Pawn, eBay, eCommerce, Internet, Regulations & Brick & Mortar are just a few of the major issues facing the Pawnbroker on a daily basis.
The Question Becomes: How Do I Leverage eCommerce for My Pawn Shop?
If you have asked yourself that question—no worries! We are here to help!
Today starting any brick & mortar business requires the web in some form as an integral part of the business model.
First, you cannot depend on walk-up business alone in today's economy.
We are seeing:
- Gold Dwindling
- Merchandise becoming more scarce
- More competition is sprouting up everywhere
- Costs to operate a business are constantly rising
Unless you can operate your store without adding a single employee to do all of these functions daily—your business will fail.
Bravo Systems has been refining the eCommerce process for pawnbrokers since 1998.
In 1999, as pawnbroker operators (Superpawn)—we centralized a warehouse to sell on eBay.
We virtually did it ALL:
- Picked up items from our stores
- Photographed the items
- Posted all items online
- Collected money from online sales
- Communicated to our customers
- Wrapped, packed, and shipped items
- Handled returns
Needless to say, the process was ugly and we had a lot to learn.
From day one—we were very much aware that we did not know much of anything. This encouraged our team to meet weekly and review our processes. This was the only way to improve on a monthly basis. That being said... we revamped our operations every 30-days so we could streamline and improve our eCommerce processes.
Believe it or not - it was fun!
Thank goodness back in those days—nearly everything we put on eBay sold.
We found that online customers paid more for the same items, and didn't mind paying for the shipping costs. We noticed that with the rise of eBay's popularity in 1997, new customers were coming into our stores to purchase merchandise to resell on eBay. Since Superpawn was comprised of pawnbrokers that were very focused on retail—we thought this was great.
Even better news for you... this is all still prevalent today!
Is It Worth Selling my Pawn Shop Inventory Online?
eCommerce Fees are a variable part of the selling cost online.
Selling your stuff quickly to the right customer is powerful but does carry a price tag with it. The typical selling costs per channel are as follows: eBay -12%, Amazon - 20%, your own website - 25% or more.
You may be wondering "these fees are so high so what am I paying for?"
There are a number of ingredients you pay for when selling on these various distribution channels. Think about it this way, your online business is commonly measured by the number of customers you have - which is also a very important metric for you to use to measure your store.
So how much does it cost for you to acquire a customer to commerce with you? Here is what you get when selling through online channels:
- Customer Acquisition
- Location, Location, Location
A variable cost is flexible; you can associate the exact cost to the selling activity it is associated with. The more you sell, the more you will pay, but as long as you have net profit margin, you get rich. These processes are complex to master since online customers are very particular and demanding, so it is very important to nail down the process.
Activity Costs are all of the efforts put in place in order to handle transactions-are the hidden fees!
This is where small businesses oftentimes end up getting killed because they don’t realize their cost structure. What happens is that in the process of growing your business, you hire personnel that leads to a higher cost structure - absorbing your extra gross profit and in most cases, ending up at a loss.
After 2 years and dozens of refinements, Superpawn decided to shut down the centralized distribution. We were able to lower our Activity Cost to $16.00 per item. Even if we figured out how to lower by another 50%, at $8.00 activity cost per item, it was still not worth the effort.
There is only one way to effectively and profitably sell online - when your Activity Cost = $0.
Note: Bolt-on eCommerce Solutions Do Not Work...
Dozens of software vendors have tried to bolt on one solution on top of another. These bolt solutions may look easy and cheap, but the hard part is the labor and your valuable time spent.
It was not an option for us to make that same mistake - every small detail in selling online must be seamlessly integrated. One small detail missed could cost an extra employee. Over the past few years, this drove us to solve the predicament selling pawn items online.
Going back to the refining process, I must admit I was perplexed for the next 18 months. We worked on a half dozen designs before it all finally came together, but it made us realize that the only way to sell online was to seamlessly hook our pawnshops directly into eBay.
We convinced eBay to open up their system to Bravo—which helped us become the first eBay platform developer! Even today, many of the processes that eBay API practices, are known as the Superpawn model. This lowered the Activity Cost to 25 cents.
However, we didn't stop there - since 2002 we have been refining our processes and continuing to improve the eCommerce selling functionality into the eBay Marketplace by utilizing our proprietary platform and other distribution marketplaces.
This platform by 2004 had improved my business to a level that caught the attention of Cash America that snagged Superpawn at the highest per store price ever paid (Gold @ $350) and still reigns today as the highest price per store ever paid.
Our stores outperformed every single store operator and multi-unit operator in the Industry.
The culmination of eCommerce and the Bravo Platform increased loan portfolio yields, scrap, and re-sale of products to levels never achieved until 2011, the launch of Bravo Pawn Systems for all pawnbrokers to utilize.
In 2009, founders Steve Mack, Kelly York, and Mike Wishart got together and decided to create a pawn operating platform for the new economy, for the entire industry, one that could accommodate 10,000 stores. Our aim was to be the next NCR, IBM, Oracle, Cisco, and Salesforce.com for pawnbrokers.
Why do pawnbrokers need to change? It's becoming clearer and clearer every day!
Small businesses are blind to the actual costs of doing business. Pawnbrokers are especially resilient because the cost of acquiring inventory is not market-driven. As a 4th generation pawnbroker, my grandpa taught me, buy for $1 and sell for $3, you can’t lose.
Most of our customers need to sell or borrow, and as they had few choices, pawnbrokers were advantaged in the negotiation.
This is still a common practice today, but pawnbrokers that operate this way limit their business potential.
Today, the landscape has changed; consumers have choices with easy instant access to alternative solutions, even while they are in your store. That is what makes eCommerce a crucial part of running a pawn shop! Selling your stuff quickly to the right customer is powerful.
The traditional dependency of selling to customers coming through your front door, finding the right customer to purchase items falling from pawn or purchased items over the counter is more based on chance and luck!
By utilizing eCommerce, you open your store for everyone to see, purchase your inventory, and make an offer. With Bravo, you can do all of this—even when your Brick & Mortar store doors are locked! Find out how you can offer a full customer experience and let customers see their loans online – 24/7.
About the Author:
Tally Mack is a fifth-generation pawnbroker and eCommerce enthusiast. She loves traveling, being outside, and working out.
Before taking the reins as CEO, Tally served as Bravo's Vice President of Business Development, leading the company's sales and marketing organization. She's been instrumental in leading and executing many of the company's strategic shifts, including the acquisition of CompuPawn and the recent launch of UsedGuns.com.
Tally earned her Doctorate of Law (J.D.) from DePaul University College of Law in 2013 after attending the University of Colorado at Boulder, where she earned her B.A. in Communication Studies. She also completed the Key Executives Program from Harvard Business School in 2013.
Tally is a pawnshop lover and eCommerce enthusiast—dedicated to the success of both her employees and customers!