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E-commerce 101: How to Choose your Sales Platform

So you’ve got a great product that you’re proud of, a hand-picked target audience, and you’re all ready to start making sales online? Congratulations! Our first step is going to be to create a robust, informed business plan that paves the way to business success. First, we’re going to choose our selling strategy.

Breaking in to eCommerce can be an intimidating step for many entrepreneurs. The internet can seem like a scary and very, very big place. You’re going to be competing for your customers’ attention with some of the biggest brands and best products in the world. However, never forget whilst there’s a lot of products out there, there’s a whole lot more people.

Finding your customers

Before we select our selling platform, we need to figure out how your target audience behaves online and the type of places they like to hang out.

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Conduct some short interviews with members of your niche and ask them about their online habits and routines. Where do they go when they need to buy a product or service in your niche? Maybe they discover them…

– On big retail sites like Amazon or eBay

– Through recommendations made by their friends

– On Facebook or LinkedIn groups, or through connections on Twitter

– In their email inbox through regular updates

– On forums like Reddit and Craigslist or niche discussion groups

– Through independent blogs or journalism

Once you’ve collected some inside information on the behaviour of your target audience, reflect on it carefully. You’re looking for ways you can bring your product to your customers, rather than trying to get them to come to you. This may involve playing to your audience’s habits, or it may involve disrupting the status quo by finding more innovative methods to engage your future customers.

The information you uncover here is critical for not only your marketing efforts, but also your selling architecture.

Choosing your marketplace

When most business owners hear the word ‘ecommerce’ they immediately think of a dedicated website with a product list and shopping cart icon in the top right-hand corner. However, this traditional format is only one of a tonne of potential options for selling online.

Choosing the right option for your audience is a big decision, but never forget that these options aren’t mutually exclusive. Try prioritising the following selling methods in terms of how accessible they are to your audience. Remember, if one method doesn’t work out you can always try something else!

Website/online store

The classic ecommerce set up; you’ll need your own domain name with a robust and safe ecommerce selling platform installed, including product descriptions, shopping cart access and payment options. There’s some great systems out there and some lacklustre ones, but remember that the safety of your customers’ details is your top concern.

Selling on your own site gives you the freedom to set your own rules. You can plan user journeys in your own way, set prices and shipping options how you like, and use whatever analytics and tracking tools you need. The downside is that you’ll have to drive traffic yourself to the site, which could mean an intensive marketing effort. It can also be time consuming and costly to build and maintain your site, or to find and pay someone else to do it for you.

Third party retail

Third party selling means that you sell your product on a conglomerate site such as Amazon, eBay, Etsy or Craigslist. Using these platforms means access to an extremely broad user base, but you’re always going to be limited by the constrictions of your provider. This could mean added costs, selling restrictions, and analytical limitations. Also remember that, depending on your product and your platform, you could be pitching directly alongside your competitors – it could make or break your business!

Affiliate selling

Affiliate selling is the process of getting other people to sell your product for you in exchange for some benefit, e.g. a cut of the total profits or a flat rate commission. Many entrepreneurs partner with existing sellers in their niche to gain access to their customer base.

This is a great way of rapidly expanding your product’s market exposure, whilst also gaining the benefits of working alongside an experienced seller. The downside is that you could have even less control over the way your product is presented and will be one extra step away from your customers; you’ll learn less about your target audience than if you were selling with your own site.

White-label selling

Similar to affiliate marketing, white labelling involves asking another merchant to sell your product. This time however, the product will be branded and sold as if it was their own. In this case you will act more like a supplier than a seller, forfeiting your own brand identity in order to benefit from the reach and impact of your partners’ brand.

This can be a great way to take that initial step into online selling and prove that your product is viable and that there’s an existing market need. However, you as a company will have zero market exposure, so you may have a slower start when striking out on your own.

Dedicated apps

Some products and services might be well-suited to a dedicated mobile app of your own creation. Creating a dedicated shopping app would allow users to buy and rebuy your product whenever they need it with just the click of a button!

This is a highly personal form of selling that will only work if you’re likely to get a lot of repeat custom from your clients. Apps can be tricky to develop, but they’re a selling resource that will only grow once built. You never know, maybe your product could be the next Uber!

So did any of the above strategies jump out to you? Maybe your product is more suited to one over another, or maybe you’ll have more chance of grabbing customers with a specific platform. Whatever you decide to use, remember to engage your audience in the way that works best for them, not only for you!

Thanks for reading.

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