Jennifer B. Davis
As any online merchant will tell you, the real trick to a successful online precense is the classic four P's of marketing: promotion, product (selection/quality), price, and place (in this case, being online makes this one easy, although having a short and memorable URL helps too!). The successful catalog and online resellers know that the key isn't necessarily having the largest selection of anything anyone would ever want, but rather having the products that someone wants and associates with your store.

Now, you can try your hand at product merchandising and category management with your own online storefront, without having to bother with inventory, fulfilling orders, or processing payment. Zlio is a French company that allows you to set up storefronts in an online interface that reminds me a lot of a blog. To experiment, I created a store called "Simply Baby" to try it out. I named the site, selected a template (or I could have edited the CSS), selected some products, and viola, I am an online merchant (as the French would say). The products are sourced from dozens of merchants (like and and the business model is based on Zlio sharing the affiliate revenue with the person who set up the site.

To be fair, the interface was slow (probably being served in France) and I found the searching for products a bit cumbersome (which is why my product selection on the site leaves a lot to be desired). After I started, I realized that their storefronts are better suited for a single category of product (ie, a Sudoku site or products related to baseball). I found the "Powered by Zlio" too bold and intrusive (especially since they have a revenue share business model). This said, I think this is very intriguing and will undoubtedly take shape.

eBay lets merchants create stores, but I believe it is limited to your own items. What if you could create a store of items that other people are offering? What if Zlio or someone like them allowed you to aggregate offerings from multiple stores, online auction sites, and your own items merchandised together? Why not go ahead and partner with GoDaddy or Network Solutions to integrate a URL registration into the check-out allowing people to set up their store under a unique URL (so that they could lose the part of their store name)?

I am attracted to models where the company wins when their customers' win. I think that is what has made eBay so successful. Zlio, and others that might join them in this effort, may extend that business model further.
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