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What do Amazon.com and handcrafters have in common?

by Sheri Levitt

We created iScripts MultiCart almost 18 months back after 6 months in development. Initially, the idea started out as a website for handicraft products.

There are a lot of people who make these cute little things with clay, clothes and anything you can imagine. Most of them do this as a hobby or side business.  They are good at crafts.  Well… most are.  They never strike me as good marketing folks. So the idea of them managing their own e-commerce store selling these crafts did not make much sense.

As a one man/woman show they can either spend time on creating new beautiful crafts items or doing web marketing. It is a crime to ask them to do the marketing by themselves. If they hire they need to fork over most of the money from the sales to the so-called experts (including us) for any meaningful results.

It did not make much sense. So we thought wouldn’t it be wonderful if we create a co-op web store for handcrafters? All they need to do is list the products and ship out to the buyers.

We would, in turn, take care of the marketing, technical aspects, payment processing, tech support for the handcrafters. In turn, we would charge them a small fee based on the cost. as its a narrow vertical, we can market things well.

After talking to a bunch of handcrafters in the summer fairs we created handcraftweb.com. Initially, it was working out very well. but it turned out, we are very good at creating web software. Not very good for promoting a website.

It meant going to all those craft fairs and selling this idea to hard crafters. Then visiting a bunch of forums and magazines for crafters and advertising. It sounded too much work, in an area where we have not much interest or experience. So the site kind of slowed down.

Then we got a call from somebody looking for a multi-vendor site for baseball cards. He asked if we willing to sell the software and customize it for his site. sure, why not? We did it and their business was doing pretty good.

Then we realized this is a good software for small industry niches, where it does not make sense for individual players to create their own stores. So this offers entrepreneurs an opportunity for creating a one-stop shop for that niche. The niche could be handcrafts or baseball cards.

Finally, we decided to make the software more customizable and make it an official iScripts product. so we created iScripts Multicart as a multi-vendor shopping cart.

I looked around and did not see many products competing with it directly. So I was happy we came up with something very unique and new.  Explaining this to customers who call to find out exactly what this software can do for them. Most of them had some business model in mind and wanted to find out if this can meet their need off the shelf or can we customize to make it meet their model.

I used to explain it as a multi-vendor system with a single storefront. Then folks were confused about who handles fulfillment, who takes care of payment etc..  So to make things clearer we used to explain it as a virtual mall software. So as a mall, you would have a number of vendors selling their own things.

But it would be under the umbrella of a single entity(mall).  Most of the potential customers called during the time was looking for a business model where individual shops need to manage their payment processing as well as fulfillment. So I was looking for better ways to explain what exactly iScripts MultiCart do?

Last week when I was explaining the software to a potential customer for this script, she asked if it works like the new Amazon.com. Well, it is. It was an interesting realization that Jeff Bezos settled on the same business model for Amazon, as we did for handcrafters.

The only business model which made any money for Amazon after all these years. If you notice lately(2006-07) Amazon is not just selling products under their brand. They push customers to other vendors, even competitors, who do the fulfillment.

The only difference is Amazon used their super weight brand to attract customers and then push to other vendors for almost everything under the sun. In the case of handcrafters, we were focusing on a very small niche.

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