Internet Shopping Malls for Small and Medium Sized Businesses

Background

With the advent of advancements and technologies, online shopping malls have become extremely popular. In the present day it has become the most lucrative business that is growing with leaps and bounds. There are many factors that have made significant contribution the growth of such malls. Some of the key factors are tiring work hours, and increased stress level in this highly busy and hectic life. After long working hours people get tired and don’t feel like moving out for shopping. They take advantage of online malls to buy their requirements with ease and convenience.

Whilst the advantages of Internet shopping malls are quite obvious for the consumer, it is less obvious for a small and medium sized business to take advantage of this consumer trend. There are hundreds of different E-commerce technologies around, most of them complex and costly to manage. And there are even more so called Free open source E-commerce technologies, unfortunately even complexer to manage and at the end even more expensive to maintain. The lack of qualified internal resources within an SMB makes the choice of the right E-commerce partner even harder.

What are the criteria for making a choice

First and foremost, is the choice between a service and a software product to run your E-commerce application. The product model is a buy model, whereas the customer is actually buying an e-commerce software and buying the licensed software that goes with it. The service model has the most appeal and traction lately, whereby the E-commerce application is sold as a service and whereby the software is provided to the customer as a fit-all solution.

Then comes the question of should the customer buy in to a full service concept or should he be doing a lot of the configuration and business logic of the E-commerce service itself. All small and medium sized businesses have limited human and capital resources available, so looking for an all encompassing service to help built an E-commerce WebPresence is always going to be a better choice. The costs are known beforehand, the customer only needs to communicate what, at what price and how he wants to sell products on-line. The entire E-commerce application comes preloaded with products, pricing, business logic, shipping logic and different payment gateways. So the service provider delivers an entire service. Choosing for a full service service concept will further shorten the delivery of your E-commerce application.

The third element to consider is how do I now promote my E-commerce WebPresence. For most SMB’s it ends here – they have spent all their money on an E-commerce application and have either no money to promote their site or they have no knowledge on how to promote their site. This is where shopping malls play a big role. They give you the visibility that you need for your products and eventually your company. They generate the traffic you need for your products to be bought online, and this for a fraction of the cost when doing it all by yourselves.

What shopping mall model to choose

The most common and traditional shopping mall is like a directory of categories and products consumer can choose from. If listed in there your company and your products have no own identity and your E-commerce application is part of the shopping mall. Excellent for all kinds of products with strong branding and name recognition, obviously less applicable to smaller and medium sized organizations

Listing your E-commerce site in one of the many shopping mall directories – you keep your own identity and product listing and pricing, but as a small organization you are going to be lost in the noise of bigger brands and price killers. Theses shopping malls very often do price comparisons between similar products coming from different vendors

A shopping mall as a service to your E-commerce site. You have your own identity, products, pricing etc. and you completely control your E-commerce business logic. You decide what products you put in the mall, at what price and at what conditions. Consumers buy from your shop not from the mall. The mall generates traffic for your products and services, the mall is ranked within Google, your products are ranked within Google. The whole model is success based, as you will only pay the mall on a Pay-per-view or PPC (pay-per-click basis). It is a shop in a shop model – your brand, your identity but part of a bigger WebPresence for your web shop.

Whereas eBay would be your prime example of the directory model Internet shopping mall, examples of the latter model are Shopmania and Mashmart. Both platforms are giving E-commerce shops the capability of building an own presence on the platform, through a complete copy of the existing shop or through a subset of the existing shop. Shopmania is the platform that combines the old directory listing capabilities, and price comparison features with the shop in a shop model. So a bit of both worlds. Furthermore Shopmania takes a horizontal approach at the market, much like many other E-shopping malls do. Mashmart implements the shopping mall as a service, but with the business owner in full control over its E-business. So at any time the business owner decides what product and services to put in the mall, independent from its existing Internet shop. It’s a complete shop in a shop model, and it takes a vertical approach – Mashmart being focused on smaller relatively unknown brands with only a regional or even local approach, and in niche categories like Fine arts, collector T-shirts, regional beers etc.

Conclusion

Each SMB that is growing and eager to sell more products and services, will need some sort of E-commerce WebPresence. Out of the vast choices available, the safer choice in this difficult economic climate is to go for service oriented solutions, rather then product oriented solutions. It is also recommended to go for solutions where the service provider will guarantee you visibility on the Internet for your company, your webshop, and the products and services you sell online. And all that without losing the flexibility to run your own business online.