Establishing an ecommerce presence is pretty much a no-brainer for any modern retailer. Having an online storefront not only gives you an additional sales channel, it also enables you to serve customers across both physical and digital channels–a capability that’s proven to be invaluable in modern retail.
And the good news is, in this day and age, merchants have plenty of options when it comes to opening an online store. You can, for example, set up a branded online store through solutions like Shopify and Magento, or you can choose to sell on existing marketplaces such as Amazon and eBay.
Interestingly, more and more retailers are choosing to go the multi-channel route when selling online. For instance, Carrot Tomato, a home and giftware store that sells through Shopify, noticed that many of their customers prefer shopping at eBay, so they created a number of accounts on the site to cater to these shoppers.
You may want to consider doing something similar in your store. If it make sense for your business, expand your online presence by setting up shop on other online marketplaces, such as Amazon, eBay, or Etsy. Doing so will could potentially increase visibility and sales, by allowing you to tap into the audiences of the sites.
Of course, not all online marketplaces are created equal. These sites charge seller fees and some are more suited for specific types of products or customers. Be sure to do your research before signing up for any of them so you can figure out which marketplace is right for you.
To help you with this task, below is a quick guide to the common online marketplaces for retailers. We’ll be covering pros and cons for selling on these sites, along with tips on how you can sell better through them.
General Pros and Cons
Below are some general advantages and disadvantages of selling on other marketplaces:
Existing customer base – Perhaps the biggest advantage when it comes to selling on sites such as Amazon or eBay is their wide reach and existing customer base. These sites already have huge databases of customers who search for products and shop with them regularly.
Lower advertising and marketing costs – These sites also do a lot of the work when it comes to increasing visibility for your products. Their search features make it easy for people to find your items, and in some cases, they might even advertise your products for you. Amazon, for example, runs retargeting ads on people who viewed your products without completing a purchase.
Fees – Online marketplaces can charge monthly fees or take a cut off your sales. These fees can vary depending on your sales or the type of store you have, so be sure to read the fine print before signing up for any of them.
Limited branding and customization – Most marketplaces don’t offer a lot of freedom when it comes to branding and customization. The merchant pages on sites like Amazon or Etsy pretty much all look the same, and the only things you can customize are the text and product photos. This limits your abilities to inject your personality or stand out in the marketplace.
Now that we’ve covered the big pros and cons, it’s time to move on to the specific policies, fees, and procedures for each marketplace:
On Amazon, you can choose to be either be a Professional or Individual seller, depending on how much you’re planning to sell each month. Individual seller accounts are for those who are planning to sell fewer than 40 items per month, and are charged $0.99 per item + referral fees and variable closing fees.
Meanwhile, Professional sellers get unlimited sales for $39.99 a month + selling fees (which vary per item). Pros get additional capabilities, including the ability customize shipping rates, offer special promotions and gift wrap options, use Amazon’s listing and reporting tools, and more. Professional sellers are also eligible for top placement on product detail pages and they’re allowed to sell products from a wider range of categories.
To set-up an eBay store, start by creating seller account and confirming your contact information. You will also need to specify an automatic payment method for your seller fees and eBay’s Money Back Guarantee reimbursements. In addition, eBay recommends that you get PayPal verified to increase your credibility, raise sending and withdrawal limits, and have the ability to list on international eBay sites.
Once your account is set up, you can then create and manage your product listings and interact with customers. eBay fees will vary depending on your item’s category, listing type, shipping costs, and more. To quickly figure out how much fees you’ll have to pay, use eBay’s fee calculator here.
Etsy is a lot more specialized, compared to Amazon or eBay. It’s a marketplace specifically for crafters, artists, and collectors to sell vintage products (at least 20 years old), handmade creations, and crafting supplies. Setting up shop is quite simple–you can even use Facebook Connect, and after that it’s just a matter of naming your shop.
As for listing your items, Etsy will guide you throughout the process and ask questions like who made the product, what type of item it is, when it was created, etc. The rest of the information you’ll need to enter (description, photos, shipping details) are pretty standard.
Unlike Amazon, Etsy doesn’t charge any monthly membership fees, but they do charge $0.20 USD for a listing an item for four months and take a 3.5% cutoff the selling price. Fees for promoted listings, direct checkout, multi-quantities, etc all vary depending on what you’re selling.
How to be more effective in selling on marketplaces
Here are a couple more tips to help you sell better and manage your store more effectively:
Be responsive – You may not be able to fully customize the look and feel of your shop, but you can certainly add your personality and find ways to stand out in how you communicate with customers. This is especially true when you’re selling in marketplaces such as eBay or Etsy, where buyers and sellers get a lot of chances to talk. Always thank them for their purchase (or for getting in touch), be prompt with your responses, and answer questions in an engaging manner.
Optimize your listings – The finer details for listing optimization will vary, depending on which marketplace you’re dealing with, but generally speaking, you want to include the right keywords and make sure that you’re able to describe the items in an engaging but informative way.
The verbiage that you use could also depend on the marketplace that you’re in. Etsy, for example, encourages sellers to share the story behind each item in order to appeal more to its target market.
Take a lot of awesome product photos – You can also stand out through your product photos. Obviously, one of the biggest barriers to shopping online is that people can’t see or touch products first-hand. Sellers can address this by showcasing various product views and angles in the photos, and perhaps showing the product in action.
Make use of multi-channel selling tools – Managing inventory can be a bit tricky when you’re selling on several marketplaces so you may want to use a multi-channel inventory management solution like Stitch, which syncs data across several channels, making it easier for you to stay on top of everyting from one place.
We hope this post gave you some insights into online marketplaces and helped you figure out if selling on Amazon, eBay, or Etsy, is right for you.
Have you ever tried selling on any of the marketplaces above? Tell us about your experience in the comments.
Image: melenita2012 on Flickr
About Francesca Nicasio
Francesca Nicasio is Vend's Retail Expert and Content Strategist. She writes about trends, tips, and other cool things that enable retailers to increase sales, serve customers better, and be more awesome overall. She's also the author of Retail Survival of the Fittest, a free eBook to help retailers future-proof their stores. Connect with her on LinkedIn, Twitter, or Google+.