Panel on eCommerce, 10/9/12 – Mike Sums it Up!

The purpose of this 1.5 hour evening was to look at what some of the businesses in Belfast are doing for web sales, what others could do, what are the tools and the costs and the time that it takes.

The reason we are offered this workshop is that we heard a retail business owner complaining about “the competition up the street” when the real competition is the internet.  But actually: it is the real opportunity. 

We had six presenters who demonstrated their sites and the tools that they use to do business with the world.

We had 26 attendees including the presenters.

What did we learn?

  1. There are different platforms to use: eBay.com, Spotify.com, WordPress.com, 1and1.com, etsy.com, etc. etc. or you can have it custom built. Even custom builders will probably assemble pre built components and customize for you.
  2. It can be a big deal or a very little deal: it varies from business to business.
  3. Web sites can compliment or stand alone.
  4. Companies that you sell their products will often have a solution for you customize as your own store: BOSS is a perfect example of a local business partnering with a massive stationary supplier.
  5. Web sites and web based sales take time
  6. Someone has to do it: it takes woman-man power.
  7. Some sites sell to the whole world like www.baycitycargo.com and some sites are local like http://countycopycenter.com/boss.asp
  8. Some sites are highly personal and reflect their stores perfectly https://greenstore.com  when you are at the Green Store site you feel like you are in the Green Store.
  9. If you are serious: get a professional to help you.  There a number of people and companies who can help. Nicole Ouellette  offwww.breakingeveninc.com was a presenter and had a lot to offer.
  10. Going small can get you small results.
  11. There are costs: developers, hosting, security, eBay and others charge for everything, credit card sales, PayPal fees, etc. etc. It is not free.
  12. It’s real work: managing, answering, customer service, keeping inventory straight, promoting all require labor-time-effort- a varying degree of expertise.
  13. This is all new. It’s hard for everyone except the infuriating experts. www.pets.com launched in 1998 (14 years ago) and it failed in 2000 losing 300 million invested. 12 years.
  14. If you are not confused you don’t know what’s going on. It’s a lot to learn, manage, implement.
  15. Strategy is critical: what are you doing? What is your plan?
  16. Integrating Facebook, Twitter, etc. etc. all helps move your message and your business.
  17. How to attract people to your site? That is another subject and one we plan to have a full workshop devoted to it.
  18. We never got into FREIGHT and SHIPPING
  19. And there is much much more …….
  20. Thanks to Carl of Bay City Cargo, Nicole  of Break Even, Ellie Daniels of The Green Store, Terry St Peter and Susan Guthrie of County Copy and BOSS, and to Our Town Belfast who covered the expenses.
  21. We will have this workshop edited and available on vimeo and DVD.

Mike Hurley, Promotions Chair at Our Town Belfast

Shopping Belfast with Mallory Banks Harnden, Design Committee

Gary and Kim look on as an author speaks at one of their book store’s “Belfast Bound Book Festival” events.

I love to shop in downtown Belfast!  Not only do I like to buy local to support small businesses and stimulate our local economy, but our unique shops also carry many gifts you won’t find elsewhere.  For the babies in my life, I usually visit Out On a Whimsey where I have found beautiful, reasonably-priced toys including musical instruments and sensory/development toys.  I also love the Lazy One clothing line with its cute regional jokes like “Duck, Duck, Moose” – they make especially great gifts for former Mainers and my other faraway friends!  All About Games has great presents for children: unique games you won’t find on the shelves of Target, and their staff always has great suggestions for different age groups and interests.  Best game I ever got?  CAMP – it’s a nature and wildlife trivia game for the whole family that I got for my seven-year-old cousin; he loved it.

I go to Coyote Moon for most of the women I shop for; it’s impossible not to find the perfect item for my mom, sister, or best friend.  It’s also impossible not to find presents for myself… oops!  They have jewelry for every price range and style, books, clothes, and treasures galore.  At Christmas time, I purchase the majority of my stocking stuffers at Yo Mamma’s Home.  Last year I bought a vintage billiard ball and a tattoo pen (a joke for my tattooed husband).  I get my best joke presents there!  For the readers in my life, I consider myself lucky to have more than one local bookstore to choose from, but I especially love the unique combination of antiques and books that can be found at BellaBooks.  And when in doubt, a gift certificate to one of Belfast’s great eateries is a go-to gift.  I urge you to check out your local shops and support your local economy, too!  You may stumble across some amazing products on the way…