Online retailing is often associated with smaller items such as books, music and clothing, but it’s also possible to sell larger and even industrial items online.
Bob Moore is the proprietor of Bob the Welder, which sells welding equipment from Ballina, NSW. Moore has been selling on eBay and through his own website for around five years.
“Originally we were a bricks and mortar welding and fabrication business, but I identified an opportunity to start selling online welding equipment and accessories, and I’ve now stopped fabricating and am a home-based, full-time online seller.”
Bob says running the eBay shop and website is one thing, but “the biggest challenge is getting your name out there and your website high up on search engine lists. My competition is selling the same product at about the same price, so it’s about convincing the customer my product and services are better.”
The Bob the Welder site is now well established and Bob boasts many repeat customers who are happy with his service, product quality and prices. He has sold welding spare parts to many countries around the world and sells right around Australia.
“Customers deal with me direct, and get the benefit of my 40 years’ experience in the welding industry when I deal with them. I have built my business around being up to speed with new products and technical information,” Bob explains.
Bob sells to customers in the US, Canada, Brazil, UK, Ireland, France, Greece, Norway, India and Malaysia and says “the US seems to be my growth area.”
“Overseas customers are about 10% of my customer base, but my major customers are Australia-wide, in out-of-the way towns where there are no welding shop outlets. Both overseas and domestic sales are on the increase. All transactions are completed with no fuss as we use PayPal to provide our customers, whether they are Australia-based or international, with a secure payments system. PayPal gives my customers confidence that they never have to share their financial details online.”
Bob also buys products direct from manufacturers in China, Pakistan and Hong Kong, and says that PayPal is the preferred payment method for these transactions.
The web platform Bob uses is X-Cart, which he chose because the customer can see the welding products displayed alongside prices, and the shopping cart and ‘buy now’ functionality is easy to use.
Shipping and payments
Bob says customers who want to pick up from his premises are a challenge, but most customers are happy for their purchases to be delivered. After the customer makes a purchase, Bob is notified with an email and the system generates a purchase order. Items are dispatched either by Australia Post (for smaller items) or with Star Track Express, which is used to pick up larger items.
Bob’s goals for the future of the site are finding and keeping customers, increasing brand awareness, and improving search engine rankings. Although the business is staffed just by Bob and his wife at the moment, he knows as the business grows he’ll need to hire additional staff.