Thursday, October 1, 2009

Case Study: The Auction Squirrel needs to go cash flow positive

This is part of an ongoing examination of The Auction Squirrel, a penny auction site I decided, almost at random, to analyze on Penny Auction Insider.

The Auction Squirrel has been bustling along for a while now after launching last Wednesday and now has 202 ended auctions. As a new site, The Auction Squirrel suffers from two problems, 1. convincing users that it can be trusted and 2. getting enough traffic to make the business cash flow positive.

I have been informed The Squirrel is not shill bidding and quickly shipping won items. Most people who are bidding at the site probably know this, meaning they will become repeat customers. Since I've been informed of this by a credible source, I am willing to confirm the legitimacy of The Squirrel on this blog, meaning my readers should feel comfortable bidding on the site also. This helps to solve problem 1 above.

For problem 2 - getting enough traffic - The Squirrel is clearly struggling. To give them the benefit of the doubt, they've only been live for a week, however by looking at ended auctions anyone can see that most items don't have much bidding competition and are selling at a loss for The Squirrel. To solve this problem, I think The Squirrel is going to have to think outside the nut shell. If The Squirrel goes the way of Bidcactus - that is to be really good at being average while spending thousands per day on AdWords - then they're going to struggle. There are already a half dozen good penny auction sites with significant traffic and positive reputations with bidders. The Squirrel is either going to have to take significant, month after month losses from ad spending to get site traffic, find a way to differentiate its self, or be content with coasting along staying cash flow neutral (if it's lucky).

I doubt The Squirrel has the cash reserves to start a massive AdSense campaign, most penny auction sites don't. Competing with the big guys is not a good strategy for The Squirrel, they need to find a way to differentiate themselves. My next Squirrel post will address this issue, but I should say upfront, I certainly don't have all the answers.

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