If you’re new to the online selling game, you might be asking yourself if you should start selling your products in a marketplace like Amazon or eBay or start your own online shop.
Note: This article was updated on May 29th 2019.
Even if you’ve been in the game for a while, profiting from marketplaces, you might be considering creating your own shop now. Both options come with advantages as well as challenges, so which one should you use? Today, we’ll break things down and help you decide what the best choice is for your business.
Building your brand image
When it comes to building your brand, there’s no question that creating your own website gives you more control of your brand image. As anyone who’s visited Amazon or eBay knows, there are very few options for controlling how your product pages look.
Colours, font, layouts are pretty much standardised on these marketplaces, though eBay does give you more options than Amazon when you scroll down the product pages. However, no one can really claim that these pages are very dynamic.
Naturally, there are some things you can do to differentiate yourself. As far as the product page is concerned, creating great product images is crucial when selling online no matter if you sell in a marketplace or on your own website.
Creating unique product descriptions is also something you should be doing across the board. However, with these marketplaces, that’s basically it.
Having your own website lets you create the experience you want for your customers. Your brand should have a personality. It should symbolise your target group’s lifestyle and this should be reflected in the design of your website.
Designer Mikiya Kobayashi is known for his passion of materials. Minimalistic images and close-ups of his products reflect that.Source: mikiyakobayashi.com
One major negative for marketplaces is that you really need to be careful about how you market yourself. Amazon, for example, is very strict about this topic. They basically forbid you from mentioning your own company in any way.
That means you cannot even include your business card or print your website in the invoices included in the packaging.
Though many would assume doing so is just good business practice, Amazon could see this as a retailer attempting to lure their customers away from Amazon, a strategy they’re not very fond of to say the least.
Other marketplaces such as Etsy have similar policies. However, Etsy at least lets you post links to your social media pages. If it’s obvious that you’re pulling in a lot of customers through these marketplaces, make sure you have a memorable shop name that can easily be googled. Perhaps this way, customers will be lead to your shop through the search engines.
Whatever you do, just be sure to read through the terms and conditions of the marketplaces carefully. Your account might get suspended if you violate these conditions.
Winner: Your own website… by a landslide
Recommended: Check out our (free) webinar on writing texts that convert customers:
Traffic & sales
We’re online, so marketing is a huge element of running a successful online business. The internet is vast, and helping customers find your website is tough work. However, as a retailer, you might have both short-term goals and long-term goals.
If we’re talking about long-term goals, then building your brand is your aim. However, making sales is also important and promoting your products to make a quick sale is vital to your short-term goals.
If you have your own store, you can do a lot of things to drive traffic to your shop – optimise your website to rank high in Google organic search results, run Google ads, Facebook ads, or create an Instagram campaign.
Then there’s Twitter, hashtags, and Pinterest. The list goes on and on. However, this can take lots of time and effort. And we all know that time = money.
The advantage of selling in a marketplace is that it will probably be easier for customers to find your products. Naturally, this will however depend on what you’re selling, how many competitors you have, and a few other factors.
Still, once you consider that according to bloomreach, shoppers start their product searches two times more often on Amazon than on Google, then it’s impossible to deny the strength of having your products available on Amazon.
Though you can “advertise” on Amazon, you’re really just promoting your Amazon product and you’re basically paying Amazon to advertise a product that you’re selling on their website. And if you do sell it, a nice chunk of your profits also goes to the marketplace.
With eBay, you can advertise external shops at the very bottom of search results, but ads on product pages aren't always closely related to the products searched.
Winner: Marketplace… for quick sales
When it comes to marketplaces, the customer’s experience is more directly associated with the marketplace than with the seller. When a customer has a good experience buying your product on Amazon or Google, it’s simply another great Amazon purchase. Though the product is yours, the experience belongs to the marketplace in many ways.
Similarly to branding, the customer experience is much more in your hands when you run your own shop. When a customer buys from your shop, their customer journey from start to finish is yours to control and customise. From the homepage to the follow-up email requesting a review, it's all up to you. It may be more work, but it’s yours to own and yours to master!
Winner: Your own shop
Expanding your clientele
When selling on a marketplace, generally we think of buyers as the end-users. With the exception of Alibaba, most of these marketplaces give you prices on single product purchases, though Alibaba will often provide you with prices for purchasing large quantities. If you’re targeting smaller retailers (i.e. brick-and-mortar shops), then selling on Amazon or Etsy is definitely not ideal.
Naturally, selling on your own shop provides you with the freedom of displaying whatever prices and discounts that you want. If you sell small products like USB cables, then offering them at discounted prices if someone purchases 100 items is a no-brainer.
Winner: Your own shop
Nothing feels more powerful than buying USB cables in bulk at a great price!
What can you learn from marketplaces like Amazon?
As you can see, there are plenty of advantages to selling on marketplaces like Amazon. That also means that there are plenty of lessons to take from these e-commerce giants as well.
Marketplace shops rely heavily on social proof and trust
This point is particularly true with Amazon. Shoppers can search a seller's reviews to get an idea of their service. Perhaps more importantly, product reviews (and ratings) are available right on the product page as well.
This gives users a greater peace of mind before completing their purchase. This point, in my opinion, may be one of the greatest factors of Amazon's success as Jeff Bezos made the decision to publish all reviews (even negative reviews) for the benefit of the shoppers.
Recommended: Building your own website means you've got to win over customer trust. Check out our free checklist below!
The bottom line here is that trust is a major issue here and an advantage that Amazon has worked hard to get. Even if a customer visits your website and likes what they see, they may still choose to shop on a marketplace because of their previous experiences.
That’s why social proof is so important. Besides reviews, having a trustmark displayed on your page can be a big trust builder for your online store. The trustmark from Trusted Shops, for example, offers consumers a 30-day money-back guarantee. As the most recognised e-commerce trustmark in Europe can help eliminate any doubts your potential customers may have about buying from your shop.
Companies like Amazon make it easy for shop owners to (re)market products to shoppers who browsed their pages. This doesn't surprise anyone anymore, but it's important to note that this is still an effective marketing strategy.
Aiming for users who have interacted with your pages before makes sense. Either they were interested in your products or have purchased from you before. In both situations, these users are more likely to convert than lots of other targeting strategies.
One great feature that Amazon has on its product pages (and once a product is added to the basket) is a recommendation of complementary products. By recommending another product that goes together with the original product, you can inspire your customers to purchase more from you.
It can also be seen as a service to your customers. If they end up buying something like a new DSLR camera, buying a second battery might not be the first thing on their mind, but may quickly realise that they will need that item as well.
Though we would always encourage webshop’s to create their own websites, it can’t hurt trying out some marketplaces to complement your online shop’s sales. Though these marketplaces may have strict rules, they have also built up a great reputation for themselves and can get your business some great exposure. All in all, it’s best to spread out and sell your products across different channels, but ignoring your own website and only focusing on marketplace sales would be a mistake and can stunt your shop's growth.
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