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Would you put all your eggs in one basket?

Last week we talked about the On-Demand culture creating an economy of micropreneurs. While the service based eCommerce is still in the nascent stage, marketplaces such as eBay, Amazon and Overstock continue to rule eCommerce.

In spite of the sugar-rush, these giant eCommerce platforms look sustaining.

On the other side, to an increasing degree, online sellers are contemplating on sustainability, positioning, branding and differentiation. Questions come from all directions -

should I worry about having my own store when I can sell instantly on eBay?, I have my eBay store but do I really “own” it?, I want to create my own branded store without discontinuing selling through existing marketplace, what are my options?, All e-stores on marketplace/s look alike, shouldn’t I do something different?, And oh the transaction fees - there must be a way to get over it; is there?

These are all rightful contemplations. eCommerce now being a mainstream economy, everyone sailing in it must think critically, must think business, must think about creating value.

There are no right or wrong answers to the above questions. Ultimately, it all depends on how and where you want to see your online business. If online selling is a very small part of your life, eBay, Amazon and similar marketplaces are perhaps your best bet. However, if your objective is profitable, sustainable business with a scope for growth and expansion then you do not want to put all your eggs in one basket.

And certainly not in someone else’s basket!

Why not?

  • Little control over “your” eBay or Etsy store - though you may get more exposure on a big marketplace, there will be only so much you can do should they amend their policies. What if they decide to increase transaction fees? Can you still sell profitably? The policies may not be to your advantage always, especially with small sellers.
  • Less visibility, duplication - With so many stores selling same or similar products at one marketplace, it is difficult to keep customers at one (your) store. Why should they not search for products across all the eBay stores? Wouldn’t you like repeat customers? Eventually, all the product descriptions also read the same on marketplace stores. That makes it difficult to be noticed and also doesn’t leave much opportunity to customers either to pick one store over the other.
  • Negative feedback - Every online marketplace will have its own policy about which stores stay and which get banned. For. e.g.eBay has a target to improve satisfaction index of its customers by x%. In order to achieve that they must be stringent in identifying “good” vs. “bad” sellers. With such standards, the chances are high that even one but strong negative feedback on your store could catch the attention. And not for the right reasons.
  • Store suspended - What would you do if your eBay store gets suspended due to policy change or due to negative feedback? You have all your customers information there, all the shipping and payment details too. More importantly your effort setting up that store all this while, your image and the relation you built with your customers over the period. It all vanishes even before it sinks in that your store is suspended!

What should you do?

  1. Continue selling through eBay / Amazon / Etsy / Overstock, etc.
  2. Parallely build your own website - your brand, your terms & conditions, no more transaction fees
  3. Differentiate. Be Unique - On your website, customers see only your products. Your product descriptions are unique to your store and unlike marketplace stores, there is little chance of duplication. Use it to your advantage. Write precisely what attracts buyers.
  4. Know your customer better - with your own e-store, you can have all your customer information in one place and need not worry about it vanishing. With this, you have immediate access to customers buying preferences from purchase history and you can delight them with offers that suit them.
  5. Use your marketplace stores as an advertising tool for your own web store. With every sell through eBay / Amazon, et al. promote your own website. Try including promotional coupons which can be redeemed upon purchase from your website. If a buyer wants to purchase higher quantities redirect them to your website. This will save you transaction fees and you are free to pass on the benefit to the customer in the form of bulk purchase discount!
  6. Promote - Once someone buys from your eBay store or your own store, you own the customer. Eventually, you will build a database of customers and as the mailing list grows you can design a monthly newsletter or send promotional emails to customers notifying them about new products, upcoming deals, festival discounts and much more.

Creating your own website and e-store may seem hard but you will see the benefits of it shortly. Not alone the monetary benefits but the feeling of ownership, sense of achievement and creating brand value which is extremely integral to ensure long-term viable business.

What are your options?

If you have come this far in your thought, there are chances you are looking for a single solution to all above questions.

You must know that there are a lot of options you can explore depending on your priorities. Building your own e-store is made very easy these days with various hosting platforms. Almost all eCommerce platforms will enable you to build your store your way. They will give you everything you need - design, unlimited categories and product display, easy checkout systems, payment integrations and awesome SEO features. And all of this at a reasonable cost.

But going back, if the sole purpose of your business is, to be profitable, sustainable, have scope for growth then your focus has to be on growing sales. Remember having your own website is as good as managing your own brick and mortar shop plus getting caught up in technical glitches which you need to fix yourself more often than not.

Therefore, to business owners we recommend taking a bird’s eye view on this online business initiative, focus on sales and not get into Do-It-Yourself technology tools. Here is your apt solution with all features embedded including a real tech genie!

Share with us your views on the balancing act and your experiences with Do-It-Yourself (D.I.Y.) tech tools.

  • http://Website Tag

    This is great Imformation to follow, but if you sell on ebay do not follow number 5. You are not allowed to have any website links, in your store, pictures, emails, or listing details that will take sales off of the ebay site. It’s a policy violation. I recommend to follow every step, but that one.

  • http://www.easystorehosting.com Birju Sheth

    Travis, thanks for your feedback. In point 5, our intention is to convey that when one ships the product to their eBay customer, they can include promotional or discount coupons in the parcel. eBay policy should not be violated by displaying your own website link or promotions on eBay store.

  • http://www.baublesbybecky.weebly.com Becky Mullis

    Birmingham thanks for your well thought out article. I agree with almost everything you say. As a 14 year veteran of an eBay store I recently had reached what I felt was the crises stage. I wished I had read your article then. But I blindly felt my way,looking for a solution. I tried other platforms first, Bonanza, Etsy, etc. They were not a solution for me, just a different set of problems. The biggest one was lack of exposure to potential buyers. So finally I opened my own webstore. I am on a learning curve there too. But at least I believe I am on the right path at this time. Finally, I agree with the comments made on number 5 point. I would add to this regarding point 6 eBay has software and policies in place to completely deny sellers the ability to just that. The buyers are eBay’s property as far as they are concerned. They threaten any sellers who use buyers emails without them being on “the list” where the have signed up. The problem is most buyers don’t sin up or “follow” you unless they have bought from you several times.

    • http://www.easystorehosting.com Birju Sheth

      Becky, your staggered approach to finally get your own store, must have been a good learning experience. I see you pointed out about customer management/communication through eBay. When you switched eCommerce platforms did you use any tactics to let your existing customers on eBay know that you are transiting? It would be great to learn something from your 14 years of online merchant experience.
      Thanks!

  • http://Www.baublesbybecky.weebly.com Becky Mullis

    Sorry for the Birmingham. Thank Apple for their intuitive text when I typed in Birju.