Consider these factors when figuring out your best fit!
1. AdvertisingDoes the online mall have a good Internet presence? Where do they advertise and how often? Is that cost factored into your monthly fee or is it an extra?
2. Aesthetics and NavigationWhat is look of the mall web site? Is the mall confusing when you enter the home page or is it well-laid out?
Do you like the colors and design, is it visually pleasing? Do the individual "stores" all look alike or will you be able to design your own storefront? Does that even matter to you?
Can you easily find stuff from the different dealers? How well does the mall's search engine work? If you are having trouble finding items, so will your prospective customers. Try out the search feature on each mall under consideration. Pick a few categories and see how easily it works.
3. Antiques and Collectibles, What Else?Does anything go? Are there standards that the dealers must live up to in regards to the merchandise being offered for sale? If you're selling high-end antiques, you don't want to be surrounded by dealers overing cheap knock-offs. And that dealer selling those cheap knock-offs isn't going to make many sales in that high-end antique mall.
Check what the other dealers are selling, make sure their merchandise is similar to yours in price ranges and categories. Shoppers looking for "glass" won't have any reason to continually return if there are only a few pieces available. So if you're a glass seller, you want other dealers that also have glass, buyers will hang around the mall longer looking at the various shops, resulting in more sales.
4. Computer Challenged?If you are a computer-challenged person, it's even more important that mall operators make it easy for you.
Do you need to know html or is the process of adding items a matter of cutting and pasting into forms?
If there are problems, is there a support team to assist the dealers? What hours are they available? If each store is completely individualized (e.g. colors/background/logos) will the support team still help out with formating or listing problems?
When I am interested in buying something, the time it takes for a seller to respond to an email is very important to me. I would give the mall operators the same test. Email and see how long it takes for a response.
5. Contract and Costs Nitty-GrittyAre you tied to a long-term contract? Are there any penalties for breaking the contract?
There is a wide variance in price structures, decide what one is best for the amount and type of merchandise you'll be selling.
What does it cost to have an online booth? Is it a flat fee, plus percentage? Strict percentage? What does your fee cover? Will you be hit with any extras such as advertising costs, etc?
When is the rent due and how is it paid?
6. Payment OptionsIs a credit card account easily obtained through the online mall and how much will it cost? Or if you already have one, can you use it without penalty?
Are there any restrictions on the payment options you can accept from customers?
7. Multiple Sales LocationsIt's important for all dealers to have different avenues for selling their merchandise.
Does the mall restrict your items to only using them? Can you easily move items to online auctions? Can you link to your personal web site? Is there an extra charge to do either of these things?
8. Return VisitsIs there a reason for a customer to come back on a regular basis? Does the online mall offer sales to prospective customers (with dealers participation of course)? Are there informative articles on antiques and collectibles, forums, newsletters?
9. PhotographsUsually the more photos the better an item will sell. If a buyer can't touch an item they really want to see it all!
Are there any restrictions on the number of photos that can be used? Does the mall have a tutorial on best photo taking methods for antiques and collectibles.
10. Search EnginesA lot of people may not go to an online mall to shop for specific item, they'll use a search engine to help find it.
Use the various search engines and see how the different malls stack up. For instance pick something general that you know is offered at the malls and try searching for it on Google, Yahoo and MSN. Check and see how the different malls show up on first page or two?
If you're going to be selling specific items, using a search engine is a great tool to see what malls show up on the first page or two. Then follow through and see if the links are good and go to what was originally searched for.