Whether you're new to selling or a veteran, there are many ways to sell online. The most obvious way is to open an online shop on your own website. But even this may require an ecommerce tool like Shopify. In this article we'll explore some of the options available so you can get started selling online in a way that is best for you and your business.
Choose the way that works best for you
Unlike a physical location, selling online gives you far greater flexibility. There are several ways for small businesses to sell online. Here are some of the most common options:
- Ecommerce website: Creating an ecommerce website is one of the most popular ways to sell products online. Small businesses can use platforms such as Shopify, WooCommerce, or Magento to set up an online store and start selling products. They can also use website builders such as Wix or GoDaddy to build a website with an integrated ecommerce store.
- Social media: Businesses can use social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, or TikTok to sell products directly to customers. They can set up a Facebook Shop, Instagram Shop or use other social media features to showcase their products and take orders.
- Online marketplaces: Businesses can also sell their products on popular online marketplaces such as Amazon, eBay, Etsy, or Notonthehighstreet. These platforms have a large user base and can help businesses reach a wider audience.
It's important to note that each online selling method has its own pros and cons, and some may be more suitable for certain types of products or businesses than others. You should consider your target audience, product offering, and budget when deciding which online selling method to use.
Selling through your own website
Using your own website gives you total control over how your business (and products) are displayed and promoted. You can sell directly to customers and it's easy to update your website, so you can keep it fresh and relevant for visitors.
Even better, the rise of website builders such as Wix or GoDaddy have removed many of the technical barriers to creating a website without web design experience. If you choose to sell through your website, then you will need an ecommerce platform to allow you to take payment. As with website builders, there are multiple large providers to choose from (Shopify, WooCommerce, Magento, etc.). Even better, most of these have built-in integration with website builders so the process of setting up the shop and linking your website and ecommerce platform is simplified.
Now for the downsides. All the above will come at a cost.
You will need to pay for a domain (website address) which is usually £10-30 per year.
There will be a charge for your website hosting, which can usually be paid on a monthly or annual basis. This charge will vary depending on your provider and website size and could range anything from £3 - £30 per month (as a guide).
The final cost is a charge for your ecommerce platform (how you take payments). This charge will exist whether you use an ecommerce option offered by your website provider or a third-party ecommerce platform (e.g. Shopify). This charge will scale depending on your volume of sales with Shopify’s Basic package starting at £19 per month.
In addition to the financial costs, websites can require significant time and resources to build and maintain over time.
Social media selling
Social media platforms are a great place to sell. They have lots of traffic, they're easy to use and they're free!
Social media has become an integral part of our daily lives, so it makes sense that it would also be used as a platform for selling products. Social media sites like Facebook, Instagram and TikTok allow you to reach out directly with your products at a minimal cost compared with traditional methods. Additionally, you can use tools like Meta Commerce Manager and Facebook Shops to host all your products without the cost of a website.
Selling on social media can have both pros and cons for a small business. Here are some of the key ones to consider:
- Increased visibility: Social media platforms are popular and widely used and can help you reach a larger audience that you might not have access to otherwise.
- Cost-effective: Setting up a social media account is free, and advertising costs can be lower compared to traditional methods, which makes it an ideal channel for small businesses with limited budgets.
- Customer engagement: Social media platforms allow for direct communication with your customers, allowing you to build relationships with them and gain valuable feedback that can help improve your business.
- Better targeting: Social media platforms offer advanced targeting options that allow businesses to reach specific demographics, interests, and locations, which can increase the likelihood of finding potential customers who are interested in your products or services.
- Time-consuming: Running a social media account can be time-consuming and require consistent effort. Any products sold on
- Algorithm changes: Social media algorithms can be unpredictable and change frequently, which can affect the visibility of your content and impact your sales.
- Increased competition: Since social media is accessible to everyone, it can be challenging to stand out among the competition and get noticed by potential customers.
- Selling costs: Using a tool like Commerce Manager from Meta allows you to promote and sell your products through social media (Facebook and Instagram) but you will still have selling fees.
Overall, social media can be a useful tool for small businesses to reach new customers and engage with existing ones, but it requires a dedicated effort to be successful.
If you want to sell on multiple platforms without the hassle of managing a website or maintaining your social media accounts, then online marketplaces could be the way forward for your business. They allow you the ability to have your products visible to a large audience without the monthly fees of web hosting and ecommerce platforms.
There is a range of marketplaces for you to consider depending on your business’ target audience. The largest online marketplaces for you to consider are Amazon, eBay, Etsy, and Notonthehighstreet. Here are some of the main pros and cons to consider:
- Increased visibility: Online marketplaces have millions of active users, providing your small business with a large and diverse customer base.
- Credibility: Established online marketplaces, such as Amazon or eBay, have built trust and credibility with consumers, which can make it easier for small businesses to gain customer trust and sell products.
- Low startup costs: Most online marketplaces do not charge upfront fees, and you only pay a commission on each sale, which makes it an ideal channel for small businesses with limited budgets.
- Wide range of tools and support: Online marketplaces often offer various tools and resources to help small businesses succeed, such as analytics, customer service, and marketing support.
- Competition: Since online marketplaces attract many sellers, the competition can be fierce, making it difficult for small businesses to stand out and attract customers.
- Limited brand control: Online marketplaces often have strict rules and regulations around branding and marketing, which can limit your ability to differentiate your brand from competitors.
- Limited customer information: Online marketplaces usually do not share customer information with sellers, which can make it hard to build relationships with customers and conduct targeted marketing campaigns.
- Dependence on the marketplace: Small businesses that sell exclusively on online marketplaces are vulnerable to changes in marketplace policies, algorithm changes, or technical issues that can affect their sales.
- Selling costs: Online marketplaces are notorious for having multiple selling costs that reduce your profit. Additionally, marketplaces like Etsy will promote sellers who are using their built-in advertising features.
We hope this article has helped you understand the different ways that you can sell online. There are many different options available to you, and it's important to choose the one that works best for your business at this moment in time.
If you'd like to learn more about ecommerce and selling online, we offer a two-hour webinar on Understanding Ecommerce! To find out more about these, visit the link below or get in touch with us.
Understanding Ecommerce Webinar: https://www.digitalpeninsula.org/webinar/understanding-ecommerce