When you decide to sell online, you may know what kind of products you want to offer, but you may be less certain of where you want to post your items for sale. Who can blame you? With so many online marketplaces, it can be tough to know which marketplace best suits you—and your products.
As you look into various sites to find the right marketplace for your business, keep in mind the considerations we've listed below.
Some sites allow you to choose whether to post items as auctions or fixed-priced listings. Others only allow one or the other, so take a minute to decide how you want to sell your products.
Auctions tend to work best for one-of-a-kind items, collectibles or products that you're not quite sure how to price, says Auctiva Product Analyst Rebecca Miller. Instead of you deciding the value and price of a product, the auction format lets buyers decide.
There are several auction sites to know about. eBay is the most well known, but it's certainly not the only game in town. Consider smaller auction venues like eBid or uBid to see what they have to offer.
If you offer items that can easily be compared to others, and priced accordingly, fixed-price listings work well. Amazon, eBay, Esty, Copious, eCrater and several other marketplaces allow these types of listings. Their benefit is that you control the price of your items, as opposed to auctions, where buyers determine the price, Miller says.
"With auctions, you run the risk of starting a listing too low, thinking a bidding war will ensue, only to be let down," she says. As a result, you might have to let that rare antique you have go for much less than what it's worth.
If you want to garner the attention of a particular group, try selling your items in a niche marketplace
The type of product you sell can also influence where you should sell. For instance, if you deal in unrelated products, you can offer these on several catch-all sites. However, if you want to garner the attention of a particular group, for instance if you only sell cooking supplies and want an audience of bakers, try selling your items in a niche marketplace. There are plenty of these to choose from.
Toy Collector recently debuted as a marketplace for vintage toys and models. eCampus.com is a marketplace for textbooks. Ruby Lane and Tias.com deal in antiques. And Etsy has become a popular selling venue for artisans to offer their works. But, again, there are many more out there—too many to cover here.
What are the benefits of niche marketplaces?
"[They] bring products to a group of customers interested specifically in that market," writes Brendan Gibbons of Practical e-Commerce. "Sellers have the advantage of marketing to a community of buyers who are presumably just as interested in their products as the sellers themselves are."
Claire Jauregui, an artist living in Seattle, sells her paintings, drawings and prints on Etsy. While Jauregui had her own Web site where she also sold her items, she says her site didn't get nearly as much traffic as Etsy does.
"It was easy to see, even in the beginning, that my art was being seen by many more people, just because I had a shop on Etsy," she notes, adding that the exposure and traffic have been just as valuable as actual sales.
"I've had lots of different opportunities come my way via Etsy and the personal connections made on Etsy have also been valuable," she says.
Why did Etsy have such an impact on Jauregui's items? Because it provided her a buyer base already interested in products like the ones she offered, and shoppers who were more likely to buy as a result.
Fees are important to consider, too. You're in business to make money after all. If your cost of selling is too high, you could lose money, or risk reducing your sell-through if you pad the price of your items to make up for excessive selling costs.
Fees vary from site to site, not just in rates, but also in terms of when you're charged. Some marketplaces charge an upfront fee to list products, others charge you only when an item sells; some have payment-processing fees; some offer various enhancements and marketing tools for an additional charge. It's a good idea to review a marketplace's fee structure before you decide whether to list there.
As you consider fees, really take them into account. Do the math to see how much you would pay if you listed or sold your items in a marketplace. Be sure to figure in any extra costs for featured placement, additional images or other add-ons you would be likely to need. Look for similar products on a site to see what your item might sell for. Then calculate how much you would pay in fees if you went with that site.
Check out how many people visit the marketplace to ensure you'd have the buyer traffic to increase your selling opportunity
Size, reputation and traffic
Of course, you need buyers to make sales, so the size of the marketplace also matters, though, bigger isn't necessarily better. Don't be shy about checking out how many people visit the marketplaces you're considering to ensure you'd have the buyer traffic to increase your selling opportunity.
You can find statistics about a site's buyers and sellers on marketplaces' Press pages. And check out the sites' Facebook and Twitter pages, too. These can give you a sense of a marketplace's traffic by the number of likes and/or followers. And don't forget to ask yourself and your friends which marketplaces you've heard of. If you know of them, odds are others do, too, and that those sites get frequent visitors.
One of the reasons why Linda Bottino and her husband, Roy Aldous, decided to sell their products on eBay was because "so many people use [eBay]," and the couple knew they would have the buyer traffic needed to make sales.
Ease of use
Finally, you'll want to consider how easy a marketplace is to use before you settle on it. You don't want to spend days trying to list your items. Take time to visit a site's forums to see what other merchants' experiences have been using that site, and do a Google search to see what sellers are saying about different marketplaces.
Stephanie Frantz, a former librarian and the owner of Everything Vintage on eBay, decided to expand her sales onto Half.com after she realized that creating listings on the site was easy. All she had to do was enter a book's ISBN and PUC numbers. She didn't need to write descriptions or pay listing fees.
Karen Jentry, an eBay seller of more than four years, says one of the big draws to eBay was how easy it is to list her scrapbooking and crafting items.
"For me, I think eBay has been the easiest," she says. "They have a tremendous number of customers that are familiar with eBay, and I've found that, again for me, all I need to do is offer good products at fair prices with reasonable shipping, with great customer service and fast shipping, and the business has built itself."
Once you've weighed these factors, try listing a few items on a couple of sites then you'll really see what these marketplaces have to offer without having to make a major investment. Then decide which venue really does best suit you and your items.