The problem with too many platforms and a refocused website July 20 2016 3 Comments

We started Retro Age in July of 2003. I was on maternity leave from my marketing job and had just given birth to our first child...a gorgeous baby boy who arrived with a grand set of lungs which he used 24/7. It wasn't an easy time. I needed a mental break.

I found eBay when our first born was one month old and set about selling our household surplus items. I loved it. My corporate advertising (hello St Kilda Road) and marketing background gave me the perfect experience to enjoy the new selling platform.

Once I had sold our house (just joking), I realised that I had fallen in love with the whole online selling experience. I had just finished selling part of my fabric stash and there seemed to be a market of buyers wanting old fabric with weird retro patterns. Well - that's what I thought. 70s patterns can be wild and weird and absolutely disgusting to some people.

So I set about setting up Retro Age as a legal business. I got my secondhand dealers license and business certificates and then I could legally sell old and used goods in Victoria - a law here. I opened up an eBay store and the rest, as they say, is history.

Our first website was launched in 2004 and we have had various platforms and softwares since. Our current 'modern' version is this Shopify one and it has thus far served us well. We have now had a worldwide website presence for 13 years!

However, the market is changing. With the onslaught of Facebook and Instagram - and even Snapchat - you can almost sell anything, anywhere. We've followed these trends as well as we could, all the while building our website presence and reputation.

Most people love the website experience and will only buy here - other buyers pop up on Instagram when we have a sale. Facebook has died as a selling platform and we no longer have our closed group or Facebook sales. 

This year we changed our focus away from the website for the first time and embraced Instagram as a selling platform. It's not the easiest way to sell a product. Yes, you have an audience who may see a photo in their feed (much harder now since Instagram changed their algorithm), but tracking sales, prices and uploading continuity was an issue. The other issue is a flooded market by many people who use it as a hobby to sell wares they come across on their day-to-day adventures and not as a registered (and tax paying) business.

We had an awful experience with using the courier service Sendle for the first time. They lost a giant box filled to the brim with vintage sheets. Did you know they charge you a $100 excess to launch the claim process? Yes, they do! And the only reason we got our money back for our customer (apart from persistence) was a) we are a legally registered business and b) we could provide a verified PayPal business account transaction. Back to Australia Post we go!

The problem with using another selling platform like Instagram is a) we lost website customers and b) we had to double list our fabrics - once on Instagram and once on our website. This took an amazing amount of tax paperwork and time. We then had customers contact us, disappointed that we were selling some fabric only on Instagram and they didn't have Instagram accounts. You can't please everybody, but they had a point.

Thus, we've made the decision to return to focusing on our website. Things will change a little, though. We will no longer 'dribble upload', but will have sales on certain dates and times. We've reveal what's in these sales on our social media. Customers can buy the quantity of anything they like and progress through Checkout to obtain accurate postage options. And then we post it off - simple! And what doesn't sell goes into website stock - a win win for all, I think. 

It seems like we've gone full circle with this renewed focus on the website. We started here 13 years ago and will continue to re-build it up over the coming weeks and months. Diverting off to social media was interesting and, in it's own way, successful - but, my feelings are - for a legal business to continue, prosper and expand, it still needs to focus on an impressive website presence. I got myself a little confused and returned to the 'hobby' selling stage when, in actual fact, we're one of the original vintage fabric websites and still one of the largest. Focus, Ness!

I am looking forward to the weeks ahead...