. Sellers typically dislike the eBay owned paypal. Well, it's on the way out too. Stripe, Applepay and others are positioning themselves for the money grab of payment processing.
So what's next? The buy it button. Social Media is in a race to be the first with a fully functioning buy button that provides the customer with the ability to buy an item right there on social media without clicking into a website. And, it's all about the smart device. Smart device sales are growing at an amazing rate and desktop is in the decline.
For sellers, all you need is a place for your product to live. Then you need work on social media getting to know your customers and let them get to know you. Create a relationship with your customers, know what they look like and a bit about their lives. Kind of like having a brick & mortar again. The same, but different.
So here's the thing to remember. Corporate is reacting to what we, the American consumer has done with on-line sales. We are leading the game. We have the money to buy and we have the good stuff to sell. Chinese junk is easy to get, everywhere, cheap...throwaway junk it is. We, the Americans, have the fine hand-made. We have the vintage. We have the antique. And we have the knowledge. We have the social skills, the customer service skills and experience. We know how to do this. We have always done it. We will continue to do it. We can conduct business without the internet if need be. We don't need these corporations. It's just that Internet sales has provided us with a new way to sell stuff over the last 20 years.
So what now?
The best thing to do as a seller is to get ready for the paradigm shift. Sales platforms are about to be greatly challenged by buy buttons on social media. Decide which one works for you, build a huge following and go for it. Shopify/pinterest have a great thing going, plus Wanelo is hooked into shopify too. FB is going to be good, but more costly. Instagram is owned by Facebook so we can expect a charge for that button when it arrives too. Twitter is hooked up with google and buy buttons are coming.
What else can you do as a seller? Learn about effective hashtagging for your product line. Hashtags are a new language that one has to learn. They are different for Instagram than Google. Pinterest and Facebook do not work with them.
Very soon, sales platforms will be greatly rivaled and on the way out. Ebay lied, 11Main lied, Etsy sold out to China. We have to be ready to roll with the changes.
I have of researched this extensively. You are all entrepreneurs with open minds for the new and changing. Mark my words, Social Media and buy it buttons are the next really, really big thing. How long will it last? Until the corporate greed goes too far. Then, we Americans will know what to do. We will find a way around it and make something new.
We always do.