Partner article by Victoria Greene, VictoriaEcommerce
Britain has the third largest eCommerce market in the world, with non-store retailing accounting for 72.9% of total UK sales in January 2017. For retailers looking to take advantage of this online footfall, making the decision to sell through marketplaces or your own dedicated site can be tricky, as there are pros and cons to each option. Here are some things you should consider when investing your efforts in eCommerce platforms.
Pro: Marketplaces Have an Established Reputation
Marketplaces have a marked advantage over individually-owned web stores, as they attract millions of customers every day. There are tonnes of proven tips online on how to sell more products on Amazon because these marketplaces have highly developed keyword search algorithms that, when used correctly, can bring you an abundance of sales revenue. Established merchants know that even some minor keyword tweaks can bring about positive results, so there will always be a way for businesses to expand within the marketplace format.
Pro: Marketplaces Are Great For Selling ‘Generic’ Products
If your product offerings are commonplace items with little that is unique about them, putting them on a marketplace can help you generate more sales. You are more likely to be spotted by internet searchers looking for those exact items online. In some instances, you may want to create incentivising deals, like bundles of related products at a special discount. Alternatively, you can also make your items stand out by sourcing products that come in bright colours, or have the potential to be customised (with the manufacturer’s permission, of course).
Con: Marketplaces Are Flooded With Competitors
You may find that your products and descriptions match some of your competitors. Potentially, you could be battling it out with thousands of businesses selling the same things, with some charging less than you could ever afford to charge yourself. Whilst marketplaces attract billions of views worldwide, setting your brand apart from the crowd presents a huge challenge to eCommerce merchants.
As a starting point, you want to make sure that your products have great images and detailed product descriptions. Emphasise the benefits of your products to your customers e.g. how they can solve a customer’s problem or make their lives better.
Con: Marketplaces Won’t Do Everything For You
Many online merchants think that marketplaces present the easier option, because they mistakenly believe that the site would be responsible for all of the legalities individual sellers may face in international eCommerce activities.
However, regardless of whether or not you’re selling through your own site or a marketplace, you will be responsible for meeting your international tax obligations. For instance, you will need to find out how to register for VAT, make internationally compliant invoices, and file VAT returns on time.
Further, you will also need to make sure that you read and comply with the terms and conditions of each individual marketplace. This can be quite time consuming if you have many channels to maintain, but failure to do so could see you getting negative reviews, site bans, and possible legal backlash.
Pro: Online Stores Can Be Cheaper to Run
Marketplaces charge fees to merchants setting up shop on their website. This may be a monthly charge or a charge per transaction. But this can start to add up and eat away at a business’ profit margins if you don’t stay on top of the costs.
On the other hand, eCommerce hosts can present an inexpensive alternative, as the monthly charges are often cheaper than some well-known online marketplaces.
Pro: Websites Give You Control From One Central Hub
There are many complete eCommerce solutions that allow businesses to integrate all of their selling channels and control them from one easy-to-use interface. If you opt for a subscription-based service, you can keep startup costs down. Plus, you can access tutorials and support to get up and running quickly. Parcelhub integrates with Shopify, allowing you to create your own online store and automate your shipping seamlessly. You can also use it to control your alternative marketplace accounts, accounting and bookkeeping, inventory levels and more.
Pro: Online Stores Are Tailored To Suit Your Customers
No matter the audience, displaying your products on your own website gives you the opportunity to show them in a unique light. If a marketplace will allow your customers to view a maximum of 6 product images, your website can show 7 or even 100 – it’s completely up to you. You may need to update your eCommerce store if your page takes too long to load, or your website navigation makes it hard for consumers to find the things they need. But luckily, whichever eCommerce site-building software you opt for, preset templates and step-by-step instructions can help you create and make adjustments to your ideal-looking web store.
Whether you choose to sell through your own dedicated online shop or explore your marketplace options, you will need to carefully consider both your products and the audiences you’re targeting. Automating as much of your site-building, compliance and shipping requirements as you can will streamline the process, giving you the maximum amount of time to concentrate on promoting your products – wherever you choose to sell them.
Victoria Greene is an eCommerce and branding expert who loves to help businesses expand into new marketplaces. She’s also a freelance writer and runs her own blog at VictoriaEcommerce.