If you want to start selling goods online, you’ve generally got two options. You can either go to a marketplace, like eBay or Amazon and try to flog your wares alongside everyone else, or you can build your own store on a platform like Shopify or BigCommerce.
While there are pros and cons of both, the decision ultimately comes down to what you’re selling, your goals, and what kind of retail business you operate. Let’s take a look at some of the factors which might influence your decision.
The Ability To Scale
Although tools like Shopify and Big Commerce are excellent at providing the essential tools you need to begin selling online, they can flounder when you try to increase sales volumes dramatically. Shopify, for instance, doesn’t provide any in-house fulfillment services, meaning that you either have to pack and send all items yourself or integrate with a third-party fulfillment provider who may or may not be able to scale with your needs.
Marketplaces are different, especially Amazon. Amazon gives third-party sellers on its platform (that’s you), the option of using its fulfillment centers which are specially set up to allow businesses to scale according to customer demand. Volume usually doesn’t bring the same problems on marketplaces as it does on e-commerce stores.
The Ability To Create A Brand
Many retailers want to create a brand because it helps them differentiate themselves from the competition and charge a higher price. Does platform make a difference here too?
It turns out that it does: when you own an e-commerce store, you have almost complete control over how your storefront appears to customers. You can differentiate yourself from the competition through your products, branding messages, themes, and content, and the platform providers won’t do anything to stop you. Their job is to facilitate your online operations, nothing more.
The same can’t be said of marketplaces. Amazon and eBay set the rules of the game and you, as a vendor, must follow their format. The firms behind both these marketplaces place the value of their brand above yours, making it hard to create a unique impression or be independent.
The Ability To Craft The User Experience
As the owner of an e-commerce store, you have full control over user experience. It’s up to you to how smooth and seamless your website appears because it is you who ultimately controls the implementation. On marketplaces, you don’t have a lot of control over the user experience, but rather the marketplace itself largely determines the quality of the experience. That’s not necessarily a bad thing: Amazon and eBay are successful precisely because they offer customers the convenience and quality experience they want.
The Ability To Set Prices
On Amazon and eBay sellers must sell their goods in competition with rival retailers. To assist the customer experience, platforms regularly display prices of similar products next to each other, reducing your ability to charge a markup. When you have your own e-commerce store, you have a captive audience and can potentially charge higher prices.
If you’re not sure what is the right start for you, our Sponsor, Spreadshop.com offers the ability to both sell on your own free online shop or within Spreadshirt’s Marketplace. Get your free account to try it out now.
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