December 01, 2014 Marketing and Sales

Presumably, it's easy to sell things on the Internet—anyone can do it, from hobbyists to professionals.  There are two main ways to sell items online: put items up for sale on a big online shopping destination, such as Amazon.com, or create your own standalone store, which we will address later in this article.

Both of these options have their advantages and disadvantages, depending on what's being sold, and how much effort and money you want to devote to the process. Discover the steps involved in creating an e-commerce shop, and figure out what's the best option for you. 

First, let’s discuss selling your product by becoming a vendor via an established online store.

How to Sell Online Via Amazon, Etsy, or eBay

Perhaps the easiest way to test how your products will sell is to set up a shop on one of the big three online shopping arenas: Amazon.com, Etsy.com, or eBay.com. You'll have to pay for the privilege, but your products will be visible to any user searching on these shopping destination sites, which is a huge advantage.

Read on to determine which site is best for your store based on fees, what you're selling, whether you want to have a connection with customers, and the overall package offered. 

How Do I Sell on Amazon?

Amazon isn’t just for books. From clothing to kayaks, and everything in between, Amazon.com is the internet's department store, with nearly anything available for sale. You have very likely purchased at least one item from the internet warehouse.

How Selling on Amazon Works

First, you would choose between Amazon’s individual and professional plans. If you have a low inventory, Amazon.com offers an individual plan that allows you to sell up to 39 items per month at a cost of $0.99 per item. If you're selling more than that, Amazon's professional plan is the answer, with a monthly fee of $40 per month, and the ability to customize listings and use better tools to upload products and track sales. You also can hand over the fulfillment of purchases to Amazon.com as well, sending them your inventory to store and ship.

Pros of selling on Amazon.com

Visibility is the main advantage. Amazon is a known, trusted name, with millions of customers. There's only one real reason people visit Amazon.com, and it's to make a purchase. It's ideal to have your products appear in search and as related items for sale next to other products.

Cons of selling on Amazon.com

Competition is high on Amazon.com, and there is always the possibility that Amazon themselves will undercut your price. If you're interested in capturing customers and return business, Amazon doesn't have much to offer. You won't see buyers' emails, and to customers, it'll feel as though they made a purchase with Amazon.com rather than you.

Some buyers might offer a negative review on your product, which certainly won’t help your sales, although it may offer constructive feedback to help you improve your product.

Selling Items on eBay

As with Amazon.com, nearly anything is available for sale on eBay, and the volume of customers around the world shopping at eBay each day is very high. Used and unique items and vintage play particularly well on eBay, but so do electronics and everyday items.

Listing your product for sale on eBay is relatively easy. Post images and a description of the product for sale, and choose if the item sells for a flat price or is available for auction. You can also select shipping options.

What Does it Cost to Sell on eBay?

For all items sold, eBay gets a ten percent cut of the selling price. Listing up to fifty items per month is free, minus the ten percent cut following each successful sale. If you sell more than fifty items per month, additional fees kick in, which vary by how the item is listed. You can specialize your shop, but it comes at cost.

Pros of selling with eBay

Unlike Amazon.com, eBay does offer some ways for buyers to connect with and follow sellers. Repeat business is a bit more likely because of this. You can easily sell all around the world, and the volume of customers is huge.

Cons of selling with eBay

As with Amazon.com, customers are generally looking for the lowest price; that, along with heavy competition can cut into your margins. It can also be difficult to ship very large or heavy items yourself.

Since it’s possible to become a victim of fraud using eBay, eBay has set up a security learning center so users can avoid fraud and scams, including a “check overpayment scam” that could be used to target a seller. Along with having a bad check sent to you, you could have a buyer claim they didn’t receive what they purchased from you and then request a refund.

As with Amazon, a buyer can post a negative review of a seller, and it’s possible to be slammed with a poor rating without being contacted or given a chance to correct the problem first. It can be a time-consuming process to have negative feedback removed from your eBay account once it’s been posted, and of course not all negative feedback will be removed.  

Tips for Selling on Etsy

Unlike Amazon.com or eBay.com, Etsy restricts the items available for sale to vintage, handmade, and crafting supplies. There's a lot that falls into those categories, and Etsy has a large, devoted number of buyers making a lot of purchases, but if you are selling something new or factory-made, Etsy is off-limits.

Setting up a shop on Etsy is relatively easy.  All shops on Etsy follow the same template just like on eBay, however, an Etsy shop looks more personalized than an eBay shop. It's free to set up a store on Etsy, but for every item listed—whether it sells or not—there is a small fee of $0.20. When items sell, Etsy takes a cut of 3.5 percent (far lower than on eBay).

Why Sell with Etsy?

Of the three, Etsy offers the closest feeling of a relationship between seller and buyer. While all stores follow the same template, there's space for some biographical details and a photo, which is very personalizing. The feeling of community is high throughout the site.

Cons of Selling with Etsy

Only some items can be sold on Etsy.com, which means both a limited set of buyers, and limited options for sellers. The fees can add up, since every item sold comes with a listing fee. Also, it's not unknown for lookalike stores to spring up, selling precisely the same products, but at a lower price.

How to Create an Online Store

A lack of customization can be a problem with the options above, as are fees of varying amounts for the privilege of listing and selling items. If you're interested in a store that’s completely personalized, and you want to actively market to your customers, then setting up an online store of your own might be your best option.  Here are the steps you'll need to take to set up a website that includes an online store.

1. Register a domain name:

A quick online search will reveal all sorts of options for registering your URL, such as GoDaddy and Register.com. Choose a URL for your website that's catchy, easy to spell, and doesn't have a lot of competition. You'll also need a host, but your decision there might rest a bit on what you decide in step two.

2. Design it yourself, or use a template:

Do you want to hire someone to code your site from scratch, or rely on templates from sites like Wix, Squarespace, Wordpress, or Shopify? While templates are low effort and easy to get in place, they do not always offer a lot of flexibility. All of these build-a-site options come with a monthly or yearly fee, and generally, it can be financially advantageous to have them handle the hosting as well.

Designing from scratch allows for a lot of flexibility, but may also take a lot of time and come at a big expense. Be wary of hiring someone to build the initial site, and then needing their help every time you want to make an update.   

3. Implement a shopping cart:

Customers will need a way to pay. If you're using a build-a-website system, shopping cart options are sometimes available as part of your package, such as with Shopify. Otherwise, you'll have to figure out a way to accept money, with PayPal being the easiest option and credit card payment involving a bit more effort.

4. Create and implement a marketing plan:

Where Amazon, eBay, and Etsy offer your store great visibility, the vastness of the internet could make your own personal shop hard to find. Having some sort of marketing method such as via social media, a blog, videos, etc., to bring attention to your store is required. 

Why Build an Online Store?

On your own store, you can easily put useful and valuable content, like blog posts or articles, right alongside your items for sale, which can boost your credibility and help build a relationship with your customers.

It's also easy to capture customer information like email addresses when customers opt-in to receive communications from you, which means you can send out newsletters and offer special deals to drum up more business.

Cons of Building an Online Store

If something on your website breaks, you'll have to fix it or hire someone who can. And, it's not as easy to get customers' eyes on your goods. If you don't enjoy marketing and creating content to support your product, this might not be a good option for you. It will be essential to create and carry out a marketing plan. You will also need to either hire an SEO guru, or put a lot of research and effort into how to make your shop appear on search engines.  

Goals for Your Online Store

What's the best option for you? This decision truly rests on your goals for the store. Do you want to have a long-term relationship with customers with a lot of repeat business? How much money will you want to put into creating your store, and how much effort are you interested in extending?

In some ways, you may want to think of eBay, Etsy, and Amazon as a way to test your product on customers and find out if they're interested in your product. You can also consider setting up a site with rich marketing content that drives buyers to your store hosted on one of the big three internet shopping destinations as an in-between step.

Eventually, if you decide to build your own online store, you can easily create one using a website template and make it look uniquely designed to sell your goods.

 

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