Plimus helps vendors get real money for virtual goods

Company is proud that it saves vendors lots of Internet sales headaches, by providing an all-in-one, easy-to-use sales and marketing platform.

By DAVID SHAMAH
December 6, 2010 23:17
Plimus Product Manager Eldad Ben-Tora

311_Eldad Ben Tora. (photo credit: Courtesy)

It took the Internet to get people to pay for stuff that doesn’t really “exist” – the “virtual goods” that are a large part of so many online games and virtual-reality communities.

Want to get ahead in Farmville? Then you need a “shovel” – one that exists only inside your computer. You pay real money for it, though.

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There are hundreds of thousands of similar “goods” around the Internet – many of them used in virtual communities and social games, as well as on cellphones and regular computers.

And while many virtual goods, such as software programs and games, are made and marketed by “real” companies, with their own sales departments, large numbers of these products are made by folks who are working on a side project to make a little extra money and who don’t have the marketing and sales resources to reach large numbers of potential customers.

In the past, such “manufacturers” had little choice but to try and make a deal with a large company that specialized in marketing, to get their program out to the masses – a deal that was usually to their disadvantage and very difficult to put together.

For the past several years, however, there’s been an alternative: the sales and marketing services provided by Israeli startup Plimus (www.plimus.com), which works with thousands of of vendors and affiliates who sell virtual goods all over the Internet.

With 2010 set to be a record year for the company, Plimus is now the world’s largest independent online reseller of virtual goods.

Plimus tries to provide all the back-end sales services virtual goods vendors need, says Eldad Ben-Tora, Plimus’s product-management director.

“Most of the writers of software, games and virtual goods for socialmedia platforms do a fine job of getting their product together, but they are lost when it comes to selling, which is really a full-time job by itself, one they don’t have time for,” he says. “They may even have customers, but there are so many complicated steps in getting the products into their hands.

“We work with vendors on the sales side, making sure that they get the money they are supposed to for the goods they sell customers, despite the obstacles – thus leaving them free to do what they are good at, which is developing products.”

And those “obstacles” are manifold, Ben-Tora says.

“In order to work with credit-card companies in many foreign countries, for example, you need to have an account in a bank there – a complicated affair that entails a whole new set of worries,” he says.

Credit cards aren’t the universal means of payment that they they are in Israel and the United States, Ben- Tora says.

“In Germany, for example, many online customers prefer to pay via bank transfer, while in France, most consumers use a local French credit card, as opposed to Mastercard or Visa,” he says.

Even those latter cards have esoteric rules that, if not followed properly, will unnecessarily hold up payment, Ben-Tora says.

“Sellers who are using a subscription model have to bill the creditcard companies every month,” he says. “It’s an antifraud measure, but one that requires much extra work on the part of the seller, who in many cases is working alone and can’t afford to put extra time into the project or hire someone else to help.”

Taking care of those issues is exactly what Plimus does.

“We have bank accounts in different countries, for example, and we have deals with local banks and credit- card companies to clear payments, so the issue of international payment transfer is eliminated,” Ben-Tora says. “We bill the customer, providing receipts and tax documents, take care of foreign-currency issues and, in general, handle the entire transfer process, releasing the virtual goods to the customer when we receive payment. We deduct a small fee and forward the rest of the money to the vendor’s account, successfully completing the sale with no inconvenience for buyer or seller.”

It’s similar to what Paypal does, to an extent, but Plimus goes far beyond Paypal.

“We offer a full sales platform, handling all of the back-end sales,” Ben-Tora says, citing coupons as an example.

“The Plimus system uses a wizard that gets sellers up and running in minutes,” he says, “and it gives them total control on how to sell their product: one-time charge, subscription, etc. If they want to offer a coupon, they can specify the details – how much the coupon will deduct from the price, when, etc. – and we apply it to purchases as the vendor specifies. Our aim is to make this process as transparent to the vendor and customer as possible, with no extra effort on the part of either.”

Another leg Plimus has over Paypal is in its innovative marketing services: helping vendors get the attention of customers and getting “eyeballs” for their products, putting them in view of customers.

“Vendors can, of course, sell their company’s own products, but they can also sell other companies’ products as affiliates, keeping a percentage of the sales,” Ben-Tora says.

While Plimus counts about 5,000 vendors, with as many as 100 new vendors joining every day, according to Ben-Tora, the company also has about 40,000 affiliates, meaning that a piece of software developed by a programmer in his or her spare time, with no marketing resources to speak of, could be sold by thousands of affiliates on websites around the world.

“It’s a powerful marketing resource and one that has enabled vendors to reach far more many customers than they could on their own,” he says.

With a package this complete, it’s little wonder that vendors have flocked to Plimus, giving it some $200 million in sales this year, with the company growing in terms of vendors and sales some 40 percent to 50% in each of the past five years.

Based in Herzliya, with sales offices in California, Plimus, which was established in 2001, has 80 employees and is one of Israel’s biggest Internet success stories, if not its most famous, Ben-Tora says.

It’s not for everyone, though.

“Early on we made a strategic decision to stay away from questionable products: porn, Internet gambling, even jewelry,” he says.

The company actually vets vendors by calling the first five customers who purchase a product using the Plimus platform, whether directly from a vendor or from an affiliate, Ben-Tora says.

“We check to see that the customers are satisfied with what they received, that the product is as advertised and works properly,” he says. “If it isn’t, we cut the responsible vendor loose... It’s our name that appears on the customer’s creditcard bill, and our reputation is at stake as well.”

But Plimus is happy to do businesses with vendors who are on the up-and-up, Ben-Tora says.

“There are no up-front fees, and anyone with legitimate virtual goods is welcome to join,” he says.

“We know we’ve helped many online vendors succeed in their Internet sales efforts, and we’re proud of that.”

Plimus is just as proud of the fact that they saved those vendors lots of Internet sales headaches, by providing an all-in-one, easy-to-use sales and marketing platform, Ben-Tora says.

digitalisrael.net


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