Auctiva EDU recently sat down with Jeff Schlicht, Auctiva's founder and CEO, to find out what's on his mind as the company heads into its 15th year of providing tools to help people save time and make more money selling on eBay. Here's what he had to say:
EDU: You've been involved in e-commerce for more than 15 years. What still excites you about this industry?
Schlicht: I think it's the fact that e-commerce is still growing by double digits every year; and there's still a lot of upside when you look at the size of the retail industry.
I personally don't even shop at stores anymore. I just think, in terms of the experience and information you can bring to buyers online, e-commerce has a lot more to offer. When you're looking at a product on the shelf, you're not going to get things like reviews, research and other types of information that help sell products. People are doing their product research online anyway, so any solution that can successfully build that into the buying experience has the potential to be very powerful.
The sites that are having success outside of eBay and Amazon are more vertically oriented or really focused on one area where they're expert
EDU: Where do you think the biggest opportunity is in e-commerce?
Schlicht: I see a lot happening around curating products and helping people discover new things to buy. I think that's leading to more sites being built around a specific product mix or selection. And I think that helps with the experience.
There are obviously the big players, like Amazon and eBay, that have everything, but the sites that are having success outside of those marketplaces are more vertically oriented (like Gilt.com) or really focused on one area where they're expert. Whether it's high-end fashion at a discount, or home improvement or camping gear, you can really create a better buying experience when you have the ability to focus.
It seems like that's continuing to evolve as more players like that come in. Ten or 20 years down the road, I think sites will be even more precise in what they offer, just as department stores have to be because of limited shelf space. They have professional buyers curate the best products that fit their clientele.
All of that is being driven by consumer demand. The reason the verticals are succeeding is they're bringing together the right group of products and knowledge about the product—people know where to go when they want that product. They're just creating a better experience for buyers.
EDU: Even eBay seems to be taking steps in that direction.
Schlicht: Yeah, they're just moving really slow. They've done it in fashion and autos, but now they're taking autos back into the main site. I don't know if I truly understand that part. We'll have to wait and see how it turns out.
EDU: What challenges do you see for smaller sellers?
As we evolve, we are looking to help sellers find more ways to expose their inventory to buyers
Schlicht: I think the biggest challenge for our customers is the direction I see eBay taking: bringing the bigger sellers into the marketplace. And it seems like there's been a decline in smaller sellers as a result. You still need the variety on eBay, the long-tail selection. But now you see more of those large and medium brands filling up the marketplace, and they have excellent prices and service, and fast shipping. It's hard for the smaller and more casual sellers to compete.
Amazon has always been more oriented to larger merchants, and they put things in place to ensure their sellers can do well on the marketplace—closing categories to new sellers, for example. For eBay, it's harder because of its history as a site where even the little guy could be successful.
EDU: How do you see Auctiva's role evolving?
Schlicht: We provide more value when we can help sellers improve their sales, whether it's with our eBay tools, our Custom Newsletter, a store or whatever. As we evolve, we are looking to help sellers find more ways to expose their inventory to buyers—Auctiva Commerce is one way we've done this. But, in addition to just providing tools for sellers, we're also looking at how we can help them with the toughest job in e-commerce: getting in front of buyers.
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Auctiva staff writers constantly monitor trends and best practices of those selling on eBay and elsewhere online. They attend relevant training seminars and trade shows and regularly discuss the market with PowerSellers and other market experts.