Thursday, June 5, 2008

Main Street Mall Online

Have you got some vintage clothing or patterns to sell? Opening an online business seems like the thing to do for many people. After all the Internet is a level playing field, it's easy, and anyone can do it, right? Well, that seems to be what some people think. The cold hard facts, however, are the playing field often has unexpected bumps and pitfalls, there is more work to the process than may at first be expected and, at least if the goal is reasonable success, it takes a person with tenacity and a great work ethic to make it all come together. At least that's how I see it.

There are many places to open an online business. There are big, corporate, players like eBay and Amazon. There are other smaller venues like Etsy and Ruby Lane. And, of course, you can always take a stab at running your own website. An online venue that has been growing slowly but steadily now for two years and is, for some, worth looking at is Main Street Mall Online (http://mainstreetmallonline.com/), known as MSMO (pronounced Miz-Mo) to those who buy and sell there.

Main Street Mall Online



One June 1st., two years ago, Main Street Vintage opened its virtual doors to the public. It was an Internet mall, or venue, where independent sellers of vintage clothing and accessories could offer their items in individual stores that made up the mall. Main Street Vintage was our first, our flagship, mall. The immediate success led to additional malls. There are currently 21 active malls with another dozen or so already in the works. A mall can be created for any product or service line. Collectively these malls became Main Street Mall Online.

MSMO is a different kind of venue. In fact, it truly is a venue when so many others that claim to be so really aren't. MSMO doesn't control the seller's business. Rather, the site owners work to assist each seller to reach the seller's desired level of success. There is a basic Code of Conduct that governs the behavior of sellers on the site with a few basic rules that are more common sense than dogma. Unlike most other sites MSMO allows sellers to link to their own websites, and even other selling venues, from both their stores and their individual listings. Sellers may use whatever payment methods they choose to accept (MSMO supports most shopping carts and other payment gateways including Google Checkout). MSMO allows listings of any price, including less than one dollar, and supports digital delivery merchandise. MSMO is about sellers building their own successful businesses, in their own way, without restrictive rules and practices by the site owners that seem more in favor of corporate greed than seller success. MSMO is about bringing sellers and customers together and letting them conduct their business directly between themselves, with support, not interference.

MSMO is designed from the ground up to be different, unique, and a place where serious sellers can succeed if they are willing to participate in their own success. A great deal of research went into the design concept and marketing philosophy of MSMO. The main site gathers together a number of merchandise specific malls, each its own website with a focus on a narrow product line. Sellers open stores in one or more malls, as their product/service lines dictate, and offer their items or services for sale in a "buy now" format. There are no auctions at MSMO. Research clearly showed that the auction concept, though far from dead, is loosing appeal in favor of immediate purchase. Shoppers just don't want to wait five or ten days to see if they have actually purchased the item they want or not. If they see what they want, they want it now.

The individual malls cater to the niche-market shopper, said by some to be the fastest growing segment of the online marketplace, and the over all site caters to the window shopper looking to find whatever might be available and appeal to their current desire. Either way, shoppers are now regularly finding the things they are looking for at the stores in MSMO's many malls. All malls can be found from the main MSMO site. Some malls also have their own domain names and are developing their own distinct character and following. The Sewing, Patterns, Fabric, & Needlework mall, one of MSMO's busiest malls (http://mainstreetpatterns.com), and our flagship mall, Vintage Clothing & Accessories mall (http://mainstreetvintage.com), are two of these.

Main Street Vintage



Not everyone will be successful on MSMO of course. In fact MSMO isn't for everyone. It's not that we are elitist or anything. To the contrary, everyone is welcome at MSMO, but some just won't find it works for them -- or, more likely, that they are not prepared to work for themselves. MSMO, like any selling site that offers the real opportunity to build a solid, successful, online business, requires work, commitment and time. Joining any site for a few weeks, listing a handful of items, and then sitting back and waiting for the money to flow in, isn't likely to produce success of any kind. You need to be prepared to commit time -- probably six months to a year at least -- and participate in promotion and advertising programs for your store to be found and to build a successful, sustainable, business. MSMO provides the base, offers SEO features and Google Base submission, spends more on promotion as a percentage of revenue than most other sites, promotes the whole site, individual malls and even individual stores and listings. MSMO does a lot for the seller, but any online business owner needs to do their own share of promotion if they truly hope to build an active, lasting, business.

You also need to list enough items to offer the customers a broad enough choice. Unless you have wonderful, sought after, items that will be grabbed up in an instant, you need to have more than a dozen or two listings if you expect to make significant sales. That's just the nature of any marketplace. You need to offer the customer a range of items to choose from. You need enough items, varying in style, design, color and size, in order to meet the needs of a wider number of customers. That's marketing 101. Offer the customer something or something, not something or nothing.

MSMO operates on a different financial model than most selling sites. There are no listing fees and no final sales fees or commissions of any kind. But MSMO is not a free site. Free sites tend to gather lots of sellers and lots of listings but can quickly trend towards junk sites. MSMO charges a reasonable flat monthly fee that provides the base from which the seller can freely build their online business to any level of success. A single store in one mall, with unlimited listings, is just $30 per month. Multiple stores (two or more) in multiple malls, also with unlimited listings, is just $50 per month -- that's total, not each! Just $50 per month for as many stores as you wish.

Being part of a site known for select, quality sellers which draws excellent customers who return again and again, listings found in an on-site search engine that plays fair with all sellers, and sharing in the benefits of specific, targeted, promotion and advertising, as well as numerous general promotion packages, makes MSMO an affordable, and smart, choice for many. Whether you are looking for an alternative to eBay, a place to expand your business horrizons, or a place from which to begin your online journey of successful selling, MSMO could be a great choice for you.

No comments: