Ecommerce for Crowdsourced Products

I recently posted a comment on the article The 3 Stages of Ecommerce Tools that made me start thinking about this particular need I have. I am reposting that comment here and expanding it a bit. It will probably help you to read mentioned article prior to reading the rest of this post to give you the context of what I am talking about.

The above article mentions Etsy, which is a website of crowdsourced products for sale by micro-retailers (individuals). In my estimation, we should be seeing many more of these types of websites. Some may sell digital goods like music and graphics, while others may sell clothing designed and produced by individuals, like t-shirts, dresses, etc.

My question is, could Magento or another ecommerce solution be used to create an Etsy-like website? I’ve played around with Magento and I’ve realized that all the product details, like pics and attributes, must be entered by an admin(s). It does not lend itself to allowing its members to self-maintain their own set of products. “Members” in the Magento sense, are just shoppers and they can contribute reviews, ratings, etc. However, Magento “members” cannot upload their own products, not even as provisional products which would later be approved (moderated) by the admin.

Which ecommerce players do you think are leaning towards providing the solution for making these types of websites? I foresee, entrepreneurs like myself, wanting to build their own Etsy-like websites, but presently I do not find the solutions for these types of websites.

For now all they can do is to try to mesh social network software with ecommerce solutions in order to provide the ability for members to upload and sell their own products. Keep in mind a product’s details can include text, pics, audio and video, in addition to tags, reviews, ratings, etc. Social network solutions, like Dolphin, provide some of these features, while ecommerce solutions like Magento provide the other half of the puzzle, which includes such things as inventory management, shipping estimates, cross-selling etc.

I know there is a Drupal extension for Magento, but I don’t know enough about Drupal to know for sure if this is what I need. It would be interesting to hear from anyone with any thoughts on using this Drupal extension for Magento.

As I write this posting, I just realized I should google “Etsy clone” or something of that nature (such as Zazzle) to location software I can try. I hope I find something soon because I urgently need to get my project going soon. By the way, Rob from Foodzie.com has kindly offered to give me some leads. Thank you! Please check out their wonderful site Foodzie.com. It looks like they may have explored this same need and implemented a solution.

I just found the blog post The elusive Opensource E-Commerce Holy Grail: Multi-Site, Multi-Store with many comments that could be useful to uncover the mystery.

A Business Model for Open Social Networks

Lately I have been very much interested in Lovdbyless and Insoshi for developing my own social network because they are based on Ruby on Rails, which make them super easy to extend and modify. However, there is one missing feature which I truly need. I need an integrated escrow service, as I explained in my previous posts. By exposing my need, I may be introducing a possible business model for these open social networks and I will briefly describe what I mean.

Based on current trends, we will be seeing many more new vertical social networks that revolve around a single topic, product, or service. We will also be seeing many more crowdsourcing sites. It is therefore easy to conclude that we will be seeing more crowdsoucing, vertical social networks. It is also to be expected that people will want to conduct shopping at these new sites. Some are coining these new types of sites “s-commerce” sites.

From an entreprenuer’s point of view, I would like an open social network to provide me an integrate escrow service that would appear seamless to my buyers and sellers. I would also like for the cost of the service to be under a dollar. The ultimate cost of the service is payed by the buyers, and I want this cost to be minimal to encourage a greater exchange of goods at my site. I would not mind this fixed fee, and perhaps a low percentage-based fee would be okay as well.

We now ask how an open social network could benefit by meeting this need. First, these types of sites can appeal to a global audience. Depending on the product to be sold (and crowdsourced), there is the possibility of a huge international exchange of goods between individual buyers and sellers. Read my earlier short story about this that points you to a story about the growing number of individual Chinese sellers. We therefore could be talking about billions of transactions.

Second, each transaction would be dependent on the escrow service for fulfillment, for both the buyer and the seller. If the escrow service collects even just a few cents for each transaction, the revenue would be tremendous. One possible service which may be seeing the potential in providing an escrow service is Alipay, which is providing such a service to the China market.

Here are some things which would make me choose to use your escrow service over another:

  1. The escrow service is integrated seamlessly into my social network. This provides a tight coupling with all the stored private messaging occurring on the site. It is during these conversations that the order details are ironed out and will serve as evidence of what was agreed upon in case of arbitration.
  2. It gives me a share of the escrow service fees so that I can profit, as the owner of the site. This would give me a very big incentive to keep the site running and to keep promoting it.
  3. The escrow service fees are below $1 to encourage more s-commerce on the site and a greater variety of products. Some products have very low margins and adding a very big fee for the escrow would not be good. A fee based on a percentage of the product price would also be okay, and this would encourage the sellers to keep the price down on their products.

Please let me know if you find this service for me or if you plan to develop one yourself and what is your expected date of availability. I am so eager to start using it because I may have the right product for it.