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Is Google still able to offer anything to the small trader?

 5:28 am on Aug 24, 2006 (gmt 0)

Is Google able to offer anything to the small trader anymore?

Is the new Google philosophy targeted at the safe, established retailers who are prepared to pay for all of their listings. With affiliate schemes as good as dead, is Ebay the small guys business friend and is Google backing away from this competition in an attempt to secure a quiet life?

Interested to know your thoughts ...



 5:46 am on Aug 24, 2006 (gmt 0)

Sure it is. I ran a store online, and the reason that I gave it up was problems with suppliers, not problems with ranking.

It's so much fun to start ranking top 10 for a product and suddenly finding that you can't get any more for 2 months.


 6:31 am on Aug 24, 2006 (gmt 0)

Hey BigDave,

That's kind of my point, although not well explained in my intro. What use is 10'000 potential buyers per day if the small trader can't hold the stock? A top ten listing [as far as I can see] has two major drawbacks. The first one is as you have described and secondly, when you order ahead your stock and then Google pulls the plug on your, previously regular, listing.

At least with Ebay the small business person can list only when they have stock, change their lines and vary prices at the drop of a hat. IMHO far more flexible and definitely easier to target a client.

All the Best

Col :-)


 10:39 am on Aug 24, 2006 (gmt 0)

If you're talking about retail goods, why not simply display the current stock-level on the page, and only let people actually place an order if you have stock in?

It seems that you don't have so much have a problem with Google as with your suppliers/business processes. Certainly, I know "getting too much business" is a problem that many people would *kill* for...

Oliver Henniges

 1:02 pm on Aug 24, 2006 (gmt 0)

> Is Google able to offer anything to the small trader anymore?

To my opinion the long tail of specialised shops of any kind is going to completely shift into the internet within he forthcoming ten or twenty years. A gold mine for those who have their existing small niches and not too many competitors yet.

Whether google is and will be the right place to acchieve that, is another matter. For me personally it's the first choice at present and has been for the past years.

The last few days, there were many articles in our press stating that ebay had lauched a new concept for smaller dealers. I doubt the way this is currently reported to be organized makes sense in the long run. As soon as there is more than one person selling the same thing on a completely transpartent plattform, prices tend to go down rapidly. I wouldn't waste a single second of my time to participate in such an area.


 1:10 pm on Aug 24, 2006 (gmt 0)

Hi Shaper,

"Getting too much business" is certainly a thing that some would die for. However, as my initial question attempted to get across, it will not be right for the small trader. They will always struggle with stock control, cash flow and market stability ... all of those things that Google will have to place at the top of their list, if they are to be perceived as giving accurate and useful search results. It is now not good enough to just supply the searcher with a company that may or may not have some of what they are looking for, the searcher will judge Google on results.

All the Best

Col :-)


 1:19 pm on Aug 24, 2006 (gmt 0)

Hi Oliver Henniges,

Many thanks for participating in this post, it's always nice to get your take on things.

On this subject, I'm only trying to place where the "small guy" will go in the coming months and years. From reading your previous posts, I would imagine that you have quite an established web network and therefore, when you say that you would not compete in a pond full of small fish, it doesn't surprise me. However, where do the people go that have been on the free ride during Google's first development phase? They will go somewhere and they will be a force to reckon with "en mass". Is this new platform from eBay, their way of netting the fall off from Google. Putting it biblically, has eBay become a fisher of men?


Col :-)

Oliver Henniges

 9:06 pm on Aug 24, 2006 (gmt 0)

Hi Colin,

thx for the compliments.
I would imagine that you have quite an established web network and therefore, when you say that you would not compete in a pond full of small fish, it doesn't surprise me.

Not quite. It's just one single website, contributing now 50% of our total revenue and turnaround (the other half is traditional shop), however currently well established in all major SEs, and growing with roughly 30% every year. It is relatively old (2000), but I'd still regard it "small". I guess, I am currently profiting quite a lot from collegues (I hate the word competitor) all over the country, who are simply giving up, because our branch has particularly suffered from that last world-wide economic crisis.

As to your question, success of a small trader does only partially depend on the way google is currently working. There are quite a number of other factors which are much more imporant: first the way you communicate with your customers, secondly the nature of the products or services you offer, and many others. If you are a good businessman with a clear plan on both these areas, and a little bit of money to start with, I'd dare say that google and organic serps are still THE ideal place to market your plans.

The long tail is really very long, but the more you get to the end, the more specific product-knowledge is required.

Think of e.g. pharmaceuticals. You wouldn't claim to understand the nature and qualities of the various beta-blockers on the market without having studied that subject a couple of years at an ordinary university, would you? Similar things hold true for almost every branch of the sales-business. If you want to be a successful small trader in your country, you should aim at being 100% expert in your niche. As time goes by and you acquire more and more life- and product-experiences, that niche grows automatically, and may become quite comfortable and perhaps even safe.

Drill a tunnel into that niche, deep throat, maybe you'll discover another much more interesting one at the other end. Or make it an attractive relief.


 11:09 pm on Aug 24, 2006 (gmt 0)

The success or failure for the small trader may be more to do with their decisions on how the business is to operate. The search engines are just the modern day yellow pages for reaching potential business.

I've told this story before but it bears repeating in this thread.

Our flagship site is a destination guide and our core business is selling vacation accommodation. We operate 2 affiliate scheme of the usual type where everything is totally automated.... view the property, check availability, make a booking, pay online. There is no opportunity for contact with a real person.... no-one is available to answer questions.

We also operate a private affiliate scheme that sells holiday accommodation in properties where we have made private arrangements with the management. This is the old fashioned kind of transaction where the enquirer fills out a form, hits a submit button and knows they have to wait for a personal response. We also operate a phone service on this scheme. In short, this scheme is one where the customer has access to a real person, either by email or phone.

When the potential customer arrives on our site, they can choose which system they prefer.... the fully automated or the personal touch.

For every 1 person who opts for the fully automated, 10 persons prefer the personal touch. Why? ... because real people do have questions, they feel more comfortable establishing a rapport with a real person, and.... do not lose sight of the fact that most people are NOT confortable giving their credit card details to a totally foreign, inanimate booking system.

So if your business model involves a transaction with real people then you have to put the interests of those potential customers at the top of the priority list. Its a concept that has been around for a very long time... it's called customer service.

In today's world there is a tendancy to embrace the latest technology, especially in communities like this one. Can do = must do is not necessarily a valid approach when it comes to servicing customers.


 11:32 pm on Aug 24, 2006 (gmt 0)

My tiny contribution is that,

Ebay is a great environment to trade in, it feels very safe for both buyer an seller, give both confidence,

I tried it for 5 mths,,

But there is a tremendous cost, the rate at which the listing costs pile up is frightning,

Plus the ease of selling, the heavy media exposure, brings tons of completely clueless folk, who sell at a loss then go bust, but they last long enough, to savagely depress prices, and even before they go bust, there is a new wave of eager new entrants, just as clueless as the earlier batch

For commodity item sellers, there are the wholesalers who canna sell wholesale who decide to sell retail, there is no matching their prices, nor their apparent capacity to endure low profits,

Ebay however is a fantastic place to learn to run a business, the rules are the same for everyone, and its fairly predictable, just avoid commodity items, unlike some fool i could mention

Me, I just hope that all the Search engines compete harder for traffic,

3 top equal SE's would be lovely


 5:49 am on Aug 25, 2006 (gmt 0)

when you order ahead your stock and then Google pulls the plug on your, previously regular, listing.

Ask anyone with a bricks and mortar store about unsold stock problems. Hell, you can keep your #1 listing in Google and still be unable to sell the stock. It's a business problem, not just a small business problem.

I could have worked out my supply issues, and other business in that field have done so. I just decided that it wasn't worth my time and aggravation levels to get it worked out, given the slim online margins.


 6:08 am on Aug 25, 2006 (gmt 0)

Hi Big Dave,

That's a good point and I'm sure that if Google led revenue is worth it, then a small business would upgrade their procedures etc to make the most of it. However, for many people that only make a very small amounts from a niche listing, it seems to my way of thinking that eBay would offer a very decent alternative, without the hassle of fluctuating search engine positions to worry about ... essentially, leave the battlefield to the big guys.

Have a good weekend, updates willing

Col :-)

Oliver Henniges

 4:36 pm on Aug 26, 2006 (gmt 0)

> For every 1 person who opts for the fully automated, 10 persons prefer the personal touch. Why?

Thx for that figure. I'd completely support that. As I mentioned elsewhere, the majority of our orders, particularly bulk-orders, come in via fax or phone or require at least one bit of personal action.

> Its a concept that has been around for a very long time... it's called customer service.

Sic! And service comes from ancient latin "servire" which means, well, "serve."

I can't tell about traditional ebay; the few children's clothes, which my wife sold, to my opinion caused such a tremendous lot of unbelievable conversation via mail, that I think it is hardly possible to seriously base a business on that model, if you really account for your time.

And as I said before, I doubt this new ebay-approach for professional traders will be more fruitful. Prices will go down very very fast.

It is indeed a general problem as in all business: What you need as a small player, is a very unique product or service. This requires knowledge of any kind. If you are ahead with your knowledge, you're fine. If you are just copying, what other people are doing or selling, you are lost.

What leaves some hope, is the fact, that the more complex our world becomes, the more niches emerge. I almost fell on my back, when I heard that people are "physically" selling WOW-gold (via ebay, lol).

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