A Birmingham company is looking to take on established names such as eBay and Auto Trader by simplifying the world of online commerce
Officially launched this week with an extensive advertising campaign, the team behind sellitbytext.com believe they have a formula to win a significant portion of the growing sector.
Sales director Gerry Campbell said the company was looking to attract a million customers within the first month of trading through the advertising campaign, increasing to 10 million by the end of the year.
“We have a massive tv and radio advertisement campaign. ITV attracts around 10-12 million viewers and we expect to get around 10 per cent of those people to visit the site,” he said.
The site was set up by local businessman Carlton Beckford, who has built successful businesses in Birmingham over the past 20 years. Mr Beckford, who appeared on Dragon’s Den two years ago, came up with the idea after using eBay and finding it difficult to navigate around the site. He thought it simpler to use a mobile phone to text in listings at a much cheaper price, with an insertion fee of just £1.50 to sell a house or a car.
Mr Campbell explained the seller would have to take a picture of their item, add a description including the desired price, and send it for a small fee of 50p plus network charges. The item would then go directly onto the website almost immediately with the seller’s phone number being shown for direct contact from potential buyers.
He said: “The fees are small because we want to generate a critical mass, as many people as possible. This is the attraction, and we don’t want anybody else having the same idea and undercutting us. The seller texts the number 60300 and would get a text message back saying that their listing has been received. There are no commissions or subscriptions fees. We officially launch on February 1, but the site has been up for a couple of weeks now and we have already had over 6,000 listings and 15,000 hits.”
The company has had O2 and Vodafone in touch with them for the network coverage rights, with the number of picture messages (MMS) being sent to the site in the millions. “Let’s say that 2.5 million people advertise two items in a year – that is five million MMS messages being sent,” said Mr Campbell. As it establishes itself, the company has invited local businesses to advertise on their websites free for one month with a significant number of businesses have already taken them up on the deal. David Harrison, sales manager at Fort Used Car Centre, said: “This is definitely something we are happy to support and use an alternative advertising medium.” Dave Digpal, owner of Apple Property Solutions in Great Barr, said: “In the present economic downturn this can only be a big help to people who want to generate some extra cash selling their unwanted stuff.”
Mr Campbell is confident the business could eventually challenge the likes of eBay. He said: “There are 32 million online shoppers and only 14 million of them are on eBay, who announced their first reduction in the last quarter.
“We hope to go after them as well as other auction sites like Auto Trader, where it costs over £30 to list a car.”
Even in light of the recession, Campbell believes sellitbytext.com is a perfect idea and the perfect time to do it. “People have always got stuff lying around. They are sitting on bundles of cash and they don’t use it.”
The company aims to create in excess of 50 new jobs in the Birmingham area and hopes to increase that number as it expands.
But Gerry Campbell insisted that the firm would stay located in the West Midlands. “We love this area and would employ Birmingham based people.”