The Pros of Opening an eBay ProStore

This e-commerce offering is eBay like you've never seen it before, allowing you to create a professional site that can be independently marketed.

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By Gwen Moran

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

For businesses using eBay on a regular basis to movemerchandise, the advent of eBay Stores was a great step forward,organizing all their auction-style and fixed-price offerings in oneonline location. Still, while this powerful tool allowed retailersto tap into the massive traffic coming and going on eBay, itdidn't offer them an opportunity to create their own brandede-commerce presence that could be marketed independently.

That's where ProStores comes in. Launched in June 2005,ProStores isa complete e-commerce solution for businesses that want an onlinepresence independent of their eBay offerings. While eBay Stores aredistinctly eBay-right down to the familiar multicolored logo in theupper left-hand corner--ProStores offers vari-ous options forcustomization, from using a wizard and selecting template optionsto using the Design Studio editor, or third-party design tools likeMacromedia Dreamweaver. For regular eBay merchants, a key benefitis that products on ProStores sites can easily be listed oneBay.

In July, Big Bearing Store, a Memphis, Tennessee, wholesaledistributor of ball bearings and chains (eBay User ID:bearingsandchain), launched a ProStores web store in addition toits eBay Store. In less than four months, the ProStores site'ssales were averaging more than $10,000 per month, while the eBayStore's volume was approximately half that amount. Combined,the company expects sales of more than $200,000 over the next year,with the majority of sales from its ProStores presence.

"There are some people who, when they go online to findsomething, go directly to eBay, but there are a lot of people whogo directly to search engines.... Now, we reach all of thosepeople," says Kevin Carnell, 22, who founded Big Bearing Storewith Mike Anderson, 54.

According to Julian Green, director of ProStores, thecomprehensive suite of e-commerce capabilities that ProStoresoffers, including shopping cart functionality, credit cardprocessing and PayPal integration, allows e-tailers to build theirown online brand, complete with automatic search engineoptimization, while easily maintaining listings on eBay."It's the best of both worlds," says Green.

Green also references the fact that ProStores offers anintuitive wizard function that allows sellers to configure theirown professional-looking websites from 180 different templates.ProStores Design Services is also available for an additional fee,offering a professional design team that will create a fullycustomized web store.

Donny Lowy, author of Secrets of eBay, says ProStores offer amore polished appearance than typical eBay Stores and allowretailers more flexibility in listing their product offerings."You can set up categories based on volume [and] searchthrough your store based on different criteria," he explains."An eBay Store is a page that rests on the eBay site. If youhave 100 products on [an] eBay Store, you haven't created anymore natural listings on search engines. With a ProStores [site],you potentially have 100 search engine listings driving traffic toyour site."

ProStores is offered in four tiers, with increasing options andprices. Sellers pay a per-sale commission of 0.5 percent pertransaction (1.5 percent at the Express level). All tiers have aone-month free trial. The tiers are:

  • ProStores Express ($6.95 per month) allows the seller tolist up to 10 unique items, and it offers easy interface with eBayas well as the ability to create shipping charts and customer pathtracking and analysis reports.
  • ProStores Business ($29.95 per month) offers anunlimited number of product listings, 50 unique e-mail addresses,5GB storage space and 50GB per month of data transfer. This is alsothe first level that offers a personalized domain; 24/7 phonesupport; real-time credit card processing; and FedEx, UPS, USPS andCanada Post shipping options.
  • ProStores Advanced ($74.95 per month) offers 100 uniquee-mail addresses, 10GB storage space and 200GB per month of datatransfer. After login, unique customer pricing can be displayed,allowing you to offer your best customers special discounts andloyalty promotions. You can also track inventory of products byattribute and offer payment options such as purchase orders,internal department orders and c.o.d. orders, as well as automaticrepeat billing options for regular orders or subscriptions.
  • ProStores Enterprise ($249.95 per month) provides thehighest level of customization possible. In addition to alllower-level ProStores features, you get supplier integration,advanced inventory management and sales management functions, aswell as 200 unique e-mail addresses, 20GB storage and 400GB of datatransfer per month.

Green says ProStores is also integrated with QuickBooks, whichallows retailers to quickly update their accounting system withinventory and pricing information. Green also points out that somecompanies continue to find success using both a ProStores web storeand an eBay Store concurrently.

"They do well enough that we'll keep them both,"says Carnell, who still relies on both solutions. "But we canmore effectively market the ProStores [web store]."

Ready to Go Pro Yet?
When is it time to upgrade to a ProStores web store? You might beready if...

  • You want your e-tailing business to have its own domainname.
  • You want to cultivate a brand image.
  • Your e-business is growing, and you want a more professionalappearance.
  • You need the capability to offer special promotions to youronline customers.
  • You need to better track customer orders.
  • You need to more easily sync orders with your QuickBooksprogram.
  • You want to create e-mail campaigns for buyers through yourwebsite.
  • You want to more effectively market your business on theinternet.
  • Your sales would benefit from submitting your products toshopping search engines like Froogle, and Yahoo!Shopping.
  • You've developed a base of repeat customers or are preparedto use the tools needed to acquire customers online.
  • You would like your customers to be able to choose shippingoptions and track orders from your site.
Gwen Moran is Entrepreneurmagazine's "Retail Register" columnist.
Gwen Moran

Writer and Author, Specializing in Business and Finance

GWEN MORAN is a freelance writer and co-author of The Complete Idiot's Guide to Business Plans (Alpha, 2010).

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