E-Commerce 101: 4 ways to sell online
Whether you are selling your collectibles, starting your small online business, taking your brick and mortar online, there is a surfeit of channels where you can sell online. There isn’t any one-size-fits-all model, though you could start with one which has the best fit to your business. You might also want to consider listing in multiple sites provided you have the resources to do so.
The biggest advantage of these platforms is the amount of potential buyers that you can reach, as the traffic of some established marketplaces are enormous.
eBay is your best choice if you are selling unique or hard-to-find items, such as collectibles, memorabilia and so on. You can choose to auction your product or sell it at fixed price (buy it now). Bear in mind that eBay is charging you for both listing your product and once your product is sold.
Amazon is a better option if you intend to sell commodity-priced items, and will only take a bite out of the profits if your item sells. The drawback is you can only sell items that are currently available at Amazon, though you can recommend to Amazon if it is not available and wait for the approval.
If you intend to sell something niche, special-purpose or vertical marketplaces could help you to reach the right audience. For example, Etsy is the best place to market handmade or vintage items as well as art and craft supplies.
Similar to marketplaces, established online classifieds sites are also having substantial traffic. It is one of the entry points for people to lookup products or services and you could list your products for free in most cases.
However, buyer is required to contact the seller manually in order to make further order arrangement. Online payment is usually not supported and there isn’t any order tracking and so forth. Also, buyers are generally more cautious while dealing with classifieds sellers.
There are so many classified sites around the world, the most iconic one would be Craigslist which has expanded to more than 700 cities in 70 countries. You can also try to market your products via a handful of classified sites, particularly those that are popular in your target market. For example, OzFreeOnline.com is the one that you can’t skip if you are targeting Australians.
Before we proceed to other platforms, let’s take a break by looking at the traffic volume (from US only) of Amazon, eBay and Craigslist:
Many people are now living their lives within social network sites, and it is an opportunity that you can’t miss if you are to market and sell your products online. It is no doubt the best platform to create some sort of viral effects of your business.
At the moment of writing this post, Facebook is having more than 400 million of active users (click here for latest Facebook Statistics). The key is, you need to install third party application like Payvment to setup a storefront and enable e-commerce on Facebook. You can’t sell effectively on Facebook without installing any e-commerce application.
No doubt, social shopping has great potential but it still has some way to go. Perhaps, the shopping experience is not optimized, or users are still reluctant to shop within social networks. As for etailers, the e-commerce applications are not yet as comprehensive or flexible if compared to marketplaces and own e-commerce sites, probably due to the fact that it need to be contained by the social network itself.
Still, social networks can’t be ignored if you want to market your products. Setting up a business fans page is a must in order to engage with your customers. Similar to classifieds, pick the most popular social network in your target market before getting started.
Image credit: Vincos
Your Own Storefront
Last but not least, thinking of having your own branded online store? This is the best option for committed and ambitious sellers where you are equipped with greater control over your business in the long run. Of course, you gotta work hard to pull traffic to your store, in relative to those platforms being discussed earlier.
One of the options is to go for open source shopping cart, which is free in most cases. Free does come with a price though, in which you need to install, develop, customize and maintain it. Unless you are pretty confident in programming, you need to hire some one reliable to do it for you.
If you choose to go for hosted shopping cart like webShaper, you are able to save most of the technical headaches. You don’t need to invest heavily either, as there are usually various packages available for different needs. In this way, let the e-commerce software providers concentrate on what they do best by continuously improving the system, at the same time you can focus on growing your online business.
For further considerations on getting your own branded storefront, read free vs. paid shopping cart software.