One important aspect of offering products for sale online is determining which of the many platforms you should use for your business. Different e-commerce platforms offer their own benefits and drawbacks which may impact your volume of sales and even your bottom line. Do you know which is right for your business?
In this blog post, we will only be addressing platforms that specialize in selling goods (rather than services). Although there are a number of different platforms specializing in the sale of services, that discussion deserves its own separate blog post.
To many, Etsy functions as a “gateway” platform into the world of e-commerce because the company makes it quick and easy to establish a business online. It offers many benefits to sellers: it integrates most (but not all) dropshipping platforms, your audience (and potential buyers) already trust Etsy before they even see your shop, and the audience that Etsy can offer to sellers is truly massive.
Despite these benefits, Etsy does have some drawbacks. Etsy showcases your products alongside your competitor’s versions, making it even more difficult to stand out. Sellers don’t retain as much control over their shop as they would from selling on their own website and can be subject to Etsy’s sales algorithm. Finally: Etsy has relatively high listing and transaction fees compared to other online platforms.
Conclusion: Etsy is an excellent starting point, but it should not be your only platform for online sales. Use it as a way to build a customer base (before transitioning them to another platform) or to diversify an existing revenue stream, but there is no reason you should be limit yourself or your business.
Shopify is another e-commerce platform that is used by business owners to sell products on their own websites. This platform is ideal for a business owner who feels more comfortable with designing their own website and offers lower fees than their competitors, which is attractive to beginner and experienced business owners alike.
However, Shopify does have some drawbacks. Unlike Etsy, Shopify does not have a built-in audience, which means that more time and money needs to be allocated to market your business and drive traffic to your product pages. Additionally, Shopify expects that you are responsible for all your packaging and shipping decisions. At the time of writing this article, Shopify does not offer discounted postage (unlike its competitor, Etsy).
Conclusion: Shopify offers better scalability and flexibility than its competitors when it comes to selling products, but is best suited for someone who is committed to executing some of the more back-end work that isn’t directly related to the sale of a product.
Amazon is the largest e-commerce platform and offers a multitude of benefits: like Etsy, it comes with an integrated audience that trusts the platform; it hosts a wide variety of sellers and goods; and it is still well-suited for beginners who may not be familiar with e-commerce platforms. Amazon stands out from its competitors, however, by offering an FBA program whereby sellers ship their products to Amazon for storage (to decrease shipping times to the end consumer) and it offers numerous tools that provide analytical data to allow you to develop the best strategies for your business.
Unfortunately, Amazon charges relatively high fees and – unsurprisingly – is a highly competitive platform. Additionally, there is no room for customization on Amazon. If on a platform like Shopify you can design the look and feel of your online storefront, Amazon makes it effectively impossible to distinguish yourself for your competitors.
Conclusion: If you can leverage the benefits that come with this e-commerce platform, you may strike gold (by way of bringing numerous new customers to your brand). However, it is not guaranteed and will require a tremendous amount of work up-front.
Your Business or Brand Website
Should you utilize your business’s or brand’s website as a platform for sales?
Yes, and here’s why.
Although all three of the aforementioned e-commerce platforms charge sellers some kind of fee, the end goal is to build a customer base and redirect them to your business website so that you can avoid charging those fees. By investing in a website for your business, you mitigate some of the risk of instability by being subject to a third party e-commerce site’s rules or changes to the search algorithm, you mitigate some of the cost associated with listing or selling an item, and you retain full control over the customization and presentation of your business and products to the end consumer.
It is important to remember that there is a cost associated with creating your own website, driving traffic, and establishing a payment process to make sales manageable. Websites are way more work than utilizing an existing sales platform, but that doesn’t mean that having your own website should be dismissed outright. Instead, think of your brand’s website as a “home base,” and other e-commerce platforms as different paths to get to the same end-goal.
Conclusion: You should absolutely establish a website for your business or brand, and a prudent business owner will utilize that website as one of several e-commerce platforms on which they list or sell their product. Provided that you play your cards right, it may be the best investment that you make across any e-commerce platform.
If none of the above-listed platforms work well for how you envision starting your business, don’t fret – there are a plethora of alternatives available to both beginner and experienced business owners. Some business owners feel more comfortable selling on social media platforms like Facebook Marketplace, while others may seek out specialty platforms (such as Poshmark or The RealReal for clothing, or Chairish for home décor and artwork).
While there may be specific drawbacks and benefits to whatever alternative e-commerce platform you choose for your business, you will generally find that most platforms are best suited as a way to branch out an existing revenue stream, rather than functioning as a primary platform for your revenue.