A special report for BOOK SA by Mandy J Watson.
Earlier this year kalahari.net launched a new service called Marketplace, which allows anyone to set up a virtual store and sell products using the kalahari.net infrastructure. The project was in a testing phase for quite a while, although anyone could sign up to try it out during that time, and now it has officially been launched, along with some new features that were based on user feedback.
Here’s how to get started with kalahari.net Marketplace, as well as some detailed notes to help authors, book sellers, and shoppers get the most from the service. With the festive season upon us, there’s no better time than now to jump in!
Setting Up An Account And Getting Started
The set-up process is very quick and easy. If you already have a shopper’s account with kalahari.net you just need to visit the Marketplace page and activate your Marketplace functionality by signing up with a few extra details. If you don’t have an account, or if you want to have a separate one for your Marketplace activities, you need to visit the link above and register a new kalahari.net account.
When you sign up you will have to enter your name; address; a contact number; ID, passport, or company-registration number; and bank-account details, as well as certain details about your business if you’re signing up for a business, rather than personal account. When you add your address details note that the suburb will be listed on your public Marketplace seller’s profile page so that potential buyers know where you come from. (If you’re just curious to try out the system for a few months you can activate your account as a personal account and then convert it to a business account later, keeping your feedback and ratings intact.)
kalahari.net’s systems will then verify your bank-account details, which may take a few days. You will be charged R5, which is similar to the bidorbuy or PayPal registration/validation fee that you are charged for those services. Once your account has been verified any items that you have set up in the meantime will be publicly listed. This also tells potential customers that you have been verified by kalahari.net.
Adding Products And Finalising Listings
Once you have completed the sign-up process you will be able to add your items to the catalogue immediately although, as mentioned, they won’t be visible to shoppers until you are verified. At the moment only certain product categories are accepted – books, DVDs/Blu-Ray Discs/videos, CDs, games, consumer electronics, and photographic equipment. This process is also very simple – there’s a form in which you add pertinent details, such as the product’s ISBN, bar code, or kalahari.net SKU, as well as any other descriptive information, and then the system will search kalahari.net’s catalogue to see if the item is in the database (whether or not kalahari.net has product to sell). If it is, you need to fill in some more information describing the product, such as whether it’s new or second hand and what condition it’s in (the more detail the better, of course). Finally, you add your selling price and then you can upload this listing to the system, which may take a few days to reflect publicly, at which point it becomes an “active” product.
If your product is not in the catalogue or you don’t have an ISBN or bar code for the item, you can submit a description of it, plus a photo, to kalahari.net for verifying. This is done manually so it takes a few days for a human to approve the product.
Once you’ve upload a product you have to choose a delivery method. The default is the Post Office, at a minimum of R30 (for the first kilogramme, plus R3.80 per additional kilogramme), but you can also choose the courier option, at a minimum of R81 (for the first 500g, R96.89 for one kilogramme and R100.55 for two kilogrammes) if you wish to go to the extra effort. The buyer pays the shipping fee so you need to keep that in mind when you are setting your sale price in order to keep it competitive. At the moment you can only ship locally but Liz Hillock, kalahari.net’s head of marketing, says that the ability to sell overseas is likely to be introduced in the coming months as they “enhance the seller platform”.
Selling A Product And Reputation
When a person buys your product he will immediately be charged and the money will be held by kalahari.net. You will be emailed a notification, and you will have to log in and go to the “parcel order/confirmation” link and print out a delivery note. Then you’ll need to go to the Post Office with your product, which you have packaged securely (with the delivery note) for shipping. At the Post Office, ship the product and get a tracking number and estimated delivery date. Once back home, log in to your account and enter this information, which kalahari.net will then send to the buyer.
After 14 days kalahari.net will pay you the purchase price, minus a 4% (plus VAT) transaction fee. The buyer’s acceptance of the parcel at the Post Office, which requires a signature and an ID number, is your proof that it has been delivered.
Each seller has a public profile page that buyers can visit to learn more about you, see what products you’re selling, and what your “reputation” is. Buyers can leave comments related to their shopping experience with you and give you a rating. A four or five is a positive rating, a three is a neutral rating, and two and one are negative ratings. These ratings are aggregated over time so that new customers can see if you’re any good, and if you’ve been improving over time. If someone posts a negative comment you have an option to post a public reply and if the complaint is genuine there are systems in place to help you to manage conflict, which may require you to issue a refund, for example. (You can also respond to positive feedback if you would like to.)
Who Should Use It
- If your book’s gone out of print and you have the space to rescue the last few boxes from pulping hell, consider doing so, and selling the copies directly via a Marketplace store. You can promote it via your web site and social-networking accounts, especially when you publish your next novel and there’s renewed interest in your previous work.
- Self-publishers now have a new, professional sales channel with which to market and sell their books as potential customers, who may hesitate to send money with no guarantee of receiving goods, will be familiar with, and will trust, the kalahari.net system, especially knowing that buyer protection is in place. Additionally, if you’ve published a book without an ISBN or bar code (though getting an ISBN is still recommended) you will now have an way to sell it in a professional manner rather than only in person at book fairs and similar events.
- Most recently, authors now have a way to distribute self-pubished e-books, as those can also be listed in Marketplace.
Book Sellers And Shoppers:
The kalahari.net team has been monitoring sales in the Marketplace and some interesting statistics and trends have emerged. Although there are more music and DVD listings of second-hand goods when it comes to actual sales, not only do books have the lead but they sell at better prices. The key to being successful, of course, is knowing what sells well.
According to Liz Hillock, “There is a huge demand for new and used textbooks, anything from Ganong’s Review Of Medical Physiology to General Principles Of Commercial Law. Bestsellers like Shantaram and Eclipse are also popular, but there is a healthy mix of titles in both English and Afrikaans.” Textbooks are incredibly expensive so the demand is so great for second-hand textbooks and the sales have been so successful that kalahari.net will be running a textbook campaign after the holidays to target students who have old ones to sell and need to buy new ones for their next set of courses.
Cook books are another hot area, with a huge market for second-hand books, as aspiring chefs who have worked their way through their collections are always on the lookout for new recipes and new ideas.
A number of the smaller, traditional “bricks and mortar” retailers have tried their hands at selling via the Marketplace and there have already been some success stories. As Liz Hillock says, “We already have over 4000 sellers listing over 600,000 items, including small brick and mortar book stores who are now trading on kalahari.net and selling both their new and used books online, for the first time. It’s a compelling sales channel because our sellers don’t need to have an existing online presence, they can simply download our Bulk Loader spreadsheet and upload thousands of books directly to SA’s largest online retail store. Plus, in a bold commercial move Top Music, a CD, DVD, and games store, has closed its bricks and mortar door after 15 years of trading, only to reopen the shop on kalahari.net! According to owner Leon Harmse, business is booming. ‘Running a store online has unbelievable benefits. You have no idea what it has done to our little business. We are now a 24-hour online store which no longer subscribes to operating hours, customers can shop whenever they want, and more importantly, they can buy my products from anywhere. I now wake up in the morning and find that sales were concluded throughout the night. I should have done this a long time ago,’ he says.”
Finally, with the recent addition of the new infrastructure that allows you to list something even though there’s no ISBN and it’s not in the existing catalogue, dealers in antiquities and rare books are finding they have access to a whole new market online and some have been very successful in using the platform.
I have personally tested the platform by setting up a profile and uploading a product, although I haven’t sold anything yet, and can confirm how easy it is to get going. If you have any books that you think deserve a home, set up your account right away to catch the festive-season gift hunters and new-year bargain shoppers!