Today I saw a job posting from “Abe Books”:http://www.abebooks.com, a Victoria, BC, Canada based company that is the world’s largest online book marketplace with more than 80,000,000 new,used,rare,out of print books from more than 13,500 independent booksellers in 53 countries. This sparked an insight for me. If I want to build a large marketplace for a specific niche, they way to do that would be to build an instore pos/management application for that niche and tie that instore system into an online e-commerce site for that specific store, as well as a centralized marketplace that would allow consumers access to all the retailers in that niche. Obviously, details matter. One such detail is which niche to pick. Abe Books has chosen books (though I don’t know how they did/do it so far). Thinking about what value to provide the consumer and the retailer are both critical pieces. The biggest value to the retailer is expanding their marketplace by giving them an online presence, both for local consumers to see what they have to offer to entice them to the store, and via mail-order. Possible niches would be: Specialty clothing retailers, jewelry (custom made?), any artisan. Custom made furniture, people building breadboards in their shop. It’s of course not a requirement to have a real storefront. It’s important to look at how this is different from ebay. Another critical piece is SEO and just generating traffic to the online portion of the business. A Web 2.0 version of this would include features where individual retailers are rated/reviewed, products are rated/reviewed, retailers join and maintain inventory themselves. I think that this strategy would apply to any business niche. For example the restaurant business. This industry is mature with many POS and Restaurant Management systems. To break into this market, a new POS system could offer the standard abilities inside the restaurant plus the web presence, that gives the restaurant an online web-site with real-time access to operational statistics and control for owner and at-home managers, online ordering and payment for take-out and delivery, online reservations, accurate online menus and possibly user reviews of the restaurant and individual menu items. An online marketplace with many restaurants would only really be useful if a majority of restaurants were members.
31 Oct 2006