Where should your e-tailer be selling - through an online marketplace or its own site? - Myk Baxter Marketing

With ecommerce sales tipped to reach £2.8 trillion by 2020, now looks like a promising time to set up an e-tailer. However, if you do follow this strategy, there remains the question of whether you should open your online store on an e-marketplace or through its own, dedicated website.

For many small businesses, the choice can seem like a no-brainer. After all, of that £2.8 trillion, 40% is expected to be generated through e-marketplaces like eBay, Etsy and Amazon, which all have ready-made audiences of shoppers who could be looking for exactly the type of product you offer.

However, the right step forward isn’t quite so clear when you consider the cut which these marketplaces will take from your revenue made through them. Sticking to an online marketplace can also impair your efforts to develop a personal brand aimed at garnering sustained success in selling.

Marketplaces require less heavy lifting for new e-tailers

If you are completely new to the eCommerce space, you might not be accustomed to various technical aspects of setting up a website, such as registering a hosting platform for it, settling on a theme for that site and finding a suitable domain name that hasn’t already been taken.

If you lack the relevant experience, you would either have to learn the ropes in your own time or pay a professional web developer to get everything up and running for you. However, it’s easier to start making a profit quickly if you instead choose to set up your outlet via an online marketplace.

In fact, everything can be in place the very same day. Etsy just requires you to click its “Open your Etsy shop” button before filling in details about yourself and the store you wish to open. Even if you struggle with the store itself, the marketplace’s support team will be easy to reach as necessary.

Online, your competition is truly global, which adds yet further to the rationale for establishing your retail presence on a site of international reach. Tony Preedy, chief commercial officer of the British-based online retail platform Fruugo, has observed to The Mail: “With the pound having depreciated over recent months, retailers are a lot more attractive to non-British shoppers.”

However, it’s difficult to stand out on a marketplace

It probably won’t be too long before traffic picks up on your marketplace-hosted store – but, unfortunately, competing stores on that marketplace will enjoy the same advantage. You will struggle to differentiate your store, certainly visually, from others on the same platform.

Marketplaces are very much geared towards promoting their own brand rather than yours. Whereas their brand will be up in lights, so to say, yours will be just a short string of text on a product listing that, at first glance, looks like it could have been posted by any other seller on the platform.

Unsurprisingly, then, even when someone does buy an item from your storefront, they will probably tell friends that they bought it from Amazon or Etsy rather than your little-known company. Therefore, once you are generating sufficient income through that storefront to strike out on your own, you should seriously consider doing so.

Join the big league with your own website

Once you’re used to selling items through a marketplace, shifting more of your eCommerce operations to a dedicated website can feel wonderfully liberating. You are now calling the shots and so can position your brand much more prominently.

Given the time and money that you would need to invest in both establishing and regularly updating a website, you might wonder whether you should entirely relinquish your marketplace presence. However, your website can bring many of the same benefits.

For example, you would still need to choose from various eCommerce platforms, such as Shopify, Woocommerce and Magento, which can provide the back-end infrastructure your site needs for processing orders. Hence, once you’re up to speed with how a given platform works, it’s not necessarily difficult to add or tweak listings as your shop’s products grow in number and variety.

How to close the gap with your eCommerce marketing

While transitioning from an online marketplace would entail you surrendering the large audience which such a site routinely reaches, with eCommerce experts on your side, you can gradually narrow this publicity gap if not close it entirely.

Contacting an eCommerce agency like Visualsoft can put various means of online promotion at your disposal – including the pay-per-click (PPC) initiative of Google Ads, paid social media campaigns and, embedded into search engine results, product listings.

Furthermore, as we only charge you for our services when you secure a successful transaction, there’s less risk. Contact me, Myk Baxter, and I can help you to ease yourself gently into the next phase of your eCommerce journey.

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“Myk Baxter Marketing” is a trading style of MBM UK, a company registered in England and Wales and whose registered office is situated at Mill House, Railway Road, Ilkley, Leeds, United Kingdom, LS29 8HT