Marketplaces or selling direct – which e-commerce route best supports your business?

Whether you’re an event organiser, band or comedy act wanting to sell tickets online, a local attraction wanting to take your gift shop to a wider audience, an artist looking to monetise your creativity or a specialist business looking to sell direct to trade or end users, you’re going to need some form of e-commerce solution.

If selling online is something you like the sound of but are unsure how to start doing, the good news is there are plenty of marketplace sites who will happily facilitate some or all your transaction, including in some cases storing your stock and despatching it to the buyer.

The downside to this approach is that the fees involved can squeeze already tight margins and consumers are often more likely to remember they bought the product ‘from Amazon’ or ‘from eBay’ than they are your own brand, making it harder to win repeat custom.

If this is a concern for you, you may want to look at adding an online shop to your own website, an approach which puts your brand front and centre, cuts down the middlemen, makes it easier for you to establish a direct relationship with customers and gives you greater flexibility on how items are presented and bundled to add value.

Selling directly can also make it easier to run competitions and special offers either via social media or email marketing, with customers and followers directed to your online store in order to enter or redeem vouchers and coupons, helping drive awareness and, hopefully, sales.

Keeping things simple, there are two main ways to get your dedciated store online.

The first means hiring a web developer to either build a custom e-commerce solution or customise one of the various open source options available on the web, while the second involves signing up to a readymade solution such as Shopify, allowing you to get selling without waiting for bespoke development work to be completed.

This sort of solution can also help you take online card payments without having to apply for separate merchant accounts and, deciding on your choice of provider, even include mobile-ready designs so customers can buy while on the move, and even apps to help you manage your sales.

While selling online often seems like something mostly done by major brands, more than half of all UK small and medium sized enterprises already have some form of e-commerce offering and surveys suggest this is set to rise to nearly nine in ten by the end of 2018.

If these predictions are realised, e-commerce refuseniks risk being left behind in the slow lane, restricted to local sales, while competitors are able to grow their sales and brand awareness.

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