Is it better to sell independently or through online marketplaces?

Setting up your personal shop and selling your wares has never been easier. Sites such as Etsy or Amazon allow you to list your products and make use of the millions of people who visit this digital superstore each week. If you are about to make the leap into online selling, you might be wondering whether one of these megaliths or a site of your own might be the way forward. 

Here we explore the pros and cons of using online marketplaces and consider when you decide to go it alone with your very own ecommerce store.


The upside of online marketplaces

There are many positives to starting out with Etsy or Amazon, and if you are happy to bubble along, stay with them too. These sites offer a ready-made structure to sell your products through. There is a template listing function and, most importantly, a payment system. In short, you are given everything you need to get started and in a way that is intuitive to the user. You will benefit from the years of research of user experience that makes these sites easy to navigate.

Another positive of online marketplaces like Amazon or Etsy is the brand value they bring. People don’t need to think hard about where to go when they want to buy a craft item or buy something quick for a birthday. By selling through these brands, you will get a significant boost in footfall to your product that would be hard-won on an independent site. You would have to spend a lot on marketing to get even a small proportion of the visitors you could on an online marketplace.


Online marketplaces offer a ready-made structure to sell your products through.


You will also benefit from the trust that this brand has established. Even though the buyer knows that the marketplace on these sites is littered with lots of small independents, they feel protected by the policies and procedures of the host brand. Etsy and Amazon protect consumers using their sites, and they know it. There would be no such promise on your independent site.

The main reason for this trust is the level of investment in customer service. Etsy, in particular, is skilled at engaging its community, and there is an active sharing of opinions and recommendations. On Amazon, a review system can make it straightforward to gather the reviews and testimonials needed to build even more trust with the buyer. 

Essentially, people start with a page on an online marketplace because they overcome many of the barriers to entry that face a small store venturing out into a global market.


The downsides of online marketplaces

There are, however, significant restraints when looking to grow and distinguish yourself as a brand when using one of these sites. Marketing strategies such as email capture, call to action, and SEO are almost impossible to use on these sites. You are tied into a template and cannot adapt your design to distinguish yourself from competitors.


Online marketplaces come with a fair share of downsides, too.


Not only is it hard to distinguish yourself, but online marketplaces stores will also advertise your competitors even when your buyer has clicked on your item. There will be a carousel or sidebar with items similar to yours sold by your competitors. In short, even when you have the buy button, some distractions can prevent you from closing this sale.

Finally, a website like Amazon or Etsy or Ebay will take a chunk of your profits. There will be listing costs and percentage commission to be paid on each item sold. Eventually, these costs will outstrip the investment needed to build an effective independent website.


Move to scale

You will likely get started with an online marketplace and use the templated options to get started. However, there will come the point when you want more control, and you will resent the constant risk that a policy change could set you back.

When you consider building your independent website, you need to invest in doing it properly. If you migrate your business with you, then the site you create needs to offer the same secure and simple transaction the customer enjoyed before. If you feel you know what you are doing and can deliver a much better experience on your site, it is time to make the shift over. The bonus is that the commercial world will start to take you more seriously as a business, but the downside is that you will have more work to do to maintain and sustain your market.

There is unlikely to be a moment when you make an instant switch. You are likely to keep your Amazon or Etsy or Ebay store going as you build the credibility of your independent store. You can use the community boards on these sites as a means of redirecting traffic and keeping a steady source of income. 

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