Your browser is out-of-date!

Update your browser to view this website correctly. Update my browser now


Dealers Finding New Paths To E-Commerce Parity


When it comes to ecommerce,
observing the old adage
“If you can’t beat’em, join’em” has
never been easier for brick-and-mortar

Between thirdparty
transactional sites
like eBay, and the
scores of e-tail services
offered by industry
buying groups, even the smallest
independent dealers can readily leverage
the web’s low barrier of entry
to create an outsized presence

For dealers like George Manlove,
president/CEO of Montana-based
Vann’s, e-commerce was a necessity
due to the vastness of the state and
the long distances some customers
travel to reach his stores. Seizing on
an opportunity, Manlove became an
e-tail pioneer with his 15-year-old

, which was among the
first e-commerce sites to receive CE
vendor authorization.

More recently, he, like many independent
dealers, has followed the
money and broadened his brand’s
reach by becoming a third-party seller

’s marketplace. “I
compete with Amazon, but the traffic
it generates is significant,” he
told TWICE. “There’s been a seismic
shift toward doing business in
the marketplaces. It’s like a virtual
Walmart – you’re just putting stuff
on their shelves and letting the customer
pick and choose.”

Despite new limits on marketplace
sales by LG Electronics and Panasonic, and restrictions
on marketing to Amazon
customers, Manlove said the Amazon
platform “gets lots of eyeballs, and
that’s where consumers are shifting.”

Seth Brown, marketing director for New York IT, CE and A/V specialty dealer DataVision,
said his company has found a direct correlation between
marketplace participation and visits to its own website,

. “There’s been a pretty dramatic increase
in clicks on our site. It really creates awareness of the
brand,” he said.

Not surprisingly, DataVision’s revenue and volume of
orders has also grown as it expanded its presence from
Amazon to the Best Buy,

, Barnes & Noble, and
Sears marketplaces. “It really lets us extend our reach,”
Brown said.

DataVision has also shifted some of its fulfillment
function to Amazon, which “cuts down on our shipping
and labor costs, exposes us to a whole new pool of consumers
who shop through Amazon Prime, and provides
the best customer service,” he said.

Retailers including Abt Electronics, Adorama, J&R
Music & Computer World, Huppins’/OneCall and Vann’s
are also finding new sales opportunities on eBay. The ecommerce
platform is working to change its perception
as a collectibles auction site and is revamping its CE
section by highlighting brands and authorized dealers;
developing a MAP treatment to help keep dealers compliant
with vendors’ pricing policies; and by enhancing
dealers’ eBay storefronts.

The latter is already in the works for participating members
of the Progressive Retailers Organization (PRO
Group), which forged a partnership with eBay in January.
Executive director/COO Dave Workman said eBay
is an alternative to Amazon that doesn’t compete with its
sellers and provides a “compelling marketplace proposition.
They’re a traffic platform only and a true partner
that brings visibility to products.”

Dealers can also leverage eBay’s
deep pool of low-cost retail services,
including web store design, payment
options, inventory management and
even mobile shopping apps through its
PayPal, Magento, RedLaser and Milo
subsidiaries and open x.commerce platform.

Other buying groups have eased dealers’ transition
into cyberspace with web design and online marketing
programs such as MEGA Group USA’s WebFronts Premium
Plus platform, developed by Retailer Web Services
(RWS), which gives members a web presence with unlimited
product catalogs, advanced merchandising and
pricing tools, an unlimited dual shopping cart and quoterequest
system, advanced SEO techniques, automatedrebate
centers and product-comparison capabilities.

More recently MEGA introduced an automatic feed
program for Facebook called Social Extend, one of a number of social-networking
services provided by online
marketing firm NetSertive.

Meanwhile, the BrandSource buying
group began addressing the burgeoning
business in m-commerce with last year’s introduction of a
mobile app for dealers and consumers. Recently added
features include store-specific pricing, printable specs
and over 4,000 additional SKUs, explained Brand-
Source Mobile’s Greg White.

Forthcoming enhancements will include stock and
pricing information from the group’s warehouses, and
a location-based “geo-fencing notification” that sends
messages to consumers who are within dealer proximity,
he said.