4 Questions to Ask Yourself When Deciding Where to Sell Your Goods Online
The days of having just one or two places to sell your products or services on the web have long passed. These days, you have myriad options for moving merchandise digitally.
As you craft or refine your business plan for online selling, it's important to know which avenues are most strategic. This starts with understanding the pros and cons of selling online on your own website or via a social media platform.
The Pitfalls and Advantages of E-Commerce Website Selling
You probably already have a website for your business, but it might not be set up for e-commerce. Fortunately, plenty of companies offer plug-ins and integrations that allow you to add an online store to showcase and sell your wares to anyone who visits. You’ll just have to factor in the one-time, monthly or annual fees for upgrades and maintenance.
Operating an e-commerce site can be a great business tool, but you alone are responsible for driving visitors to it. This means you’ll have to focus marketing efforts on bringing prospects to a variety of landing pages or SKUs. Few people will stumble onto your site without strategic marketing efforts on your part.
Still, you might already have a robust relationship with a strong customer base. If so, you can start marketing to those consumers right away through communication channels ranging from text messages to emails.
The most critical thing to remember about developing a customized e-commerce site is that every decision will be up to your team. That could be either an exciting challenge or a time-consuming roadblock. If it's the latter, consider using a different platform for online selling: social media.
What Are the Pros and Cons of Social Media Selling?
When you sell through a platform like Facebook Marketplace or Instagram, you don’t have to do quite as much legwork upfront. The store is already there. You just add your merchandise images, content and other information — and you can do it right away as long as you have a business account.
There's just one key stumbling block: You need to have a brand following to make an immediate splash. As a GlobalWebIndex report shows, social media users are accustomed to researching products on their favorite portals. However, only 11 percent of them feel comfortable making purchases on the same platforms. Without an existing social media presence, you might struggle to find followers and convert them to buyers.
You also need to have the right type of product to sell on social media. If your product doesn’t fall into a trending category that specifically lends itself to great photos (e.g., accessories, apparel, home furnishings), you might find it tough to get noticed. But if your goods are photogenic and self-explanatory, social commerce could become a profit center for your company.
Which Should You Choose?
You're probably wondering whether you should build a website for your business or rely on social sites for e-commerce. Only you can make that decision for your business. To narrow down your options, answer these key questions:
1. Is SEO a major part of your marketing plan?
Are you focusing on search engine optimization? Is SEO high on your organization’s list of priorities? Operating an e-commerce store on your website can boost your search engine rankings and overall reputation. Just make sure you add keyword-rich content to all of your product pages.
2. Do you want to make money fast?
Developing your own digital storefront takes time. If bringing in revenue quickly is a must, lean toward selling on social. You’ll be able to list your products immediately and push them out to social users. Just make sure that you can keep up with any shipping guarantees, like Facebook Marketplace’s three-day shipping arrangement.
3. Is your social engagement high?
Maybe you’ve spent the past few years mastering social media. At this point, you probably have a well-rounded, engaged following. You can leverage this and persuade your audience to become customers by making it easy for them to make purchases through social media apps. Offering your product or service on the same platform where they already engage with your brand increases the odds that you'll find success.
4. Would you like to control every aspect of the customer journey?
Control isn’t a bad thing, especially when you’re building a business. If you want to create a comprehensive, reliable customer road map, you’ll likely want your own e-commerce site. That way, you can make sure every aspect of it aligns with your brand’s look and feel.
Now is the right moment to make e-commerce your focus. It's up to you to decide how to strategically sell online in a way that's best for your customers and your business.
Related story: 5 Design Features Your E-Commerce Site Must Have to Succeed