The Spring PeSA Summit, held June 2-3 in Atlanta, seemed smaller than past meetings but more focused, reports longtime eBay PowerSeller Gary Richardson. We spoke to Richardson about some of the most important insight he gained by attending the summit and about his impressions. Overall, he tells us, the tone of the meeting was optimistic. Attendees actually heard: "If you have survived up until now, you will have the best Christmas ever!"
Richardson also thought the speakers were optimistic about recent economic indicators, such as the Consumer Confidence Index, the direction of the New York Stock Exchange and even the unemployment rate.
"The bottom was hit three weeks ago," he chuckles.
Even so, Richardson says several sellers who attended the summit in the past sat this meeting out. He identifies two types of sellers: those who didn't attend the meeting because their businesses were really hurting and those who are growing by leaps and bounds.
"There's not that much in between," he notes.
We're happy to report that Richardson is in the latter category. Thanks to his phenomenal success on Amazon as well as through his own Web site, he's set to gross $1 million in sales this year. He has just taken over a new warehouse and was in the midst of moving 50,000 boxes into his new facility when we spoke.
Less than a year ago, Richardson employed one person. Now he has five employees, and will soon add a sixth devoted to nothing but photographing his items and creating listings. He consistently searches for the next great time-saving, income-generating or brand-building idea. That may explain his success.
He was happy to share two concrete things he took away from Atlanta's meeting this year, things he believes have already helped his business grow.
Adding a coupon to his Web site has yielded proven results for Richardson and his business
Coupons, coupons, coupons!
OK, so offering a coupon is not a new idea. Businesses have long enticed customers with discounts. But adding a coupon to his Web site has yielded proven results for Richardson and his business.
"In one month, 120 customers redeemed the coupons, which gave them a 5 percent discount," he says. Although he didn't quite understand the logic, he's found that a 5 percent discount is more often redeemed than a 10 percent one.
"People are really looking for coupons," he notes, "and coupon pages get indexed by Google. Offering a 5 percent discount is inexpensive, compared to advertising through Google AdWords, for example, or even offering free shipping."
Google's home run for sellers: Google Base
Not only is Richardson successful on eBay, but he has also built a successful Amazon presence in the apparel and accessory segment. As a matter of fact, Richardson is No. 10 in Amazon's list of top 100 best-selling sunglasses. He attributes a lot of his traffic to Google's product search engine, known as Google Base.
"Google Base is sending me 1,500 visitors per day for free!" he exclaims. He estimates this is the equivalent of $1,500 in free advertising.
Google Base, also known as Google Product Search, allows sellers to upload a data feed of the products they sell through online venues. Sellers simply create a spreadsheet file, join Google Base (it's free), and once the upload is complete, their products will become part of the search results every time a prospective customer searches for relevant keywords. Google Base requires sellers to enter the following attributes for each item:
- One link to the item
Over the years he's been using Google Base, Richardson has found ways to refine his attributes. He now makes sure his titles are fewer than 70 characters, a direct recommendation from Google Base.
"If you add extra cells [custom attributes] and thus customize your files, this helps you become more findable," Richardson explains. "Google wants everything categorized, so I may add information like 'polarized,' the frame color and details about the glass color."
Richardson also recommends sellers include tax and shipping data for their items. Submit your feeds frequently to guarantee that you're providing the most up-to-date product information possible. Google Base will allow you to upload product listings up to once a day.
A Google Base feed equals free money
You'll find Google Base by clicking on the down arrow next to the "more" hyperlink on the Google home page. Click on Google Product Search, which is how the shopping aggregator appears to buyers. Don't be concerned that it's still listed as a beta offering. Google Product Search has been in beta for years.
Sellers will find a hyperlink, "Information for Sellers," at the bottom of the page. Click through and you'll find everything you'll need to get started with your spreadsheet. You'll see that you can list a single item or you can start a data feed. Data feeds are text files or in XML format. Google Base doesn't support Excel—which may seem unusual—but you can convert your Excel files to Google-acceptable files right through the site.
Richardson currently has 1,500 SKUs in his spreadsheet.
"A Google Base feed equals free money. There's not a lot of information about it out there," he remarks, but putting in the time to do the research and get his listings up on Google Base has proven to be profitable for this seller.
Richardson is so excited about the results he's gotten through Google Base that he has begun and maintains an active discussion thread on the subject on the PeSA discussion boards. The thread is accessible to PeSA members. Google itself maintains a blog about Google Base, which is must-reading for those who want to take advantage of it.
With the PeSA Summit behind him, Richardson's new warehouse fully stocked and his new employees happily engaged, what is Gary Richardson up to next? Well, when we spoke with him in late June he was a little busy.
"Today is a killer day," he explains. "I haven't had this many shipments before. We're on fire!"
This enthusiasm is a far cry from the cheerless news we've grown accustomed to during these tough economic times. Once he can catch his breath, Richardson is looking forward to stretching his marketing efforts to YouTube.
"There are so many things you can do with video and sunglasses," this e-commerce dynamo says. We'll look forward to the next production.