Was eBay your first?

I am often asked how and when I started shopping on-line and also selling on-line.

I started shopping online in the summer of ’99 with Gothic Auctions which prompted signing up for paypal almost instantly as everything was in Dollars. My first purchase was from a Canadian seller.

By the winter I was actively selling on Gothic Auctions and a competitor Goth Auctionslater on in 2001, and set up my own very basic HTML e-commerce website in May 2000, making sales and taking orders via email with promotion on community based sites.

Both of these auction sites were community driven and the gothic community contributed to how the sites were run. eBay has strived to become what these sites had all along.

It was not long before I signed up and brought and sold a few things on eBay.com (before eBay.co.uk was born)

Unfortunately then the eBay boom started and I neglected these free auction sites as the dollar grew weaker with respect to the pound. I plan to relaunch the Hairfreax range back onto these community driven auction sites as I feel they have once again come into their own. They were the first social shopping sites, everyone knew everyone and who was buying what! When your products do reflect a specific culture you should not forget the smaller, community driven exposure you can get. I started out supplying the community with products, but now I provide shops and studios with my creations. They spawned an addiction to e-commerce.

Promoting my old favourites:

gothic auctions

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A new way to use cash online – 3V Visa Prepaid Vouchers

The theory has been around for a few years, but in my Amazon order this month I had a leaflet and card for 3V Vouchers

I implemented a payzone service on my Hairfreax Website a month ago with no takers as yet, but this system of a voucher visa card number taking the onus off the retailers to integrate with any system.

The user registers the card, and then it costs £3.50 to buy a voucher between £20 and £200. These prepaid vouchers can be used like a real visa card. You can not use these on gambling sites but you only need the cash and to be over 16. Great for the Maestro card generation (which I am apart of) where a Visa card means a credit card.

Payzones are everywhere, once I had registered my card I was given a list of 10 locations near my postcode, once of which is 4 minutes walk.

Could this solve a problem with the rising number of insolvent British people and bad credit, who can’t get or don’t want to get a Visa credit card? If you stuck with just your Maestro card and some retailers don’t take it (talking overseas really) will this bridge that gap allowing more people to buy online? If you are worried about credit card fraud, this could be a solution for you as fraudsters could only take what you had left on your card and not max you out to that new £7000 credit limit you forgot to reduce last month!

Wonder if Paypal would accept such vouchers?

You can pay for goods or services on eBay and PayPal by registering your 3V Vouchers on these sites. As every 3V Voucher has a unique 16-digit VISA number, you need to use the “Add Credit Card or Debit Card” screen to attach each new 3V Voucher to your account.

Whenever you register a new VISA number from your 3V Voucher with eBay or PayPal, a small amount (the equivalent of one US dollar) is deducted to verify that the VISA number is valid. Until this amount is refunded automatically to your 3V Voucher (between 7 to 10 days), the available balance on your voucher will be reduced by this amount and therefore not available to spend.

Like other merchants, eBay and PayPal will only accept one VISA number for each transaction so you need to ensure that the cost of anything you buy (including delivery and any other charges) is less than the amount of money on the 3V voucher you have attached to your eBay account.

When a 3V Cardholder uses the 3V Voucher for the purchase of goods or services, the purchase will be subject to the terms and conditions applied by the retailer of such goods and services, and/or by any payment service provider or processor, including, by way of example, any age restriction or additional charges which might apply in respect of such purchase. 3V Cardholders must carefully review the terms and conditions of the retailer, or payment service provider or processor before attempting to make a purchase, including any terms affecting the 3V Cardholders eligibility to do so.

What is the EXPUSE number – Expanded Use Number?
If you ask PayPal to verify your PayPal account, then PayPal will charge a small amount to the 3V Voucher you have registered with them. The narrative for this charge is a 4-digit EXPUSE number which will be displayed in the description field for that transaction in the transaction history for that Voucher.

To see the available balance and transaction history for any Voucher, click on ‘View transaction history’ on the left hand side of this page

Can I use 3V Vouchers to register as a seller on eBay?
No, you cannot use 3V Vouchers to register as a seller on eBay.

Is there a limit to the number of Vouchers I can add to my PayPal account?
Yes. PayPal limits the number of credit card numbers that can be assigned to any PayPal account to a maximum of 16 over the lifetime of an account. If you have assigned 16 3V Vouchers to your PayPal account, you will have to open a new PayPal account to continue using 3V Vouchers with PayPal.

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Different types of E-commerce Shopper

Not all online shoppers are created alike. They all have different goals and strategies for their online shopping which relate to different needs. When developing an online service or e-commerce store you need to try and cater for as many of these types of shopper as possible. You can use basic ‘shopper models’ to organize the products and information on your site.

You could find at least 6 different types of online shopper within your own set of friends and family. A small sized start-up online business may not be able to afford professional customer modelling, but these techniques are still important, even to the smaller player.

New to the Net:

These buyers are still getting used to the internet and the idea of e-commerce. They use the web for research purchases and start will smaller value items in safer environments. A common start off point for these shoppers is eBay, where all the sellers are rated and they can proceed with caution. At this early stage this shopper can either become addicted to the life of e-commerce or be put off by a bad or fraudulent purchase.

This buyer needs a simple interface, and a way to verify the e-commerce site. Make sure you have clear precise pictures, a simple stream line jargon free checkout and display your returns policy clearly outlining your responsibility as an online retailer. You can invest in an eBay type feedback system such as FeeFo.com which is an independent customer feedback system and also feature customer testimonials. Make sure you use well known and simple payment processing for example Paypal, Lloyds Cardnet or HSBC.

Bargain Hunters

These shoppers rely heavily on marketplaces such as eBay and shopping comparison engines. They have no real brand loyalty and are just shopping for the lowest price. You need to convince these shoppers they are getting the best deal. Make sure you products are included in shopping comparison engines and have an RRP shown so they can see the great deal they are getting. Within this group you have the impulsive bargain hunter who wants to purchase now and a competitive bargain hunter willing to bid against other shoppers for the deal. EBay is a bargain hunter’s paradise; you can almost use eBay to cater primarily for these customers, letting them battle it out for bargains and also have fixed price items for your impulsive bargain hunters.

Precise Shoppers

These shoppers have a surgical approach to online shopping. They know exactly what they want and will research until they find the best fit to their criteria. These shoppers are hard to please as it is luck of the draw that you have the product they need. You need to make sure part numbers and the true name of your product is present in the product title to allow precise optimization. Product configuration tools like the ‘Build your Porsche’ cater for these types of shopper and are great for a multitude of shopper types.
These shoppers need customer opinions to make sure the product will fit it intended purpose and also great customer support so they can seek verification for the seller about the item.

Hobby Shoppers

Shopping for these buyers is a past time. I fall straight into this category myself. It’s an addiction and I almost need to find something to buy online if I have a penny to spare. I often have to quell the urge. These shoppers purchase frequently and enthusiastically. These are the most adventurous shoppers and you need to grab their attentions by offering engaging tools to view the merchandise as well as product recommendations and incorporating social media into their purchase. These shoppers love community applications such as forums, bulletin boards and social shopping sites.

Direct Shoppers

These shoppers buy out of necessity. They do not shop around or waste time. They want the information now and to find the product within the 3 click recommended navigation. Excellent navigation and product organization is needed to cater for these shoppers. These shoppers need all the information at their finger tips in close proximity to the items, as well as quick access to customer support. Live chat appeals to these kind of shoppers, as they want answers quickly. These shoppers respond well to expert and customers opinions and testimonials.

Nervous Shoppers

My mother very much falls in this category, afraid to ‘put her credit card’ online or that she will be subject to fraud. Identity theft has risen to 1 in 4 in the UK so this is a valid concern. These shoppers start off by only using the internet to research products they mainly buy offline. To make these customers feel secure you need to clearly state your security /privacy policies and use a SSL certificate at checkout. These shoppers watch out for the little padlock at the bottom of the browser so make sure you have no non-secure items on your secure pages. Non-secure Google analytics tracking code is famous for this, they have a https version. You need to state that their information is secure and not sold or distributed. These customers also need customer support, with most of these shoppers wanting to hear from a human before they make their purchase. You need to make sure you include a phone number contact for these shoppers, and also an option that they can pay over the phone for their purchase. You might find these shoppers are only leads for your bricks and mortar or catalogue operations. These are still valid customers as most types of customers have a little bit of the nervous shopper in them.

You can not please or cater for every shopper that will land on your e-commerce site, but you do need to consider the information you need to give your customers and the shopping experience as a whole. Always consider your product type and match it with your typical customer profile. These are generalisations on shoppers, but as with the colour symbolism and psychology, every product type attracts a different set of customer profiles! You can even go as far as moulding your search engine optimisation to match what each shopper type is looking for. Intelligent search engines will deliver your products and message directly to these shopper types, Google personalised search will make this easier for you.

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Why I love channeladvisor today…

As an automated ebay listing and website storefront system channeladvisor is pretty hot.

Channeladvisor has made my life easier today because:

1. You can get a full export of all of your inventory – all that hard work exported in excel.
2. You can export all customer information (and see if they have opted in to your newsletter or not) for email marketing campaigns.
3. PayPal payments pro and express integration done for you. I still can’t do the paypal payments pro integration on my own website, but I will! Roll on Cubecart 4
4. Automatic feeds to Google Base and Shopzilla
5. Integration with Google Analytics using the e-commerce functionality too (so you can see what leads actually generate complete sales)
6. Export of all sales, all in one go.

That is why I love ChannelAdvisor today.

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Email about E-commerce Platforms – GoECart.com

As I don’t have my comments on as default I occasionally get emails!

One such email in response to : What functionality to make sure you have when investing in an e-commerce platform…


Hi Liz,
I really enjoy your blog.
I read your post today on e commerce platforms and I wondered if you knew
anything about goecart.com? Is it a worthwhile option?

Thanks for taking the time to read this

and i said….

I have not heard of them but as there were a codie finalist they can’t be
half bad! It includes a one page shopping cart (marvellous, better for
reducing cart abandonment) and also CRM tools, which is a nice added
feature for customer support and after sales marketing. It all depends
whether you need all these nifty features for your business and whether it
justifies the price. As it has a 30 day trial you have nothing to loose
trying it out.
I took a look at http://www.bridestuff.com/ and they have SEF URLs (text
urls) and I had no loading problems either whilst accessing the site.

So what has http://goecart.com/ got that stands out to me?
One page checkout ( the holy grail of all checkout formats, why would you want anything less?)
CRM tools – The CRM tool Salesforce tracks everything in my work life, so it would be great for an e-commerce set up to track customer questions, website support and also drive marketing campaigns and track their success.
– They are thinking about SEO, with the text urls and the site mapping for Google and Yahoo.
– The ability to automate shopping comparison feeds and also set up your own affiliate schemes.
– Many payment integrations ( but no mention of paypal pro in the website? Surely not?)
– Using excel to manage your inventory

and many more features. They seem to be dotting every I an crossing every T with and ERP like coverage with regards to e-commerce. They also have a free trial available.

But go on…how much does all this cost?

$1799 (£906 at time of publishing) a year for the basic subscription of up to 1000 items, but bear in mind that does include the hosting, disk space,emails and support.

…..so for what £75.50 a month. Not a bad deal really. I would recommend this for existing businesses thinking of going global with e-commerce from about £2Kto £30K GMS (Gross Monthly Sales)

Now, onto the Design….

Design is extra, their design services are an extra $1250 (£630). They boast the system is fully customisable so design is what I would shop around for. You could probably save on the design element, or find a design team that suits your tastes more as everyone is different. No point putting all your eggs in one basket when the market is so large and fruitful!

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The mighty ‘Aggregator’ – the buzz word of the moment…

Sites that aggregate a common product or service for example marketplaces like eBay and shopping comparison sites have been going since time forgot. This technology went social with Spokeo, as reported by Techcrunch….

Spokeo wants to be your home page. They want to bring you your favourite blog feeds, MySpace updates, new YouTube videos, and friends’ photo albums all in one eyeful!

But what I would like to see is the same methodology applied to payment gateways. One system to integrate with and you can use Paypal, Paypal pro and Express, Google checkout, Amazon payments and anything that’s is worthy. This would leave payment gateway integration a breeze (and probably open to hideous fraud, but hey its just the idea) as all these new and hip payment methods are coming out and for the best conversions you need to employ all of them? What a nightmare.

The channeladvisor checkout works using this kind of methodology, as well as any heavily integrated checkout, but we are not talking large GMS businesses, its the small and many that struggle to integrate their checkouts/websites with all of these systems!

One integration, one Dashboard…..all the payment solutions……


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