August 15, 2013, 10:17 AM

How a small U.K. retailer drums up a sales surge

Rattle & Drum got the spark it needed through Brightpearl and eBay.

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When it rolled out its first e-commerce site on Magento technology early this year to complement sales at its single bricks-and-mortar store, musical equipment retailer Rattle & Drum soon realized it needed to take extra steps to drum up online sales. “Online sales were poor because we had an issue driving traffic to the site,” says owner Martin Holland-Lloyd.

Holland-Lloyd, a professional drummer who operates Darby, England-based Rattle & Drum with a staff of seven other musicians, says he has stayed away from paid search and other forms of marketing to keep operating costs down. Instead, he recently decided to try a new sales-boosting service from Brightpearl. The company provides the retailer with a web-hosted system for managing orders and inventory through eBay.com as well as across its one physical store and its e-commerce site.

The new Brightpearl service, which the vendor is officially making available today to sellers on eBay.co.uk and eBay.com after an initial beta phase conducted with Rattle & Drum and other merchants, has already boosted Rattle & Drum’s web sales by enabling it to significantly expand the number of products it sells through eBay.com, Holland-Lloyd says. After the first three weeks of using Brightpearl’s new eBay service, “we’ve seen a massive difference in eBay sales,” he says.

While sales on eBay during that time grew about tenfold, Rattle & Drum has also doubled the number of customer e-mail addresses it has acquired from customers finding it on eBay, turning them into prospects for the retailer’s own site at RattleandDrum.com. The key part of Brightpearl that has helped to boost his eBay sales, Holland-Lloyd says, is in how it enables him to quickly upload and easily manage large numbers of products on the eBay.com marketplace.

Before using Brightpearl, he notes, Rattle & Drum never sold more than about 20 products at a time on eBay. That’s because of the time-consuming chores of loading product data and re-listing products after replenishing sold-out stock. The Brightpearl system provides a web interface that allows him to load large quantities of similar products instantly, rather than having to load each item separately. When products get replenished, the Brightpearl system automatically reactivates the pertinent eBay listings, saving Holland-Lloyd’s staff from another chore that had made it impossible to maintain more than 20 items on eBay, he says. “If you put thousands of products on eBay and some sell out, you have to be aware when they’re no longer listed on eBay and then relist them when they’re available again,” he says. “It’s a huge task. But now we have hundreds of products on eBay, and we’re planning to get into thousands.”

Rattle & Drum, which does about $1 million a year in total sales, including a small but growing percentage online, first deployed Brightpearl’s technology last year as it also launched its e-commerce site on Magento Go, the subscription-based Internet-hosted version of the Magento e-commerce platform. Magento, a unit of eBay Inc., also offers free and licensed versions of its e-commerce technology that retailers run on their own web servers.

Magento Go, delivered as a software-as-a-service, or SaaS, accessed via a web browser, frees retailers from having to run it on their own technology. Prior to Magento Go, Rattle & Drum operated a basic e-commerce site built in-house on a patchwork of software that couldn’t support the retailer’s growth plans, Holland-Lloyd says. The cost of running Magento Go starts at $15 per month depending on a retailer’s size and site complexity.

Brightpearl provides a central web-based system that lets the retailer update its inventory database as sales occur either in its store or online, including third-party e-marketplaces like eBay as well as RattleandDrum.com. The Brightpearl technology can integrate with Magento and other e-commerce platforms. That makes Rattle & Drum’s new e-commerce site bettere than the prior site at channeling online orders through Brightpearl’s software for updating inventory and financial records, the retailer says. Through Brightpearl’s software, Rattle & Drum can view reports on order volumes and profit margins for products sold through eBay.com as well through its own site, Holland-Lloyd says.

Holland-Lloyd says that, long term, he wants to build sales and profits through eBay and RattleandDrum to the point where he can afford to relaunch his site with more shopping features on Magento’s Community Edition, which Magento  provides as free open-source software. While the Community Edition provides free access to the software source code for making modifications, it also will require the retailer to pay for software developers, Holland-Lloyd says. He also aims to build a mobile-optimized web site, with inventory updated through the Brightpearl system, he adds.

Brightpearl’s cost to retailers runs $99 per month per concurrent user, plus $120 per month per retailer for connecting with multiple e-commerce channels: web sites built on technology from Magento, Bigcommerce, Shopify and ekmPowershop, and the e-marketplaces at Amazon.com and eBay.com, according to James Scott, senior vice president of customer success. He adds that the Brightpearl eBay product-listing service is generally available today, and that the companies will co-promote the availability first in the U.K., then expand it more broadly in the coming months.  Amazon is No. 1 in Internet Retailer's 2013 Top 500 Guide.

Brightpearl, based in Bristol, United Kingdom, targets companies with annual sales between $2 million and $10 million, Scott says. It operates with $14 million in venture capital funding from U.K.-based investment firms Notion Capital and Eden Ventures.

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