How bidorbuy Changed Our Lives

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Two years after buying a gem on bidorbuy, Johann Smith (Gem Shop) decided to try selling himself. Relatively quickly, Gem Shop grew into a successful family business that employs additional staff and has big plans for the future.

In December 2006 I discovered bidorbuy by accident one evening while browsing on my then "free Internet for a month connection". I won a bid, on the 27th December 2006, on a 2.45ct “Ruby” which later turned out to be a Rubelite. When I started to process the payment I discovered the seller stayed less than 15 kilometres from me, which resulted in me phoning him and asking him if I could collect as I did not trust the Post Office with my “precious” Ruby.

To make a long story short, he agreed and I landed up at his house. We started talking about selling on the ‘Net, the pros and cons of it. He showed me his wireless Internet connection and what his turnover was on BoB. Now in those days, the sellers’ “All Sales” totals were still visible. And the total I saw there left me speechless.

R40, 000.00 turnover in one year!!!

How was it possible to do that kind of turnover on the ‘Net in South Africa?

At that stage I did handyman work. We did not have a lot of spare money in the house. But, after seeing what this guy did on the ‘Net, I went back home and after some discussion with the wife we decided to use our last money to buy a wireless modem and Internet connection. We promptly did so the 29 December 2006.

Armed with my new superfast Internet connection I started to take on the wide world. I registered on BoB as a seller and by the 5th of January 2007 I had sold my first items, which included a second hand pipe sold on the Snap Friday auction for a total of R240.00. And that was the start of it.

Within six months I needed help with packing parcels. This part of the business has grown from a few parcels to literally hundreds a week. By this time I stopped doing any handyman work (there was no time to do anything else). My wife and daughter started helping me and they both also registered on BoB as sellers to see if they could earn some “pocket money”.

That was a mistake on my part: they both quickly started to grow, selling their own goods. I was losing my labour force!

By October 2007 we had to employ two persons to help us with postage and packaging. By this time we had grown so much that we turned our local Post Office from a struggling branch to one of the most profitable in the area.
By June 2008 I had to employ a third person to help me with all the paperwork. We had to add extra rooms to the house to hold all the “BoB Stock”, and to process all the parcels.

What were the problems we experienced?

  1. Growth. In the beginning it is nice to grow so fast, but within the first six months I deliberately scaled sales down to be able to develop systems and checks. Without this I am sure we would not have been able to handle all the sales.
  2. Eskom blackouts. This caused us endless problems. All those days when we could not get onto BoB caused some serious withdrawal symptoms.
  3. Copycat sellers. This is unfortunately a problem we have learned to live with, but we still get upset. It is more than annoying, because you take months to develop a market for a product and another seller will just jump on the bandwagon.
  4. Bogus buyers. That is, the shoppers who win an auction or place an order, but do not pay to complete the purchase. This problem has steadily grown bigger and bigger. During December 2008 we have lodged more than 80 SNC’s, the sales not completed complaints.
  5. Buyers not reading. This currently is our biggest headache and the cause for a lot of time wasting. Buyers do not read the ad and then afterwards they complain about the postage, the size of the item, the quality etc.

What you need to be able to sell successfully on BoB?

  1. Find yourself a product.
  2. Get yourself a digital camera; it does not need to be the “best” on the market. Our digital camera was a little R799.00 “Special” form Kodak. However, DO LEARN TO TAKE GOOD PHOTOS!!! It’s the photo that ultimately sells your product.
  3. Learn to be innovative. You have to be able to stand out from the crowd. Innovations we started and which other sellers just about immediately copied were:
    a. Framing our photos.
    b. Doing the photo in such a way that buyers can see what they buy from the thumbnails. This was copied within 3 days after we first did our ads this way, and today it is still the most copied innovation started by us.
    c. Putting the tracker number of the parcels sent to the buyers on the buyers’ Rating. (We were forced to do this due to the fact that buyers claimed they did not get our emails and BOB does not have any other way for sellers to notify buyers that their item was posted.) We have seen other sellers stating to follow our lead here too.
  4. Run an honest business. Do not sell something you are unable to supply. We have made some watertight agreements with some of the biggest importers in South Africa and we have a constant supply of our products. But sometimes a product might get damaged or broken. Be honest with your buyers, explain the problem and offer alternatives. We found that 99% of buyers will be accommodating as long as you are honest.
  5. Ship your item on time. We ship items twice a week, Tuesdays and Thursdays, but should a customer contact me with a special request we will try and accommodate him or her too.
  6. Do not ship without payment. If payment does not reflect on my bank statement the item will not leave the premises. We have had customers taking chances by sending us falsified “proof of payments”.

What’s in the future for us?

  1. We have just started our own community website and shop and already we are doing exceptionally well.
  2. We are also planning to establish what we believe will be the first drop-ship company in South Africa. This will be launched around April 2009. Our drop-ship company will enable the existing and potential sellers on BoB to buy from us, list and sell some of the products we sell – and we already have more than 450 on BoB – without ever having to handle the stock or worry about delivery. We would deliver the sold items on their behalf. (If there are sellers interested, they are welcome to contact us).
  3. We are currently in conversation with suppliers and we hope to open a “Brick and Mortar” shop sometime soon.
  4. During 2009 we will also launch several new and exciting products on BoB.

We are always available to new sellers should they need any advice.