The Future of Business
Internet shopping is here to stay. In the 1990s, many people were skeptical that Amazon, a fledgling startup trying to sell books online, would ever make a profit. Now it’s one of the largest, most successful companies in the world, and growing every year.
The simple fact is that consumers love to shop online. The simple convenience of shopping from the comfort of your home means that ecommerce is going to be a huge force in retail for the foreseeable future.
But how do you get started if you want to sell your products online? Do you just create an eBay account and sell things there, or is it better to create your own website? Read on!
The Online Auction Option
eBay might be the ideal venue for any business that wants to dip its toes into the online retail market. It’s relatively low risk, requires very little initial investment, and has the potential to be an additional source of income and sales for any business.
The barrier to entry when it comes to selling on eBay is basically nonexistent – if you sign up for eBay and PayPal accounts, you’re essentially ready to start selling. If you work with eBay (or similar sites, like Amazon and Etsy) you get the benefit of piggybacking on the site’s popularity and potentially exposing your product to millions of people. The trade-off is that you lose the opportunity to customize your store and, more importantly, eBay and PayPal both take a substantial cut of each and every sale you make.
For this reason, many ecommerce experts recommend against trying to build a primarily online business solely on eBay – the percentage they take from each sale will really cut into your bottom line as your business grows. However, as an additional source of sales for a brick-and-mortar business or as a venue for someone testing the online waters, eBay (or Amazon, or Etsy) definitely has its place.
The Custom Site Option
A custom ecommerce website is superior in almost every way to selling through eBay or another similar site. With your own website, you have total control over the look and presentation. No matter what type of consumer or demographic you’re trying to appeal to, you can customize the entire experience to match their expectations.
Additionally, with your own site you’ll have your own domain name. www.yourbusiness.com looks much more professional that the URL for an eBay store. And in addition to having control over the presentation of your online store, owning your own website means you also have control over the SEO. It’s unlikely that your eBay store will ever rank well on Google, but consumers finding your custom site while searching on Google is a real possibility.
The drawback with owning your own site is the startup cost. A high quality ecommerce site can sometimes cost tens of thousands of dollars although there are high quality ecommerce sites available for much less. But if you can afford it, it’s well-worth the investment. The cost of the site design is a one-time fee, while eBay will keep taking a percentage of your sales as long as you stay with them.
How to promote your new ecommerce store
So you have your store set up, you have your stock ready to be shipped, and you’re just waiting for orders. How do you get people to actually find your store and buy stuff? Many of the tactics that work for other online marketing campaigns also apply to ecommerce sites.
Start a blog
Blogging is a fundamental part of any online marketing effort, and is especially important for ecommerce sites when they’re starting out. Blogs are great for SEO, and they also give you some content to share in order to promote your site. Speaking of which…
Get on social media
Social media sites can be a huge asset in establishing yourself online. Social media gives you free access to millions and millions of potential customers. All you have to do is get noticed, and that’s where your blog posts come in. They give you something to share that points back to your website, where people can then browse whatever you’re selling.
Run launch promotions or special sales
Offering a discount when your store opens is a classic tactic from brick and mortar businesses, and it works just as well online. Everyone loves a deal. Promote this deal everywhere you can find. Promote your posts on social media, and purchase PPC ads.
Focus on SEO
Make sure that customers can find your business by searching for keywords that are relevant to your business. You want your customers to be able to discover your website when searching for the kinds of things you sell. With your business depending on it, you may want to invest in professional SEO services.
Invest in PPC
Pay-per-click advertising gives you the opportunity to pay to be the first search result for whatever search terms you choose. How much you should be willing to spend on PPC depends on how much you can afford to pay to make a sale and still be profitable.
Don’t miss out
The Internet can be a gold mine for entrepreneurs, if they approach it the right way. However, the marketplace is getting more crowded every day, so the better you can stake out your claim online, the better.
Do you have questions about getting started with an ecommerce site? Have you successfully built a profitable online store? Do you have any tips for other entrepreneurs? Leave a comment, or join the conversation with us on Twitter.