So many businesses rely on selling their products or services online, but with a plethora of methods and platforms to choose from how do you know you’re picking the right one to sell your goods on? Or should you sell on multiple?
The lack of a physical shop is no longer a barrier to success in the retail space, with forward-thinking businesses taking advantage of various online marketplaces to sell their products.
Determining the right platform for your products will enable you to grow your online store strategically and successfully, so let’s simplify the options that are available and help you find the e-commerce platform that’s the perfect fit for your business.
Marketplaces – Etsy, eBay, Amazon
A tried and tested method for selling your start-up’s products online, in 2019 there are hundreds of online marketplaces across the world. Marketplaces work by allowing you to set up your own ‘store’ on their website, in return taking a small percentage of any revenue you gain through sales on the site.
The main benefit marketplaces hold is the overall simplicity of the whole process, you can very easily sign up, upload your products and photos and be selling within minutes. We’d recommend sticking to one (or more) of the big 3 – Amazon, eBay and Etsy as a large upside of marketplaces is the global outreach they can bring instantly for your products, something that a smaller marketplace won’t be able to offer you, along with the greater traffic and exposure these sites bring.
Even though you’ll be selling through a third-party platform, selling through one of these massive brands will give your products a seal of approval and trustworthiness – especially if selling through Amazon, products will look to the average user as if they are being sold by Amazon, more so than the auction-like experience that eBay provides.
Etsy is a haven for the creative-minded, perfect if you are looking to sell quirky, vintage or hand-made items. The platform allows you to personalise your listings, adding per-order customisation to your products to really give each customer that one-of-a-kind, hand-made feel.
The problems with selling your products through online marketplaces such as the above start with the lack of customisation they offer. Your ‘store’ and product pages will look exactly the same as everyone else on the site, leaving no room to add your branding or personal style to the pages, meaning it’s very possible your products will simply blend into the millions of others on the site.
While on the number of products, this leads onto another downfall of choosing marketplaces to sell your products, competition. The sheer number of sellers on these platforms is mind-blowing and so it can be hard to cut through the noise and make sales.
But the greatest drawback of marketplaces comes in the fees, not only will you have to pay a monthly fee or start-up fee for some, you will then have to pay between 10%-25% of your sales value to the platform, meaning you will never see 100% of your profits; which when you’re starting out can make a huge difference to your overall figures.
Hosted – Shopify, Squarespace
A fairly new option to online retailers, hosted platforms give you the opportunity to build your very own online store using their platform and its tools. Both Shopify and Squarespace use various apps, purchasable through their own ‘marketplace’, to extend the capabilities of your online store, however the use of these apps (such as email marketing, stock management and various other analytics of your orders) will make your monthly fee creep up progressively.
Both hosted platforms allow you much more creativity than selling through a marketplace; both will walk you through a simple drag and drop website builder, where you can edit various aspects of each page of your online store.
You are however limited to the boundaries of the ‘theme’ that you are using, which forms the basis of the look and arrangement of each page on the store. There are quite a variety of different themes that you can download from the platform, suited to most niches, from selling food, to clothes, to gadgets. You can also add other extensions to your site such as a blog, Facebook/Instagram selling or a live chat, all through the previously mentioned apps that hosted platforms offer.
The greatest benefit of hosted platform over marketplaces, other than the ease of use and customisation options, is that customers coming to your online store will have almost no idea it is hosted through someone else; it will give your businesses a completely professional look and feel, without drawing customers to someone else’s website.
Hosted platforms do have their drawbacks, the exposure that your store will gain on them will be much smaller than through the larger brand of the above established marketplaces, meaning that you may achieve less sales in the short-term.
The limitations of customisation can sometimes be a frustration also, without spending hundreds on themes and apps you may be left with a store that doesn’t fulfil every need your business desires for its products and marketing.
This leads to the most impactful negative of hosted platforms, similarly to marketplaces, the fees. Now unlike marketplaces both hosted platforms do offer pricing plans that take zero commission from sales; however, this is limited to the higher-end monthly plans. The monthly plans that hosted platforms offer may actually work out more expensive than marketplace commission, as you’ll end up paying them whether you make any sales that month or not. Not the best pricing option for businesses just starting out that are unsure of sales one month to the next.
Self-Hosted – Your Own Website
The final option for selling your product or service online is to create your very own website. Selling through your own e-commerce website allows you full control over every single aspect of your store, and with the help of a web designer/developer you’ll be able to create the website you’ve always dreamed of having for your business, without limitations.
You’ll have the ability to control the design to match your brand fully and to customise the layout and product navigation to encourage customers to buy more. Customers coming to your own custom website will feel your company is established and ready for business, giving your start-up the opportunity to look and perform like seasoned pros (not to mention you’ll be outshining any competitors without their own sites).
Another great benefit of having your own e-commerce website is the ability to build your brands authenticity and authority within search engines as well as your visitors. With compelling content your site will be listed higher on search results, and the footfall of customers to your online store will not be far behind.
With visitors landing on a fully on-brand website, with eye-catching design that isn’t the same as a hundred other Shopify/Squarespace templates, they’re going to feel much more trusting of your products/services and therefore much more willing to make a purchase.
Most importantly you’ll be able to take home 100% of the revenue you gain through sales, and although you’ll have to pay credit card processing fees to your choice of payment provider, these will be much smaller than the commission taken from marketplaces (normally in the region of 2% compared to up to 25% commission).
Unfortunately, the initial fee of setting up your own website can be quite high, depending on your requirements and the hours your web developer will have to put in to create the site. However, most web design companies will offer to spread this cost over time, and if you’re not happy with the final product you’ll never have to pay full price.
Unlike hosted platforms and marketplaces though there are zero monthly fees, so once your site is created you can rest assured that not only are you taking home all of the profit from your sales, you’re losing nothing to monthly subscription fees, allowing you to easily plan ahead for the success of your business online.
What methods have you found success with for selling your products online? Are there any you absolutely love but we’ve missed? Let us know below!