This is the third article in a series that explores off-eBay marketplaces. In this article, we introduce eCrater, a free marketplace and online-store builder launched with the aim to make selling online simple.
Online marketplace eCrater follows the philosophy of popular search engines: Make things as easy to use as possible—and make them free.
That was the site's goal from the start, says Dimitar Slavov's, founder of eCrater.
"I thought e-commerce, like search engines, should be free," he recalls of the days before his marketplace went live. "I said to myself, 'We shouldn't charge anything for this service, [we should be] like Google and Bing. They don't [charge].'"
Today, seven years after the marketplace's debut, eCrater still charges no listing, subscription or image-hosting fees. Sellers can simply visit the site, open an account, create their own customizable online storefront and start selling.
"Everything that we do is to keep it easy," Slavov says.
Simple and efficient
The simplified marketplace and store builder has a clean look to it, the founder points out. Sellers can post up to 10 photos of their items, specify a price, add a description and their payment options, the condition of the item and shipping details. But they can't add a listing template.
"We would like to keep all listings unified and retain the simple structure," Slavov notes.
Of all small to mid-sized marketplaces, we are one of the few that are completely free
However, sellers can decide what payment options they'll take in their shops, including checks and money orders. Merchants can even allow customers to pay for products in cash when they pick them up, Slavov notes, though he adds that most transactions are done through PayPal and Google Checkout.
Merchants can customize the look of their stores, create their own store categories, add a logo and more. eBay sellers can even import their items from that site to sell them on eCrater.com or in their eCrater store. And all stores get their own subdomain. All for free.
"We are unique," Slavov notes. "Of all small to mid-sized marketplaces, we are one of the few that are completely free."
But free doesn't mean subpar functionality. Slavov and the rest of the eCrater staff work hard to give sellers a good place to do business. This includes giving sellers as much search engine exposure as they can. Products are automatically loaded into Google Product Search when they're added to a store, making them easier to find online. eCrater also uploads new items to its marketplace, eCrater.com, when sellers add new products, and buyers can make purchases from either location, Slavov notes.
Sellers can also opt to have Google ads appear on their listing pages to generate additional revenue anytime someone clicks on the ads.
"We give them 100 percent of the revenue," Slavov notes. "It's a unique opportunity for the merchants. If they don't have sales, they can still make some revenue."
Sellers can even promote their items within eCrater.com by paying a fee to have their item featured on the site's home page or at the top of a category.
Though still small compared to other marketplaces, eCrater is blossoming. The marketplace has grown to host more than 60,000 storefronts, and received 4 million visitors during the month of July. The company even branched out to the U.K. last year. This year, it will debut in another country, though Slavov isn't ready to give specifics just yet.
"It's a small surprise for our users," he says.
But if the expansion into the U.K. is any indicator, the new eCrater marketplace should make sellers happy. Many eCrater merchants were thrilled when the marketplace opened a U.K. site.
"It was a great channel for their items," Slavov recalls. "Many U.S. sellers opened stores on the U.K. site, and many U.K. sellers had been selling on the U.S. site, and were happy that now they could sell in the U.K. We were not starting from scratch. We had quite of few merchant who were waiting to sell in the new UK marketplace."
For more information, visit eCrater.com.